I recently saw a post in a local Facebook group in which a guest was dissatisfied with what they were charged for their pet’s grooming. This guest wanted to support a local business and acknowledged that their pet was in need of extra work because of matting and lack of maintenance but when it came time to pay the bill they were determined to find a cheaper option. As a fellow local business operator my heart went out to the owners and stylists there. By all accounts this guest was satisfied with the services but didn’t like the time and price of what it took to accomplish the style. There are a few solutions to this – avoid dematting charges by selecting a style that works for your pet’s condition, establish a regular grooming routine to avoid the necessity for extra time, or invest in tools and learn to groom at home. Let’s explore and discuss elements that are used to determine grooming prices.
1. Any stylist worth their salt is going to have some sort of educational background with pet grooming whether it is from a trade school or on the job training. Educational programs are on par with average costs of becoming a hair stylist, aesthetician, electrician, mechanic, or plumber. Merryfield School of Pet Grooming and Paragon School of Pet Grooming offer comprehensive programs with a tuition of around $10,000 – not including tools, lodging, and living expenses. Education doesn’t end there – the pet grooming industry is constantly evolving. Practices and trends that were considered the standard in 1990 (hell, even 2010) have been forgotten and new methods have been adopted. Certifications and continuing education quickly add up – a weekend at industry trade shows and classes can set a stylist back by a minimum of $400, again not including lodging, certifications, testing, or competition.
2. In addition to educational investments, overhead costs like grooming tools, products, rent, utilities and other valuable resources aren’t cheap either. When I began my pet stylist journey I spent $400 on tools before I was even sure grooming was right for me. Over 10 years of grooming professionally I have spent more than $6,000 on tools ranging from clippers, shears, blades, combs, rakes, nail trimmers, dremel tools, shampoos, conditioners, grooming tables, grooming tubs, high velocity dryers and more…you get the idea. A quality grooming table can run $900 or more, clippers and shears can start at well over $200 a piece. We provide far more than a "bath and clip".
3. Aside from cost, let’s not forget that pet stylists provide an essential service to pets in need and most pet parents are not able, or willing; to perform these services on their own. Something I hear a lot from guests is that “It’s just not the same when I bathe him at home!” Even from the most basic of bath services your stylist has had their hands all over your pet, gently removing eye boogies that have accumulated and scrubbing their behind to remove *matter* that could be hitching a ride under their tail. After their bath they are hand dried to ensure excess coat is removed and they’re dried properly to avoid hot spots and that icky wet dog smell. We don’t allow them to run around the salon dive bombing into carpets to dry their heads. They likely receive a minimum of two baths in professional grade shampoo – the Les Poochs shampoo I use at Oak City Pets runs $140 a gallon. For comparison the Aveda shampoo I use on my own hair only costs $101 for one gallon. Call me bougey – but I like to pamper myself too. After a Labrador Retriever has been bathed and dried they’re placed onto my grooming table for a thorough brush out to remove any leftover dead hair while I search for any new lumps, bumps, or areas of concern that could have developed since their last visit. Their nails are trimmed then filed smooth as I inspect their feet for any abnormalities. After their nails are taken care of I move onto the ears to clear out any buildup and perform a sniff test to ensure there are no causes for concern in their ear canals. We generally don’t provide “just a bath and nail cut” as some guests request – we perform an all over service with your pet’s health, wellbeing and safety in mind.
4. Some pets require more work than others do and you can expect their grooming costs to vary greatly. A bath service for a Labrador Retriever will run $50 on average in my salon and a full bath service with haircut on a Labradoodle Mix could run over $90. If there are any mats or tangles present those call for more time and more expense. There are a few dogs I see on a weekly basis with 3+ inches of hair that come in with little to no tangles because of the regularity of their grooming schedule. Other dogs I may only see every 12-16 weeks that arrive with tangles or mats will take longer to groom and style therefore cost more money. Dematting and extra brushing places a strain on our bodies and our tools. Some stylists will refuse to demat, believing in humanity over vanity. Dematting can be painful, time consuming and some pets just won’t stand for it! If your pet’s coat is able to be humanely brushed out there will be surcharges. Even small tangles can take 5-10 minutes to remove, multiply that by how many tangles may be covering your pet and brushing can quickly add an hour onto your pet’s service. In that time a stylist could have completed an entire haircut on another pet so don’t be surprised if dematting charges add up to the cost of an entire groom in some cases. As stated earlier there are ways to minimize grooming costs and sometimes that includes settling on a more easily attainable low maintenance haircut. Dematting is entirely optional and at times it may be best to settle on a short haircut to start fresh while agreeing to a consistent grooming schedule. Most styles are achievable but are entirely dependent on at home maintenance, grooming frequency, coat type, and your pet’s personality.
Hopefully the information above has given some insight into the costs behind grooming services. This is not meant as a defensive attack on pet parents, my hope is that pet owners gain a new perspective on what is involved in being a stylist. It’s imperative for stylists to offer competitive pricing in order to be compensated appropriately for their services and to be able to maintain their equipment, employees, salon, and lifestyle. So please, before you scoff at the price of grooming services or ask for a coupon inquire as to what goes into the services and remember this article. Pet grooming prices are not misaligned with other costs in day to day life – remember how much it cost the last time you had a plumber come to your house to fix a toilet? Or what about when you go to the salon and get your own hair colored, washed, and styled? We’re caring people that love what we do – you’ve got to have passion, skill, and a love for both animals and people to succeed in this line of work.
Remember, a cheap groom isn’t good and a good groom isn’t cheap.