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What Is It Like to Be a Dog Bather

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Have you ever walked past the grooming salon at a Petsmart and wondered what it would be like to work with animals? At first glance, you might get the idea that the job involves playing with puppies all day. The truth is, grooming and most jobs in the animal-related field are quite demanding.


Before applying, consider some of the pros and cons of the profession.


Stock photo by Dreamstime

Stock photo by Dreamstime

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

As a bather, you’ll be working with primarily larger breeds such as Huskies and German Shepherds. These active, athletic canines tend to shed throughout the year and can accumulate an exceptional amount of dirt and debris.


Not to mention, they hate water.


To these dogs, the only thing worse than water is someone grabbing or touching their feet! This can make for a difficult grooming service as subduing an unruly canine requires both physical strength, and the ability to remain calm under a great deal of stress.


So, expect to spend most of your shift bending, lifting, and kneeling. For the first couple of months, you’ll be the sorest you’ve ever been. Please, protect your spine and wear a back brace.


The constant use of soap and water will strip your hands and arms of natural oil. Until you’re able to build up a callous, your thumbs will crack and bleed regularly. The metal clasp attached to the grooming loop will dig into the damp, permeable flesh along on the inside of your fingertips. The nails on your least dominant hand will take on a considerable amount of damage from the grinding tool.


Needless to say, it's not very glamorous work.


Buy Your Own Tools & Dress for the Job

Petsmart and other grooming salons usually provide employees with a uniform smock and a few necessary tools for bathing, but it's up to you to acquire the rest.


As far as your outfit goes, dress for comfort. You’re going to be wet all day, so a pair of loose, quick-drying pants will help to prevent moisture-rashes. Brands like BRAND offer rain boots that are secure around the calves so that you don’t end up with water running down your leg and into your socks. If nothing else, quality boots are a must.

They don’t have to be brand new; you can often find hidden gems at places like Plato’s Closet, the Goodwill, and Salvation Army.


However, don’t take that approach with your actual toolkit. Bathers use nail clippers, grinders, curry brushes, and slickers on a regular daily basis. Even if the company you work for provides them for you, it doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be in good shape by the time you get to use them.


Store-provided tools are typically communal, meaning the entire staff has access to them. The clippers may be dull, and you might have to wait for someone else to finish before you can use the grinder...if it's even been charged.


A good, reliable grinder can be found on Amazon between $45 and $50.


Speaking of grinders, be sure to keep both you and your dog’s hair out of the way when doing nail trims. If a few strands get caught in the neck, it can rip out fur and pull on the skin.

You Must Be Patient, You Must Be Kind

Communicating with a canine is very different from that of another person.


You can’t tell a dog that a dryer is only loud, not painful. Or that clipping their nails can be quick and painless if they’d just hold still. They simply wouldn’t understand.


Each animal you come into contact with will have a unique back story and a different reaction to your tools. This is why it's important to ask questions when performing the initial assessment. At the beginning of every appointment, you’ll inquire about the dog’s past and current health and check the skin for lumps and bumps. You’ll observe the eyes, ears, and teeth for abnormalities, and make sure that the pet is fit for service.


This means that the animal can stand on its own, walk on a leash, and be handled without a muzzle. If at any point during check-in you feel that the dog cannot be groomed safely, it's at your discretion to turn them away. You should never feel pressured to put yourself in any dangerous situation.


On the other hand, you should keep in mind that a pet’s behavior around their parent may be very different from how they’d act without anyone familiar around. More often than not, once they’re alone in the salon with no one to console them except for you, a dog will usually calm right down. They’ll likely need some reassurance, so move slow, speak in a soft, calm voice, and give them a little time to relax before diving right into clipping their nails or bathing.


Whatever happens, remember to be kind. If you find yourself getting frustrated with an animal, take a break. Groomers and bathers alike have their bad days, and when they’re feeling overwhelmed, their dogs probably are too.


Recognize your limits, and if you need help, ask for it!


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