The History of Dog Grooming

After a grooming, dogs look good and feel even better. The health benefits of regular grooming have been long established, and the visual results speak for themselves. These results spring from the hard work of professional groomers, as well as the care and affection they show for the dogs they groom. This love that is afforded to most modern dogs has not been a constant throughout human history, however; the first dogs who were domesticated from wolves likely received little in the way of care from their human companions other than scraps from the dinner table. As the centuries passed, dog breeds become both more specialized and the bond between humans and dogs deepened. These conditions lead to the rise of people whose living was entirely based on caring for dogs. The lineage of modern grooming can be traced back through time in this way.


The first people who could be considered professional dog groomers, as in dog grooming was the basis for their career, were kennel boys in medieval Europe. As dogs were, and still are, highly valued companions for hunting, as well as herding and dealing with vermin, noble lords who owned many dogs would have kennel boys care for their pack full time; these kennel boys would live with their companions, taking care of all of their needs, including early forms of grooming. At this stage, dog grooming was entirely practical; dogs with matted hair and unkempt fur performed worse in the fields, and poor hygiene could lead to valuable dogs catching diseases, infections or parasites.


It wasn’t until a few centuries later, in 16th century France, that dog stylings became more advanced, and geared more toward appearance than efficiency. Even then, however, most styles had some basis in the in the needs of working dogs. For example, a rough version of the now famous poodle cut was developed around this time, but the cut was far less stylized than it is today, and the tufts of fur left around the poodle’s body were strategically placed; fur is left in places that need to be protected, such as joints, while the rest is shaved off to allow the dog the ability to swim in water more easily.


It was not until relatively recently in human history that owning a dog simply for the companionship was available to anyone besides the wealthy elite; for most the heavy cost in raising or purchasing a dog required some material return on investment. However, in modern times, the option of dog ownership is available to all, and with the widespread adoption of dogs not as work animal but as a companion, so too grew the professional of dog grooming. No longer a job just reserved for the personal assistants of elites, dog groomers could style a wide range of dogs, and with this growth in clientele came a growth in the technique and style in the industry.


The first schools dedicated to teaching groomers their craft started appearing in the 1960s. Around this time, Barkleigh Productions, a very influential organization for communicating and teaching groomers best practices, was founded. This was the beginning of widespread standards of work in the industry. A key figure in this early organization of the industry was Pam Lauritzen, who helped found the Professional Pet Groomers Certification, the first certification that proved groomers had the proper knowledge to perform their jobs skillfully. Other certification organizations, such as International Professional Groomers, Incorporated and the National Dog Groomers Association of America soon followed. These organizations are still around to this day, and Pam Lauritzen is still an important figure in the community, running the International Society of Canine Cosmetologists.


Nowadays, the grooming industry has a wide range of  support organizations to both teach groomers and allow them to interact with each other. Barkleigh Productions holds grooming conventions across the country, where groomers can gather and learn the newest info on how to care for dogs well or learn hot new grooming styles. Multiple organizations offer accredited grooming courses, increasing the standards for quality of grooming across the industry. But where will grooming go in the future? Only time will tell, and we at HotSpawts hope to be along for the journey, wherever it takes us.

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