There is very little in the way of information about the origin of pet grooming. However, we do have some for you and links to additional sources for those doing research.
Madeline Bright Ogle, President is the founder and president of Find A Groomer Inc., the owner operator of PetGroomer.com. She wrote what has become the all-time bestselling grooming book dedicated to the business-side of pet grooming, From Problems to Profits: The Madson Management System for Pet Grooming Businesses (1989, 1997). She opened the book with a chapter titled, The Heritage of Pet Grooming. Below you will find an excerpt.
A Goldsmith’s Workshop by Alessandro Fei (1543-92)
Scala/Art Resource, New York. All Rights Reserved inclusive.
Look closely and you will find two well-groomed pets.
Over 400 years ago pet owners were taking care of their pets.
HISTORY OF PET GROOMING (excerpt)
Many reference materials attest to man’s fondness of pets, but no books trace the origins of pet grooming. However, there are occasional references that shed light on the art of pet grooming. Ferdinand Mery, authored The Dog (London, 1970). In it, he established that dogs were first perceived as useful to man as early as 4240 B.C. Mery mentions unusual religious totems with dogs depicted in their sculpture. As centuries passed the dog eventually became commonly accepted as a pet, and is now considered “man’s best friend.”
In past centuries, pets have lived comfortably in the castles of Kings and Queens. They have served as working dogs in the marketplace and traveled with entertainment groups. Art from the fourteenth through the eighteenth century depicts small dogs and cats near the footstools of ladies of the Court. In other paintings small pets sit with their masters on lounges and chairs. Another shows a young man standing next to his spaniel. Frequently, the images depict larger breeds sitting on the floor next to their masters.
The Elizabethan era reveals some of the earliest historical evidence of pet grooming activity. While the method of grooming is unclear, the pets are clean and well-groomed. Perhaps groomers in the marketplace cleaned them. One such grooming in a lithograph shows a dog being sheared while sitting on a lady’s lap. Women shearing dogs is also the subject of etchings.
In 17th century France, the poodle was the official dog at court. The era of King Louis XV of France reveals the first official records of dog grooming parlors. Rare books of the 19th century mention dog grooming in Europe. The Book of the Dog (Vero Shaw, 1879) refers to the existence of pet grooming in England. Specific grooming recommendations such as washing, grooming, and coat conditioning occur in Ashmont’s Kennel Secrets, (Boston, 1893). Pet groomers have a historical tradition of which they can be proud.
Over the years, attitudes have been changing toward many animals. Animals that provided carriage for thousands of years, such as horses, mules, and camels, are now replaced by advanced developments in transportation. Many of these animals have different uses presently and maintain a special relationship with man. However, none are more beloved as pets than dogs and cats. And what man loves, he cares for and protects.
I hope you appreciate and admire, our heritage as groomers. You’ve chosen a field whose history shows it as both an occupation and an art. Similarly, the practice of medicine provides a necessary function for man’s existence, yet the practice of medicine is an art. Unless you know the history of your profession and the revolutions taking place in your field, you are unlikely to succeed. Too many of today’s pet grooming salons are as outmoded as a horse replaced by an automobile.
The Evolution of Pet Grooming Salons (excerpt)
The roots of today’s salon lie in the marketplaces and palaces of the past. This is where groomers were first advancing our chosen field. Pet grooming salons as we know them today simply did not exist. More recently, kennels offer grooming services so pets return to their owners clean and smelling fresh. Also, many veterinarians have added grooming services so their client’s pets are clean and fresh when picked up. Some neighborhood pet shops have also expanded into the service business by offering pet grooming services.
Before the 1940’s, “doggie barbershops” went into business. These shops had very little room. The entire operation consisted of three or four cages, a table, and a bathing and drying area. Pedestal stand blow dryers, such as the Bonet “fluff-drier,” were not yet introduced. Some doggie barbershops still exist though their number is decreasing. The burgeoning pet population demands modern and professional pet grooming services.
Kennels provided grooming in much the same manner using unsafe and ineffective cage driers. Lacking air conditioning, these “sweat shops” were already hot. With the introduction of pedestal stand blow dryers in the 1940’s they became nearly unbearable for employee and pet. Trimming was laborious without electric clippers and modern supplies. No more than eight dogs a day can be in this environment and owners can only earn a limited income.
The late 1940’s introduced new grooming tools. Yet, the biggest contributing factor to today’s vast pet grooming market occurred in the middle 1950’s. This is when the population explosion of dogs and cats began. The opportunity for pet grooming to become a viable profession had arrived. Pet grooming began to move out of the back room and away from the edge of town in rundown buildings. It moved downtown, to main street.
Through the centuries the pet dog and cat became an integral part of the family. When the United States zero birthrate became actuality, Americans brought more pets into their homes than ever. The population, especially of smaller breeds like the Poodle, Pomeranian, Sheltie, Lhasa Apso, Shih-Tsu and Pekinese, exploded. People loved the furry cuddliness of their little friends. With the movement toward town homes and condominiums, the smaller breeds fit better in the confined spaces of the new homes. They took up minimal space and were well-mannered travelers in automobiles. Perhaps the preference for smaller breeds is a functional necessity for today’s lifestyle. The question is, will grooming salons make the adjustment demanded by the changes in our modern day clients and their pets? It’s time to introduce you to grooming as an industry.