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How to Become a National Certified Master Groomer – What Aspiring Dog Groomers Need to Know

Paragon Pet School is a partner with the National Dog Grooming Association of America’s Workshop and Certification Program.

Hours and hours of practical work have led to this day. A staggering amount of study material has been reviewed and reviewed again, with detailed written exams – comprised of hundreds of questions on canine anatomy and covering all breed standards – completed. Groomers get their dogs to the table, ready to show their grooming prowess to judges, who are selected from nationally renowned master groomers. The goal? To sufficiently impress the judges with their technique to win the coveted designation of National Certified Master Groomer.

Welcome to the world of NDGAA Certification. Paragon is honored to be a workshop and certification partner of the National Dog Grooming Association of America, which hosts certifying and workshop events throughout the country. The organization was established in 1969 to create a forum of educational exchange and industry standardization.

Do Dog Grooming Schools Offer Certification?

Many people don’t realize that all dog grooming programs are not created equal and that there is no nationally standardized curriculum or school-based certification exam. Well-established grooming schools like Paragon rigorously prepare students to work in a variety of salon settings or to establish a business, and also prepare students to voluntarily seek board certification if desired. Graduating from Paragon, given its track record, will make a student a highly competitive candidate for a successful career in grooming. But the key to growth in dog grooming, like every profession, is the recognition that “Education is Everything,” and that education does not end at graduation. That’s where board certification comes in.

What Are the Advantages of Board Certification Available from NDGAA?

Pursuing the designation of National Certified Master Groomer gives you the opportunity to improve your technique, polish your skills and advance your knowledge base under the tutelage of some of the Nation’s most respected professionals. Certification ultimately gives you more to offer to your clients. The learning process is the whole point of any certification.  The things that you learn from your studies and practice grooms is where the improvement comes from. You will be a better groomer after certifying. Certification also elevates your standing in the field.

What’s Involved in NDGAA Master Groomer Certification?

The NDGAA is especially well-known for its insightful seminars and skill testing that covers professional pet grooming in depth. By undergoing additional training at the NDGAA, you can earn board certification to boost your presence in the field.

Whether you begin your certification path immediately upon graduation, or like many groomers, pursue it later in your career or over a longer period of time, the process involves attending workshops with lectures featuring detailed instructions and hands-on grooming demonstrations by seasoned professionals, followed by a series of practical and written tests on materials supplied by NDGAA and based on breed standards.

How Do I Get Started?

The path toward National Certified Master Groomer certification first requires workshop attendance and study of breed standards. Workshops are comprised of instruction that includes:

  • Orientation on the certification process
  • Breed Demos
  • Stripping, Thinning & Carding
  • Patterns and Placement

The next steps include completion of initial practical and written testing in at least two out of four groups: Non-Sporting, Sporting, Long-Legged Terriers and Short-Legged Terriers. You must achieve an average of 85% to proceed and ultimately qualify for the NCMG designation.

If you’ve successfully completed the practical and written tests for at least two groups, you are then qualified to write your final Masters exam, comprised of 400 questions covering working, toy, herding and hound groups, anatomy, breed standards, and breed identification. Ultimately, the designation is not awarded until you have completed both testing and practical work in all four groups.

Practical Assessment must be performed on one each of the following:

  • Poodle or Bichon Frise
  • Sporting – American or English Cocker Spaniel or Springer Spaniel
  • Long-Legged Terrier
  • Short Legged Terrier

To begin, or to get more in-depth information, visit the NDGAA website to purchase study materials and register for the next available workshop.

Does Paragon’s Curriculum Prepare Me for Certification?

Paragon offers a curriculum for aspiring pet groomers that meets NDGAA standards, designed by our founder and NCMG Melissa Verplank, who has also authored leading educational textbooks on grooming techniques.  In fact, Melissa’s Notes from the Grooming Table is one of the recommended study materials for certification! Our students are well-equipped to pursue board certification once they graduate from our program.

Learn more about our On Campus programs, or learn about our Distance Learning Program to study online, on your own time.


Paragon Hosting National Dog Groomers Association Workshop

Judy Hudson and Melissa Verplank welcoming CMG Candidates at a past NDGAA workshop.

Watch the Masters at Work!

Paragon is delighted to be co-hosting the National Dog Groomers Association Workshop and Certification event Saturday, May 4th and Sunday, May 5th at Paragon’s Pet Grooming School in Jennison, MI. You do not need to be a member of NDGAA to participate in the Saturday workshop, where NDGAA Certifiers Judy Doyle Hudson and Sue Zecco will be demonstrating on a sporting breed, poodle, short-legged terrier, and long-legged terrier. We’re looking forward to seeing two of our favorite GroomTeam USA cohorts!

If you’re an aspiring groomer and want to see the masters at work, sign up by April 19th to get the best discount.

Pre-Register at NDGAA


Meet The Certifiers

Judy Hudson

Judy Hudson is a National Certified Master Groomer, International Speaker and Judge. She holds an Associate’s Degree in Veterinary Technology. Judy started her grooming career on a shoestring and a prayer. Now she owns and operates a very successful mobile business that stays booked a year in advance.

Judy has multiple Best in Show and Best All-Around Groomer awards to her credit. She stayed in GroomTeam’s top 10 groomers for 4 years. Traveling with the team to France in 2005, she won a gold medal with her American Cocker Spaniel and helped the team bring home the silver. Judy is also one of our experts at Learn2GroomDogs.com – check out her videos here:


Sue Zecco

Sue Zecco is another GroomTeam USA Hall of Famer – Sue is a Certified Master Groomer with both the National Dog Groomers Association (NDGAA) and the International Professional Groomers (IPG). She has been grooming for over 30 years, starting her business the Pampered Pet in Paxton MA in 1977. She began grooming competitions in 1985 and since then has won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at Intergroom, multiple Best in Show, Best All Around Groomer, Best Scissored Dog, Best Groomed Poodle, and her biggest show accomplishments, International Groomer of the Year 1998, and 1999’s Oster Invitational Tournaments Grand Champion.

Learn About the National Dog Grooming Association

The NDGAA is celebrating 50 years of uniting groomers. Established in 1969 by Rober D. Reynolds, the organization offers continuing education opportunities through which groomers enhance their skills. It developed the Master Groomer Certification to help members stay current with industry trends and to exchange ideas, methods and opinions with colleagues. Learn more at http://www.nationaldoggroomers.com


Try Out Paragon Pet School’s New Shed Control Program

Paragon Pet School is delighted to announce our New Shed Control Program for West Michigan pet parents! Using a blend of tools, techniques, and products, we’ll remove the vast majority of your pet’s shed coat, making them more comfortable with the change in weather and reducing the amount of hair in your home.

During a full-service visit, you can add our de-shedding program to your pet’s standard bath and brush service, where we work to get most of the shedding hair out of the coat. Then, all you have to do is bring your pet in again within two weeks for a quick followup. Here, we will remove any shed hair that has fallen out after your first appointment using a shorter, “mini-version” of the same process.

To read more about our new shed control program, Click Here, or schedule your treatment today and leave the fur with us! Call (616) 667-7297 or Contact Us for more info.

Paragon School of Pet Grooming Launches New Online Pet Grooming Program

Newly Designed Website and the launch of the Paragon Distance Learning Program

Jenison, MI, October 2, 2018– The Paragon School of Pet Grooming has just launched its new Distance Learning Grooming School Program (www.ParagonPetSchool.com) featuring an enhanced state of the art user interface and comprehensive grooming education platform. This proven Michigan-based grooming school is now bringing the On-Campus experience to students everywhere!

Paragon’s “Synergistic Learning Experience TM” includes a combination of one-on-one attention from an assigned Mentor, textbooks and grooming guides authored by industry icon Melissa Verplank, dozens of embedded tutorial videos, quizzes and tests all delivered in an easy to follow, step by step, mobile-friendly, web-based program.

This affordable option is the perfect solution for individuals looking to enter into the professional grooming industry. Paragon’s Distance Learning Program is very attractive to Salon Owners or Managers who find it challenging to recruit groomers to work in their salons.

Now, Salon Owners and Managers can hire people who they feel are a good fit for their business. They are offering them a proven training program to help them acquire the skills they will need to become a productive member of the team! Many employers are even offering sponsorships or scholarships to pay for the entire costs of the program.

Paragon’s Distance Learning program goes well beyond grooming training. It also instructs on important topics such as professionalism, safe pet handling, sanitation, customer service and satisfaction, and much more. Paragon believes a person’s success in pet grooming also depends on their ability to represent themselves and this industry in a professional manner.
“Education is Everything. We are not just training groomers, we are creating Pet Professionals.”

Contact us to learn more.

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