Sunday, December 17, 2023

The Evolution of Dog Grooming


The Evolution of Dog Grooming

by Cindy Ervin Huff

My latest release is a Contemporary Romance, not a historical, but the history behind the job my heroine undertakes is fascinating. Loving the Dog Groomer had me visiting salons and learning all I could about dog grooming from my children, who were professional groomers until very recently. Last month my book became available online. As a history buff, I became curious about the history of dog grooming. Here is a smattering of what I found regarding the fascinating evolution of dog grooming.


Grooming dogs dates back to Ancient Egyptian times when rulers pampered their dogs, not only bathing and perfuming them, but also adding make-up. Ancient artwork often depicts dogs and in obvious revered placement, showing them considered sacred.

Dogs served many functions through the centuries that made them invaluable to humans. They assisted in hunts, herded, and guarded the family.

Roman times

The Romans are credited with inventing some of the first grooming tools, a noteworthy one: the flea comb. They often trimmed their dog’s coats, giving them a well-kept appearance.

Kennel Boys

Kennel Boy

The first dog groomer recorded in history was the Kennel Boy. He lived in the kennel with the dogs owned by royals. He cleaned them, kept them healthy, and even made sure there was nothing in the surrounding land that would harm them. He became the Alpha leader and an invaluable asset to the ruling class. 

New York Times 1898

There are paintings showing dogs being groomed in the street by vendors who offered the service. More and more, the idea of dogs as pets grew. And with it, breeding dogs that best fit that role.

Modern day AKC photo

Middle Ages

The Curly Haired Retriever, a forerunner of the poodle, is believed to be the first dog ever groomed. He was a water retriever, meaning he swam to retrieve ducks and other birds that landed in the water after being shot by their masters. Because their hair was so thick and heavy, it slowed them down. Shaving the hair down on their legs and portions of their torso gave them more freedom of movement. They had the long hair on their head tied on the top with a ribbon so they could see better. Hair was left over vital organs to protect them while the dog aided in the hunt.

The French Poodle’s hair style mimics the Curly Haired Retriever. During the Napoleonic period, poodles were the preferred breed for the wealthy French. Many oil paintings of the upper class show a dog by their side or in their lap. Lapdog breeds became a sign of prestige because they served no useful purpose. And required special care. 

Renaissance Europe

Breed-specific styles emerged over time. Well-groomed dogs became a symbol of wealth, Elaborate grooming styles developed, including dying fur.( And these dyes were not safe like they are today.)

The Victorian Era

Dog Salons became popular during the Victorian era, offering a variety of services from bathing, trimming hair, and nail care. Groomers began to develop their own tools and grooming techniques. Several books were written in the late 1800s explaining proper grooming techniques and how to keep dogs healthy.

Many royal pooches wore the same opulent fashion of their owners. Groomers were paid not only to bath their dogs but also to soak them in sulfur water to kill fleas. (This was very irritating to their skin.) Their haircuts often imitated women’s hair fashions.


The 20th Century

Dog grooming continued to evolve as more training became available. Usually, groomers apprenticed themselves to other groomers. Grooming schools cropped up around the country run by well-known groomers. While other groomers learned as they went because certification was not required to groom a dog.

Modern tools came into play, such as electric clippers, hair dryers and nail dremels, making the job easier for the groomer and safer for the dog. Dog shows became popular in the 1920s and thus pushed grooming to the forefront once again. New breeds emerged with their unique grooming needs.

The Present

Most groomers have a several sets of scissors, razors, blades and combs designed for every conceivable hair type. They also have products that help sensitive skin and are eco-friendly.  Like cosmetologists, there are grooming conferences with vendors, classes and competitions to help groomers be the best they can be. 

Classes on the psychology of dogs, dog training, proper nutrition and more are available at these conferences and online. Groomers can earn certificates to advance their knowledge to better understand their clients and offer wise advice to dog owners. Contests result in trophies and certificates groomers can display to give customers confidence that their family member will be well-treated. Unfortunately, because there is no licensing needed anywhere in the US to groom dogs, it is a buyer-beware situation. Interviewing groomers and asking about their training will go a long way to ensuring your dog gets the healthiest, safest care possible.

Until my own children became dog groomers, I had no idea how much care was needed to keep a dog healthy. Dog owners using professional dog groomers has become more popular in the last twenty years, and the need for groomers has increased over recent decades.

If you own a dog, have you tried a dog groomer? Did you know dog grooming was centuries old?

Cindy Huff writes Contemporary and Historical romance. She was a finalist in the 2019 Selah Awards, as well as winners of the Maxwell Award and the Serious Writers Award. 

Cindy recently returned from a vacation to Scotland and Ireland where she visited lots of castles, and other historical sites and met wonderful, fascinating people. She’s happy to be back in her new home in Oklahoma where she’s enjoying her new church friends and wonderful western historical landmarks. Cindy’s busy gathering stories both old and new that could make their way into her upcoming novels. Visit her at  or her author page for buy links.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting today! I hadn't wondered how old the art of dog grooming was, but assumed it was at least a century old because of the depictions I've seen of the Afghan hounds with that long , silky hair. Someone had to comb that out! Merry Christmas!