A Dog’s Life
From fsmcy coats to a luxury hotel stay, Britain loves to pamper its pooches. But is it always safe?
Look in your local business directory and you are likely to find a number of businesses offering bespoke dog-grooming treatments. Some may have their own premises on the high street – like a salon you or I would visit – while others may have a home business, set up at the back of their house. A number may even be mobile.
According to Alexandra Baker from The Pet Industry Federation, the number of people offering grooming treatments has increased and, as we continue to humanise our pets, the demand for other services, such as sitting and walking services, dog spas and those producing boutique pet products, has gone up too.
Many of the organisations providing these services are represented by The Pet Industry Federation. As a trade association, it offers a number of business benefits such as insurance, legal advice and training. Groomers, says Alexandra, form the largest membership group, operating as the British Dog Groomers’ Association.
It is difficult to know exactly why the numbers are increasing, but according to Alexandra it could be because of a desire to professionalise the industry. “It’s usually a second career,” she says. “We don’t see many schoolleavers take it up as a profession, and it’s often because people have always wanted to work with animals, and have wanted to be creative and set up their own business.”
At the moment, though, the industry is largely unregulated. There is no obligation for a dog groomer to be qualified and no auditing system in place. “It’s worrying,” admits Alexandra. This is not because courses aren’t readily available though – in fact, it is something The Pet Industry Federation strongly encourages. They work closely with City & Guilds and even have their own grooming school, at Hadlow College, offering high-level training. “We encourage people to attain a Level 3 qualification,” Alexandra points out, “so that they have an underpinning knowledge before going on to work in the industry.”
In fact many groomers love to learn, says Alexandra, choosing to stack up certificates and awards. The British Dog Groomers’ Association hosts an annual championship each year, which provides further learning opportunities, as well as important chances to network and develop.
“People have always wanted to work with animals, and have wanted to be creative and set up their own business”
Grooming is, after all, fundamental to pet health, and different breeds require different levels of attention. Breeds such as poodles, bichons and border terriers, for example, will require more regular grooming than a short-haired Staffordshire bull terrier. In fact, the popularity of particular breeds may be another reason that business is booming. A few years ago, a survey from the British Dog Groomers’ Association revealed that 61% of groomers saw more poodle crosses than any other breed due to their high-maintenance coats. This is believed to be even higher in more suburban areas where designer breeds are popular.
Despite the concerns, there are good groomers out there, reassures Alexandra. “A good qualified groomer has a wealth of knowledge,” she says, and can maintain your pet’s overall health by improving their circulation, easing knots and reducing matting. A groomer may also notice other warning signs, such as lumps and bumps which appear under the skin and can be easily missed by owners. It is therefore important to build up a strong relationship with your groomer, says Alexandra, so that they know and understand your dog’s needs, and that young puppies can get used to the process.
For those part of the membership group, The British Dog Groomers’ Association provides a membership sticker. Placed in the salon’s window, or displayed on the website, this can let clients know that they are accountable to a wider body. “Look for the logo,” advises Alexandra – or simply look online at The Pet Industry Federation’s full list of members before you book.
ABOVE: A terrier taking a bubble bath