QC Pet Studies graduate, April Costigan, headshot

Name: April Costigan

Location: Centennial, Colorado

QC Pet Studies Courses you’ve taken:

Your website: https://www.sparklingdogs.com/

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I’ve been working with dogs for the past 11 years in the capacity of fostering, training, rescuing, and (now) grooming. I simply love dogs and have a deep respect for them. I’m now formally trained by QC Pet Studies to groom all coat types and breeds.

I specialize in practical cuts for the everyday dog, but I can also provide specialty cuts as well. I am smart, friendly, and imaginative. Dogs really seem to like me! I like to bring a little whimsy to my work, as well as a sense of humor.

After my clients drop off their dogs, I often text them fun photos throughout the grooming process. I really love the time I spend with each dog. It just tickles me pink when I’m brushing them out, or trimming around their faces, and they stick their little tongues out to give me a quick kiss on the cheek. To me, that is the highest form of a compliment.

I have also been working in an animal shelter for nearly 2 years now. Nothing gives me more pleasure than grooming a dog that has been lost on the streets or lived a life of neglect. Being able to transform that dog from a miserable state to a clean, comfortable, and happy dog is the greatest reward.

I work full-time at this animal shelter and groom 3 days a week in my own private studio. I absolutely love it!

Bud before groom Bud after groom

How did you know that grooming would become more than just a hobby?

When I first took the position of Kennel Manager at MaxFund No-Kill Animal Shelter in Denver, Colorado, I had no idea the impact I would personally have on homeless animals. I knew that keeping the dogs clean, fed, warm, and comfortable was an important mission. But I didn’t fully understand how much basic grooming could really make a difference in these dogs’ lives until I experienced it first-hand!

After a while, providing basic grooming simply wasn’t enough. I needed to know more because I wanted to give more back. My compassion for these animals grew every day, and I just felt like this was my personal mission. I was driven by the need to do better.

I’m happier now that I ever was when I had a high-level corporate job. This career has more meaning.

Why did you choose to enroll in an online dog grooming school, rather than brick-and-mortar classes?

I worked full-time and could not attend in-person classes. So, I did a lot of research for online courses and that’s when I found QC Pet Studies. This school offered exactly what I wanted!

There were lots of instructional videos that I could watch over and over again. I would have lifetime access to my course materials, in case I ever wanted to refer back to them in the future. The practical assignments offered hands-on training. I like that I had the flexibility of choosing the dog I wanted to work with for each assignment.

The valuable tutor feedback I received throughout the course was the most important thing to me. I wanted individual comments about my specific work – not what the whole class would working on, if in a physical classroom.

It was critical that I had an instructor I could truly connect with. I got just that from Lisa Day! She gave me terrific insights in all my audio feedback files. The QC Pet Studies website doesn’t tell you this, but Lisa Day and Paddy Gaffney are really funny. They make the distribution of important information fun and entertaining! They really connect with their students on a higher level.

Kiwi before groom Kiwi after groom

How did you learn about QC Pet Studies? Why else would you recommend this school to aspiring dog groomers?

Research, research, research! I think I googled and read every single online grooming course curriculum available. Ultimately, though, I found that I got more “bang for my buck” with QC Pet Studies than I would’ve with any other institution.

I really liked that I had to video my work and upload it for grading, rather than simply taking open-book tests. Anyone can do that, but that doesn’t mean anyone can groom a dog. By submitting my actual work and receiving feedback, I felt like I really learned what I did well and what I could do better.

Best of all, I could do it when it was convenient for me. Yes, I did my assignments during the day. But I could do the actual coursework in the evening – or in some cases, very late at night. I loved the flexibility!

Prior to your professional training, how much knowledge and experience did you have with grooming?

My previous experience with grooming dogs was fairly basic. I could trim nails, give baths, bush out coats (but not properly), and clumsily cut out unsightly mats. I also have dogs of my own, and I was able to keep them neat and tidy. But I was never able to give them stylized haircuts. I had very basic skills.

Magnolia before groom Magnolia after groom

You enrolled with QC Pet Studies, completed your courses, and graduated – all in 2020! Why did you choose to embark on this journey during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how do you feel QC’s flexible online learning environment made it possible for you to achieve your goals?

The pandemic wasn’t really a thing until after I had enrolled, so it didn’t really play a role in why I chose to enroll. I enrolled because I really wanted to be able to own and operate my own business.

I will likely always work for the animal shelter because there are dogs out there that don’t have access to a professional groomer, but really need one. However, having my own business – with my own clients – really allows me to connect with dogs on a deeper level. By having my own clientele, I get to build lasting relationships with wonderful dogs and wonderful people.

QC’s flexible, online learning environment allowed me to achieve my goals because I could do the work whenever I wanted. I didn’t have to wait for a classroom to complete an assignment. Rather, I could move forward as quickly as I wanted and at a pace that suited me. I’m a driven individual and I ate up the coursework like it was candy. I loved every minute of it!

What was the most difficult technique to learn from QC Pet Studies’ Dog Grooming Course? What was the most fun technique to learn?

Shaving a poodle’s face was the most difficult technique for me. At first, I was hesitant about shaving the face all the way. I have more confidence now, but it was tricky for me in the beginning.

The most fun technique to learn was creating a round face, such as a Westie or Teddy Bear cut. I love working with a dog that can barely see at the beginning, thanks to all the fuzzy fur on their face. It allows me to create a beautiful, rounded look that shows off the dog’s big, bright eyes.

I love the reaction I get from my human clients when they pick up their dog. Their pup no longer looks like a mop! Instead, they’ve become a bright and intelligent creature; begging for cookies with great big, brown eyes.

Kandi before groom Kandi after groom

You also completed the First Aid for Groomers Course. In your opinion, why is First Aid training essential for a professional groomer?

This is an excellent question. I think First Aid should actually be the first part of the course – and an absolute requirement!

Many dogs that I’ve worked with have underlying health issues that are not always apparent. Being able to identify odd behaviors as a prelude to something happening is key. A groomer must be able to identify risk factors in a dog and stop grooming immediately, so they can assess the situation and take action, if needed.

I realize that stress can trigger events. Therefore, I do whatever I can to keep a dog calm and comfortable. If I see stress levels rising, I take a break or do something else. Sometimes, switching gears is all that’s needed to reduce anxiety and allow the dog to regroup.

What’s your favorite dog breed that you love to groom?

The Westie is my favorite. I actually have 3 Westie clients and I love all of them! One of my clients never had her Westie cut to actually look like a Westie before she came to me.

Another allowed me to use her Westie in one of my video assignments for QC Pet Studies. I followed the instructions offered in the instructional video and created the cutest dog ever. My client loved the look of her dog!

My tutor said that my Westie had a perfect Westie head and that I’d done a great job. That made my day!

Noodles after groom

Is there a particular technique or skill you’re currently working on mastering right now?

I firmly believe that there is always room for improvement in everything I do, that each dog is different. The thing I’m working on mastering at the moment is the ability to change my technique if a dog is becoming stressed out.

For example, nail trims for some dogs are no big deal. However, on other dogs, it can be a whole production. If they hate it, they might want to squirm away. You can spend 15 minutes on a stubborn dog, just trimming the nails.

So, changing the way I hold the foot might make a difference. Clipping them with a different type of trimmer might make a difference. Maybe using a grinder is the answer. Personally, I do not like using a grinder because I feel it takes too long. However, for some dogs, this might be what they need.

Do you have any advice for students of dog grooming classes who are struggling to find dogs to practice on? Where should they be looking? How can they assure the owners that they’re going to take care of the dog?

Go to your local animal shelter and sign up to be a volunteer. Walk some dogs and get to know a wide variety of dog personalities. Once you have built up your confidence in handling dogs, start looking for opportunities to groom them.

A particular breed might not be needed for an assignment. But if there’s a dog desperately in need of grooming, help him out. It’s still experience! Plus, you might learn something that is not included in any course curriculum.

Before you know it, the dog you need for your assignment will present himself. When that time comes, you’ll know exactly how to take care of him. Not only will you excel in your coursework – you’ll excel as a human being as well!

For Practicum Unit 2: Grooming a Natural Breed, you groomed a Sheltie to its breed standard, in which you focused on enhancing the dog’s natural appearance. Looking back on your work now, with your experienced eye, is there anything you would have done differently?

Looking back on my work with this Sheltie, I think I would have liked to have brushed her tail out more. I think there was an opportunity to make the tail look even prettier. That dog was incredibly sweet! I believe she would have allowed me to spend more time on her tail, making sure that it was tangle-free.

Before the Groom
After the Groom

Overall, how do you think QC Pet Studies’ Dog Grooming and First Aid for Groomers courses have prepared you to work in the professional field?

I don’t think I could be where I am today without QC Pet Studies. The Dog Grooming and First Aid courses are fantastic. I learned so much from Lisa Day and Paddy Gaffney. I often wish there was an additional QC course I could enroll in!

What are your career goals as a groomer for 2021 and beyond?

I’ve officially started my own business, Sparkling Dog Grooming. I’ve constructed an entire professional grooming studio in my basement and have started building a very nice client list. I’m looking to grow it more in 2021! I would also love for my granddaughter to join me in a few years, as my assistant. I’d love to teach her everything I know about dog grooming.

QC Pet Studies graduate April Costigan's business logo

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