Qualifications and regulation seem to be the new buzz words. Here, Dana Grant gives a thorough analysis of the arguments for and against regulation and introduces the results of a fascinating survey with groomers and pet owners…


Capacity, knowledge, or skill that matches or suits an occasion, or makes someone eligible for a duty, office, position, privilege, or status. Qualification denotes fitness for purpose through fulfillment of necessary conditions such as attainment of a certain age, taking of an oath, completion of required schooling or training, or acquisition of a degree or diploma. Qualification does not necessarily imply competence.

1. General: Principle or rule (with or without the coercive power of law) employed in controlling, directing, or managing an activity, organization, or system.

2. Law: Rule based on and meant to carry out a specific piece of legislation (such as for the protection of environment). Regulations are enforced usually by a regulatory agency formed or mandated to carry out the purpose or provisions of a legislation. Also called regulatory requirement.

The definitions provided are set out to clarify the meaning of these two oft misused and mistakenly interchanged words. In the grooming world qualifications can mean that one is qualified through experience or has perhaps sat a required set of exams through City and Guilds. Throughout the following article, the meaning is generally the latter. Regulation however has nothing to do with qualification, unless qualification becomes a requirement in which to obtain a license.

In January of this year, a Lhasa apso called Dusty was severely burned in a grooming salon in Essex which resulted in the dog being euthanized. The owners have petitioned the Government (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to ask that dog grooming businesses be licensed and regulated to ensure that dogs are kept safe while being groomed.

The petition reads: “A petition calling upon The Secretary of State responsible for the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to create a regulation under Section 13 that will control and license the dog and cat grooming industry, specifically the type and conditions of use of “drying cages” and all forms of heating applied or used by commercial animal groomers.

On 30 July 2012 our 12 year old family dog Dusty visited his usual dog grooming parlour, which he had been going to for the past nine years. After being bathed and clipped the groomer put Dusty in a ‘metal’ dog crate with an industrial dog hairdryer pointing at him, she went off to answer a phone call. Dusty was severely burnt internally and externally and had to be put to sleep due to his injuries.

This is the fourth case in two years of a dog losing his life due to groomers leaving them to burn in front of a dryer!”

While it is the case that many thousands of dogs are groomed without incident every year, the few that do have fatalities will rightly make the public take notice. The RSPCA have added their voice, potentially willing to try to control the procedure for licensing. It seems now the grooming industry in the UK is perhaps closer to being regulated than ever in its history; regulation has hitherto been discussed for years without result.

The sort of inflammatory articles such as the one in the Daily Mail headlined “How your family pet could be maimed or killed by dog groomers: ‘Incompetent’ entrepreneurs to blame for rise in accidents” and so on are garnering comments from the members of the public, many of whom are concerned that the pet grooming industry is not regulated as they assumed. The article about “incompetence” mentions lack of qualifications in the groomers.

It is considered that with some form of licensing in place, that health and safety measures will be in place to ensure that our clients’ dogs go home as they should – healthy and safe!  Accidents can and will happen in the salon, but can negligence be eradicated with a license?  Many groomers think not – that cowboys will still operate outside the law.  There are professional associations such as Pet Care Trade Association and the Scottish Professional Groomers Network which have a code of conduct in place which asks their members to comply with the Animal Welfare Act, to treat their clients with honesty and integrity, and at all times behave in a manner which is professional and reputable.

The Pet Care Trade Association has responded to the e-petition with a statement in which they discuss the legislation possibility. It states: The Pet Care Trade Association (PCTA) believes in improving groomers’ knowledge and skills through qualifications and continuous professional development (CPD). Our members have a voracious appetite for training.We run City & Guilds qualifications through our network of 18 satellite training centres situated throughout the UK. The licensing issue raises the question: would licensing a groomer make a significant difference unless that groomer was properly trained?

At the PCTA we believe proper training and CPD is more beneficial than a licence .Signing up to our code of conduct and enrolling on City & Guilds qualifications is a groomer’s best route to providing reassurance to their customers. Members of the PCTA are listed on our website and display their membership window sticker at their premises. Pet shops selling animals need a licence – the City & Guilds pet store management qualification is a prerequisite of this to ensure that the individuals have professional knowledge. Animal boarding establishments also need a licence to operate .But there are some areas of animal care that don’t need a licence: dog walkers, pet sitters – groomers are not alone.

This is a very complicated area to legislate.The PCTA therefore believes that professional training is the better route in the short term to guaranteeing the safety of animals left in the care of a pet professional.”

On the English Groomers Group Facebook forum, threads dedicated to the discussion of legislation outlined some of the concerns that groomers have if and when regulation comes to pass. Some of these concerns were costs, whether formal qualification (eg City and Guilds) would be required, time spent chasing qualifications, or how it might be policed once in place.

Following the story of Dusty, the Lhasa apso which suffered burns in a grooming salon, I queried on Horse and Hound Online whether or not their readers felt it necessary for regulation. Many had the impression that dog grooming was already regulated in some fashion and were surprised to find that in fact it was not. While it would seem there are some pet owners who would pay more money to a groomer to be sure that their dog was groomed safely, we as groomers know that this is not always the case. On any given day the phone can ring and the first (and sometimes only!) question is “How much?” Many groomers have become increasingly savvy about pricing; higher pricing means fewer dogs required to cover overheads and salaries. Fewer dogs being groomed can relieve some of the pressure and dogs can be safer while in the salon. And yet…there is still much complaint about “cowboy” groomers who undercut in order to capture market share.

Our surveys said…

While the debates and comments on Facebook and other forums do make for very interesting reading, I conducted my own online survey with two sets of questions. One was directed at groomers and the other was directed at pet owners. With an incredibly fast and prolific return rate this survey came back in the first twelve hours with over 100 responses (out of approximately 200 persons who viewed it).  Within a three-week span there have been 177 responses. The pet-owners’ survey needed a little prodding to get replies, but in the four days that it ran, there were a respectable 76 responses.

Pet Owners Opinions

Of the pet owners polled, those that brought their pets to a groomer  were split nearly equally between “regular” users and “occasional” users,  with “once a year or less” making up a large portion (18.42%) but the frequency favoured was “up to four times per year” (52.63%) with the rest being split between “up to eight times per year” (21.05%) and the latter options of “eight to twelve times per year” making up the balance (5.26%) and “more than twelve times per year” (2.63%).  It would seem that according to these figures, that despite groomers trying to educate pet owners about keeping their pets groomed frequently that they are still opting for the “less is more” option. One might surmise that tight financial times would be partially to blame for this, yet according to another question pricing was a far lower priority than groomer reputation.

Following are results from other survey questions presented to pet owners:


How did you choose your current groomer?







How important do you feel qualifications are for a dog groomer?








Would you be willing to pay a higher grooming fee to someone who has formal qualifications?








Please rate the importance to you for the grooming industry to be regulated (ie formal licensing):










Despite the poll questions being answered with a positive slant toward regulation being favoured and higher fees being paid to those with qualifications, in reality many groomers have commented that they have never been asked whether or not they hold any formal qualifications, or if in fact they are even trained.  It is perhaps just an assumption being made, and trust is based upon that assumption.  When it comes to pricing, however, more often than not the obligation felt by groomers to keep their pricing low in order to be competitive is increasing.

And now it’s our turn – survey responses from groomers

Groomers have become divided in their opinions about whether or not the industry should be regulated – and if so how.  For some there seems to be a bit of confusion and perhaps angst toward the whole idea of regulation. Some assume that the regulatory bodies will opt for City and Guilds examinations to be basis for licensure. If that is the case, many groomers may quit the industry altogether as the process for sitting the exams is too time consuming, too costly, or too daunting.   Yet others feel quite firmly that regulation is necessary and are happy to sit exams or undergo formal inspection.

In an effort to gauge the type of groomer in our survey I asked some questions about business premises and practices. Their responses follow:


What type of grooming establishment do you work from?











How many years have you been grooming?









How did you train to be a groomer?








*More than one option could be chosen


How long did you initially train for before starting to groom professionally?









How many dogs per day do you groom in a typical working day?








How many people does it take to produce the number of dogs you groom in a typical working day ?








What criteria do you feel that a groomer should meet before being allowed to work independently?









How do you feel about regulation in the grooming industry?





*more than one option could be selected



How about self-regulating groups?

At the moment it is unclear which direction regulation will take, if it happens at all. Could it possibly be that this current excitement over regulation will once again fade away once the dust settles – or is now the time for action? Trudy Anderson, Founder of the Scottish Professional Grooming Network suggests that self-regulation is a possible alternative in the absence of independent regulation, eg voluntary adherence or opt-in to codes of professional conduct. She explores the notion with other questions such as “How effective is this system? In the absence of regulation, is it a viable alternative? How might self-regulation be improved? What are the possible sanctions for offenders – striking from membership, disciplining etc?”

She also comments:  “It is an unfortunate irony that it is all too often the start-up groomer, advertising at commercially unsustainable bargain basement prices to gain entry into his or her local market, that attracts initial clients with the pets least suitable to be groomed by an inexperienced (and sometimes untrained) novice – those unused to being handled for grooming or for whom grooming is either a completely novel or unpleasant experience, or who may have developed an aversion to grooming through previous negative experiences at the hands of ‘have-a-go’ groomers who have since disappeared.  In the absence of regulation many professional groomers have over the past number of years organised themselves into grassroots networking groups whose aims include continual improvement through groomer education.  Additional to this they serve some self-regulatory function, through peer interaction. These networks thrive on committed memberships which actively promote groomer education (as well as continuing professional development) and exchange good practice.”

Another view

Colin Taylor who runs his own training academy in London thinks that the grooming industry should be regulated. He says: “Regulations should start with the schools. If I was looking to hire a groomer, the first thing I would say is not ‘Are you C&G qualified?’ However what I would ask is ‘can you groom a dog well, with compassion, and do you know what is in the best interest of animals that enter the salon regarding the animal’s welfare along with health and safety?’ I am all for qualifications as they are important but I do not feel they should determine and judge one’s total ability.”

Does Colin think it will ever happen in our lifetime?  “Yes I do and I say bring it on but should be regulated by a private put-together committee not the Pet Care Trust.”

Dr Susan Horsfall, who grooms from her home based business in the Borders agrees that we should not have a charity or a trust running the steps toward regulation. “I cannot see how aligning ourselves with a charity of whatever hue can further the cause for professionalising groomers,” she says. “No other body I can think of has gone to an outside agency to improve upon its members’ qualifications and code of practice unless impelled to do so due to lack of ability to self-govern. We are far from that position. We as groomers know what we need to do to improve our industry. We have the knowledge to move forward. We have the will to do so. Groomers, no-one else, should be responsible for improving and professionalising grooming.”

It is apparent that in as much as groomers and members of public alike agree that regulating the industry may be necessary, it will not be an easy move.  There has not been a proposed timeline for groomers to observe so that they may begin preparing themselves. It certainly may not be “right” straight from the beginning, but hopefully with the involvement of those working in the industry, it might have a chance to evolve in to something that will be a workable system for groomers, and give peace of mind to those who are entrusting their pets to us.

For Further details and results of our surveys click the below links to see these in full details

Groomers Survey – https://totalgroomingmagazine.co.uk/groomers-survery-2013

Pet owners Survey – https://totalgroomingmagazine.co.uk/pet-owners-survey-2013