The Dog Grooming Philosopher

Let me tell you about my journey retraining as a dog groomer whilst studying with the Open University.

Last week, on December 10 2021, it was International Animal Rights Day.  I thought that I would share with you all something that is very much dear to my heart, canine welfare.  

In 2016, after working in the customer services sector for over thirteen years, I was more than a little frazzled and wanted a career change.  I had read a newspaper article about how a former I.T. consultant from London started his own business as a dog walker, and a lucrative one at that.  I decided that I wanted to do something similar, however, I wasn’t entirely sure as how to go about it.  

In 2017, I had started walking my next door neighbour’s dog, George, a beautiful Shih Tzu and Pug crossbreed, whenever she was out at work.  George and I quickly established a bond, enjoying our walks around our local park.  However, I found myself getting anxious whenever other dogs off lead would bound over to George.  So, at that point, I ruled out setting up my own dog walking business.  

I had looked into dog grooming courses at my local college, but as the certification was in-house, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do a course that wasn’t officially recognised… but then I had a stroke of luck! 

I had been going to weekly classes at Slimming World for several months, and the class leader, was a qualified dog groomer and ran her own business.  She advised that the best route into dog grooming would be to go to a centre that offered vocational training with accredited certification.  

So, in 2018, whilst studying A105 with the OU, I enrolled on the City & Guilds Level 2 Certificate for Dog Grooming Assistants, at M.C.D.T Fazakerley, Liverpool.  The course was to last twelve weeks, and my exams for A105 were fast approaching

Those who know me well would say that I am a glutton for punishment when it comes to my studies, yet it’s something that I genuinely thrive on.  At first, it was difficult juggling A105 alongside theory work and the hands on practical experience of bathing, drying and styling dogs.  

Also, outside of this, I was completing short courses with my St Helens Chamber of Commerce; to prepare me for the eventuality of starting my own dog grooming business.  I don’t drive, so it meant staying with my Mum through the week to go to M.C.D.T, carting my reference books and laptop back and forth.  

To build up retail skills, I had started a new role as a charity shop sales assistant and for experience in handling dogs, I had signed myself up as a dog walker for Freshfields Animal Rescue, Liverpool.  I turned forty the day after I completed my final practical session at M.C.D.T.  

It was my goal to gain experience as a dog grooming assistant by the time my birthday came around, and I’m happy to say I achieved it.  I had applied to a one-to-one dog grooming salon which was within walking distance of where I lived, Loving Touch Dog Grooming, St Helens, and I started the following week.  I was in my element; my manager was brilliant and instilled confidence.  And as for the dogs, oh my.

In 2019, I was nearing the end of A215, working on my last assignments and preparing for my EMA, and about to embark on the next stage of my dog grooming career, my OCN Level 3 Diploma in Dog Grooming.  Again the course was twelve weeks long at M.C.D.T, and I stayed with my Mum mid-week.  After completing the course in August, I had secured a new work placement in a salon in Saint Rocco, Crosby, Liverpool.  My manager and I had met each other on the City & Guilds course, and I simply reached out to her when I found out that she had taken over the salon.  

I deferred A222 in October 2019, as I felt drained from studying and I wanted to focus on my career as a dog groomer.  After working for Saint Rocco for a few months, I applied for dog grooming jobs elsewhere. I had several work trials, and in December 2019, I had a part-time job at a dog grooming salon with hydrotherapy in Warrington, Cheshire.  

The working environment was much different to what I was used to, and whilst I carried out tasks to the best of my ability, I realised that I was pretty much out of my depth when it came to scissoring and clipping techniques.  Most college tutors encourage you to get as much experience as you can, but what they don’t really prepare you for is the reality that it can take up to two years post-qualification for you to improve and perfect your scissoring skills.  Whilst my job at the salon in Warrington may not have lasted that long, lessons were learned and I knew for myself what type of dog groomer I wanted to be, one-to-one.

I had applied to The Dogs Trust late December, to help out on reception at my local branch, and started my training January 2020.  I had just finished my third shift when in March it was announced by the UK Government that we were going into a national lockdown to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.  My partner and I had been to Crufts a few weeks before, and I had bought myself dog grooming equipment whilst there.  Like most industries and businesses, the dog grooming sector was hit hard during the first six months of the pandemic.  They weren’t allowed to trade, and couldn’t do mobile grooming.  If they did, they would face substantial fines and penalties from Trading Standards.  How would I get my doggy fix now? 

Before leaving my job in Warrington, and starting at The Dogs Trust, I had created a new blog, which is essentially about my journey retraining as a dog groomer with the OU; simply The Dog Grooming Philosopher.  I talk about all things canine, and include reviews on books and films, and other topics.  

Earlier on this year, I discovered the fantastic TeamCasp47 on Facebook, and they were a tonic whilst doing TMAs for A222.  What’s not to love about sassy talking dogs and pranks?  Over the summer, they released their first children’s book, Casper and Daisy’s Big Day at the Park (DK Publishing).  I approached Ryan Dykta, the author and creator of TeamCasp47 and asked whether I could review their book on my blog, and he said yes.  The review had 841 views on my blog, the biggest audience reach so far.  

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