The Westminster Kennel Club is America’s oldest organization dedicated to the sport of purebred dogs. Established in 1877, Westminster’s influence has been felt for more than a century through its famous all-breed, benched dog show held every year at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Today, America’s dog show has expanded into Westminster Week which includes the Masters Agility Championship at Westminster and the Masters Obedience Championship at Westminster. More than 3,000 dogs entered from around the world make Westminster Week like no other. As Master Groomer and our founder, Melissa Verplank pointed out in her videolog this week, watching Westminster is a great way for new groomers to improve their pet trims! We’ve highlighted information to help you tune in.
Each dog at a dog show is presented to a judge by either its owner, breeder, or a hired professional. This person is known as the exhibitor or the handler of the dog.
The purpose of conformation shows (also known as dog shows) is to evaluate breeding stock. Judges select winners based on their ability to contribute and improve the next generation of dogs. Dogs start out in the classes competing for points toward their AKC championship title. Dogs win points based on the number of dogs defeated. The more dogs entered, the more points per win. It takes fifteen points, including two majors (wins of three, four or five points), awarded by at least three different judges, to become an American Kennel Club champion.
Breed Groups judged to the AKC Breed Standard include the Working, Herding, Sporting, Hound, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding.
Master Groomer Melissa Verplank explains why you should save the date to watch the Westminster Dog Show, America’s oldest institution for purebred conformation. Spawned in 1877, Westminster’s all-breed show is a source of inspiration for great grooms as breeders and owners show their top dogs.
See the “stack” of the 204 eligible breeds across every group and variety as the best-in-breed and best-in-show are selected Monday, Feb. 11 and Tuesday, Feb. 12. Check out the Masters’ Agility competition starting on Saturday, Feb.9 and Sunday, Feb. 10. Visit Westminster for the full schedule to tune-in: https://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/plan-your-visit/general-info
Whether you’re just learning to groom or striving to improve your repertoire, don’t miss this chance to study top dogs!
Do you know your croup from your withers? In this video, master groomer Melissa Verplank discusses the vital role of canine anatomy knowledge in successful grooming. Great grooms flow from a solid understanding of the structure and kinetic capabilities of your subject.
Melissa: Hi, guys. Melissa here, and today I want to talk to you about the importance of canine anatomy and structure. This is the root or foundation of everything we do in the pet grooming world. And it doesn't matter whether it's a pure bred dog or whether it is a mixed breed. There is going to be basic structure and basic anatomy that we all need to understand so that we can bring out the best features of the pet or possibly hide some features that may not be that desirable. And you know, when you're looking at canine structure and canine anatomy, it's kind of like as groomers, we are the architects of this groom.
Melissa: If you were building a home, and you didn't have an architect that was formally and professionally trained, more than likely, that house isn't going to be as sturdy and as strong as what it could be. And so when I look at dealing with dogs, the more you understand about canine structure, about canine anatomy, and also movement, you're going to be able to do a better job in your everyday pet grooms just by having that knowledge in your head. So I really want you to think about how important it is, because if we don't have an understanding of canine anatomy and structure, we, number one, aren't going to be able to work efficiently, and with a harmonious relationship with that pet, because you just don't understand how they're put together. And if you don't understand how they're put together, then you know, we've got to move and manipulate these dogs all through the grooming process. And if you don't understand what is comfortable for that pet or what's going to hurt it, you're going to constantly be at a disadvantage, and you're not going to win the trust and cooperation of that pet.
Melissa: So understanding canine anatomy just from a working relationship with a pet is really, really critical. But then we're going to take it another step further. If you don't understand canine anatomy and canine structure, we're not going to be able to communicate to one another. Nor are we going to be able to or are you going to be able to set patterns on a dog that's going to accentuate their best features and detract from less desirable features. And so it's really important that you've got a well-rounded education with canine structure and anatomy.
Melissa: And so when we first start out, what I want people to understand is to think about the dog in almost X-ray vision. I want you to be able to see the bones and how they lay in. I want you to understand that a hip is held in position by a ball and socket, and there's only going to be certain ways that that hip can move. So that's going to determine the range of motion when you're moving that pet, how far you can lift that dog's leg up to maybe get the sanitary area done. And depending on whether it's a young dog or an older dog, they're going to have a different range of motion. So you've got to be really, really aware of that.
Melissa: The shoulder is held together with muscles and tendons. But what type of lay back, how should that shoulder fall in on that dog? What's the perfect structure for that particular dog? You know, every breed of dog was built to do ... well, not every breed of dog, but most breeds of dogs had originally had a job to do. And depending on how they're built will determine how efficient they are at doing that job, whether they are a digging type breed, like a lot of the terriers, and they're going to ground. Or maybe it's an arctic dog that was a sled dog originally. They're going to have a different structure than the terrier is going to have. And that's ... the purebred dog is a man-made creature. And man developed it to help him do the job that it was originally intended for. So every dog is going to be a little bit different. And that's where those breed standards are going to come in.
Melissa: They're going to tell you, you know, if it was the perfect dog. How would it be built so that it can do its job? So again, the better you understand that, and it takes time to learn all of this. But when you first start grooming, the minimum I want you to understand is to be able to shut those eyes, shut your eyes and be able to see how those bones lay out so that you know how to move and how to work with that dog. And then the next thing you really need to understand is topographical anatomy. And that's so we can communicate back and forth.
Melissa: If I say take your clippers from the withers and go to the croup, if you don't know where the withers are, and you don't know where the croup is, you're going to have a hard time doing what I'm telling you to do. So that's really, really important. Where is the elbow? Where's the spring of grip? Where's the upper thigh? Those are all terminologies that we're going to use when we're talking and giving direction about how to groom a particular dog. It's also, you need to be able to get your hands on that dog and literally feel where those underlying bones are and how the muscles are going to play in, because the muscles are the key to setting the patterns.
Melissa: And if you don't know where those muscles are and how they interrelate with the terminology and the bones, again, you're going to have a really hard time making that dog be the absolute best it can be. So I want you to be able to tie everything together. From the foundation, you got to understand it, to what may be the finished picture should look like. If it was the perfect world or not, sometimes you're looking at a matted dog, and you can't be the sculptor of the fur. You're not going to be setting patterns. But you still need to understand where those bones and muscles are going to play in, so you can handle that dog, and you can hold it so that it is safe and solid on the table, you're not going to hurt it. All of those things are really, really critical. So it doesn't really matter whether you're doing a #7 All strip, or whether you are doing a contest-style trim, or you're dealing with just an everyday pet in a low maintenance type trim. The better you understand canine anatomy and canine structure, the easier it's going to be for you to get through that groom in the least amount of time possible while doing the best job possible.
What do you do in a service-based industry like pet grooming when you’re too busy and booking way out? You have two choices: trim your clientele or expand your team. Melissa Verplank shares her secrets for balancing your workload. In this video, she’ll help you weigh the pros and cons of growth. How do you find a great groomer to grow your business? What are the pitfalls of trimming your clientele?
Want to read more about hiring professional groomers? Check out the Melissa Verplank library using this search.
Want to train a promising apprentice? Check out Paragon’s Distance Learning Program, where you can sponsor an employee to get the best pet grooming education available in the industry: Distance Learning
Melissa: Hi guys, Melissa here. Today, I want to talk to you about what is one of the hardest things about running a business. Honestly, the hardest thing about running a business isn't about grooming the dogs, it isn't about dealing with customers. The hardest thing about running a business once you start to grow, and that is finding staff. Absolutely, hands down, the hardest part. Not only finding staff, but dealing with staff.
Melissa: If you are finding yourself on that cusp of you're really, really busy, and you're questioning, what do you want to do, do you want to grow, do you want to hire help, so that you can service more clientele, or do you just want to scale it back a little bit and just keep it being a one man show? Sometimes, the one man show is a little bit easier to deal with. Only you, only you, know what's right. What's right in your heart and what you want to deal with. My advice to you is, if you find yourself just way overbooked, booking clients out so far in advance, that you just can't get all your customers in, and you're just basically running out of bandwidth for your own personal self and your family, then it's time to either scale it back or to hire.
Melissa: If you need it scale it back and you want to do it without having to hire somebody, then one of the easiest ways to reduce your clients is simply by raising your price. That naturally will thin out the number of appointments that you're going to have. Now, sometimes it won't fix everything, and there is no way to really thin out your appointment book. It's always going to be painful, because you're going to have to use that word no. No is hard. If we're in the service-based business, if we're dealing with customers, we want to be that yes person. We want to do it all. We want to handle all the appointments.
Melissa: You get around and you've got some experience under your belt, and you know that you just can't sacrifice yourself for your customers, using the no word is a whole lot easier. Honestly, one of the easiest ways to thin out your appointment book is simply by raising the prices. When you raise your prices, it does a couple things. Melissa: Number one, it gets rid of the lowest clients, not always the lowest, but it gets rid of clients that you just get frustrated to service because maybe the value isn't there. It also really tells you who truly appreciates what you do for them.
Melissa: When you raise your prices, when you get through the challenging part, what's left are clients that really appreciate what you do. Those are the best kinds of clients to have.
Melissa: Think about that. If you do want to grow your business through staff, know that finding staff, maintaining staff, and keeping staff happy, and working as a well-oiled machine, there is a lot more to it than just saying, I need help, and bringing somebody in, because at some point, you are going to pour so much of yourself into that team member, because most of the time, when you're growing your business, you don't have the systems in place that training them and getting them to understand what you do, and when somebody comes into your business, it's your business. It's your reputation that's on the line.
Melissa: That team member has to be trained up to provide the services that you have built your reputation on. So many staff members just don't really seem to realize that, it's your name, that is on the bottom of their check. You are the one who's calling the shots. In order to have a staff member working with you, or multiple staff members, you've got to be the leader, because if you're not the leader, one of those other team members will be the leader. More than likely, that is not a good situation. That's where you start running into a lot of issues with morale, with authority.
Melissa: You've got to be fair, but very, very firm. You just have to really think deep and hard, whether, not only do you want to deal with the growth of your business, but do you want to handle what comes along with adding staff. Not only do you have the, just emotional part of training that staff member and putting systems into place, and making rules and holding people accountable, but then you've also got a lot of the legal kind of stuff that you've got to deal with. The taxes, and the workman's comp, and insurance, and all of those things.
Melissa: Now, a lot of that stuff can be delegated. Don't let that weigh too heavily on you. You do have to deal with it. Just, before you grow your business, think hard, what you want to do. Do you just want to keep it simple, and do you just want to be that one man show, and just do what you love to do, and focus on the dogs that you are enjoying doing? Or, do you want to grow? Do you want to scale your business?
Melissa: There's good and bad with both. The only person that is going to be able to answer that question is you. You are the owner of the business. You are the one that gets to make that decision. Think about the opportunities that you have, think about the downfalls that come. There's always pros and cons with everything that you do. Weigh them out and do what's right for you.
Our fellow pet groomers in California need our help! Join us and make a donation to the California Professional Pet Groomers Association (CPPGA). This organization will help fund those in need and distribute the funds that come from your generous donations.
We have accepted the “Groom One for California” challenge of sending the proceeds from one grooming per day and we are asking you to do the same. Any amount helps!