By Belle Hann

My initial stereotype of a dog groomer was an over-the-top, slightly hysterical older lady clutching at a glamorous pink poodle.

However, Samantha from Altona North’s The Pooch Beauty Salon is a softly-spoken, down-to-earth young woman.

Every day, she will take care of at least five to six dogs, varying from small terriers to large Newfoundlands. This usually involves the full grooming experience of bathing, shampooing, drying, brushing, and clipping. She also takes care of “beauty baths” which is a wash-dry-brush service. It is a busy job, but perfect for Samantha’s deep love for all things canine.“I just love dogs!”

Her career in dog grooming began after working in animal care at a research farm.

She studied professional dog grooming that included learning all the tools of the trade, as well as clipping and brushing techniques. She also completed specialist training in pet styling.

My interview with Samantha is punctuated by the occasional soulful whimper from a damp black dog air-drying after his bath. This is a familiar sound at the salon, as dogs are not always thrilled about bath time. And this can require strong dog-handling skills to manage the occasional unruly hound. “You have to patience, a lot of patience!”

While a dog has never bitten Samantha, she regularly deals with hyperactive or anxious dogs. “Some dogs can be a handful, and…jump around a lot, and some can be aggressive.”

However, it is not just the four-legged clients who can be high-maintenance. While most dog owners are great to work with, some may have unrealistic expectations.

“Some owners come in with matted dogs that don’t understand we need to cut (the dog’s) hair short. We can only explain so much.”

One of the key aspects of dog grooming is to know how to groom each specific breed. This is particularly true of the Airedale terrier breed. This breed’s face fur must be shaped into an elegant beard that would be the envy of your average Brunswick hipster. Other breeds are much easier to handle, such as white Maltese terriers.

Being a dog groomer requires patience, creativity, and calmness in slippery situations – literally. It is a tough and physical job that demands skills with people as well as the poochies. According to Samantha, though, being able to work with dogs all day makes it all worthwhile.

“So what do you do?” is an ongoing series by Belle Hann exploring unusual careers in the inner west of Melbourne.


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