As the UK savours the feelgood vibes from the BBC dog grooming show Pooch Perfect, we get pup close and pawsonal with Jackie Bowen, a groomer who was trained by Pooch Perfect host Colin Taylor. Jackie works as a salon manager The Dog Spa, our own dog grooming centre based in Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire.
How long have you been a groomer?
I trained & qualified in 2010 at Absolutely Animals in SE London, so just over 10 years now.
Was there a particular reason you got into grooming in the first place?
Before I started Grooming, I had my own dog walking business for a few years beforehand and after a while my customers started asking me if I could also groom their dogs, so I started to research into dog grooming, and also speaking to a few local groomers in the area, and online via specialist dog forums, and attending dog shows to speak to other groomers both newbies & experienced professional groomers on how to get the best training and what exactly was involved. It was at the English Grooming Championship I found who I wanted to train me, and that was the first time I met Colin Taylor.
Dog Grooming has received a bit of attention recently thanks to the show Pooch Perfect on UK TV, what do you think of the show?
I loved the show, and for me watching these professional groomers at work is another way of learning and admiring their work. It also gives some insight into the skills, dedication & passion that Groomers have. Like most groomers, I think being a Dog Groomer is not ‘just a job’, it is a passion that can be all consuming. The time and dedication that goes into our profession is not something that be learned with an online course, it takes many many years of grooming, education and hands-on experience, as well as a love for dogs, to be able to do what we do on a day-to-day basis.
There were a couple of unusual and creative dog grooming methods used on the show, what do you think of some of these?
The show came in for a lot of criticism when it came to the creative side of grooming, from the public as well as other groomers. I believe, however, that creative grooming is a personal choice, and I can assure everyone that reputable groomers using this method will always have the health and safety of the dog in mind. In our industry, dogs are loved and cared for, and usually adore the attention and care that they’re shown. This subject has always provoked controversy and will continue to I am sure, but and I am hoping the show has given some insight to the general public as to just how much these dogs loved being groomed. Personally, I don’t mind the creative side, although it’s not something we practice in the salon.
Of course, the judges on the show are Verity Hardcastle and Colin Taylor. You were trained by Colin Taylor, what was that like?
Being trained by Colin is certainly one of my proudest achievements to this day, I am still in regular contact with him and have been since being one of his students, he is even more lovely than he appears on the show. The knowledge, skills, passion, and commitment he has not only to dogs but also for the industry are second to none. I personally believe that I have had some of the best training with Colin, which gave me an excellent base to continue to learn and improve from every day.
Is there anything you learned from Colin Taylor that you still practice today?
Yes, everything I do from the day to day running of the salon, how I handle dogs, how I groom and how I teach others. Most of my training is based upon how I was taught, and it’s a privilege to be able to pass this on to others. I pride myself on the ethics of any salon that I have managed on the simple basis that each and every dog that comes through my doors are treated as if they are one of my own. There is no better feeling than to see a dog come into the salon, wagging their tail, happy to see me, knowing that their owners are happy to trust me with such a precious member of their family.
What are some of your top tips if people want to try grooming their dogs at home?
Honestly – DON’T! Just leave it to the professionals.
We put every ounce of knowledge, care and attention into what we do. As tempting as it is please don’t cut those pesky matts out with scissors, I have heard and seen endless amounts of damage caused by owners trying to cut matting out of their dog’s coats. We spend thousands on training, equipment, products, and attend shows and seminars to ensure we have up to date information & training from some of the top groomers in the industry just to do what we do on a day-to-day basis.
So, as a professional groomer, the best tip I can give is brush your dog on a daily basis. If you’re not sure about which brush, how to brush etc. please ask us, we have even put together information on our Dog Grooming blog to be accessed any time you need it. At The Dog Spa we are here to help, and we want to see your pooch with a lovely, healthy coat that’s right for the both of you. Listen and work with your groomer if they recommend that your dog breed is to be groomed every 4-6-8 weeks and pre book your appointments. Groomers are here to help keep your fur baby be as beautiful as they deserve to be.
What advice would you give to customers looking for a groomer?
Now, like hairdressing, the industry is unregulated and literally anyone can start up a business as a Groomer, which can and has left some horrific outcomes. The professional dog grooming bodies are actually looking into ways of regulating the industry as we speak.
Many groomers will have a qualification such as a City & Guilds or higher, but it is not always about the qualifications. It’s about experience, knowledge and of course word of mouth. Speaking to people and acquiring local knowledge is invaluable. Never ever hesitate to ask a groomer about their experience, where and how they trained and even if they have a portfolio of previous work. You could also ask to make an appointment to see the salon. Personally, I will happily invite anyone into our salon to show them around. It’s important that you feel comfortable leaving your pooch with a dog groomer. A professional groomer won’t mind answering any questions or concerns you have.
What do you need to know when a customer brings their dog to you?
First & foremost, you need to ‘be honest’ with your groomer. Trust me, we have seen and heard most things and nothing will shock us, so you need never feel embarrassed to tell us the truth. A professional groomer will never judge, they are there to help you and your pooch, but if you are not honest with us, things can go very wrong in many ways.
The main points we need customers to be honest about is the dog’s behaviour & temperament. If we know little ‘Fluffy’ hates being groomed and is likely to snap, nip or bite, you need to tell the groomer before you book an appointment to make sure they have the ability and experience to ensure not only their safety but also the safety of your dog. We can always make any adjustments needed to ensure we can groom to the best of our ability & safety.
We also need to know of any medical conditions your dog has, even if you think it’s a minor problem, it could be important to the groomer. A minor problem could be aggravated by the type of shampoo we use and how they are groomed/handled. We also need to know if they are in season or not, and whether or not they’ve had any previous operations, as all this is important to us and your pooch.
Why does it cost more for a good groom than it does for some people to get a haircut?
First of all, if you know of any hairdressers that have low fees, can I have their details please? This is a question I get asked a lot and here’s your answer with light-hearted (but true) fun, which I hope makes you smile.
- Your hairdresser doesn’t wash and clean your rear end.
- You don’t go eight weeks without washing or brushing your hair.
- Your hairdresser doesn’t give you a sanitary trim.
- Your hairdresser doesn’t clean your ears.
- Your hairdresser doesn’t remove the boogies from your eyes.
- You sit still for your hairdresser.
- Your haircut doesn’t include a manicure or pedicure.
- Your hairdresser only washes and cuts the hair on your head.
You don’t bite or scratch your hairdresser (hopefully!)
- The likelihood of you pooping on the hairdresser is pretty slim.
What advice would you give to a young dog groomer looking to get started in the business?
You don’t have to be young to get started in the business, I didn’t train until I was in my late 30’s. You just have to be willing to learn, work hard, be patient and above all, put the welfare of the dog above everything else.
Do your research into Training Centres, try and speak to people that have attended them to get their feedback. Be prepared to expect to pay around £3,000+ for around 4 weeks training. Do not make the mistake of thinking you can become a professional groomer by doing an online course, it is a hands-on profession that takes a long time to perfect.
Try and gain some experience in a salon before embarking on a course, this will give you a good idea of what the job entails. Don’t be under the illusion that being a dog groomer is easy, as we get to play and cuddle dogs all day, that is just a very small part of it. You are constantly learning, so it’s one hell of a rollercoaster ride mentally. It’s also very physically demanding and emotionally draining, and some days you wonder why an earth you do it, until that one lovely comment or reaction from a customer makes it all worthwhile. You may need the patience of a saint but you also need a chiropractor on speed dial.
Would you ever change your job?
To me personally, it’s not just a job, it’s a privilege. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to do something I love – so in short, Nope!