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Training Grooming Assistants

Melissa Verplank discusses how assistants can make or break your grooming day. Tune in for some solid advice on how to train staff, break down tasks, and build a stronger team!

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Transcript
Melissa Verplank: Hey guys, Melissa here and today I want to talk to those of you that work with assistance and in the grooming salon assistance can absolutely make or break you. When they work up to the quality that you expect there is nothing better than seeing a well oiled team work together to be able to turn out quality dog after quality dog after quality dog. And the root of everything that we do in the grooming salon is in that bathing and drying area. We call it the wet area. And if somebody is trained properly, they can make your grooming day go so much smoother and there is nothing better than having a dog placed on your table and getting started to do the finish groom when it is absolutely prepared beautifully. And so unfortunately most assistants, they don’t come to you trained, you have to do the training and there’s a lot of different ways to do that.

Obviously I’m in the educational field, so I’ve got a lot of different materials with notes from the grooming table, theory of five, learntogroomdogs.com in the core skills or the just getting started videos at the Paragon school. We also have a home study program which a lot of salon owners are working with right now to help them get assistance trained rapidly and utilizing quality techniques to get that end result. But whatever you program or however you go ahead and teach, I want you to think about teaching in incremental steps. You’ve got to start at the very bottom and then work up and work up and work up. And you need to paint a picture for the new learner of what does it look like when it’s done correctly? And then show them samples of what you would accept or what are you looking for when it’s done correctly so that they have a very clear picture in their mind of something to aim for.

So make sure you give them lots of examples and the examples aren’t just a challenging dog. What does a lab look like when it’s done correctly? What does a golden retriever look like when it’s done correctly? What does a bichon or a lhasa or a shih tzu or any of the mixed breeds, the doodles, what does it look when it’s done correctly? And focus more on coat type more than breeds because we’re only going to see a couple different coat types and you can train and break that down a lot easier for the individual so that they can get it done correctly. And then once they are in the learning process, whether they’ve read a book or watched a video or you’ve demonstrated something, I can’t stress how important it is to have them do it immediately. The studies show over and over again it is amazing how rapidly somebody loses the detail of what they’ve just been taught if they don’t apply it immediately.

So it’s really important to have them do some type of training, educating, learning how to do it and then have them demonstrate it immediately. And then once you get them to the point that they’re working and they’re starting to provide dogs and going through the bathing and drying process, when they’re bringing dogs out to you, make sure that you give immediate feedback because you can’t fix what you don’t know. And some of the most effective learning comes from making mistakes. So if you don’t point out what was done well and what could be an opportunity area to be done better, they’re not going to know to fix something.

And here’s an idea that seems to work really well for a lot of folks and I love using number systems. It just really helps simplify what we’re trying to achieve. And sometimes it can take a little bit of the sting out of, if somebody isn’t working quite up to snuff by giving a number system to it. And maybe you’re going from one to 10 and one to three would be, you know what, the work just isn’t acceptable. It’s got to be done again. Or maybe you go up to a four to six, it still needs some work. Maybe a seven an eight would be it’s acceptable, still room for improvement but it’s acceptable and then a nine or a 10 would be absolutely knocking it out of the park.

This is exactly what you want to see every single time. And you know, even on one particular dog, they might have absolutely nailed it, knocked it out of the park in one area but there’s another area on the dog that still really needs work or shoot, maybe it needs to be done again. You’ve got to give that feedback and if it needs to be done again, don’t you do it, have them go back and do it correctly. Because if you’re not holding them accountable, they’re just going to start giving you subpar work and that’s not what you’re looking for.

So, is training tough? Yeah, it can be challenging because you’re having to normally teach on the fly. Normally you’ve got a full load already. You’re trying to do all the finish work on the dogs and at the same token you’re trying to train an assistant. And that can be frustrating, but I’m going to tell you when you do it, when you take the time and do it right and you’ve got a willing learner who strives to do it correctly, there is nothing better. And honestly it shouldn’t take that long to get a bather up to the point that they can really be an asset to you maybe doing 80 or 90% of the dogs that they’re working on for you and doing them well and helping you move through your roster a lot more effectively. And really focus on those 80% of typical dogs that you see every single day.

And then as they build skill and confidence, you can start adding little more challenging. Maybe it’s a little different coat type. Maybe the personality of the dog is a little more challenging or maybe you are leaning on them to get some of the mats and the tangles and the dead coat out more and more and more for you so that you can focus more on the finish work. But just start again, just break it into small steps. Allow that learner to feel success, to get the praise that they need that they’ve done a good job, and I’m going to tell you, most of them will really strive to continue to make those dogs look better and better and better for you ultimately making the entire salon run much more smoothly.


The Tool for Consistent Grooming

Melissa Verplank talks about how guard combs can change your entire grooming team. Learn about the strengths, styles, and secrets of guard combs past and present!

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Transcript
Melissa Verplank: Hi guys, Melissa here. And today I want to talk about one of my all time favorite tools. And it is a tool that’s been around for a long, long time. They have made a lot of changes to it over the years and it’s really versatile for many different situations, but I really learned the value of it, back in my mobile grooming days when I had an entire fleet of vans and we had offered consistent grooming between a whole team of people and we didn’t have the ability to be side by side to be able to see, to be able to communicate and bring unity to my entire organization. But this one particular tool allowed that to happen without me having to be right there beside each and every one of my groomers out on the road. And that particular tool are the guard combs and like I said, they’ve made a lot of changes over the years.

Back in the day I worked with the plastic attach on combs, but still the principle is the same. They’ve just made a lot of adjustments and there’s a lot of different brands out there today. This happens to be the Wall brand that I’ve got. It’s an older set that belongs to my husband Mark, but what I learned with these is, you can mimic almost hand scissoring but it gives you a depth to go to because each one, if you look at these, basically they’re going to cut about the length that is here and so you can get consistent length over a dog depending on which guard comb you’re using. This one happens to be the blue one or this one is cutting a little bit longer. It’s a little hard to see in here but I think you can see the little bit of the difference.

This one happens to be peach or the yellow one would be a real, those the three that I just showed you would be kind of my go to ones every single day, but these are so great because today they come even in a wider variety of lengths than what I was accustomed to working with. This one is like a light blue and if you look at this side by side and again where you’re looking at your cutting distance is going to be basically right from here to here and they allow you to get consistent over the entire body of the dog.

The other thing that I love about this particular style of guard comb, and again many different manufacturers out there, but one of the things that I look at is number one, it’s metal, so it’s going to give you durability. I’m going to pop over to this yellow one just it’s a little easier to handle, so the metal gives you the durability, the teeth when it plastic, they have a tendency to get worn right here and it’ll catch hair where the metal guard combs don’t have that problem, they hook on with, this one happens to be a spring, but they also come magnetic where they just fit right over the blade and again, you can use them depending on which guard combs you’re working with.

You can work with the smaller clippers, the more detailed little ones or the larger, more powerful clippers. These will fit depending again which brand you’re working with. They come so that they fit over those blades. And again, I love him for the durability and if you stop and think about it, if you’re working with a big doodle, you’re going to want possibly a little bit more coat left over that dog to give that client, that kind of fluffy kind of look, if the dog’s in decent shape because you are not going to get this particular blade, any of these attachments through a very matted dog. They can handle a little light tangle but they can’t power through a matted dog.

But if you have a client that’s taking care of their dog, you can get a really long, fluffy trim utilizing this particular tool and it’s going to mimic the hand scissor look and hand scissoring, I love to hand scissor. That was one of my specialties and I still, there’s nothing that matches a beautifully done hand scissored dog. But when we’re dealing with production grooming, which is our everyday salon styles, sometimes hand scissoring just isn’t the most efficient way to go about getting a job done in a timely manner and that’s where these little guys are really going to come in and save the day for you and they take away the thought process. Scissoring, hand scissoring and to do it well takes an awful lot of skill and what I have found that with the guard combs you can mimic the look of hand scissoring and still get a really, really nice job.

Now sometimes you’ll get some tracking left over in the coat. Again, it depends on how that coat, the texture of the coat and especially how the dog was prepared. The better prepared it is in the bath and the drying process, the better the finished trim. But still even with an absolutely, spectacularly prepared dog, you might get some bumps and some ridges in the coat and then you just follow up with a pair of thinners or chunkers and those are kind of your, the groomers, erasers and they’re going to take out those marks. But when you’re working with a guard combs, you could set the length, you can communicate that length to other stylists so that you can duplicate the work in your salon so your clients are getting consistency every single time. And I learned this back in the day when I was hand scissoring a lot of dogs because I was working at becoming one of the top stylists in the country and the way that you do that to get to be really good is you practice.

And so I was hand scissoring everything that I could, every single day in my mobile vans. All the poodles, the Bichons, the mixed breeds, anything that I could scissor, I did. But what would happen when I would go away or another one of my stylists had to follow my work, they were terrified. They didn’t know how much coat to leave because I had written hand scissor all. What is that? And so they would get really tentative about what to do. And bottom line, they would basically do a bath and brush and maybe tip the coat. They just didn’t know how much length to take off because I was training myself to groom, to breed profile and to groom to structure. And I understood that. But the rest of my team, they didn’t understand it the way that I did and so it was really, really hard for them to follow my work and to do the same type of job.

And when all of a sudden I got taken out with an injury to my right hand and I couldn’t groom for a while, my team had to mimic what I was doing with my clients cause they had to take my clients over for a while. And I finally realized that the guard combs gave them the guideline that they needed to be able to do a better job mimicking the work that I was doing and down the road I just really found out how much consistency these particular little tools brought to my entire team. It was just, it was like night and day. Once we really started working with these and then we started to, as we wrote down what we did on the pet record, we would say, maybe a bichon with a number one guard comb. Well, today we might say a bichon modified show trim with a yellow guard comb.

Or maybe we do it with a peach guard comb. That’s how we would write it down. And once you are able to set the body length with one of these particular tools and be able to set the length based on which one you’re using, it made everything else come in so much easier and they could get the balance on the legs and they could cut in the angles on the dog simply by using these guard combs, where if they were hand scissoring it, they’d never be able to get that same look, nor could they get the quality. Because again, hand scissoring, it takes a long time to master that skill. And let’s face it, you’re dealing possibly with an eight inch blade out in front of you. You’ve got a lot of really sharp metal that you’re opening and closing and we’re working on live animals. Accidents happen.

So the guard combs really help with the safety aspect of what we do every single day as well as bringing in the quality and the third thing that I really love is, you just don’t have to think about it. You don’t have to wonder what’s underneath that coat. The guard comb is setting the length for you. And so you can just go ahead and focus on other parts of the groom to bring that quality in alignment. Where are you setting the pattern? What angles are you trying to accentuate? How are you trying to make that dog look the best that it can look without having to worry about the depth of coat that you’re leaving. Because the guard comb is really, it’s doing it for you. And if you get your hands on that dog beforehand or maybe when you are bathing and drying the dog, you’re taking a look and you’re catching a feel of those dogs, you know there’s a dip in the top line.

Okay. So as you’re gliding over that with one of these guard combs, maybe you don’t press hard on that area. Maybe you float over it a little bit. So now you can start doing corrective grooming as well, all in the ways that you work with these guard combs. So they’re a very time effective, time saving tool that can really enhance your quality. And the more that you learn about bone structure and body structure, and corrective grooming, you can really work with this tool as well to accentuate it. And again, like I said, you’ve got such a variety of the depth of coat that you can leave whether you’re dealing with a super short, I mean, this is almost the same length as what your normal clipper blades are going to leave versus going all the way up to the really long ones.

And again, the bigger the dog, sometimes the longer the coat that needs to be left. Now I will say with any of the guard combs, most of the time you need to have a dog that’s in relatively good shape in order to do these longer haircuts. And that wouldn’t matter whether you’re hand scissoring or using a guard comb, you still need to have those dogs coming in on a four to maximum six week rotation so that you can keep that coat well-maintained and relatively mat free.

So if you haven’t worked with these a lot or you haven’t mastered the technique, take the time to master the technique with these guard combs because they’re absolutely amazing to work with. And again, your thinning shears are your erasers. So if you’re getting bumps in the coat, you’re getting tracking that you’re not happy with, just after the final sweep over that dog hit it lightly with a pair of chunkers or with a pair of thinners to take those marks out and your dogs are going to look great. Every single time they walk out of the salon and ultimately your customers are going to know exactly what they’re going to get every single time. And that’s one of the things that really brings customers back to you. And that’s your consistency.


The Pace of Learning

Melissa Verplank discusses the three stages of learning and how continued education plays a long-term role in your grooming career. Tune in for tips about how to hold onto the joy of learning, plus some snack ideas for the Westminster Dog Show!

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Transcript
Melissa Verplank: Hi guys. Melissa here. Last night I was watching the final part of Westminster Dog Show 2020. I always love watching that show, not necessarily because I’m learning so much, but I’m verifying what I know. Yeah, learning some new things as well.

There’s so many new breeds that are being introduced to the American Kennel Club, and sometimes I don’t always know what that dog should look like, what nice specimens are. As long as I know what the dog should look like, more than not, I can make that dog, if I were to have a pet one walk into the salon, I would have the resources and knowledge to know how to make that dog look like it should. Every single year, I always love watching Westminster. I can’t remember when I’ve ever missed one in the last almost 30 years.

But while I was sitting there watching the show, it’s a long show and it goes over two nights. We had had dinner my husband and I, and I had that inkling for something sweet. I really wanted something, but at the same token, I eat keto. And keto is a pretty strict diet plan that eliminates a lot of different things. What I wanted to have and what I could have were two totally different things. I wanted brownies so badly, but I couldn’t. That just wasn’t in my eating plan, and I didn’t want to break.

So I went upstairs and I was kind of rummaging around and I thought, “I’m going to make some fat bombs.” I love chocolate chip cookies, so I thought, “I’ll make some chocolate chip fat bombs.” So I pulled everything out, I was mixing it up, but I didn’t have any soft butter. What I ended up doing was throwing the small bowl in the microwave, melting the butter, and then I added the rest of my ingredients. When I got done with it and I’m starting to mix it up, it was just runny. It wasn’t like a normal cookie dough-type fat bomb. So I thought, “Hmm, this isn’t going to work. This isn’t coming out the way that I really wanted it to.”

Then I took a piece of knowledge that I had from another source. My good friend Judy Hudson showed me how to make keto mug bread. I thought, “I wonder if I were to add an egg to this little mix that I’ve got going on and toss it in the microwave for 90 seconds, I wonder if I’d end up with something like a chocolate chip cookie. That would work.” So I did it, and I got to say, I don’t have one to show you right here. But last night during the dog show, I had my little bowl of chocolate chip, kind of like a cookie brownie. It absolutely did the trick. It got me over that craving of those brownies, something sweet that I wanted to just sit there and slowly eat.

As I was sitting there watching this show and enjoying my little treat that I had made for myself, I realized that I was still being true to my diet plan, but it also related to what I was doing as a career move as well. I think it would apply to you guys, too.

When you first start learning, I’ve always compared a brand new learner to a dry sponge, and there is so much to learn with professional pet grooming. You’re just soaking it up, soaking it up, soaking it up. With the Paragon training programs, one of the things that I’ve always tried to relate it to is, we take in a 600 clock hour program and compact what it took me three years to gather on my own and push it down into just 600 hours. So it makes the learning a lot more concise and a lot more pointed. I mean, we know exactly where the learner needs to go. But I look at those new learners as dry sponges and how much information they need to absorb until that sponge is pretty moist. You could wring it out, and then it would absorb a little bit more, and it would wring out and absorb a little bit more. When I think about learning, I think about that brand new beginner being that dry sponge.

Then you’ve got that intermediate phase. That phase can go for a really, really long time. Sometimes it never goes away. But I call that the intermediate level. That’s where you’ve got enough knowledge, you’re not learning like a dry sponge anymore. But all of a sudden, you’re going to hear something, and you’re going to go, “Hmm, I wonder if that would work.” You start putting things together. But there’s always another something you can learn, and there’s something else that you can put together to make your job be faster, be more effective, be more rewarding. It really helps minimize the burnout if you keep realizing that you’re not going to come to an end of your learning.

Even when you hit that top level, which I would consider mastery, the learning really starts to continue forward, and that’s where you start putting new things together and making it work for you, kind of like what I did with those brownies last night. Or not the brownies, that’s what I wanted, but those little chocolate chip keto-type cookies. I thought, I have been dealing with my diet since my late 20s, and I’m approaching the late 50s now. I didn’t just flip over to keto and flip a switch and knew how to eat this way. It’s been a really long journey, and I’ve learned and I’ve learned and I’ve learned how to tweak my diet to make myself feel better. I’m constantly making adjustments and changes to it based on more information that I learn.

But bottom line is, now I can take something, I can look at a recipe and adapt it to what I need it to be. I can look at grooming, I can look at business, and I can pull, and I can model, and I can get ideas and inspirations from other areas and pull it into my businesses. Or for you guys, you might be able to pull some new something that you’ve heard, that you’ve read, that you’ve seen, that somebody told you, and apply it to your everyday grooming. That’s going to make your day go so much easier.

It’s just the little things. No longer are you making these big leaps in knowledge, but you’re making these little fine adjustments to get to that mastery stage where you’re just getting better and better and better. You’re really being able to put together a lot of different things together to make it work for you.

That’s what’s so cool about professional pet grooming is that there’s no absolute black and white. There’s no point where you get where you don’t know everything. There’s always more to learn. There’s always more things that you can change, that you can adjust, that you can apply to make your day just go a little bit easier and to get that satisfaction, that reward that it worked. Or even if it didn’t work, kind of like my cookies. I mean, I want to make a little changes in that recipe that I did last night, but you got to start somewhere. Then it’s just a matter of tweaking it and tweaking it and tweaking it until you can get it absolutely perfect.

That’s what I challenge you guys to do, is to stay on that quest for information, to gain that knowledge. It just really helps make your day be more interesting and for your career to be more satisfying.


Effective Versus Efficient

Melissa Verplank explains the difference between being effective and being efficient. Make sure your team is effective by considering her tips and examining your existing strategies!

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Transcript
Melissa Verplank: Hi guys, Melissa, and this weekend I read something that really hit a chord with me and it’s something that I’ve always thought about and I think I always practice and I hopefully I pass it on to all of you guys as well. But to actually see it in print, it just really reminded me of the importance of these two very similar but different words. And what I read in a book was the author was saying that we should be effective versus being efficient. And I went, boy does that strike a chord? Because I’m always saying be efficient, be efficient, create routines. But there’s a little subtle difference between the word effective and efficient.

And so I want you to think about how can you be more effective, not only being efficient because being efficient just means yes, you’re doing something quickly, but are you doing it effectively? Are you doing it the easiest way you possibly can while getting the best results? And so a couple of the things that I really thought about was, are you pre-clipping a dog when it really doesn’t need to be pre-clipped? For me, I would always make sure that anything that came in every six weeks or less, it went directly to the tub. There was no passing go. I didn’t even do basics. I didn’t do sanitary, I didn’t do nails, I don’t do ears. I do everything afterwards. I get that dog clean first. So six weeks or less, it goes directly into the bathtub, gets bath, gets dried and then I do all the work at one time. So that is a difference between being effective versus being efficient.

Another one would be, are you pre-brushing a dog? I always say if water can penetrate the coat, get it into the tub before you start brushing. Who wants to brush a dirty, grimy, nasty dog? On top of which that oil in that dirt and the debris that’s in the coat holds those maps together. So if you can get that dog clean before you put a brush on it, it’s going to go so much easier. It’s going to be easier on you, it’s going to be easier on the dog. And if you are really being effective, you are actually taking that dog, sedating it up in the tub, if it’s really a tangled mess and maybe you’re pulling in the high velocity dryer into the bathing area and literally blowing the shampoo out of the coat just like if you’ve got a ring on that’s too tight, how do you get that ring off? You soap it up, right? Well, same thing as going to work with a dog’s coat.

So my general rule of thumb is, if the water will penetrate the coat and get through those mats, those tangles, that crud that’s there, get him in the tub first, let the water, let the shampoo, let the conditioner, and let your high velocity dryer do the bulk of the work for you. Again, the difference between being efficient versus being effective. If you are effective, you’re getting it done in the least amount of time possible while yielding the best result.

Another one is are you pre-wetting a dog? With all of the shampoo systems that are out there, a lot of folks don’t pre-wet any more. You just go ahead and start working the shampoo and the water together. But even if you’re doing it more the old-fashioned way by hand, most of the time we are pre-mixing our shampoo in water. So maybe you do out your dilution ratio a little higher and all of a sudden you can wet the dog down and apply the shampoo at the same time. It doesn’t make a lot of difference in the time as it takes to wet a dog down, but it’s still seconds and minutes add up to hours.

So think about how you can be effective versus just efficient. Efficient means you’re working quickly, you’re hustling, you’re gunning, you are so busy. But if you can be more effective, not only will you be busy, but you’re going to be able to get something done more rapidly in a shorter amount of time. It’s going to be easier for you, it’s going to be easier for the pet and bottom line, everybody’s going to be happy in the long run. So give it a go. Think about the difference between those two words. Are you effective or are you just being efficient?


How to Make Learning Something New Stick in Your Mind

Do you enjoy learning something new? Figuring out how to do something easier. Faster. Give you a more satisfying result? Expand your knowledge base. Build your confidence.

Sure you do. We all love learning when it’s easy right? But most of the time learning takes work. Effort. And sometimes it’s difficult and confusing.

I mean – really learn. Absorb it. Get it. Can do it and achieve results you are happy with?

So, what’s the best way to learn?

There are lots of different learning methods, but most fall into two categories. Passive or active learning.

What’s the difference?

Passive learning is when communication is mostly one-way for the sole purpose of gathering information.

Active learning includes doing anything interactive with the content to enhance your understanding of the topic and/or skill.

Passive learning examples:

  • Listening to a lecture
  • Reading
  • Audio visual
  • Watching a demonstration
  • Watching a video

Active learning examples:

  • Group discussions
  • Practice by doing
  • Hands-on workshops
  • Visualization
  • Activities apply the new material
  • Present the freshly learned material to others

Which is best? It depends on what you are doing and how you need to apply the information.

Not everyone learns at the same pace. Nor does one technique work the best for everyone. Learning is a personal effort. Your level of involvement combined with a variety of learning techniques will greatly influence your long-term results.

Think back to a time when you learned something.

I’m talking about a time when you were curious about something. You wanted to know more. You researched it. Maybe you watched a few videos on the topic. Talked to people. If it was a skill, you tested it and practiced it, right?

You thought about the topic a lot. You wondered how it related to you or how you could apply it in your life. As you explored, you uncovered more and more on the topic. Connections were made. Dots were joined. You discussed the topic with friends and co-workers. You strengthened your understanding even further.

When it comes to learning retention, hands-down active learning is far more effective than passive learning. However, both have their place in your learning toolbox. Personally, I like to use more passive methods of learning first to familiarize myself with a topic. However, I almost always tuck a bit of active learning into it to ensure I can recall the information more readily.

Active learning promotes a deep, understanding of a topic. For most people, this is how we learn the best. In an active learning environment, you are engaged, empowered, and excited to learn.

Active learning occurs through collaboration, discussion, critical thinking, problem-solving, and connecting new knowledge with your own world.

Passive learning is all around us. But it’s not the best way to truly understand a topic or test your skills.

8 Learning Methods to Turn Passive Learning into Active Learning


1. Highlighting & Write Comments

While reading, you can highlight, tab important passages, take notes, or write your own comments. When you do this, it becomes more of a two-way conversation in your head instead of passively reading the material.


2. Take Time to Question

After learning, take some time to think about how you can apply the information. Ask yourself questions to obtain the most out of what you just learned. Here are a few thoughts to get started with to help cement the learning in your own mind.

  • “How could I apply this?”
  • “What benefit would it give me?”
  • “Why would it help me?”
  • “What would it look like if done perfectly?”

3. Tracking Your Progress

When you are working on a new skill, break down the steps. Think about how you could follow you progress. Track you progress by simply jotting it down, use an app or create a spreadsheet to monitor your progress.

This is a great way to improve your speed, track your progress when mastering a new skill or learning a new breed, or ensure the effectiveness of new sales techniques. You could even make a game out of the learning.


4. Immediately Apply What You Learned

The sooner you can apply a new skill or technique, the better. Test it out while it is still fresh in your mind.

Studies show even within 20 minutes of learning something new, you will forget about 40% of the details! After 2 days, you will forget up to 70% of what you learned.

The saying, ‘Use it or lose it’ certainly applies when learning a new skill!

  • If you have just listened to a lecture – Have an immediate follow-up discussion with your friends, co-workers or colleagues.
  • If you have just read a book – Highlight the pages and make detailed notes. Discuss what you have just learned with others. Imagine yourself applying the skill successfully.
  • If you have just watched a video – Make notes as you watch. Stop and listen to important points again. Or following along by DOING the skill as the teacher teaches.
  • If you attend a dog show or grooming contest – Sit ringside. Focus on the best in the ring. Study what it looks like when done right. Take photos. Take detailed notes. Critically analyze how YOUR work or knowledge stacks up against what you are seeing.

5. Work with a Coach or a Mentor

Coaches or mentors can help you fast track your learning.

Why?

Because they give you instant feedback helping you improve your skills immediately. A great coach will help you take years off the learning process verse trying to learn on your own.

  • Attend hands-on workshops and clinics
  • Study firsthand with someone more skilled than yourself
  • Train with a master
  • Shadow a master as they work
  • Work with a virtual mentor or coach

6. Create a Vision Board, Notebook or Collection

If the learning revolves around a skill, a technique or a thing – collect images of what it looks like when done correctly. Assemble the images into a grouping you have easy access to. Actively work on building your collection. As you add images, think about HOW the results were achieved and visualize yourself achieving similar results.


7. Test Yourself by Explaining

To find out if you have really absorbed the knowledge, explain it to someone else.

Go step-by-step. Describe the details of the lesson. Keep it streamlined and simple so whomever you are talking with can absorb correct information.

If you struggle anywhere, go back and review where there are gaps in your own understanding. Continue to share with others your new knowledge until you can explain the topic confidently and the listener understands clearly.


8. Validation

To verify you have positively progressed in your learning or mastered a skill, go for validation. How? There are many ways.

  • Graduate from an established training program
  • Earn promotions at work
  • Aim for certification testing via recognized national organizations
  • Enter grooming contests
  • Exhibit at canine or feline conformation events

You need discipline and nerve to admit what you don’t understand. What you find hard to do.

Ignoring those things is the worst mistakes a learner can make. You’ll need a strong foundation before you move on to a more advanced level.

When you’re self-learning, you’ve got to go the extra step to gauge yourself. It’s the only way you can learn improve and develop faster. Validation is how you’ll find your strong and weak points, so you know what to focus on.


Learning a subject or skill takes time and effort. You will never thoroughly understand something if you only use passive learning.

By utilizing a few of the active learning method outlined above, you will create shortcuts to your own growth. Mix and match these methods based on the skill or subject you want to learn – or come up with other ways to retain new information.


How Many Dogs Should A Professional Groomer Be Able to Groom?

Melissa Verplank breaks down a frequently-asked question – how many dogs should a grooming professional groom in a day? Tune in to find out Melissa’s metrics for success, and find out how you can improve your speed in the studio!

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Transcript
Melissa Verplank: Hi, guys. Melissa here. I want to touch base on a question that gets asked a lot and I see it over and over again. It never seems to get old. That question is, how many dogs a day should somebody be able to do on a professional level in a grooming salon? There’s a lot of different right and wrong answers, but bottom line, if you’re looking to be a productive member of a team or you are looking at professional grooming to be a career opportunity and you’re going to rely on the revenue that you’re going to generate to pay your bills, to enjoy life, then pretty much the minimum that somebody needs to be able to do is between six and eight dogs a day.

When I say six or eight dogs a day, I’m not talking about the big, giant furries, the big doodles that are going to take two, two and a half hours to do. I’m talking more about the low maintenance, small to medium sized dogs, kind of no nonsense kind of haircuts. With that type of a trim, that type of a job, you should be looking at being able to turn a dog a minimum an hour. Anywhere between 45 minutes and 60 minutes to do a low maintenance, smaller type haircut. When I say that, I’m talking about the bath, the dry, and the haircut itself. That is the whole enchilada to be able to do under an hour.

If you’re not hitting that mark, you might want to really look at what your skillset is and look at ways that you can start shaving off some time. But bottom line, as an employer looking to hire somebody, that’s what I’m going to expect. If somebody is fresh out of grooming school, you know what? They’re not going to have the confidence to be able to do those numbers right out of the gate. But that’s definitely a target that they should shoot for, whether it be straight out of grooming school, or they’re just learning in an apprenticeship program, or they’re teaching themselves. Don’t beat yourself up.

First you’ve got to master the core skills before you can speed them up. Give yourself a little bit of grace, but work hard and focus on those core skills. That is, how do you bathe effectively? How do you blow dry effectively? How do you get a dog brushed out, combed out so that it’s totally mat-free? How do you clipper efficiently? What type of tools and skills do you need to master to be able to be efficient with what you’re doing?

I have a saying that I want to see a dog be absolutely super smooth in three passes of the clipper or less. If you’re having to go over, and over, and over, and you’re not getting a smooth finish, then you need to look at your technique when you’re dealing with clipper work. If you’re not being able to brush a dog out efficiently, and when I say efficiently, there’s no hardcore rule of how long does it take to brush a dog out, especially if it’s got mats and tangles in it, because every dog is different. Every dog has got a different tolerance level of what they will accept in the brushing department and how tight are those mats and tangles.

You’ve got to take a number of things into consideration, but there’s still shortcuts that you can do. If you’re not letting the products like the shampoo do a lot of the work for you or your high velocity dryer to loosen those mats up, to blow those mats and dead coat out of a dog, there’s a time saving area that you can really focus on. Even though a dog might be super, super matted, it still shouldn’t take that long to get it brushed out. Even if you’re doing a salvage type job where you still have got to trim the dog down, but you’re trying to keep maybe an inch of coat, there’s tricks and techniques like cutting some of that coat off so you’re not having to bathe all of it, or blow all of it out, or to de-mat all of it. There’s a lot of different things that you can do to help really speed up the process.

But when you start looking at enhancing your speed, you don’t want to sacrifice quality. You’ve always got to keep compassion for the pet absolutely at the forefront of everything that you’re doing and to keep the quality so that that client is going to come back and have you work with them again. Because the whole key with professional grooming is building that repeat clientele base. You can work on your speed, you can work on maintaining quality so that those clients come back, and building up a strong client base so that you have a solid foundation to work from. But when I’m looking at people that are really, really productive…

Shoot, we just had a record day at one of my companies, I want to say, just before Thanksgiving. One of the stylists, and she’s a certified master groomer and she’s been doing this for a lot of years, but she did 16 or 17 dogs by herself. Now, I will say she had an assistant, so she had a bather and somebody was helping her get those dogs prepped. But still, to be able to do those types of numbers, you have to be so focused on what you’re doing. You are not looking away from your table. You are not talking to your fellow groomer. You’re not checking your phones. You are absolutely on task, on focus. That dog on your table is what you’re looking at. If you really stay focused, you’re going to be able to build up your speed. Again, you’re not looking to do it overnight. This is a small, incremental, stay focused, stay on task. If right now you’re struggling to get through four dogs, your target should be to get to five dogs. If you’re being able to do five, then look to move to six.

Just take it one dog at a time, one day at a time, but stay focused and help to master those skills so that you, too, are going to be able to comfortably do six or eight or more dogs a day, every single day that you are grooming and you are at your grooming table. That’s going to make you be a really valuable team member if you’re working in a salon situation. Or if you’re are solo flyer, it’s going to help build your business and make sure that you’re going to have the revenues at the end of the week or the end of the month to pay your bills. That’s what professional pet grooming is all about; being able to love what you do and make a living at it.


Melissa Talks About Slicker Brushes

Melissa Verplank discusses various kinds of slicker brushes. Tune for Melissa’s favorite brushes, which brush to use when, and how to maximize a dog’s comfort – and your own!

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Transcript
Melissa Verplank: Hey, guys. Melissa here, and right now I want to talk to you a little bit about slicker brushes.

There’s a lot of different brushes out there, and the slicker brush is just one of the styles that we use. And it’s a really popular brush in professional pet grooming. As many styles as there are, even within the slicker brush family … I don’t have that many here to show you, but I want to give you an idea of what I look for and what I like when I’m looking at a slicker brush and how to work with it so that not only are you keeping the dog comfortable and safe, but it’s also being effective.

So the first type that we see on a really regular basis is just a normal, everyday slicker brush. It’s got a flat back here. It’s got the pad of the little needle-type teeth or tines, and they will vary. The teeth will vary a little bit. The times will vary a little bit in length, based on the slicker brush that you’re looking at and how soft or firm the pad of the bristles are. So those are just a couple things that you would be looking for.

This one happens to be a very soft back slicker brush. So it’s really super for sensitive skin dogs, small dogs, puppies. This particular one, when they’re a little softer like this, they’re really great for fluffing, especially if the dog doesn’t have any mats in it.

The other thing when we’re looking at the slicker brushes is, a lot of times they’ll come in a variety of different sizes. I want to say this particular one by Chris Christensen, it comes in, I think, three different sizes. There’s one size smaller than this one, and then I think there’s one size larger. But all of them have got this nice, soft backing on them so that the bristles aren’t very soft, and it’s a very gentle brush to work with.

The next type … This one is what I would consider my personal workhorse for a slicker brush. It has longer bristles on it. The other thing that makes this brush a little bit different than many of the others is the curved back. And I don’t really care what brand we’re looking at. What I look for is that curved back piece right here, that’s really important to me, and then the actual length of the bristles right here.

Now, when you’re working with a curved back slicker brush, a lot of times it can be easier to work with because of that curved back, and you don’t have a tendency to poke the dog. And any of us that have worked with slicker brushes for any amount of time, we all know what it feels like when you get one of those bristles, one of those little needle-type bristles, underneath your fingernail. Oh, man, can it hurt. Well, if it hurts us, it’s going to hurt the dog as well. So there’s definitely a way to work with these brushes. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with a flat back, the curved back, or the next one that I’m going to show you, which has a flexible head on it, you have to work with them in a manner that keeps the dog safe and comfortable. And we’re going to go into that.

But the other thing, before I put this brush down and show you the last of style that I have … But this one has got pretty pretty firm but flexible teeth or bristles on it. So this is going to be a little bit more of an aggressive type brush, but it’s also just a really great workhorse for a wide variety of coat types. For me personally, this style of curved back slicker brush is my all-time favorite slicker brush to use on everyday pet grooming.

The last style that I want to show you is the type of brush … They come in a couple different sizes. But you’ve got just the single head or the dual head. And they have teeth or bristles on both sides. So you can flip the brush. You get a full brush, you can flip it around and use it the other way, on the other side. Sometimes with some of these brushes, the way the teeth are bent will be a little bit different. These look like they’re pretty similar, but where the big differences come with these two brushes is in the head.

And if we’re looking at these two different brushes … And most of the time when you’re looking at these dual type slicker brushes of this style, they’re going to come in a variety of flexible heads. And they’ll have five or six different varieties within a series. But if you look at this one, this head, it’s really tough for me to move this. It’s a really firm, aggressive, tight brush. This would be the type of slicker brush that you would work with on a pretty matted coat or a tangled coat or you’ve got a lot of dead undercoat to pull out. This would be a really great brush to work with on that.

This one, the head is a lot more flexible. It’s super simple to move back and forth. So as you are working and padding on the coat and the skin, it’s going to have a tendency to flex, and you’d be able to power through with a lot more comfort. I don’t want to say necessarily “power through.” But to work with a brush, you can get through a lot of different coat. But the more flexible the heads are, the softer, the more gentle the brush is going to be. So to get through a really heavily matted coat, this probably isn’t going to be your choice. You’re going to be wanting to look for a head that might be a little bit more firm, whether it be the firmest in this particular line or whether it be the softer. But whatever it is, these are great.

The other thing is, they come in the different sizes. So this one is going to be really wonderful for a larger dog, where you’ve got more volume that you have to get through. This’ll be a great choice on that one. Or if you’re working on a smaller dog or a tight space, maybe an armpit or inside the thighs or behind the ears, you don’t need a lot of surface area. You just need to be able to get into that tight little area. The smaller brush is going to work a lot easier for you.

So those are the different styles of brushes that we’re going to be looking at basically. And again, there’s a lot of varieties out there. So find a brand that you like, toss it out there, talk with your coworkers, network with other groomers, whether it be in person or whether it be in social media. But find out who likes what because there’s a lot of choices out there.

Now when you’re actually working with a brush, the method that I want to see is what I would consider a pat, pull method. And I use my forearm. I’m trying to pull my sleeve up here for you. But I want to see a pat and pull away, pat and pull away. And like I said before, these tines, they’re sharp. And if you are just making contact with a couple of them, it can really be uncomfortable. Where if you make contact with the entire pad, there’s no discomfort whatsoever. So it’s really important to pat and pull away, pat and pull away.

And when you do pat and pull away, the other thing is no break in your wrist. If you break your wrist, that’s going to cause a lot of problems for the dog. So you don’t want to go in, pat, and then break your wrist, and pull away. Because I think you can see here, if you pat and then … See how that’s poking at the top end? And I can tell if somebody doesn’t have good technique because the top row of these bristles, the tines here will be really broken down. Sometimes they’ll be missing. And if I see that on somebody’s brush, I know that they are brushing improperly. And a lot of times you can tell because the dog is giving you a hard time. The dog is uncomfortable.

If the dog is really struggling with you, stop and look at what your technique is because you might be accidentally … I mean, none of us want to hurt a dog, but you might be causing them quite a bit of discomfort because of your brushing technique. And the other thing is, it’s very soft. You’re hanging onto these brushes with just a couple of fingers. You can hang onto these brushes any way you want. This way, this way, this way. There’s a lot of different ways, based on the area that you’ve got to get into, that you can hang on to these brushes. But the key with all of them is, don’t power grip. What you want to do is just hold it very softly, very gently with your fingers, and pat, pull, pat, pull.

It’s going to be the momentum and the fact that you’re taking very small amounts. It’s called line brushing or line combing. And that’s where you literally hold the coat up, and then just work a very small amount of coat. You’ll actually see a seam line down to the skin. And you just brush it until it pulls through smoothly, and then you pull down another little section. But working with a slicker brush, if you are brushing properly, it should be very soft, very gentle, very methodical. And if you’re doing it well and the dog has been trained right, it should be very comfortable and relaxing for them.

We see a lot of dogs that get groomed on a very regular basis. They’ve actually been table trained to lie down. And I have seen a lot of dogs that have to go through a lot of brushing just to maintain their coats that literally they’re so comfortable, they fall asleep on the grooming table. So brushing doesn’t have to be painful. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable for the dog, but it will take time. And it just depends on what type of condition that dog is in, whether you can brush the coat easily or whether it’s going to take a little bit more elbow grease.

But make sure that whenever you are working that you’re doing a very soft pat, pull, pat, pull, and you’re pulling away from the skin. If you can hear this, that means you’re brushing too hard, and even my forearm is going to get a little bit red in there because I’ve just irritated it. So if I pat and pull, you can’t hear anything. And that’s exactly the type of technique that you want to have when you’re working with the dogs. You want to keep those dogs safe. You want to keep them comfortable, and you want to be effective with what you’re doing.

So take a look at the different slicker brushes that you have in your arsenal. There’s a lot of different ones, and they can be very specific. They’re going to help you get through different coat types, different types of breeds. And like I said, every dog has got a little bit different tolerance level for the brushing, but brushing doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable for the pet. So keep those pets safe, keep them comfortable, and just find the brush that’s going to work best for you and the situation on that particular dog.


How Many Clients Does One Groomer Need??

Melissa Verplank has an interactive video this week — bring a pen and paper! Find out how to calculate exactly how many clients you need, and when you need to see them. The answer may surprise you!

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Transcript
Melissa: Hi guys, Melissa here, and today I want to talk about the importance of rebooking and the impact it can have on your schedule. This is going to be an interactive video. What I want you to do is make sure that you’ve got something to write with pen or a pencil and a piece of paper. And if you don’t have those handy, go ahead and pause the video. I’ll wait for you. Cool, you got it. All right.

What I want you to do is I want you to write these numbers down as I’m talking about them. And keep in mind, this is just a really general formula and you can plug in whatever numbers you really want, but this is just an everyday, average kind of formula to give you an idea of how many customers you need to stay active all year round for one stylist.

The first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to look at the number of dogs that you do on average. Let’s say you’re doing on average six dogs every single day, and you’re grooming five days a week. Okay, that gives you about 30 appointments every single week that you need to fill.

And now the next thing we’re going to do is take a look at how many weeks you’re going to work per year. Most folks are going to take hopefully a two-week vacation for themselves, at least a two-week vacation. What you’re going to do is take that 30 number, those are the appointments that you’re going to have every single week, and you’re going to times that by 50. And what that’s going to do is it’s going to give you 1500, all right? That is the number of annual appointments you need every single year to be busy.

All right, that’s a solid number. Now we’re going to take that 1500 number and we’re going to divide it by nine. Why nine? Because hopefully with any luck, you have been successful in educating your customers of the importance of regular grooming for their pet and you’re going to be seeing those clients every six weeks, at least every six weeks. And so that’s how we come up with nine.

If you take a six-week, rescheduled dog, you’re going to see it about… It’s actually 8.6, I think, but we’re going to round it up because most of the time you can push an extra holiday appointment in there. You’re going to be seeing those dogs nine times a year. If we are taking that 1500 and dividing it by nine, you end up with 167. That’s all. 167 appointments, or clients, not appointments, clients is what you need every single year to keep your book filled.

And that’s again, that’s just an average. Let me roll through these numbers for you one more time really quickly. Say you’re doing six dogs a day, you’re working five days a week, that’s going to give you three appointments every week you need to fill your book. You are going to take that 30 appointments and times it by 50 weeks a year that you’re going to be working. That’s going to give you 1500 appointments annually you need to keep your appointment book filled. Now you’re going to divide that by nine and that is a finding out how many six-week clients you have on your roster. That’s how many times you’re going to see that client each year. You’re going to take that 1500 and divide it by nine and that’s going to give you 167 clients that you need to keep your appointment book filled every single year.

Now, why is this information important? Well, it’s more important so you can project out what your growth rate is, whether you want to add maybe another stylist to your team. Or if you’re a solo stylist, how long is it going to take you before you are filled so that you can either start raising your prices or closing your book to new customers. It’s really important for planning to know, to have an idea, to have a roadmap of what it’s going to take, what do you need to keep your book filled all year round?

That’s all it is, 167 clients. That’s what you need. Not such a hard target to shoot for, is it? Just make sure that you’re educating your customers on the importance of rebooking on a regular basis, at least every six weeks.


“Hey Joe!” Podcast for Groomers Now Available on Spotify and Google

The team at Paragon’s “Hey Joe!” Podcast by Pet Professionals for Pet Professionals is pleased to announce that the popular show will now be available on Spotify and Google podcast platforms in addition to its current distribution to Apple, Stitcher and Tunein.

The podcast, introduced earlier this year, features Paragon’s VP, Joe Zuccarello and guest industry experts who examine trends, products, tips and techniques in the pet grooming, pet care and pet supplies industry.

Episodes cover a wide range of informative and entertaining topics, from interviews with grooming icons such as Victor Rosado to deep explorations of deep conditioning with Dave Campanella. Many episodes give practical ways to increase revenue in grooming salons or to improve health and endurance for groomers.

Prior to joining the Paragon team in 2018, Joe’s rich career spanned managing luxury pet resorts, bringing pet supplies products to market, and coaching a wide range of pet business entrepreneurs. Learn more about Joe.

He is a sought out International Speaker and author, providing management, operations, and sales guidance tailored specifically for the Pet Industry.

Check out “Hey Joe!” in our Resource Center, or Subscribe on your favorite platform using the links below.

Subscribe on Stitcher
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts
Subscribe on TuneIn
Subscribe on Google Play Music
Listen on Spotify


Happy Feet Make Happy Groomers

Join Melissa Verplank for some great tips about grooming footwear! Just like finding the right pair of shears, good shoes are crucial when in the dog grooming industry. Melissa shares some of her favorites.

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Transcript
Melissa: Hey guys. Melissa here, and today I want to talk to you a little bit about one of the really important parts of our body, and that is our feet. You’re going, “Yeah right. Feet, Melissa. What about our hands?” I know. As groomers, our hands are so critical to what we do, but I’m going to tell you what. I have had hand problems throughout my career, and I’ve also now having feet problems for the past couple of years, and I will take a hand problem any day over a foot problem, because if you don’t have your feet feeling good, you can’t do much else. You can’t be active, and you certainly can’t stand for long periods of time with any type of comfort.

So I want to talk to you a little bit about maybe how to better take care of your feet. This is definitely a situation where do as I say, not as I did, because way back in the day when I was standing for hours at a grooming table, I was in Mobile in the summertime, didn’t have good air conditioners, and one of the most comfortable things for me was to just be barefoot. So I was grooming barefoot. I know. Crazy. Luckily I never had clippers or scissors drop on my feet, and I never had a problem with embedded hairs.

But bottom line, down the road, as I’ve aged, and now I’m in my mid to late fifties, my feet are taking a beating. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I play with horses as well quite a bit, and over the years I’ve been stepped on more than I care to admit, and probably had more broken bones in my feet, due to the horses. But it adds up to now I definitely have foot problems, and today I really battle plantar fasciitis. I’ve had it in both feet, I’ve been able to get over it, but it is a bear, it’s frustrating, and it’s extremely painful to the point when you first get out of bed, and anybody that’s had plantar fasciitis knows this, that it hurts the worst in the morning and getting out of bed can be really, really painful. For a time period, I’ve even had crutches right beside my bed because I absolutely could not put weight on my foot.

So I want to talk to you a little bit about taking care of your feet, getting those good shoes, good support shoes on your feet and using them. But just like shears, there’s a big difference between what’s going to feel good to me and what’s going to feel good to you. And just as with shears, I always encourage you to try shears on at trade shows, find out how they’re working, because there’s a lot of different styles of shears, there’s different shears for different purposes, shoes are no different. So I really encourage you to get into those shoe stores and try shoes on, take them for a test spin around the store, around the mall, whatever it may be, and find something that is a good fit for you.

And because I say something is a great shoe, it might be a great shoe for me and really comfortable and solve my problems, but it might not work necessarily for you. So get out there and take a look at what’s out there, but today I just want to share with you some of the shoes and some of the things that I have found that have really helped support me and allow me to maintain an active lifestyle. And it is between shoes and inserts, and back when I was first dealing with all of this, I went to the specialist and he said, “No more cute shoes for you.” Well, he was right, and I was certainly not looking forward to dealing with strictly orthopedic style shoes, and over the years I’ve been able to find some things that, okay, I can’t wear high heels anymore, but they’re still relatively attractive and they’re really comfortable and offer great support.

So I do have a very wide foot, and as I said, I deal with plantar fasciitis. I don’t have the longest foot. I wear about a seven, seven and a half shoe size, and like I said, I’ve been dealing a lot with plantar fasciitis, so I am looking for a lot of arch support with the shoes that I look for. One of the first shoes that really solved a lot of my problems was Vionic. And the Vionic, I have these slippers, and this is what I will get into first thing in the morning.

What I love about it is it has a really deep heel cushion. It has good arch support. I like the fact that, it’s black so you really can’t see very well, but it’s a slide on shoe, so you can wear it with socks or barefoot. It also has a rubber sole on it, so if I am running outside real quick, I can wear these if I’m just going out for short amount of times, but for the most part these are what I wear in the house and they are super comfortable. I wear them for when I first step out of bed, and if I’m working in the house, they are what are on my feet all day.

I am definitely a sandals kind of a gal in the summertime. Vionic also has a great sandal type shoe. These are my old ones. I’ve almost worn them out. I’m really due for a new one, but I mean, relatively stylish for a orthopedic type shoe. Again, a really deep heel bed, good arch support, great cushion all the way through the shoe. Good treads on the underside. I have walked long, long days in these shoes. Ann Arbor Art Fair. Anybody that’s in Michigan knows, the Ann Arbor Art Fair, knows how much walking on concrete that is. These shoes have gotten me through that.

Another sandal that I really love is the OluKai, I think is what you call it, and these come in a lot of different colors. Again, a good supportive heel bed, nice arch support, good cushion all the way through the shoe. Love this shoe. Can walk for hours with this shoe, and again, comes in a lot of different styles.

Now for work, you’re going to be looking at something that’s probably going to cover your toe. These are a clog that I actually got at a dog grooming trade show, and I love this shoe. It’s got really nice support all the way through. It’s got a little bit of a heel, but not too much of a rise, so I can actually wear them and not feel like I’m going to fall off the shoe. One of the things that I love about their clogs, and they’ve got good tread resistance here, and they have an insert that you can either, use their insert, which has got pretty nice support in it, great cush, or you can put in your own insert, whatever’s going to work well for you.

Most of the time what I see groomers working in is tennis shoes of some sort, and I was at a trade show recently, and one of my followers, Martin, you know who you are, suggested this after he watched me speaking and he knew that I was having some issues with my feet. He could tell that I hurt. And he said, “Melissa, have you ever tried Ohka?” I’m not sure if I’m saying that right. It is O-H-K-A and it is actually a running shoe. And right after that trade show I went out, I searched out a shoe store that had these and I bought myself a pair. Definitely a little on the pricey side, but so worth it. Oh my gosh. I feel like my feet are on pillows or on clouds. It is a running shoe, but for anybody that’s standing for long hours at a time and needs some good support, I cannot wait to get up in the morning and put these shoes on. I love them. I can’t believe how much they have helped me.

And some of the other tennis shoes that people really like, New Balance puts out a nice one. Vionic also puts out a nice tennis shoe with great support. There’s a lot of different ones out there. Merrell, some people like Merrells. Other people like Keens. Again, you’ve got a lot of different styles and brands out there that are going to help you and give your foot the stability that you need to be able to stand for a long period of time and not break your foot down. It’s also going to play up through your back as well. If your feet are comfortable, your back is comfortable.

A couple other things that I just want to say before I close this out is if you don’t want to go for the full shoe, sometimes inserts work really well, and I’m going to tell you I started with these. These are Power Steps, and there are two different types of inserts. What I am finding with my inserts is I like something that’s got a little bit more solid on the underside and it’s a little bit more molded. There’s still some flexibility in this, but it’s pretty solid. I look for inserts now that have got the great arch support. I also look for inserts that have got heel cushion and a lot of times, I have another one here, these two are Power Steps and this one is a Walk hero, and the Walk Hero has got not only some heel cushion but also has cushion here and good cushion through this part as well.

And these are going to fit into any shoe. So here, just beat up tennis shoes, but this is just a cheap shoe. I’m not even sure what the brand is, but it’s been used a lot, and I have worked with the insole, the Power Step in these tennis shoes. It’s worked really, really well. The New Balance, somebody suggested this shoe to me. I tried it, didn’t particularly care for the inserts, put in one of my power step inserts, and this shoe has worked really well for me. I do live on a large acreage and it gets muddy. It’s nasty. And so I have my Muck Boots that I love, and I’ve ended up putting my Walk Hero insert into this boot, and it has allowed me to walk all over the property with relative comfort.

So those are just some ideas. But take care of your feet. Like I said, I have had hand issues. I’m just really prone to any kind of inflamed tendon, tendonitis, whether it be my feet, my hands, my elbows. I don’t know why. I work with that through diet, and that’s a whole nother issue or topic to talk about, but take care of your feet, because if your feet feel good, you’re going to feel good. You’re going to be able to do a better job. You’re going to be able to focus on what you’re doing at the grooming table, and longterm, if you want to be at this for quite a while, you need to learn to start taking care of yourself a lot earlier than probably I did. But even if you hurt now, there’s definitely some solutions. Get out there. Find something that works for you and stick with it. So good luck finding something that allows you to stand all day on your feet and do what you love to do, which hopefully is grooming a whole lot of puppies.


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