Jessy Brown, from Northern Ireland was medically discharged from the army due to an illness, and is now putting her love of dogs to good use by studying for the iPET Level Three qualification in Dog Grooming and Salon Management at the Bone Idol Training Academy in Brighton.
She said: “I’ve always worked with animals, before I was in the Army I used to work at animal shelters and things like that, I’ve always been around dogs, and love going into work and being with the dogs all day. That’s why I think I’ve chosen grooming as my next career option, it’s a natural transition, and I won’t miss the canine company I’ve enjoyed so much.
“Before I started the course in my head I thought it was going to be loads and loads of classroom work, and then a little bit of grooming here and there. But it has been so hands on and it’s amazing. You are literally grooming dogs all day every day! You do have theory lessons, but they really make it as interesting. It has been brilliant.”
The large-scale influx in the purchase of puppies and new dogs seen during the pandemic has led to never before-seen demand for dog grooming in the UK.
Grooming salons around the UK are struggling to keep up, and Ofqual regulated awarding organisation iPET Network, which offers dog grooming qualifications, is appealing for would-be groomers to sign up and become part of the growth industry.
Nationally since the start of the pandemic 3.2million households brought home a pet of some kind.
From 2020 to 2021 there was a boost in dog numbers from 9million to 12million, and with 17 of the 20 most popular dog breeds needing regular grooming or treatments this has led to a big surge in demand.
And with many people considering a complete change of career and outlook following the COVID 19 pandemic, working with animals in a flexible way is an attractive option.
People like Francessca Thomas, who is branching out after her career as cabin crew for an airline was thrown into turbulence by the pandemic.
She said: “I picked the course at Bone Idol because my work situation was uncertain, and it was the most flexible course I found. I looked at a college; the course was one evening every week from 5pm till 8pm. I couldn’t guarantee that I could do that for eight weeks, because I might have flights.
“I grew up with Welsh Terriers. When I moved into my own place three years ago and was in the position to, I got my own dog! I brought home Luna the Working Cocker Spaniel last December. “When I was a child I wanted to work with animals and become veterinary nurse. “Then you finish school, college and university and life takes over! I never thought working with animals would be my career as an adult but it was always a dream.
“With the pandemic you suddenly have so much time to really think ‘what am I doing with my life?’ “Being with Luna at home and spending a lot of time training her, made me think ‘why I am doing anything other than spending all my time with dogs?’”
Sarah Mackay and Fern Gresty, who run the canine sector-specific awarding organisation iPET Network, which supports training providers around the country in providing the high-quality qualifications, said: “The demand for dog grooming has never been stronger, and these millions of new puppy parents need to be reassured that the groomer they choose holds a nationally recognised qualification.
“Sadly, because of the pandemic lockdowns some grooming businesses in the UK have not survived. That coupled with the giant demand the remaining ones are experiencing means only one thing; We need more qualified groomers.”
In the UK in 2019 830 people received certificates in a Level 3 dog grooming qualification, this has risen to 895 in 2020, but more are still needed.
And Scott Learmouth, who runs the Bone Idol Training Academy and salon in Brighton can attest to that.
The salon has been packed out with bookings ever since it was allowed to reopen, and the iPET Network qualifications offered by the training academy have seen a record number of sign-ups.
He said: “The pandemic has been so tough, but coming out the other side it is all the more clear that we have a growth industry on our hands.
“We have seen so many different types of people signing up to take the iPET Network courses. People have had the opportunity to reassess their lives, or have lost jobs, and dog grooming is a fun and creative new start for them.
“Likewise at the salon it is safe to say that it has been packed! It’s wonderful to be back, but it’s clear that the industry needs to expand to keep up with demand. It is a really exciting time for dog grooming.”
To find out more about the courses that the iPET Network offers go to www.ipetnetwork.co.uk