The Kennels

Tails of the Unexpected Dog Groomer – Episode Three

Starring South Coast Dog Grooming Academy

My training and trying to get my dog grooming business off the ground has had more stop and starts than an old Morris Minor thanks to Covid-19…. Currently writing this post with the threat of a third lockdown, this has thrown the spanner in the works of any normality for us all. Trying to complete a course has been really hard to deal with especially keeping momentum and my ageing brain suffers without continuity!

Since episode two, I’ve had six more training days which have been action packed! From Shih Tzu’s to Spaniels, Collies to Frugs (Google it), mats and tangles, first aid training and dealing with some very spirited (that’s code for challenging and unruly) dogs, it has been an assault on the senses in what you can expect being a dog groomer….

The main realisation for me is that I feel strongly to niche my business. I made the decision a few weeks ago that I am going to concentrate on grooming working dogs, terriers and their crossbreeds. Some may think this is a risky decision to take especially through these difficult times in business but I believe there are enough dogs to go around. These breeds cover a large area of dogs to groom especially the “oodle” crossbreeds which are so popular these days. I also feel to specialise in an area will make you adept in working with certain breeds. Working dogs for example, are not a breed you see in their droves entering the grooming salon and I want to work on the reputation that keeping a country dog trimmed and clipped will help them immensely when working the field. I just have to win them over with no bows and frills… With my business having a very masculine and countryside feel, I hope owners with farming and rural pursuits deep rooted in them would feel comfortable visiting Country Barn Dog Grooming.

With enforced viral incarceration during November and training placed on pause, this gave me some time in concentrating on getting my grooming room ready for business. With gentle persuasion (ok nagging), Mr H worked evenings and weekends in getting the room together. Thank the lord for eBay and Facebook marketplace, as I found some absolute bargains to kit the room out. As they say someones trash is someone elses treasure. I collected some dog bowls and treat tins from a lady who had recently lost her dog. With tears in her eyes as I picked them up from her socially distanced doorstep, she was genuinely thrilled that they were being used in a dog groomers as her Yorkie had been groomed all her life. So instead of funding Amazon, it was rewarding to source what I needed second hand.

With walls painted, electrics sockets and lights now live and a bath plumbed in, Mr H said those words that came as bit of a reality check… “there is nothing stopping you now, you can get on grooming at home.” This coincided with restrictions being eased and I headed back to Worthing together with some appointments booked in at home to actually groom some dogs!

It was brilliant to be back at the Academy and I really felt for Sarah and her team in trying to accommodate her students with Boris changing the Covid goalposts. I needed to get back as the longer I was away from grooming dogs, it seemed to affect my confidence. Dog grooming is practise, practise and more practise. One training session was watching how to speed up the groom. I need to reduce the timings down completely needing almost an F1 stopwatch to reduce my faffing about. As you know from previous episodes – I am an excellent faffer! To watch a Cockapoo groom from start to finish in just under an hour and half, I need to increase my pace. Time is actually money and to have some timed order to a groom is something I am working to improve.

In the run up to Christmas, I had appointments every day which was a huge learning but very enjoyable curve! Thinking on your feet in what the dog needs and what the client wants was valuable experience. Having a few puppies through the door too was chaotic but huge fun. I felt a real sense of satisfaction when they left all tidied up but dealt with the grooming experience in their stride just through patience, time and obviously a few treats!

As the year came to a close, restrictions were put in place again with Covid infections rapidly rising. This New Year has started with training again on pause. Personally, my family has had a very close call with Covid with Mr H in isolation with trips to the Covid test centre. Thankfully we remain negative but I have made the decision to delay non-urgent dog grooming appointments here at home. My utmost priority is to ensure clients safety and having been exposed to the virus it just feels the right course of action. I also want to qualify before I formally launch Country Barn Dog Grooming and ideally without strict restrictions. So I am going to delay this until it is safe to do so and with my OCN London certificate firmly in my hand!

As I write, it seems that training will be on hold for a while yet as we wait another announcement from Boris…. But I feel another harsh lockdown in sadly inevitable so patience is going to be needed I think. I have to say that this is honestly driving me all slightly nuts! I have perspective though as it’s not really a hardship being at home. I have my marketing work to keep me going but the fridge, crisp cupboard and the gin bottle keep calling… This is why I need to get back to the grooming table as soon as possible to make sure I can fit in my fitted polyester grooming top! Or it will be another Amazon or eBay purchase….

by Samantha Hobden

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CATCH UP with Episode One, Two and Four

Please visit for training information: South Coast Dog Grooming Academy