Being a pet groomer requires a unique set of skills and dexterity, but left-handed groomers often face an additional challenge. In a world where right-handed tools and equipment dominate, lefties must learn to adapt to a world designed for the majority. For a left-handed groomer, it can be frustrating and difficult to find tools that work for them and to master techniques that are often taught to right-handed individuals. Despite these challenges, left-handed groomers have proven to be just as skilled and successful as their right-handed counterparts. In this blog, we partnered with Ashley Webb, owner of TheBlvckGypsy Mobile Grooming, to explore the unique challenges that left-handed groomers face and offer tips and tricks to help them succeed in the pet grooming industry.
How you got into the pet industry:
I began my education in the pet industry in high school at the age of 16. At the end of my sophomore year, I applied to The Chesterfield technical center, located in Richmond, VA to take their Veterinary Science course my junior year. After completing the course I received certification as a Veterinary Assistant. My love and passion for animals continued to grow inside of me, so I applied to several veterinary hospitals and never received a response. I decided to apply to a popular pet store chain where I worked as a cashier for a year, after expressing interest in working hands-on with dogs I was cross-trained as a bather. Once my manager noticed how quickly I adjusted & how well the dogs responded to me my bathing position became permanent. Three years later I was afforded the opportunity to attend their grooming academy.
How you learned and navigated being a left-handed groomer:
To prepare, I had to buy grooming equipment and noticed that the majority of grooming tools are catered to right-handed groomers, and I had to find left-handed shears amongst other tools. At that time the only quality shears were very expensive, and I couldn’t afford them at the time, so I bought a $99 set of right-handed shears which included thinning shears, 1 pair of 7 1/2 straight shears, and a pair of 7 1/2 curved shears. When I arrived on the first day, I found out that I was the only person in my class that was left-handed, and to be honest it was a little discouraging as I didn’t have the same vantage point of learning as my classmates. Not only was I embarrassed that I was unable to afford what I needed, I felt like there wasn’t a space for someone like me. I didn’t feel like I fit the mold of what the grooming industry catered to. Despite this, thankfully I was blessed to have a grooming academy instructor who was encouraging & patient. She would stand in front of me rather than by my side to demonstrate how to hold and use the scissors. As a visual/kinesthetic learner, I figure things out best by watching and physically working through how it’s done. As I continued watching and practicing with the scissors, I figured out that if I held the scissors the opposite way in my left hand and cut at an angle, I could use them. It was difficult to do, but I was eager to learn and determined to figure out a way to use what I had.
Issues you’ve faced while learning (past/present):
When you use shears that are meant for use the opposite way, they were being used it actually folds the hair and makes it difficult to cut the hair properly. This made it very difficult initially with the scissoring aspect of grooming. My personal approach initially was to start with setting the desired length with clippers using a blade or guard comb and using scissors and thinning shears for finishing the face, legs, feet, and tail. In doing this, I wouldn’t have to scissor as much and only relied on scissoring/ thinning shears to finish up the final look. Although this may seem like a simple adjustment to others, reflecting back, I was at a disadvantage in perfecting my scissor work because I was relying mostly on clipper work to achieve the desired look. I was unable to perfect scissoring the way I wanted to. Once I was finally able to purchase left-handed shears, I had to get accustomed to correctly scissoring all over again as over time I got used to working with right-handed shears. Once I adjusted, there was a huge difference in my work, how the hair laid after being cut, and how long it took me to groom a dog. Throughout the years I’ve also attended grooming expos to continue my education and expand my knowledge of other grooming techniques. All classes are taught from the perspective of a right-handed groomer which still creates a learning disadvantage for left-handed groomers as you’re learning through visual demonstration backward.
Your techniques/tricks/tools that helped you learn:One tip I learned was unscrewing a de-matting tool known as a mat breaker and turning the teeth in the opposite direction and putting it back together for left-handed use. This tool is a must-have for separating matted hair if there’s space between the matting and the pet’s skin. Doing this permits left-handed use as this tool can only be used in your right hand prior to making this adjustment.
Another great tip for scissoring is to use a good scissoring spray prior to starting your scissor work. I prefer to spray on a client’s coat before drying and not only does it speed up the drying process, but it makes the coat manageable, adds volume, and the hair cuts like butter! I’ve been using Magic Boost Scissoring Spray by iGroom for a few months now and I’ll never go without it.
Become well-versed in dog anatomy and body structure. Start with the most common breeds that you work with and purchase Notes from the grooming table book. It provides detailed instructions on all breed clips and techniques. That way you always have a visual in your mind and a tangible copy to reference and makes scissoring almost second nature over time.
Advice to grooming brands to assist lefties:
I think pet brands should offer more products for left-handed groomers as the lack provides limited learning resources and the majority of tools and education are created from a right-handed point of view. I would love to see an increase in the variety of grooming shears from straight and curved shears, thinning, chunkers (also curved and straight) nail clippers, and dematting tools customized for left-handed use as learning with these different shears and tools take your skill set and creativity to another level. In the future, I would love to work with brands to cultivate a line of affordable shears or subscription packages with grooming tools customized for left-handed groomers who are both just beginning their grooming education and are well-experienced and teach beginning and continued education for my fellow lefties.
Advice to your readers:
To my left-handed readers that may be interested in grooming and feel discouraged to groom or fellow lefties that may not be able to afford the shears they need, let that love for what you do continue to grow, and make what you have work until you’re able to get what you need. Don’t let a lack of variety or tools keep you from taking a step toward your calling. If the desire and passion are in you it’s for a reason. You never know what doors you have the key to opening. I love grooming because I love working and caring for pets. Pet care is a multifaceted industry that has so many avenues and opportunities to expand with continued education and creative freedom to explore new ways to improve how we understand, care for, and provide for pets. With that freedom, it makes room for so many possibilities whether through health/wellness, grooming, or training/ behavioral education. That’s my goal in working in this industry, continuing my education in multiple spaces to elevate pet wellness and education so I can educate other groomers and pet parents on providing a fulfilling life and overall wellness for their pets.