How to Start a Dog Grooming Business

dog grooming business

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How to Start a Dog Grooming Business

If you’re a dog lover with the right combination of experience and business savvy, there are many pet business ideas. And this includes successfully running a pet grooming business.

In fact, starting a pet grooming business is a good choice for new business owners. You can start small with your new grooming business, gaining experience before expanding.

Why You Should Start a Dog Grooming Business

It’s no secret that during the pandemic, lots of people became pet parents by purchasing or adopting dogs. As a result, businesses related to pets and pet care – including pet grooming – are booming with more robust growth than is being experienced by other business owners.

It’s okay to have financial goals. Pet owners don’t have the time, ability or facility to do this task themselves – so your pet grooming service is filling a need. Overhead for pet grooming businesses is generally low, with the potential for a good percentage of profit. You can also look into pet franchises so you can get a proven business model.

But if you’re going to make a living in your own business as a dog groomer, you should fit these main categories: you are an animal lover and you are a people person.

Dog Grooming Business

The Dog Grooming Industry in the United States

The dog grooming business market is estimated at about $8 billion in the US. Across the country, there are about 130,000 grooming businesses with 230,000 employees.

High pet ownership is fueling great growth of about 8% annually. The 8% annual growth is projected to continue through 2026.

Pet services such as grooming aren’t once and done. Grooming animals is a repeat business, with monthly needs for bathing, nail care, ear cleaning, and more.

How Much Does it Cost to Start a Pet Grooming Business?

Most dog groomers start small, with similar costs for equipment such as shavers and shears, dryers, crates, tubs, cleaning supplies and grooming tables. Estimates for that equipment range from $10,000 to $18,000. There are recurring overhead costs for shampoos, conditioners, utilities and insurances.

You’ll need to complete an apprenticeship or training program. A training program cost can range from $500 to $3,000.

From there, it depends on how and where you deliver your dog grooming business.

Dog Grooming Business

Deciding Your Operating Concept

Starting your own dog grooming business has operating options:

Home Dog Grooming

As a business owner, can you run the grooming business in your own home? That’s the least expensive way to get grooming space. Before you decide on that business structure, you’ll have to check into local zoning laws. As a home based business, you may have 3-5 customers driving in (drop off) and out (pick up) two times – which may not be a fit for your neighborhood.

Physical Dog Grooming Store

The brick and mortar route is the most expensive choice. You can expect to pay from $10 to $25 per square foot and you’ll need a minimum of 500 square feet. If your rent alone is $2,500 a month, you’ll have to groom a lot of dogs before you start earning profit. If you rent a large space, you could pay as much as $10,000 a month.

Mobile Dog Grooming

You can opt to take your dog grooming business on the road. It’s a great choice for growing the business, as you use a mobile business to bring the grooming services to pet owners.

Choosing this route gives you the ability to affiliate your mobile dog grooming service with another business, such as a pet store, boarding facility or pet-friending hotel.

Mobile groomers as constantly promoting their business, with their name and contact information emblazoned on the vehicle.

Operating ConceptDescriptionCostSpace RequiredAdvantages
Home Dog GroomingRun the grooming business from your own home. Check local zoning laws before deciding on this option. Typically requires 3-5 customers driving in and out for drop-off and pick-up, which may not be suitable for all neighborhoods.Least expensiveSpace in your homeLower overhead costs, convenience of working from home
Physical Dog Grooming StoreEstablish a brick-and-mortar store. Expensive option, with rent costing from $10 to $25 per square foot, requiring a minimum of 500 square feet. Significant grooming volume needed before achieving profitability.Most expensiveMinimum 500 sq ftProfessional storefront presence, potential for higher foot traffic and visibility
Mobile Dog GroomingTake your grooming services on the road. Affiliate with other businesses like pet stores or boarding facilities. Constant promotion with vehicle branding.Moderate costMobile setupFlexibility to serve various locations, potential partnership opportunities with other pet-related businesses, branding through vehicle advertising

How to Start a Dog Grooming Business

Before you become part of the thriving pet industry and offer grooming services, go through this checklist of what you need to do before starting a pet grooming business.

14 Crucial Steps

As any business owner knows, you need to know your job. You’ll be competing with other groomers to get a piece of the target market.

Here’s how to get started:

Dog Grooming Business

1. Complete all the Necessary Training

You can earn while you learn to be a dog groomer by apprenticing at a major chain such as Petco or PetSmart. To apprentice with those companies, you’ll sign a non-compete agreement and must stay with the company for two years. You’ll undergo a 20-week training program of 800 hours, focusing on various grooming techniques and animal care basics.

There are also online schools with costs ranging from $400 to several thousand dollars. You could choose that option and practice on pets owned by family members. There are also in-person schools with similar costs. However, you may have to consider accommodation if relocating for studies.

The National Dog Groomers Association of America offers in-person workshops and testing. Again, you may have to travel to complete the workshops and testing.

Getting professional training is the best choice for pet groomers. Potential customers are going to seek proof that you have the necessary skills before they drop off their dogs with you. Accreditation from a school is a way to attract customers and very important in business considerations.

2. Decide on a Dog Grooming Niche

Choosing in-home, mobile grooming or physical storefront is one step of choosing your business niche.

Another is deciding what type of grooming is your focus. Are you going to do bathing and cleaning, nails? Are you going to specialize in dog show quality presentations? Are you going to specialize in breed specific haircuts? Or a certain size of dog, such as toys and terriers?

Consider offering unique services like fur dyeing or creative styling to stand out. Stay informed about the latest trends in pet grooming to keep your services current and appealing.

Cleaning services for pets can include teeth and ears, are you going to include those services with you business? What about nail clipping?

3. Create a Business Plan

The pet industry is not unique in the business world – you’ll need a business plan with the typical components:

  • Business license
  • State sales tax license (if you sell products)

Make plans for exactly what steps you’ll take to grow the business and increase your client base. Include a marketing strategy that utilizes social media and local community engagement. Plan for periodic assessments of your business performance to adapt and improve.

Make honest projections of costs and expected profit. You may spend up to 2 hours to properly groom one dog. Given your hours of operation – and travel time if you’re doing mobile grooming – how many dogs can you expect to groom each day?

4. Decide on a Pet Grooming Business Name

Brainstorm with friends and family. You’ll want a name that is catchy and easy to remember, such as these actual dog grooming business names: Scalawags and Fur-pection.

Also, think about incorporating words that reflect your specialty or the nature of your services. Ensure the name resonates well with your target clientele and stands out in the market. It’s also important to check for trademark availability to avoid legal issues.

5. Form a Business Entity

Nearly all pets groomers that start a business choose the LLC – limited liability company. When you’re operating a sole proprietorship, your personal assets will be protected by formation of the LLC.

What if you bring another person into the sole proprietorship, changing it to a partnership? That’s not a good choice, since each of you can be liable for the actions of the other.

Taking steps to form and register as an LLC is an important step in your business plan. According to statistics from the National Dog Groomers Association of America, the LLC is the top business entity choice for businesses grooming dogs.

6. Choose a Location

Your existing zoning regulations may dictate your choice of location. If you’re not permitted, or don’t have the space to do a home based business, your choices for a dog grooming business are mobile or storefront.

A mobile grooming truck is going to be large. Make sure you’ll be comfortable driving a large vehicle. Depending on the size of the vehicle, you may need to upgrade your driving license. You’ll need commercial insurance for the vehicle.

If you’re shopping for a storefront, seek a location that will allow for safe delivery and pickup of dogs. For example, although a busy strip mall may give you greater visibility, customers may not enjoy walking or carrying their pets a significant distance to and from their vehicles.

You can even offer a pick-up service that combines grooming with dog walking. Here’s more info on how to start a dog walking business.

7. Look into Licenses and Permits

In general, businesses groomer pets are not subject to special licensing. That said, it’s crucial to obtain a general business license to operate legally. Proof of professional training and certification can help you establish and grow your business.

Check state and local laws for business permits that are needed. Your local Chamber of Commerce will be a good source for that information.

Additionally, inquire about any health and safety regulations specific to pet care businesses. Ensure compliance with zoning laws if you’re operating from a residential area.

8. Open a Business Bank Account

Keep a separate business credit card that is connected to the account. This separation aids in efficiently tracking expenses and managing your business’s finances. A dedicated business account also bolsters your enterprise’s professionalism.

Opt for a bank that provides services and benefits suited to small businesses, including low fees and online banking options.

Reviewing your account statements periodically is essential for monitoring your business’s cash flow and maintaining its financial health.

9. Start a Marketing Campaign

In addition to a website, FB page and business cards, you can take other opportunities to reach new customers with special marketing efforts.

One of the best ways to market your business is to volunteer services with a local animal shelter or rescue. You’ll be promoting yourself to prospective customers as a dog lover, and also have impressive “before” and “after” pictures of makeovers.

10. Purchase Business Insurance

Basics you’ll need:

  • Commercial general liability insurance, to cover you for any injuries to a dog or to a person, such as a customer slipping on a wet floor.
  • Professional liability insurance will cover you if a dog is injured.
  • Property insurance will protect your business from unexpected damages or events. If you operate within your home, you’ll need separate insurance in addition to your homeowner’s insurance.
  • If available, consider a BOP (Business Owner’s Policy) which includes general liability and property damage.
  • Workers Comp – If you hire employees.
  • Health Insurance – Make sure you have a robust policy. Dog groomers often are beset by sore backs. You could also be scratched or bitten by your four-legged customers. Pet groomers can even get a malady called “Groomers Lung” in the business – a congestive issue caused by hours working in a moist environment. Find a policy that will protect you if you’re injured or sick and unable to work for a period of time.

11. Acquire the Necessary Equipment

Start-up costs include basic equipment essentials such as:

  • Crates – to keep dogs away from other dogs while they’re waiting to be groomed or waiting for pickup.
  • Grooming tub
  • Grooming table – An elevated table with a raised arm to attach the dog’s collar.
  • Grooming Equipment including Dog shaving kit, shears, replacement blades.
  • Specialized brushes for removing undercoat, combs.
  • Flea and tick products, shampoos and conditioners.
  • Nail clippers or grinders (professional Dremels)

12. Hire Staff

As needed, and remember you’ll need Workers Compensation insurance if you do. Many groomers, once established, begin to specialize in specific types of cuts and services.

They employ a trained person who can handle the customer prep work, such as the shampooing. That way the specializing groomer can have more time to provide those services, as someone else handles the prep work.

Dog Grooming Business

13. Open Your Business

As part of your marketing plan, launch the business with grand openings. Offer special promotions or discounts to attract initial customers. Collaborate with local pet businesses and shelters for cross-promotion during the opening event.

Leverage social media and community events to generate excitement about your opening.

Invite local media for coverage to gain broader attention and establish a strong market presence right from the start.

14. Earn a Base of Loyal Customers

Build your customer base by providing a skilled service while keeping on a schedule. Respond rapidly to any complaints.

Happy customers are the key to your long-term success. You’ll be the talk of the dog park.

Is a dog grooming business profitable?

Absolutely. Average annual earnings for business owners are typically from 5 to 7 percent.

Dog groomers can expect their annual earnings to grow by 20 percent.

If you’ve chosen the “earn while you learn” apprenticeship path, you’ll earn wages of about $24,000 to $28,000 a year.

How much does a pet groomer make?

A pet groomer running his or her own successful business can expect to make $60,000 a year and more.

The average wash and dry, simple trim service on average costs from $60 to $90. Remember you’ll need one to two hours for each dog.

How much you earn depends on the types of services you specifically offer.

How much you earn also depends on your overhead costs. Obviously, these costs are lowest with a home-based business. Mobile groomers have the costs of the vehicle and vehicle maintenance. Storefront businesses have rent, insurance and utilities.

Do you need a license to run a dog grooming business from home?

A dog grooming business may not be permitted in a residential zoning district. If your town or city has a planning and/or zoning board, contact that board to find out what the local regulations are.

Even if a business is not “permitted by right” you may be able to get a variance or special exception. That would require a favorable vote by the governing entity, such as planning and/or zoning board. Such boards are required to notify the owners of neighboring properties of your intentions, and invite them to attend the meeting on the matter.

Image: Depositphotos

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Lisa Price Lisa Price is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 4 years. She has a B.A. in English with a minor in journalism from Shippensburg State College (Pennsylvania). She is also a freelance writer and previously worked as a newspaper circulation district manager and radio station commercial writer. In 2019, Lisa received the (Pennsylvania) Keystone Award.