An interview with Julie from A Star Canine Spa


What did you do before you started your business? or still do if your business is a hobby? 

I am a qualified teacher and taught in a Sixth Form College up to October 2016 when I took early retirement and opened my own dog grooming business. I taught English, maths and vocational studies, so becoming a dog groomer has been quite a change!


Who or what was the inspiration behind you getting started? 

Two years ago, Maisie my lovely little schnoodle came into my life and of course she needed grooming.  I took her to a groomer and stopped to chat. I was so impressed with the way he worked and his force free philosophy. Our conversation continued and when he learned I was a teacher, he asked if I would be interested in helping him by delivering the theory part of the dog grooming course he ran. I was surprised but delighted! I went home with a head full of bees, so much to think about.  After some thought I decided to grasp the opportunity this presented and learn the practical side too.  Little did I realise it would lead to my own business.


How did you come up with the business name?

Creative writing! (It must be the English teacher in me). I wanted ‘A Star’ as a nod towards academic pass criteria (A*) and I wanted a rhythm and rhyme to the name, (English teacher again!).  I started with A Star and then scribbled down all dog related words, as soon as I wrote ‘canine’ I came up with ‘A Star Canine Spa’ it just sprang into my mind and stuck.  I love it!


How long have you been running the business and who runs it with you/helps you out?

I have been in business for just over a year and run it myself in the conservatory at the back of my house. I could not do it if it were not for the support of my fiancé Edward.


How did you decide what services to offer? 

At first it was easy to decide what services to offer after all it’s a dog grooming spa! Well that’s what I thought! So, I offered a full grooming package and just a bath and dry.  I soon realised that some dogs are terrified of being groomed and lots of puppies are thrown in at the deep end!  I wanted to offer something uniquely bespoke to meet the needs of these dogs and owners. So, I now offer a ‘Puppy Package’ and a ‘Grooming Reset Programme’ both of four sessions, as a humane response to those issues. It was during the first session of ‘The Puppy Package’ that I first saw a Ruffle Snuffle! It was a brilliant way to settle the puppy, it focused the puppy on a familiar activity in an unfamiliar environment.


In one sentence describe what is the best thing about your business?

The best thing about my business is that it is force free, no restraints, nooses, muzzles or cabinet dryers.


What’s an average day-in-the-life of your business?

I only have one dog at a time, at 9.30am or 2pm. Preparation involves making sure that the bath is switched on and full, all the equipment is clean and sterile, towels are folded and ready, the customer care card is to hand and the garden gate is closed! When the dog arrives, I ignore it and talk to the owner until it decides to come and say hello to me, this helps to build confidence and trust. I then brush and prepare the dog with a pre-bath groom, bathe and dry the dog, finish the groom and the job is done. Then the cleaning and preparation starts ready for the next guest.


What do you love most about what you do? 

I absolutely love feeling a dog relax under my hands as it comes to understand that it is safe and has movement choices whilst being groomed as it is not going to be restrained. I love making a difference to the comfort levels and well-being of a dog. I love it when there is a real transformation from start to finish and I know the dog really feels the benefit.


What challenges do you face?

The biggest challenge I face is the expectation of the owners. I also wish I had another pair of hands sometimes.


If you could do anything else other than what you’re doing now what would it be? 

Creative textile art, um……. knitting, weaving and macramé!


What has a customer said to make you smile? 

Wow! Is that really my dog?

Julie Skelding at A Star Canine Spa 
Julie Skelding at A Star Canine Spa 

Do you have any pets? If so we’d love to know more about them - and any pictures that you have to share.

I have a schnoodle called Maisie, she is two, and a cat called Perdita. Perdita has the upper paw.


and finally, what do you do to relax?

I like to relax in front of the TV and binge on box sets!  Just finished watching series 1 – 7 of Game of Thrones. Winter is coming…..