Cost Comparison: Professional Dog Grooming vs. Grooming at Home

This past weekend I spent the better half of Saturday afternoon grooming our Golden Retriever, Mackenzie. It’s part of our monthly ritual that she tolerates and I’ve grown to enjoy. During our last trip to the tub (a tub that no human has ever bathed in, mind you), as I was laying out my grooming tools and blanketing the floor with old towels, I began to wonder, “how much am I really saving as compared to taking her to a professional?” I began totaling the cost of her organic dog shampoo and conditioner, the special toothbrush and toothpaste, the various scissors and other tools I had acquired, and decided that it would be interesting to determine the true cost of amateur dog grooming.

Dog Grooming: What’s Do You Mean Exactly?

For the purpose of this analysis, I’ve defined the dog grooming session as the following: a full body brush and once over using a desheding tool, trimming of the ears, legs, tail, and paws, nail trimming (if needed), a bath with shampoo and conditioner, teeth brushed, ears cleaned and conditioned, and balm applied to her paws. A professional will likely use a dog blow dryer; I use old towels.

A professional will likely provide a precision cut; I merely trim. The breed and temperament of your dog, along with your willingness to experiment with basic dog grooming techniques, will determine if grooming at home is an option for you. I’ve been grooming Mackenzie since she was a puppy so she’s used to the process. I like the shape of her natural coat so it didn’t take me long to learn how to trim or thin certain areas.

While I perform all of these activities during her monthly grooming session, some of the items above are done weekly (e.g., nails, teeth and ears checked, balm applied, etc.) and some are done daily (e.g., brushing). The breed of your dog, and your personal preferences, will dictate how often your dog should be groomed. Mackenzie is an inside dog who sleeps with humans so we like her to be as clean and fresh.

Start-Up Costs: Creating Your Dog Grooming Toolkit

Here are the tools I use: dog shampoo and conditioner, a nail clipper, a brush and deshedding tool, ear cleanser, three different types of scissors, a dog toothbrush and toothpaste, paw balm, and a cleansing body spray (perfect for between baths). Some of these tools are ‘capital’ expenses (i.e., the item will last for a year or more, scissors for example) while others will need to be replaced as they are consumed.

The total cost of the items I purchased came in at $205. Here are the details:

Shampoo, conditioner, ear cleanser, body spray, paw balm, toothbrush and toothpaste cost $85. The shampoo and conditioner alone cost $38, however, one large bottle of each will last me the entire year.

The brush and deshedding tool cost $45. A good brush will last you a long, long time and the deshedding tool is worth its weight in gold.

The three different scissors and nail clipper were $75. You might be wondering why three pairs of scissors, fair question. I started with a long pair of shears and quickly realized that one pair would not do every job. I purchased a pair of thinning shears to use behind her ears and a small pair ball nose of shears to use around her face and on her feet. Having the right tools has made all the difference.

Cost Analysis: Amateur vs. Professional Dog Grooming

Once I had determined what each tool cost, and how long I felt each would last, I calculated that my cost per grooming session during the first year was approximately $13. The good news is that, since many of the tools will last more than one year, my cost per grooming session will drop below $10 during year two! Now that I knew what it cost me to groom at home, I set out to determine what it would cost to have Mackenzie professionally groomed.

I called a few dog grooming facilities in the local area and found the cost of grooming a Golden Retriever to be approximately $65. Of course, as with any service, I’m sure you can find lower, and higher, prices depending upon your location, time of year, size of dog, reputation of groomer, etc. Using this rate as a benchmark, and assuming that I will groom Mackenzie monthly, here’s the cost comparison:

Amateur Grooming: $13.08 (cost per groom) x 12 = $157/year
Professional Grooming: $65 (cost per groom) x 12 = $780/year

Savings = $623/year

(It takes me 2 hours to complete the grooming process (prepare, groom, and clean-up), so that would equal 24 hours invested annually. My hourly rate would be almost $26/hour.)

Is it worth it? For me? Absolutely. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post I don’t mind the process and actually enjoy the time we spend together. It’s worth the effort just to see her prance around the house after it’s all said and done! What’s more, I’ve become very aware of changes as they occur. Earlier this year I found a small bump (less than the size of a pea) just underneath her skin. While it proved to be nothing, our vet was quite impressed that we noticed it at all. I doubt we would have noticed the bump if I hadn’t been grooming her myself and, if it had been something serious, at least we found it early.

So now that we’ve talking about the numbers, let’s talk about real-life. Even with evidence of a $623 annual savings by grooming at home, I do take Mackenzie to a professional twice a year. Once just before the start of Summer and again just before Thanksgiving. While this nearly doubles my annual grooming costs to $261, I recognize that my work does not equal that of a professional. I find that, using their work as a base, I’m able to maintain things the months in-between. The pre-Thanksgiving day groom saves me some time and, let’s face it, nothing beats a well groomed dog during the holidays. Here’s my adjusted cost comparison: Amateur Grooming: $13.08 (cost per groom) x 10 = $131/year + Professional Grooming: $65 (cost per groom) x 2 = $130/year (or $261/year total) Savings = $519/year

Lessons Learned: A Few Things to Think About

-Create a schedule and stick to it. I brush Mackenzie every night for several minutes after our walk. I perform the monthly grooming session the first weekend of month which is also when she gets her heart medication and flea/tick treatment. I find that it’s easier to create a new routine by associating it with one that already exists.

-Buy the best tools that you can afford. When I bought my first pair of shears I went for the cheap one – big mistake. It literally wouldn’t cut her hair! I immediately went back to the store and upgraded to the next tier. Don’t be afraid to return something, especially if it didn’t meet your expectations.

-Don’t be afraid to experiment. I was a wreck the first time I tried to thin the hair around Mackenzie’s ears. It turned out fine but, even it hadn’t, it’s hair. It will grow back (and your dog will forgive you).

-Use a professional as appropriate. Just because you can do it yourself doesn’t mean you can’t get outsource the work from time to time. Part of my monthly grooming process is to add ten bucks to a plastic baggy that lives in my dog grooming basket so that, when it’s time the call the professional, I’ve already budgeted for the periodic expense.

I’d love to hear from you! Do you groom at home, use a professional, or do both? Share your money saving tips, tricks, and resources by leaving a comment!

Chris Ray is Vice President, Marketing at MMI.

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