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Jobs 101: Pet groomer

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Giving your furry friends a paw-sitively stylish look.

She once had to style a mohawk for a guinea pig, and has met the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan. These unusual experiences are just part and parcel of Nikki Kirby's job as a pet groomer.

Youth.SG met with Nikki from Pet's Lagoon, the shop she set up with her sister in the quiet town of Choa Chu Kang, to find out more about her job.

Who: Kirby Nikki Sim, 27
What: Pet groomer
Studied: Advance Groomer Certification by California Academy of Animal Aesthetics, after completing her 'N' levels

Tell us more about yourself!

As a groomer, I've had 10 years of experience, but our shop is only five years old. Over the years I've styled many dogs, and nowadays, owners tend to come in armed with pictures from the internet; so we get that more often now.

My parents were also quite reluctant to let me open up the shop at first, but after a while they understood that I'd rather work with pets than humans!


A dog after grooming
ONE OF THE SATISFIED CUSTOMERS OF THE STORE. 

Why did you become a pet groomer?

I really wanted to learn how to style pets. It was a viable option for me because my studies weren't fantastic, but I realised I was also very passionate about animal grooming!

What's a typical day at work like?

First we'll take a full look at the dog, to assess their condition and what their hair is like. Most owners don't see it, but the quality of fur determines what hair styles the dog is suitable for. 

Then, it's two hours for a full grooming, where we'll clean out their ears, cut their nails, shave their paw pads, and so on.

What are some challenges you face?

It's really tiring! We have to grab our lunch before we even step into the shop. After that, it's full steam ahead – we rarely have time even for toilet breaks.

We've also had to deal with really aggressive pets who refuse to be groomed; but at the end of the day when I see that a dog looks so much better than when it first came in, or when it comes back to me after the session for affection, it gives me such a sense of satisfaction.

NIKKI GROOMING
NIKKI'S FAVOURITE PART OF GROOMING IS SEEING THE DOGS LOOK BETTER THAN BEFORE.

Is grooming only for dogs?

I love dogs, but we also do other animals. A customer once asked us to cut a Mohawk for his guinea pig!

Do you have any pets yourself?

I have two at home, a Poodle and a Shitzu mix Maltese. The shop is open six days a week, so I rarely get to see my dogs, and sometimes I feel guilty about it; so on weekends, sometimes we head out to the beach.

Any memorable experiences in the past five years?

I got the chance to meet my idol, Caesar Millan, in June when I worked with him on a show for National Geographic.

When he came the last time, I wasn't able to speak to him personally, but this time I got the chance to work with him, and that was the most memorable experience.

Nikki and her Idol Cesar Millan
NIKKI WITH CESAR MILLAN, HER IDOL.
PHOTO CREDIT: PETS' LAGOON

What motivates you?

Seeing the dogs happy and knowing that I'm doing what I'm passionate about keeps me coming back every day. 

Educational requirements: No specific requirements, but having a basic knowledge of pet care helps.

Qualities needed: Patience, interest in dogs, determination and passion.

Salary range: From about $2,000 onwards per month, depending on how many customers you get in that month. 

Working hours: Six-day work week, depending on the store.

Career prospects: With time and enough skill, you can start up your own grooming store.