Behind the scenes at a dog grooming school in the Ribble Valley

A lesson in action

A lesson in action - Credit: Archant

A theatre nurse and a former joiner are among those heading for the Ribble Valley to retrain as dog groomers. Emily Rothery reports.

Students learning the art of grooming

Students learning the art of grooming - Credit: Archant

Dogs have brought many things into the life of Poppy Maney and her husband Steve – each other, for a start!

Poppy, who runs a school training people to become professional dog groomers, said: ‘Steve and I first met when we were working in the same bar in Spain. He had his dog, Butch, with him and I was missing my two dogs back home so we started walking him on the beach together.

‘We also had a link because we are both from Lancashire. We grew closer and you could say that we bonded over Butch.’ Poppy runs the Canine Groom School, at Rimington, near Clitheroe. Their shared love of Butch, a rescue dog, not only brought romance but also led to the successful business that they run today.

On returning to England, Poppy worked in musical theatre but she needed a more steady income and decided to look into starting her own business. She and Steve trained as dog groomers.

Poppy Maney with grooming assistant tutor Jess

Poppy Maney with grooming assistant tutor Jess - Credit: Archant

‘We set up our first small business in what I can only call a shed in our garden in Kent and it spiralled from there.’

‘When I became pregnant with our little girl, Daisy, we decided that it was time to come back home to Lancashire. We moved back to my family home where I had lived since I was two and invested in the conversion of the barn that is attached to my parents’ house.’

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The restored barn at Howgill Farm now doubles as their business premises and home where they live with Daisy, now five, and Stanley aged 19 months.

‘After Daisy was born I decided to do something a little bit different so I retrained and gained qualifications to teach dog grooming to people wanting to work professionally. I eased in slowly during the first year and then things really took off.It was mayhem!’ Poppy is now working seven days a week in her groom school. ‘Two experienced grooming assistants, Jess and Sarah, work with me and I am currently looking for a new apprentice.’

One satisfied customer

One satisfied customer - Credit: Archant

Poppy added:‘The big goal for us was to get our centre accredited to be able to develop a City and Guilds level 3 qualification which we did in our second year.’ She strongly believes that hands-on practice is the key to success although the courses do involve theory, written assignments and assessments.

She is justly proud of her attractive newly refurbished workshop which accommodates six students who each groom two dogs a day. Applicants are offered three options – intensive, weekend and flexi courses – all of which are offered with the same amount of tuition and attention to detail from experienced tutors. Each student is shown the techniques of washing and different methods of grooming and is trained in handling dogs of all shapes, sizes and temperaments.

‘Any dogs can come to be groomed at a flat reduced rate so the big dogs get a good deal. Handling of different breeds is a big part of the course. The students also have to learn to take on dogs with behavioural issues or dogs that are nervous. People sometimes think that it’s an easy occupation but along the way you have to deal with grime, fleas and parasites but I do believe that making a dog look nice is a creative job.’

On the day that I visit there are no dramas just a happy band of students who are working towards the end of their course. ‘Most of our students, when qualified, set up their own businesses. They may be retired and want to set up a small business to keep them active or they may want a complete change of career.’

One hound enjoying a clip

One hound enjoying a clip - Credit: Archant

One of them, Julie Tordoff, who was working with her four-legged client Teddy, said: ‘I was a nurse working in the operating theatre for 34 years and left because it got too stressful. At first I was out of my comfort zone here but now I love it. The course has been everything I could wish for and I’m hoping to start my own business.’

Paul Room, who clearly loves dogs, was putting the finishing touches to Dexter’s grooming. ‘I was a joiner by trade but my body is letting me down so I’m now completing my training and hope to start a grooming business in Blackburn.’

Poppy’s husband Steve specialises in canine rehabilitation at the Canine Health and Hydrotherapy centre on the same site in nine acres of the Ribble Valley. He also runs a workshop on how to market, insure and set up a business and there is also a half day on first aid for dogs which is led by a registered veterinary nurse. ‘We do a taster day to ensure that people are going to like the course and offer 24/7 advice to our students after they have qualified,’ said Poppy.

In turn, ex-students reciprocate and show their appreciation through the many testimonials received, thanking Poppy and her team for their high standards, care and dedication.

Last year she gained a new qualification and is now an International Certified Master Groomer – a testament to her ability. ‘It’s a more high-end qualification and is suitable for show dogs. I hope to start teaching it this year. Daisy loved helping me with bathing the dogs when I was practising and already has her sights set on being a dog groomer or vet.

‘Many people who trained with me now have successful businesses up and running and are looking to me for newly trained assistants so I feel that I have come full circle. That’s very satisfying.’

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