What Makes An Outstanding Professional Pet Grooming School?

By Gregg Docktor, Director of Merryfield Academy – What makes a great pet grooming school? It’s the adherence to the philosophy of how to treat people. If these students were your family, how would you treat them? I choose to treat my students as if they are my family, and offer them every supportive chance to get a really great education from a pet grooming school that truly strives to be number one Florida Pet Grooming School in the country!

Pet Grooming Teachers:

The initial process of selecting instructors for the school was easy to imagine and conceptualize yet not an easy one to execute. I wanted the best in the country to teach at Merryfield pet grooming school Florida, to ensure that the students who do get involved in the pet grooming school are given the absolute best shot at success.

I first contacted Michael Lamb, one of the top miniature poodle breeders in the country, a show groomer and he has also campaigned over 125 dogs to AKC Champion status. When approached he said “Sure, I’m interested.” I’ve always admired Michael; he’s exciting and has always been an excellent instructor. After that we needed more staff and Michael recommended Irina ‘Pina’ Pinkusevich. She emigrated from the Ukraine in 1989 and has since become one of the top international groomers. She has been a delightful addition to our staff. She loves teaching and I love the fact that she is a grooming competitor. Pina is a Certified Master Groomer (NDGAA), and a multiple award winner in the Terrier class, Carolina fest 2007, Groom Expo 2007, the World Championship in Germany with her team mates on Groom team USA in 2009 and in the Best in Show category to name just a few. Her passion for the professional grooming industry was immediate when she was initially introduced to it. She was taught by certified master groomers, top breeders, professional handlers, and has had the opportunity to gain tremendous insights from fellow top grooming competitors. By 2010 Pina was numerically ranked the #1 groomer in the nation and is currently the all time record holder in the point system. Pina has had a varied career; she worked for ‘Shear Delight’ in New York City and later purchased the salon which she owned for 10 successful years. After selling Shear Delight she went to work for one of the most prestigious and well known salons in Manhattan ‘Doggie-Do and Pussycats too’ where she had the opportunity to groom many celebrities’ pets including Jennifer Lopez, Betsy Johnson (the well known designer), Sean ‘P-Diddy’ Combs, Patricia Fields and many Broadway stars. At one point Pina was also involved in opening ‘Canine Ranch’, ‘Fancy Shmancy Dog’ (, and after first moving to Florida she worked for ‘Grooming by Tina’.

As the pet grooming school progressed and grew I had the good fortune of hiring Joanne Marino (NCMG), and our newest instructor, a former Merryfield graduate Blancy Torres (NCMG).

My philosophy when hiring instructors was to hire the very best I could, because people that have interest in the industry deserve to be taught by master groomers. I feel that if one of my kids or relatives wanted to learn how to groom professionally, I would tell them to go to a master and stick by them. So I’ve turned my personal belief system into the philosophy for my school.


As the administrator of the pet grooming school I have many different duties. One of which is the enrollment process. Does this perspective student that sits before me want this career, can they speak ‘dog’, do they have the understanding that the non-verbal communications between pets and people is real? Whenever I ask these questions I usually get a smile of understanding, if the candidate has no idea of what I’m talking about then I know I’m on shaky ground. I also explain the program in depth and full detail.

The program is 600 hours in length and it broken up into 4 main areas of understanding:

  • All breed dog and cat grooming
  • Grooming speed, because you can’t be a wonderfully successful groomer and be a slow-poke
  • Symmetry, proportion and balance. The secret to our student’s success is that we strive to teach the correct styles and variations for all different breeds, creative grooming for the mixed breed pets and the differences in AKC and the NDGAA standards. This, I believe is the secret to our success. It seems that most pet grooming school don’t get too involved in these concepts and it’s one of the most important aspects of our educational process.
  • Students are required to complete a 100 hour externship prior to graduating where they are placed in a grooming salon or in a mobile grooming setting. The main purpose of the externship is to give the students real world experience. Does their skill set meet the expectations of the salon/mobile business’ owner? Do they feel confident with what they have learned and accomplished during their time at pet grooming school? Typically upon completion of the externship our diploma is awarded.

After graduation is attained our pet grooming school also helps to assist in either job placement or helping the student go into business on their own. While it is illegal to offer a job guarantee, we do have a very active job placement service. We actually have more job opportunities than we have graduates who can fill them. It has always been this way and I can only credit the instructors for this wonderful situation.


We have a 16,000 square foot facility. It’s currently broken down into 2 distinct operations: Merryfield Academy and Merryfield Motel for Pets . The pet grooming school currently has 3 classrooms with a forth one to be created in June of 2015. Classroom space currently takes up 6500 square feet, and the motel takes up the balance. Unfortunately we will be encroaching on the motel to add that 4th classroom which will add another 1500 square feet dedicated solely to the pet grooming school.

Business Opportunities For Pet Grooming School Graduates:

There are basically 4 ways we help to develop businesses for graduates

  • House call pet grooming – Where the groomer would go to the client’s house and perform the services in their homes. While this is not the most convenient situation there is no overhead. It’s not what the groomer would gross, it’s what you net that counts. In this situation you wouldn’t have to groom as many pets to earn the same kind of income.
  • Mobile grooming – The advantages of mobile grooming is the convenience. Everything is at your fingertips. If you have the money then this is an amazing opportunity. One large benefit is that you truly are mobile, not bound by neighborhoods. You can travel where ever you want to offer your services.
  • Salons – A salon can offer not only grooming services but supplies, boarding and the space to add more groomers without a problem. Remember location is always a factor so it is important to have a demographic study completed to help ensure your success.
  • Subleasing Space – Veterinarians usually have the space for grooming. If you are able to negotiate a rental agreement it can be an excellent symbiotic relationship. A groomer is able to take advantage of a clientele that has already been established at the clinic while the clinic will benefit when you discover any number of common maladies that plague our household pets when you are grooming them. In the end, both parties benefit from this type of relationship.

Another sublease possibility is developing this type of relationship with a Pet Super store. They also have the same type of clients and they clearly recognize the value of your business which will bring their clients back into the store every 6 weeks for grooming. They also understand buying patterns and the relationship that grooming has in maintaining those same patterns.

Open Policy for Graduates and Non Graduates:

A great pet grooming school allows graduates to come back for brush-ups and further attention if they feel the need. It’s worked out in a very favorable way and we also extend this offer to students that choose to come back to pet grooming school and complete their education.

Join our pet grooming school today and be on your way to your new career.

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