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Shaping the Dog Groomers of Tomorrow: CAW Grooming School one year on…

It has now been just over a year since we opened our dog grooming school at our education and training centre near Leeds. Having already successfully set up a grooming school at our head office in Cambridgeshire in 2009, the purchase of Leeds-based commercial pet centre, Campus Vets and Pets, in 2015 presented us with the ideal opportunity to offer City & Guilds accredited training to those looking to pursue a career in dog grooming in the north.

On Monday 18 April 2016, we welcomed our first two students, Jade and Victoria on the City & Guilds Level 2 Certificate for Dog Grooming Assistants intensive five week block course. Both Jade and Victoria passed their qualification with flying colours and returned a few weeks later to undertake the Level 3 Certificate in Introductory Dog Grooming; an indication of the success that has followed the grooming school ever since.

Of course, where there are students, there must be dogs… And so, alongside the launch of the grooming school, was the opening of the dog grooming salon at Campus Vets and Pets. The money generated from the grooming courses has allowed the cost of dog grooming services to be offered at an affordable level to dog owners throughout the local community; a combination that supports our ethos of raising standards of animal welfare. Initially, in order to build up the client base needed to run the grooming courses, the salon offered each dog a free groom for their first visit, with a further opportunity for a free groom if they recommended a friend. With local advertising, social media campaigns, and the excellent work of the dog grooming team and students, the word quickly spread; bringing us to today where there is a six week wait for an appointment. The low cost of grooming has encouraged owners to rebook visits to the salon on a more frequent basis, a win-win situation all around for the dogs, owners and students alike.

Dog Groomer and Practical Skills Trainer, Michelle Saunders, has been the lead trainer at the grooming school since its inception in early 2016. With over 25 years of experience in the industry prior to joining the College, Michelle was drawn to the role to share her grooming knowledge and inspire groomers of the future, ‘Dog grooming is a fundamentally practical profession and the training programme at the College reflects this; we use our facilities to help equip up and coming groomers with all the necessary skills needed to maintain and exceed industry standards’ She continued ‘Spending so much time working in the grooming salon with a wide variety of dogs makes the transition between training and work seamless’.

Opportunities to train with us are met with high competition, and demand shows little sign of slowing. The level 2 and 3 City & Guilds certificates are run on either a five week intensive block, or a six month day release basis. Students come from all walks of life; some wishing to train to change career or get back into employment, and others who are already working in the industry looking to gain formal recognition of their skills and experience.

One such student is Alisa Youngman. Alisa, owner of Alisa Lyn Youngman Dog Grooming Services based in Beverley, set up her own business post training. As well as modern facilities and supportive tutors, Alisa credits an emphasis on practical work as one of the many benefits of formal training with us. She said: I found [CAW Grooming School] such a great place to train, everyone was so welcoming and the staff were extremely knowledgeable and helpful. The course was perfect for me as it was a block course meaning I was hands on grooming full time for 10 weeks. Overall, I would qualify quickly and have a good amount of experience and knowledge behind me to confidently set my own business up – which I have and it’s really taken off! The intensity really aided my confidence and I felt I had a lot of opportunities to work with different breeds more regularly.”

The early success of the grooming school raises questions as to how the training provision will continue to grow in years to come. In response to the increasing need for varied, flexible learning opportunities; among many planned developments include the launch of the Level 3 Diploma in Professional Dog Grooming, to be run at the school on a day-release basis from September 2017. We are also looking for an additional Dog Groomer and Practical Skills Trainer to join our team in Summer 2017 to keep up with the expansion. See the vacancy 

Speaking about the future, Michelle is excited at the prospect of continuing to teach at the grooming school. “I have no doubt that we will continue to grow as awareness increases further and new services begin to open at the centre. Training has never been so important and accessible; through recognised training and experience, we can increase the recognition of the vital work that dog groomers do on a daily basis to members of the public and drive the profession forward’.

If this year acts as a benchmark for future success, then we can only expect good things to come from the grooming school. One thing is for sure: it is shaping the dog groomers of tomorrow: one paw at a time.

CAW Grooming School is based at Campus Vets and Pets (, the ambitious expansion of animal welfare training provider The College of Animal Welfare. A new and modern animal welfare and training hub, the centre will eventually host a state-of-the-art veterinary practice, boarding kennels and cattery, animal physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and dog training classes. Further information on the College’s dog grooming courses delivered by CAW Grooming School can be found at

Originally published in the July 2017 edition of Total Grooming Magazine.

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