I'm a celebrity dog groomer in NYC who charges $300 an hour to pamper pets — I even give henna treatments to make dogs look younger

I'm a celebrity dog groomer in NYC who charges $300 an hour to pamper pets — I even give henna treatments to make dogs look younger
Grooming is not a wash and go; it's a luxury, says Jorge Bendersky.Jorge Bendersky
  • Jorge Bendersky, 52, is a New York-based dog groomer who says his clientele includes Ralph Lauren, Sean Combs, and Gisele Bündchen.
  • He's also the best-selling author of DIY Dog Grooming: From Puppy Cuts to Best in Show, Everything You Need to Know and has appeared on the Animal Planet shows "Groomer Has It" and "Dogs 101" and as a judge on TLC's "Extreme Poodles."
  • Bendersky says he's selective and only takes on human clients and dogs that he likes; his rates start at $300 an hour.
  • While making house calls, "You're always performing," says Bendersky, who studied stand-up comedy and also works as a certified counselor for the Anti-Violence Project's hotline.
  • This is what his job is like, as told to freelance writer Jenny Powers.

My clientele is very exclusive. These dog owners are the type of people who don't do their own hair — they have someone come to their home to do a blowout. Many of them don't know the basics of grooming their pets because up until the pandemic, I was grooming their dogs every week.

During the New York City lockdown, I couldn't make house calls, so I did virtual FaceTime coaching to help the owners and keep them calm. After about six weeks of lockdown, I began doing house calls again because I had zero human contact, so I felt safe.
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Before COVID-19, I was always out the door of my Chelsea apartment early in the morning to catch the train or crosstown bus with my 32-pound backpack of tools. I always give myself extra time because my clients are busy people and have a schedule to maintain. If I start late, it affects everyone and everything all day.
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Since the pandemic began, my clients' dogs have grown filthier than ever.

I'm a celebrity dog groomer in NYC who charges $300 an hour to pamper pets — I even give henna treatments to make dogs look younger
One of Bendersky's dog clients enjoying a soapy bath.Jorge Bendersky

I used to groom six dogs, five days a week. Now with the pandemic, it's more like eight to 10 per week.

It takes around two hours to groom a small dog, and I usually only work with dogs up 20 pounds. As a rule, I only groom dogs that can stand on a countertop, even though many of my clients have built their own doggie spa in the homes with all the professional equipment of a top grooming salon. They've even bought hundreds of dollars worth of their own grooming tools to keep on hand.
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Since the pandemic started, dogs are filthier than ever. Many of them are spending more time outside than usual and they are being groomed a lot less.

On house calls, you're always performing.

I'm a celebrity dog groomer in NYC who charges $300 an hour to pamper pets — I even give henna treatments to make dogs look younger
Jorge Bendersky with one of his pet clients.Jorge Bendersky.
Sometimes for me, it's like that movie "Groundhog Day," but it's the 'Let's groom the puppy' show over and over, all day.
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My summer season started early because a lot of my clients left the city for the Hamptons — mostly East Hampton, Bridgehampton, and a few in Watermill.

We have safety protocols in place now for house calls when I go there. When I pull up in the driveway, my clients will often drop the dogs in the guest house, so I can just go in and get to work without us coming into close contact.

Face coverings during grooming has always been common practice, because it protects your lungs from flying hair and products when you use clippers or dryers. Long-term exposure to small particles can cause permanent lung problems. Now I use a face mask during the entire grooming process, though.
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The hardest social distancing rule I must practice is not getting tempted to kiss the dogs on the nose, but some extra belly rubs usually do the trick.

Communication is key.

Normally, when I make a house call, I allow 10 minutes to talk to my clients, even when it comes to the biggest celebrities, about hot topics — you know, diets, politics, everything. A small detail lost during communication can lead to a pet owner's nervous breakdown — yes, some of them are really that dramatic!

Because of this, I insist all owners, celebrities or not, take time to communicate with me directly. After we get a routine, I'm okay flying solo, but most of my clients look forward to our weekly hot topics chat. After those 10 minutes of chit-chat, they have to leave so I can work.
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Before I take on a client, I meet with them and their dog.

I'm very selective; I must like the dog and the owner. All my business is through word of mouth, and everyone must go through a couple of interviews. I'm definitely a diva. I have refused dogs and I have refused owners in the past: Some dogs are too territorial, and since I'm working in their space, that's no good for me.

Sometimes the owners are helicopter parents, and that doesn't work either. Sometimes I'm not a good match for them.

Grooming is not a wash and go; it's a luxury.

I'm a celebrity dog groomer in NYC who charges $300 an hour to pamper pets — I even give henna treatments to make dogs look younger
Bendersky and a dog client in its post-grooming photo shoot.Jorge Bendersky
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I give the dog a good bath, followed by a massage. Then I wrap them in a towel to rest for 15 minutes, which allows the nutrients to absorb into the skin and hair follicles to close. I take pictures and check my email while they nap, and then I style them.

Middle-aged, single women prefer their dogs to look young and thin.

I'm a celebrity dog groomer in NYC who charges $300 an hour to pamper pets — I even give henna treatments to make dogs look younger
One of Bendersky dog clients enjoying a post-haircut nap.Jorge Bendersky
They don't want them to look old because they think it's a reflection of themselves, so I do henna treatments on dog's faces to get rid of the gray and sculpture their hair so they don't look like they were sitting on the sofa watching TV and eating bonbons with mommy all day.
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Most of the time I am able to do what my client requests, but if you have a pug and show me a picture of a poodle, well, I can't do that. It'd be like a woman taking a photo of Jennifer Aniston to the hairdresser and saying, make me look like that.

My rates start at $300 an hour.

I'm a celebrity dog groomer in NYC who charges $300 an hour to pamper pets — I even give henna treatments to make dogs look younger
Bendersky with his dog, Tito, who passed away in May 2020.Jorge Bendersky

Most dogs take two hours, so it's typically $600 per dog per visit.
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I studied stand-up comedy and am certified as a counselor for the A.V.P. Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence hotline so I can groom your dog, make you laugh, and listen to you — that's why I'm so expensive.

My own dog, Tito, a Pomeranian passed away in May. He lived a fabulous life and left behind 9,000 Instagram followers before I deleted his account. We worked together for 13 years and we always wore color-coordinated wardrobes for all our TV appearances.

The dogs I groom are like my nephews.

I see them every week and we spend time together and have fun — but at the end of the day, I get to give them back to their parents and go home.
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