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Take Advantage of Continuing Education Opportunities

Continuing education is a must for the successful pet groomer/stylist. Some continuing education opportunities are almost effortless. Other opportunities will take a vested interests in, time, money AND effort.

Trade journals abound. Many are available in the print version. Currently, many are offered in digital versions too.

With the onset of the internet – there are plenty of ways to research breeds and grooming techniques. Google, Facebook, grooming forums, YouTube and websites will lead you down an endless quest of knowledge. www.Learn2GroomDogs is a great example of very talented stylists sharing their knowledge. Word of Warning: The internet is a fabulous research tool but use good judgment. Be aware of the caliber of the information you are receiving. Anyone can post on the internet – regardless of their true qualifications.

Trade shows are held across the country. As professionals, you can step through the doors and be immersed in all the latest products, tools, educational classes. Plus, many have grooming competitions. This is where you can get up-close to watch top stylist groom their way to wins and placements. If you have access to high-speed Internet, many of these shows now stream live as the event takes place. Even if you can’t attend the show you can still see the grooming competitions!

Many award-winning pet stylists host small private clinics, offer personal coaching, and/or have educational DVDs. This form of training will show you the finer points of grooming. You also have easy access to webinars and streaming dog grooming videos taught by award-winning stylists with a few simple clicks of a mouse.

Voluntary certification testing puts your grooming to the test.  Currently, there are three organizations in the United States. All of them have educational programs. Each organization offers written examinations combined with rigorous practical skills testing. The common goal of each certification programs is to assess your grooming skills plus your overall knowledge of the pet grooming profession. The three organizations are;

  • National Dog Groomers Association of America
  • International Professional Pet Groomers Association
  • International Society of Canine Cosmetologists

Attending dog shows is another fabulous way to gather great information. Watching dog shows allows you to firmly etched in your mind of what a good specimen of any breed should be. The better you understand what a good specimen looks like, the better you’re going to be able to work on your pet clients.


How to Hold & Run Shears Correctly

Does your scissor work look like crushed velvet?  Do you enjoy the process of hand scissoring the coat of a pet? Can you get plush finish in a short amount of time? Or do you whittle away the coat way S-L-O-W-L-Y? Flawless hand-scissoring is almost becoming a lost art.

If your hand-scissoring skills could use some help – here are a few tips.

Simply improving how you HOLD the shears can have a huge impact on your end product. Master these few tips, and you are on your way to a velvet finish on the Poodle coat!

As you work your shears, only your thumb should move. Open and close the shear blade while the rest of your hand remains motionless. The scissor should stay balanced in your hand, at right angles to your index finger. Keep it steady and flush with the plane on which you are working; there is no bouncing with smooth-bladed shears. With thinning shears, you will have a small bounce to clear the trimmed coat before you close the blades for another cut.

Once you gain full control and balance of the shears, it’s time to consider how this motion works with the rest of your body. The fluidity of proper scissoring stems from your body – the placement of your feet, the bend in your knees, the flexibility of your waist and the position of your arm and shoulder. Your entire body becomes a machine that effortlessly runs the shears.

There are methods you can learn to produce a smooth, satin finish – a perfect scissor finish. However, one of the keys to mastering the art of hand-scissoring is perfect practice. And I mean hours of PERFECT practice!

Holding your shears and moving your shears over the dog properly is just a start to perfecting your scissoring skills. Notes From the Grooming Table and Learn2GroomDogs.com both have some great lessons on how to scissor correctly. (Colin Taylor and yours truely both have video lessons on correct scirroring) Plus, at both of these locations, you’ll find exercises to improve your scissor technique too.

Happy Trimming!


How to Improve Clipper Technique

For maximum freedom of movement and improved efficiency, hold the clipper like a large pencil, between the thumb and fingers. “Palming” the clipper makes for clumsy, awkward clipper handling. It also puts the pet at risk for cuts, nicks and irritation. Concentrate on positioning yourself so that the clipper is pulled toward you for the majority of your work. There are rare times when holding the clippers in your palm will improve dexterity, but this applies to very few moves.

To create the least amount of stress on your fingers and wrist, grasp the clipper at the “balance point” so the weight is equally distributed between each end. Hold the clipper in the correct position, and then rotate it between your thumb and fingers. This positioning keeps your wrist firm but flexible, yet allows for almost unlimited wrist movement. This hold offers access to the most difficult corners of the pet with minimum effort. Concentrate on minimizing your wrist action.

Allow the weight of the clippers to do the work. Your hand and wrist are simply its guide. As you move from the top of the pet to make downward strokes, simulate the same amount of pressure that gravity provided on the top.

Your hand and wrist will act as a shock absorber while clipping. As you clip, you’ll be leveling out the bumps and dents. This will allow you to obtain a satin-smooth finish.

No matter what blade you use, it is important to maintain a consistent degree of “tip” to the blade. This is also known as “keeping the blade up on its cutting edge.” Imagine a pencil being held right under the blade as you guide it over the body. The closer the pencil is to the teeth, the higher the tip angle; the farther back you keep the imaginary pencil towards the heel of the blade, the lesser the degree of tip. Generally speaking, the closer the blade cuts, the higher you need to tip the blade for it to be effective.


It’s Shedding Season

High velocity dryers aren’t just for dogs and cats!

This is the time of year that the fur really seems to fly. For those of us that live in areas where we experienced a climate change — the annual springtime shed represents lots of extra dollars in our pockets. For me, working on a dog that’s in the middle of a big-time shed is one of my favorite jobs to do. I know — I know, you think I’m nuts! It’s super messy.  That’s why I like it so much. You can take a dog that is dirty and nasty looking and in ho time, turn it into something gorgeous. With the right tools, the right products and a little bit of elbow grease, you can make a HUGE difference in the way a pet looks and feels in just a few hours.

A powerful high velocity dryer is my tool of choice for those magical canine makeovers. But how many of you cross over into the equestrian world? I do. Have you ever taken your high velocity dryer down to the barn? No?  Where have you been?? You’ve gotta try it!

Of our 6 horses, there isn’t one that doesn’t enjoy being blown out with a high velocity dryer. Many of our horsey friends have seen us work with this tool around our own crew. They have been amazed at the results. Almost all of them have asked if they could try it on their horses. They’re in awe of how well their horses have accepted the process when introduced correctly. (Just like a young puppy — low and slow)

If you are horse owner like me, I encourage you to check out my YouTube video about de-shedding a horse with a high velocity dryer. The birds will love you for it!

Happy Spring!

Melissa


The Passing of a Starlet…

When we lose one of our ‘special clients’, it’s always hard. It’s like we lost one of our own pets. Pandy was one of those ‘special clients.’ On second thought, no, Pandy wasn’t just ‘special,’ she was a gorgeous star.

Our love affair started in 2000 when Pandy’s owner brought her to the Paragon School for the first time. She was a striking black and white Shih Tzu, dripping a cloak of fur that literally drug on the ground. She was stunning. We were even more thrilled when we quickly learned; her mother knew how to brush!

Pandy quickly grabbed the attention of all the staff and students at the school. In order to keep her luxurious coat in top shape, her owner brought her in for weekly and bi-weekly brush-outs and baths. Through the years, Pandy taught hundreds of students what a well-kept Shih Tzu should look like.

But Pandy’s ability to help people learn didn’t just stop at Paragon. Her owner, Chris Vandyke is an incredibly generous woman. Whenever we called with a special request – she always was willing to bring Pandy over. When I was working on larger projects like writing Notes from the Grooming Table and Theory of Five, Pandy was always available as a model. When we were filming our first video training lessons, Pandy was there. When we needed a special dog while filming on the set of Learn2GroomDogs.com, Pandy was there.

Pandy was getting older. Chris has requested something that would be easier for her to keep up for Pandy yet still look stylish.  We had a film shoot scheduled that weekend with Learn2GroomDogs.com. We had the perfect slot for Pandy on camera. Again, she helped groomers learn to be the best.

It was an honor to have Lisa Leady do one of her last grooms. Lisa created a haircut that would easier to maintain while still giving the illusion of a full coat. She looked amazing.

Pandy passed away not long after our filming session. Watching her on camera, you’d never know she was 14 years old.

She was a beautiful bright spot for her family and everyone that met her. She helped hundreds of students learn how to brush, bath, condition, trim, and tie up topknots on a dog that not only had a glorious coat – but had a matching personality as well.

As you thumb through any of my books or watch any of our videos, you’ll see Pandy.  Anytime you see a full coated black and white Shih Tzu, that’s her – still helping young groomers be the best they can be.

She was always a star.  Her star still burns bright in our memory.

We miss you Pandy.


Valentine’s Day WOW Factor

I’m so proud of my team at Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa. We opened the luxury pet resort in the fall of 2007.  We’ve managed to bi-pass the worst of our current economy. Instead, we continue to grow. Why?  This team goes out of their way constantly, doing things like this.

Day Care was our slowest area of growth at the resort – until recently. In the past few months, we have been experiencing up to a 50% growth rate over last year’s sales. How are we doing that? By creating the WOW factor.

We don’t do it every day, but occasionally, the Whiskers team ramps up for a day like today.  Valentine’s Day – on a ho-hum Tuesday. How were they going to make that day ‘exciting?” They opted to toss a Day Care Valentine’s Day party – a party for the dogs. The dogs all got special attention and yummy treats. That’s not that unusual for this team to a great party for our canine guests.  But with this party, the team opted to highlight the owners too.

As John Jantsch says in his book, The Referral Engine, “People don’t get emotional and passionate about ordinary products, a satisfactory result, or a fair price. They talk about things that surprise them or make them feel great about themselves – and, in effect, remove the feeling of risk they might have about doing business with that firm…. If the market place isn’t talking about you, there’s a reason. The reason is that you’re boring.”

We have used this concept with great success over the past few years at Whiskers. We want folks to TALK about us when they leave. This is one of those marketing tasks that was downright FUN to do. Not only were the clients delighted – the staff had a blast preparing the 100 roses for our guests AND passing them out! Whiskers had the largest day in Day Care they had ever had – Over 70 dogs took part in the party! Talk about creating the WOW factor.

So my challenge to you is:
What are you doing to encourage referrals with your business? What are people saying around the dinner table, the cocktail party, at the gym or the water cooler at work? Are they talking about YOUR business in an energetic, positive way?  If they aren’t, how can you change that?

If you want to learn more about some of our marketing tactics or how we create enthusiasm within our teams, make sure you catch my lectures at the Atlanta Pet Fair coming up the first weekend of March.


A Unique SOS for Grooming Help

Pina with Poodle puppy

This is an amazing TRUE story that took place a few weeks ago with one of my companies. It’s uncanny how all the pieces of this puzzle fell together. In the end, it was tremendously rewarding to see someone apply a lesson so well.

I currently oversee five different companies in the pet industry. I don’t have a lot of extra time to spend in the social media world. However, I’m lucky to have a team of people around me that are able to spend a bit of time there. They give me a heads-up when they feel there is something worthy of my attention. On this particular day, there was a very loud SOS cry for help from Facebook.

Lea Ann is a newer groomer from Kentucky. She just had a client purchase a 7 month-old, cream, Miniature Poodle show puppy — and she wanted her to groom it! Her first show was in three weeks. Yikes! Although her basics grooming skills were strong, this presented a challenge outside of her comfort zone. She turned to her friends on Facebook for help.

One of those friends is Lisa Van Sweden my illustrator for Notes from the Grooming Table and Theory of Five. Whenever Lisa sees a tough question — or a plea for help — she privately contacts me to see if I can help. Lea Ann had no idea Lisa was connected to me, the Paragon School of Pet Grooming or Learn2GroomDogs.com — all she knew, “was Lisa was well-connected.”

Now this is where it gets weird.

A few weeks earlier we had been in Florida filming for Learn2GroomDogs. One of the Training Partners we filmed was Irina (Pina) Pinkusevitch. Pina did a grooming demonstration on a 7 month-old, cream, Miniature Poodle show puppy! Uncanny.

Not two hours prior to receiving this SOS, I had reviewed the rough edit of this video. We were getting ready to put it up as a ‘Sneak Peek’ in the next few weeks on Learn2GroomDogs, giving people a small taste of what they could look forward to in the Full Length video. The Full Length video would not be available for another four weeks.

I knew this lesson was almost custom-made for Lea Ann! However, if we stayed on track with our release schedule — she would miss her window of opportunity to make the first dog show with her client’s puppy. To complicate a few things, we were missing about four or five minutes of footage in the rough edit. (That’s why I review every video one or two times before it goes up on L2GD!) The footage that was missing was really critical; how to band off the top knot and create “the bubble.”

The next thing that was standing in our way was that Marc and I were headed off for a ski vacation with fellow top stylists, Teri DiMarino and Kathy Rose. Still, I knew I had to get this footage to Lea Ann ASAP.  As we’re driving to the airport, waiting for flights and touching down in Salt Lake City Utah, I was in touch with my office, our editor, and Lisa who was the link to Lea Ann. We needed to find the missing footage, finish out the edit a few weeks early and quietly posted on the L2GD website. The only people that were going to be able to find it in the tangle of over 200 videos, were people that had the inside scoop — namely Lea Ann.

Luckily, she found the video. It looks like it was exactly what she needed. The before/after photos arrived while we were skiing. I was so proud of her work. Teri and Kathy were impressed too. It was amazing to see how easily somebody could grasp the information on their computer screen by watching a streaming video lesson on-line and apply it to a real live dog. She nailed it. Sure, there’s some tweaking that can be done. Even the best stylists in the country are never 100% happy with their work.

Once we got back from skiing, I contacted Lea Ann privately via Facebook. That’s when I learned the next unique piece of the puzzle. She writes this;

“I’ve been a groomer for almost four years now. I was an actually student of Courtney Ramstack. I feel so lucky to have studied with her initially. She was tough, but I felt like I walked away from her grooming academy with the best foundation possible. It was a four week course featuring 40+ hours of classroom and hands on instruction. I LOVE watching her videos as well. It feels like I’m coming home.”

Now I’m totally blown away. She’s “One of Courtney’s girls!” I should have known when I saw the work. Courtney is one of my all-time favorite people. We go back a long way. We all met when PetsMart used the Paragon School for corporate training in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. In fact, two of my trainers and Courtney all competed at the same time around the country in grooming shows. They became great friends and earned the nickname “The Blonde Squad”. Over the years we’ve all maintained our contact and our friendship. She’s even been up to my home and ridden our Friesian horses. Having Courtney as one of our Training Partners for L2GD has been a treat. Not only is she an amazing person with a huge heart, she’s a fabulous teacher!! Lea Ann was fortunate to have trained under her initially — she got good solid basics and it shows!!

Lea Ann is even taken it one step further and contacted Pina where she got a very warm welcome. She also has been able to reconnect with her initial trainer, Courtney. Were excited to see where Lea Ann is going to take this grooming. Hopefully she’s made some contacts that will open the doors of opportunity even much wider for future as a talented pet stylist.

It’s such a small world. It’s amazing that a simple request for help on Facebook can yield the type of results that Lea Ann experienced. Whether you believe in Six Degrees of Separation or The Secret, this entire story has a unique feel to it — a warm fuzzy feeling that reminds all of us why we are in the service business. I love the pet industry and I love being able to help both people and pets through education.

 


Getting into the Grooming Groove

Are you highly productive at your grooming table? Are you whizzing though 6-8 pets with ease – or more? Are you able to work smoothly? Are you able to work without interruptions? Are you confident with your trimming skills? Do you have a constant working method you apply to most of your grooming jobs – every time?

In our business – time transfers to money and/or time to spend perusing other actives besides grooming pets. Ideally, most small to medium sized pets should take 45-60 minutes to complete – from start to finish – bath, dry and finish trim. If you are not hitting these numbers, you probably are not ‘in the grooming groove.’

If you are not hitting these targets, it’s time to analyze the problem areas. Over 50% of the time, the time wasted is in the bathing and drying process. On a simple trim, like a one length all-over style that you do every 6 weeks, the breakdown looks something like this:

  • Pre bath prep: 5 minutes or less (overall observation, trim nails, clean ears)
  • Bath: 5-10 minutes (double shampoo plus skin conditioning treatment)
  • Towel Dry: 1-3 minutes
  • High Velocity Dry: 5-10 minutes
  • Finish Trim: 20-30 minutes

Grab that timer. Watch that clock – a BIG clock that is easy to see at ALL times. Time yourself. Identify areas where you could improve your productivity. No one can improve anything unless they know a starting point.

Make a game out of it. Use the provided time line as a basic guide. This guide will help you set up your time targets in each area. Break it down. Time yourself. With each procedure – try to consistently improve your best time while maintaining safety and quality. Build in a sense of urgency in what you do with every pet.

Don’t stop. Try as hard as you can to minimize interruptions. Interruptions are energy busters. Sometimes it’s difficult to get back into the flow of things. There is no better feeling than getting into the ‘grooming groove.’ Your days will fly by effortlessly.

Groomers and stylists that in the grooming groove, get great satisfaction out of their work days. Even the simplest trims look great. Groomers and pets are injury free. Clients are thrilled with the work. Happy clients translate into repeat customers. Repeat appointments equal a full grooming book for upcoming months and a successful salon, regardless of its size.

Happy Trimming!

Melissa


Choose the Paragon Pet School

Choosing a career in pet grooming is a rewarding way to work with animals while helping people to become more responsible pet owners. It is an incredible profession, filled with caring individuals who are dedicated and hard working. There has never been a better time to enter the field as the pet industry continues to grow and the need for quality pet care increases.

The Paragon Pet School is the leading choice for people who want the best training available. Paragon has set the standard for other schools, with some of the best instructors, a state-of-the-art training facility and a wide variety of learning tools. It is easy to see why so many choose the Paragon Pet School.


New eBook is here

“Why Dogs Shouldn’t Wear Tutus” is the newest book from Melissa Verplank, with whimsical illustrations by Lisa Van Sweden. This eBook is available for download to your computer. Use your favorite PDF reader to view and print this informative edition featuring 115 tips for professional pet groomers. This eBook features:

  • Informative tips to use every day
  • An easy-to-print format
  • Colorful illustrations
  • Business building information
  • Easy to grasp nuggets of wisdom

This fun little book is filled with great tips inspired by over 30 years in the pet service field. Join ‘Petunia’ (the Bulldog) and ‘Twinkle Toes’ (the fairy) along with a few of their friends as they present the golden nuggets. Twinkle Toes is busy sprinkling the fairy dust of knowledge throughout the pages of this charming new eBook.  Click the cover below to purchase your copy.

new eBook from Melissa Verplank

Order yours today and download right away!

 


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