As summertime approaches, so does the anniversary of the worst outbreak of Canine Influenza the country has seen. In the summer of 2018, numerous pet care facilities in Paragon’s home state of Michigan closed temporarily, required vaccinations and/or orchestrated mass vaccination efforts to slow down the spread of Canine Influenza H3N2 strain, including our own Whiskers Pet Resort and Spa. Is your facility ready for 2019?
By now, you have probably heard about the newest illness threatening our pets. Canine influenza (CI), or dog flu, is a highly contagious infection that can have serious implications not only for our pets, but for your business and our industry.
In this video, Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank talks about ways you can be proactive in maintaining the volume of pets in your grooming business. In order to keep your business volume consistent and growing you need to deliver a service that goes beyond what customers can do at home or at a self-wash. Learn ways to set your service apart!
Get more great grooming business tips from www.Learn2GroomDogs.com – Sign up with Code LUCKYDOG and get 50% off your first month!
Melissa V: Definitely this type of breed, even though people don’t think of it as needing a whole lot of grooming, they definitely need grooming. When I’m working with those tight-coated breeds, one of the tools that I really love to get them squeaky, squeaky clean and to help eliminate the shedding, because even though they’re a tight-coated breed, and whether it be a tight-coated breed like the pointer, or whether it’s going to be more a short-coated breed like your labs, they still shed. And that kind of coat can really weave into fabric, and it’s hard for a roller tape to get that picked up because that coat is tight. It’s hard, and it just weaves into the fabric.
It’s our job as the professional pet groomer to be able to minimize that for the client, and one of the tools that I really love is these types of rubber curries. They actually have an incense cone type tooth on them, and they’re super flexible. You can really take these to the bathtub and really scrub with them. They do a good job getting right down to the skin. They do a great job releasing a loose coat, pulling that debris right up to the surface, and it feels good. It’s like a massage. You just can’t hurt them.
That’s one of the things that I would really encourage you to utilize and pay attention to those details, is get them squeaky, squeaky clean. Use a great shampoo that has a nice fragrance to it, not overly heavy, but fragrance so that when that dog goes home, they know it’s clean. It smells good. It smells fresh, and when you pull that dog out of the tub, you want it to squeak, squeaky, squeaky clean. Whether it be the really tight-coated breeds, or whether you’re dealing with a lab, or the French bulldogs. You know, they’ve got a little bit more coat. Get them squeaky, squeaky clean.
Now, the other thing to look at is, like with the shepherds and the golden’s and any breed that has got that type of coat is, are you providing a shed-less type program? I live with Maremma sheepdogs. Maremma sheepdogs are like oversized white golden retrievers, and they shed. And we have instituted a shed-less program, and it has been amazing. The revenue generation that we have been able to come up with just by providing a service like that. So think about what types of services you can do. What are the problems that the clients have at home?
With these breeds, even though they don’t have a lot of coat, they don’t require haircuts, they definitely shed. And they get dirty, so figure out things that you can do to help solve that problem easily for the client. Again, like I said, pay attention to details. Make sure those ears are super clean. Not only trim nails, but what about utilizing a Dremel to file those nails so that they’re nice and smooth and they don’t have sharp edges on them. A client’s not going to be able to, number one, generally trim dog’s nails at home, nor will they file them. That’s a great service that you can offer. For many salons, they might trim nails and offer the filing as an upsell. We personally do a buck a paw, so it’s a four dollar upsell. Super easy to do.
Another thing that you can do with these dogs that don’t require full haircuts, and you can do it with full haircut dogs as well, but do you have any kind of breath freshener or teeth brushing or something that you can add orally to enhance the client’s experience with their dog at home? Again, it’s an easy upsell, and it’s something that generally clients don’t do for themselves at home with their dog. Being able to offer those types of things, just really pay attention to it.
With that doberman that we had years ago, most of the time she would come home not only with her nails filed, but they’d also be painted. And okay, every once in a while they were a crazy color, especially around the holidays, that would happen, but most of the time they were just painted black. It just gave a nice shine to the nail. It was a part of the detail that the client isn’t going to do for themselves. Did it make or break the groom? No, but it was just one of the those things that you noticed. It was in those details. Bows on collars, bandanas, the collar frills that you can get. Bardel Bows has got all kinds of really fun things. If you don’t like dealing with bows and bandanas, there’s companies out there like Bardel Bows that are going to have those things.
And my goal with a customer is always to bring the dog in, to treat it with respect and love and compassion, but when that client picks up their dog, when that dog goes home, what I aim for is to see a smile. When that client sees their dog, and not only a smile because they’re happy to see their dog, but a smile because the dog looks amazing. And again, if you’re dealing with a short and tight-coated dogs, you’re not going to see that big transformation that you see when you’re dealing with a haircut type dog. But there’s subtle differences that you can do to make that client go, “Wow. That was the best he’s looked. It’s the best he’s smelled. It’s the best he’s felt.” Those are the types of things that you’re going for.
What you want to do is bring those bath and brush dogs in on a really regular basis. Ideally, I love to see them every two or three weeks. That really helps keep the shedding under control. It keeps the film, the dirt on their coat down, and it keeps them smelling great. If you can encourage those customers to come in on a really regular basis and provide those services that they are not going to do themselves, if they bathe the dog in their driveway or in their bathtub, or they take that pet to a self-service facility. You are going to be able to do such a better job, and it goes without saying too, you’ve got the high velocity dryer. They don’t, and we all know how important that tool is.
And again, whether you’re dealing with a tight-coated dog, a short-coated dog, or a bath and brush type dog like the shepherd or the golden retriever, the high velocity dryers are going to be absolutely critical to doing a really knockout job on those dogs. Get those bath and brush dogs coming in. They are massive to what you can do with your bottom line, with a revenue generation. They are some of the easiest dogs that you’re going to do, but they really have a huge impact on your bottom line. And that’s what we’re in business for. We are in business to make a profit, to provide a service for our customers that they’re going to appreciate. So pay attention to the details and get those bath and brush dogs coming back in on a regular basis to you.
We have a motto within my companies when it comes to learning:
“Education is everything.”
It is at the very core of everything we do. Why?
I see learning as never-ending. It does not matter what stage you are in your career. Or what stage you are in your life. Continued learning offers positive opportunities around every turn.
I was never a great student in school. Traditional academics did not excite me. But once I got into dog grooming, now that was a different story.
I became passionate about learning. About growing my career. I didn’t seek out traditional methods. Most of my learning was self-directed. Something much more challenging before the age of the Internet! I quickly understood the wealth of benefits continued education unleashed.
In this video, Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discusses a concept that Lisa Leady shared during a www.Learn2GroomDogs.com video shoot: There’s no black and white in grooming, but there’s a lot of gray. In this context, how do you evaluate techniques and products? Melissa suggests answering these questions:
Is it safe for the pet? Is it safe for the groomer? Will it yield a quality product? Will it be efficient?
Melissa V: Melissa here, and I want to share with you a thought process that is kind of a combination of both my thought process and a thought that Lisa Leady shared on one of her Learn to Groom video shoots years ago. And the thought that Lisa shared with me and to our Learn to Groom audience was that there is no black and white in dog grooming. If you’ve ever followed Lisa, you’ve probably heard her say that.
Over the years you’ve heard me say it that there is absolutely no black and white, there is no right or wrong in dog grooming, but what there is, is a lot of shades of gray. So, what you want to think about, and this is where I kind of took her thought process and applied my line of questioning to that. Before I test out any new product, test out any new technique, think about doing something different than what I might have done in the past is I always ask these four questions.
Question number one is, will whatever I’m going to use or do be safe for the pet? Number two is, is it safe for me? Is it safe for the groomer? Is it going to be ergonomically safe for me long term, or is it going to be safe for me from a physical standpoint? So stop and think about that. Number one, is it safe for the pet. Number two, is it safe for you? Number three, will it yield a quality product because if you can’t yield a quality product, you’re not going to have customers coming back for your services. So, number three is going to be, does it yield a quality product? Number four is the question I always, always ask is, will it be efficient? Now, maybe it won’t be efficient the first time I try out a new technique or a new product. I might have to get the feel of it a little bit better, but down the road, will it be efficient if I utilize this product or this technique?
So, there you have it. Those are the four questions that I always ask whenever I’m dealing with the multiple shades of gray that we have with professional pet grooming. It’s:
1. Is it safe for the pet?
2. Is it safe for you?
3. Will it yield a quality product?
4. Will it be efficient?
So, I want you to ask that question every time that you’re thinking about testing out a new technique, looking at a new product, or doing anything a little bit different than what you have normally done before. Sometimes little switched in what you’re doing can make a big impact in your bottom line, but you always want to make sure that it’s safe, that it is going to be efficient, and that it’s going to yield a quality result. If you can answer all four of the questions and get a “yes” answer, try it. That’s one of the beauties of professional pet grooming is there’s lots of ways to do the same thing based on the situation that you’re dealing with on that particular moment.
Reaching your goals, especially if they are lofty, is always easier said than done. It does not matter whether they are personal goals. Career goals. Health goals. Financial goals. Or goals in any other area in your life. Achieving goals is hard work. It takes planning, focus and action.
What if I told you there’s a shortcut when it comes to achieving goals?
What is it?
Personally, I’ve used this technique repeatedly to achieve my goals. I first started hearing about it in the mid-1980s. Since then, I’ve used it for both large and small goals in all areas of my life with great success. Read the rest of this entry »
In this video, Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discusses the importance of “bringing your game to the table” when you’re learning to groom dogs. Selecting the best program, instructors, and mentors is half the task. The other half comes from focusing on the instruction you’re given and committing to ongoing improvement. Education is everything! It’s the key to building a successful career in the pet grooming business.
Want to enhance your techniques? Even experienced groom techs and groomers can “level up” at Paragon with an advanced level course through its Distance Learning Program. Get $100 off Tuition with code LUCKYDOG.
Want to sharpen your skills with access to detailed “how-to” videos every day, all year? Join our Learn2GroomDogs.com pro membership community for unlimited access to more than 1,000+ in-depth videos on every breed in the book. Use code LUCKYDOG to get 50% off your first month.
Melissa V: Hi guys, Melissa here. Today I want to talk about how to grow your career, or how to learn. Learning, there’s a lot to it. I don’t care whether you go to the best school available to you, or whether you are self taught, learning takes focus, and it takes dedication.
I always say you can only be as good as who your instructors are. If you are self taught, you’re going to be looking at books, today you’re going to be looking at videos. You can teach yourself. You can learn on YouTube. I mean, how many of us jump onto YouTube when we have a question about something, and we need to figure it out? Yeah, we jump on YouTube.
But I’m going to tell you when it comes to dog grooming, that can be a little bit dangerous because what is out there and available on the Internet, come on, everything is the truth and everything is right on the Internet, right?
Be careful what you look for, and who you follow. It’s not to say that free education isn’t good, but more than likely you’re going to have to pay a little bit of money to get the best teaching, to get the best coaching, whether it be through videos or books or programs, or maybe you go to a formal educational type school. Be careful. Check out your schools that you’re attending, look at what the instructors are because you will only be as good as what your instruction is.
But there’s another side of this, because learning is a 50/50 gig. It doesn’t matter how good your instructors are if you, the learner, don’t bring your full game to the table. If you aren’t dedicated, if you aren’t focused, there is no way that even the best teacher can teach you. You’ve got to be in the game. You’ve got to be there and focus on what you’re dealing with, and learn and absorb it.
Everybody learns at a little different pace. Dog grooming isn’t for everybody, but if it is for you, it’s really a rewarding career, but you’re going have to work at it. There are very few people out there that are just naturally talented, that can just pick up the clippers and sheers and go to town, and do a really good job straight out the gate.
Every school system, every training program has it’s A, B, C, D, and what do we do with those other type students, you know? Even if maybe you weren’t the strongest student in school, it doesn’t mean that you can’t go on and continue your education and get better.
One of our top trainers that we have at the school, and she’s been with me on and off since the early ’90s, I still remember when she was in school and she was … It was a 600 Clock-Hour program she had signed up for, and she was really close to graduating. I happen to walk through the bathing room, and she had a golden retriever on the table. As I walk by, I noticed that the dog was still really sopping wet.
I have always had a phrase that I want the towels to do a large portion of the work before you even begin to turn on the high velocity dryer. So what it told me is that she hadn’t listened throughout the course of the lessons. I mean, here she is close to graduating and as I walk by the golden retriever, I just run my hand down the dog’s leg and I pick up the foot and I give it a soft squeeze and the water literally just runs off the foot into a pool on the table.
I didn’t have to say a word. I know, and she shared with me later, that that was a really hard blow. That was something that she remembers still to this day, years and years later, and she remembered that.
We fast forward another year or two down the road, and I’m looking for an instructor and she comes in and she applies, and I’m thinking to myself, “Oh yeah, she could barely even graduate and here she is applying for an instructor position.” I got to tell you, during her working interview, she blew me away. She worked on a little black and white Shih Tzu in a fuller guard comb type trim, and she absolutely crushed it. That dog was so cute, so well done, that I was amazed. I said to her, “What has happened, what has changed?”
She realized that when she was in school, she really didn’t focus as much as she should have. And when she got out there into the real world, that’s when her real learning started.
Whether you do it in school, which is actually where I would suggest you try because you’ve got your trainers right there, but no matter what, learning is a 50/50 choice. It’s going to 50% be where your instruction comes from, and 50% of what you bring to the table.
Just because you’re at the best school or have the best books or have the best videos, you still have to put it together. It comes from here. It comes from what you bring to the table and what you can do for the dog, how you apply what you have learned.
Gang, I’m going to tell you, it does take practice, practice, practice. And it never stops, you can continue to learn, and it doesn’t necessarily mean just dog grooming. I continue to grow my career. I have books like crazy. I highlight, I tag them. If I flip open my books, they’re all marked up.
No matter what you’re dealing with, mark your books up. I personally am not a fan of the digital books because I can’t mark them up, I can’t write in the margins, I can’t tag the pages.
To really cement something in your mind, one of the best things you can do is write it out longhand for yourself. They say, if you ink it, you think it, and that is so true. For me, that really helps sink a thought, sink the idea in. But I’m always reading with highlighters, I’m always making notes in margins. It doesn’t matter whether I was reading a grooming book, or whether I am working on some other aspect of what I need to learn to run my businesses.
Focus, focus, focus, and always remember, the learner brings half of it to the table. So just think about that when you go in and you learn and realize that some people, learning comes easier than others. And if you’re one of those folks, kind of like what I am, I’m not the fastest study out there, and I really have to work at learning and work at getting it embedded into my brain.
But stick with it, you can do it. But just know, half of it is going to be from the instruction that you receive, and the other half is going to be what you bring to the game to make that lesson stick in your mind.
In this video, Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discusses ways to improve your speed by tracking your time and starting with the end in mind. She shares her own personal challenge in improving speed on Poodle feet. Learn how to increase your productivity by measuring your progress and celebrating your milestones.
Want great tutorials on grooming Poodles (and their feet) along with hundreds of other instructional videos? Check out www.Learn2GroomDogs.com. Use Code LUCKYDOG to get 50% off your first month.
Want to master Poodle feet (and much more!)? Notes from the Grooming table has a detailed section. Purchase it here: Paragon Book Shop
Melissa: Hi guys. Melissa here, and today I want to talk to you a little bit about ways to improve your speed. When we are grooming, every single day, when we’re at a grooming table, it is all about being efficient with our time. It doesn’t necessarily mean to be fast, to be rough, to be abrupt. That’s not what this is about. It’s about being efficient so that we can get the most done in the least amount of time while yielding the best result.
The best result is in the quality of the product that we put out in the way that we handle and interact with the pets that we deal with, as well as dealing with our clients. So, I just really want to emphasize that improving your speed is not about sacrificing anything. It’s about maintaining and actually enjoying what you’re doing even more so because you’re efficient. You’ve got confidence with what you’re doing, and every time you do it, you get consistent results that are yielding quality.
So, the first thing to help you improve speed is you got to know what the end result should look like. What does a quality round head look like? What does a clean well-fluffed dog look like? You’ve got to start with a clear picture of what does it look like when it’s done right. So, whatever technique you’re trying to improve, whatever thing you’re looking at, improving your speed, improving your quality, improving your confidence with, know what it looks like when it’s done right.
Then the next thing that I want you to really think about is clocks, timers. I still remember being in a salon that they were saying, “The entire salon had a problem staying on task, on time, getting dogs done when they were promised.” When I looked around, there was very few clocks, so clocks are going to be really, really critical. Wherever you’re at, you want to be able to quickly just glance up and see that clock.
You want to have a watch on that’s going to be able to stand up to the abuse of what a busy grooming salon is going to be. I find water-resistant, waterproof watches are great. All of us have our phones with us today. So, right on your phone, there’s generally going to be an app that’s got a timer on it. If you don’t want to use your phone, get an old-fashioned egg timer. It doesn’t matter. But you’ve got to be able to measure and know every second of your day, where you’re at, and what you’re doing.
Then to start improving on your speed, you got to measure it. So, if you are struggling to get a dog, a small-to-medium simple trim done in an hour or less, start measuring how long does it take you from the time you put that dog on the table to the time it gets to the tub, and from the tub to the drying area, and from the drawing area back onto the finish table, and how long does that finish take you? You need to break up your grooms, so that you know where you’re spending your time and how much time you’re spending in each one of those areas. Then start improving in each one of those.
I’ll give you a hint. Most of the time, the real trouble, the time waster is in the wet area. It’s in the bath and the dry. So, if you’re struggling to get a small-to-medium simple trim done in an hour or less, double check what your times are in there. I’ve got material out there on learntogroomdogs.com and also in my blogs that you can see a time sheet that tells you exactly where you should be.
So, research that a little bit. There’s a lot of material out there to help you improve your speed, but always have those clocks, those timers handy, and measure it. Know where you’re at. Then set yourself a goal. Set yourself a target. You want to beat it by one minute, by 30 seconds. You’re not looking to make big huge sweeping improvements at first. What you want to do is make very small incremental changes as you improve, as you focus on whatever task it is that you’re trying to improve your efficiency with, and celebrate the small wins.
Celebrating means just sometimes just giving your own self a pat on the back for hitting a target like, “Yeah, I did it.” Those types of things, those successes help you move forward, and if you don’t hit the target, if you don’t make it, don’t beat yourself up too bad. You got another chance, another time. Just keep measuring and keep tracking where you’re at.
When I first started grooming, I didn’t have any instruction. The groomer was fired. I was kennel help, and I got a call from my boss, and they said, “You’re it. You have a new role. You are now the groomer.” Gang, I didn’t know what I was doing. There wasn’t material out there. The internet didn’t even exist. There was very little material for me to teach myself how to groom dogs. My first day, I had six dogs on my table that I had to get done.
I didn’t know what I was doing. So, fast-forwarded, it got to the point that, yes, I was grooming dogs, and I always thought I was being pretty efficient and pretty good at what I was doing. But I will tell you there was one breed of dog that I hated. When I saw it, when it came across my roster, I just cringed because I knew that I was going to totally lose it on time and efficiency, and that was poodles, and it was poodle feet.
I didn’t mind anything else about the poodle, but the foot. When I first started grooming, when I had a poodle, each foot would take me five minutes, five minutes to do a foot, one foot. Down the road, it was always a struggle. I always made a mess out of it. All the dogs jerked. They pulled. They didn’t want me to handle their feet. I was making hamburger out of their feet because the blades were cutting them. I just didn’t know how to do it right.
So, poodle feet were just a huge struggle for me. I really dislike doing poodle feet. As my career grew and I got more experience, I started to understand what does it look like when it’s done right. I started to see the techniques that were being used that I wasn’t using, and I could improve upon what I was doing. Then at one point, I had the challenge. Somebody said, “Can you do four feet in three minutes?” I thought, “Ugh, are they kidding? There is no way. It takes me five minutes, four minutes to do a poodle foot.”
I’d gotten a little bit better over time, but it was still a huge time crunch for me to be efficient in that area. So, when I heard that four feet in three minutes, I thought, “All right, somebody is being able to do it. I’m going to figure it out,” so I did. It took me quite a while. I’m not saying I nailed it right out the gate, but at some point down the road, I did at height of my career, figure out how to do four feet in three minutes, and they were done well.
So, it can be done, but you’ve got to focus on it, and you’ve got to pay attention to what you’re doing. If you pay attention, if you set time goals for yourself, if you measure what you’re doing, and you celebrate your successes when you do it right, when you make an improvement, I guarantee each incremental little step will get you closer to being able to do a dog in an hour, and that’s basically what we look at is turning a dog an hour.
I’m not talking an elaborate trim or a big, hairy audacious, crazy thing. Not a doodle, but your small-to-medium size simple trims. You want to get those turned in at least an hour or less. So measure, track, and celebrate your success when you nail it.
Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank describes her own unique path to a career in grooming and the importance of the motto: Education is Everything!
Do you aspire to be a professional dog groomer? Check out our On-Campus and Online Programs. Use code LUCKYDOG to get $100 off Tuition!
Are you already a groomer but would like to up your game? Check out Learn2GroomDogs.com, a resource with hundreds of instructional videos and business tips to enhance your career as a groomer. Use code LUCKYDOG to get 50% off your first month.
<strong>Melissa V:</strong> Hi guys, Melissa here. Today I want to share with you my own personal story of how I got involved with professional pet grooming. I don’t normally share this story a whole lot. I don’t generally like to talk about myself. But I was recently at a meeting with my team, and I don’t know how we got on the topic, but I launched into something about my early career. It was like they just stopped, and they listened.
When I got done talking, they said, “Melissa, you have got to share that story. It is so similar to all of the students and the people that we talk to. We really think that it would resonate and help people, especially when they’re stuck or whether they’re questioning is this the right career for them, is this something they want to get involved in or stay in involved in, and maybe what are the paths that are available out there for somebody if you don’t want to continue to stand at the grooming table.”
I said, “All right, fine. I’ll share.” So it’s a longer story. I mean when I look at my career timeline, I started in probably the late 70s. Obviously, I’m still working within the industry today. So I don’t want to take time to dig into all of the details, so I’m going to kind of hit on some of the highlights in the early days, and some of those really tough transitional periods that I had, that I had to make some decisions whether I stayed with the industry or whether I moved on.
I got involved with professional pet grooming like so many other people do. I was passionate about pets. It was dogs, cats, horses. I mean, if it had fur and four legs, I was all over it. I loved it. I was one of those kids that was actually grooming the neighbor dogs. This is back before I ever even dreamt of being a groomer. I didn’t even know that was a career choice for somebody. I was finding neighbor dogs, and brushing the Collies and the Springers, and making them look better.
I was probably seven or eight, something like that. Okay, so I love the animals. We had dogs of our own. As I was going through high school, I became one of those troubled kids. I was never a very good student. In fact, I was held back early in elementary school. I have a bit of dyslexia, and that still haunts me a little bit today. Not only was I a problem academically as a student who was at a struggle, school was a struggle for me, but I was also pretty much a problem child for my parents as well.
I come from a divorced family, and I lived with my mom and my step-dad, and it just wasn’t going so well. I became very, very rebellious and very challenging. So challenging that it was suggested that I be sent away to a private boarding school. Little did I know at the time, that ultimately probably saved my life. It also gave me the focus and the passion to follow my dreams, and the courage to follow my dreams.
I would have never guessed that a little tiny school called Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, Colorado, could do that. But, they had amazing people out there that really helped formulate young people and sent them onto a path that was very positive and productive. Blessing. I was very fortunate. I had a counselor who is a friend and I’m still in touch with her today. Sandy, hey. Love you. But she said… She was my counselor, and even out there I struggled with my academics.
She really fought for me to stay at the school, even though my grades really probably didn’t and shouldn’t have allowed me to stay. I did have a very positive, outgoing personality. Sandy said, “Melissa when you find what you love, there is going to be no stopping you.” Shortly after I graduated from CRMS, I did find my passion. I found it through a boarding kennel, and I started working at this kennel.
At the time, it was a very progressive kennel. Again, this is way back in the day. We had about 200 runs in total. I was kennel help. I scooped poop. I fed. That’s what I did, and I really loved it. I was able to interact with the dogs and I loved the responsibility. I loved working with pets. We did have a grooming department, and one day the groomer was let go. My boss called me at home that night and told me what had happened, and she said to me, “You have a new role. You are no longer kennel help. You are now the groomer.”
I’m the groomer? I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve never groomed a dog. Okay, I’d bathed some dogs, and I had brushed some dogs on my own, but I had no training, no anything. The first day, my first day as a “groomer”, I had six dogs to get through and no clue how to do them. I had an old book which really wasn’t that great, but I did have a book. I did have my boss, who did some grooming a little bit on the side. So she kind of mentored me and coached me, but for the most part, I was left to my own devices to figure this out. I just had to do it.
After a while, I realized that okay, I kind of like it. It’s kind of fun. I started to get a little bit better at it, feeling a little bit more confident. You don’t take pictures of work that you’re not proud of, so at some point, I pulled out a camera and I started taking pictures of the work that I was doing. Fast forward to early days of the Paragon School of Pet Grooming, and I had found these photos, and I just kind of laughed at them and knew how far I had come from looking at these photos.
I brought them in to show to the students. I didn’t say who had groomed the dogs. I just passed the photos out, and they were sort of passing them through the students, and the students were just in shock. They were in shock, but they’re laughing because the work was so bad compared to what it should have been. One of the students just was staring at one of the photos, and just “Who did this? This is atrocious.”
When I quietly said, “That was my work early on,” they didn’t know what to make of it. I mean, they just didn’t know what to say, what to think, what to do. So I’m here to tell you that you can teach yourself. It certainly helps to have a mentor. It certainly helps to have a program. It has something to speed the process up, but those early photos that those students were looking at, one of them was an English Cocker. The book very clearly said use a 10 or a 15 blade on the back, and draw a straight line down the side of the dog.
I mean truly, it was a stuffed pig with a tutu. I mean it was pathetic. There was no blending. That straight line, it was straight. The other that happens when you have a dog that is flecked with color, when you shave it close you end up with spots, and then the longer coat is still softly mottled. So you’ve got two totally different things going on. I mean it was… Another one was a Schnauzer. I took a forward facing of a Schnauzer, and the book clearly said shave out underneath the eyes.
So what you ended up with was just like this big long mustache. I had no idea you needed to leave fill under the eyes, and that you want straight lines along the sides of the head. On all your rectangular head Terriers. I had no idea. So I shaved it out and gave that dog that hourglass look. Or, the Poodle that I put flood waters on halfway up its leg, and I had no idea that with tied up topknots, that it was hair that was all pulled up. Oh no, what do I do? I shave from the very top above the eyes, halfway back the skull. I shaved it, and then I pulled up the coat.
This is how uneducated I was, and people were paying to have me groom their dogs. They were crazy, but our clients didn’t know. I didn’t know. So I’m going to tell you, if that was my starting point, and today I’ve written one of the top books about professional pet grooming, I speak on the subject, I’m an award-winning stylist. I mean, I have hit so many high points in my career with continuing education and helping other people get, and start, and build a career that truly anybody can do it, guys.
You’ve just got to know where you’ve started from and then move forward from that point. For me, education was really critical in those early days. I didn’t know that much, but what I did have available to me was because my boss was pretty progressive in the industry, she did get periodicals, she got magazines, and she had them up in the storeroom. The restroom was upstairs next to the storeroom, so every time I ran up to use the restroom before I came back down to work I would sneak into that storage room and I would grab one of those magazines and I’d start flipping through it.
You know, I felt like I was looking at Play Girl magazine or something. But what it told me is that there was a much bigger world out there that was just starting. Grooming competitions were just getting started. Certification organizations were just in their early stages. They were just getting started. So I realized that if I really, truly wanted to do this as a career, I had to improve. I had to get better. So I started going to the grooming trade shows. I started sitting ringside the competition. I started finding out what was involved with certification testing.
Honestly, I just jumped in. So I am totally self-taught, but I think that my education, it took a lot longer than what it would take somebody today because of the accessibility to so much more material, so much more education. Educational resources are at your fingertips. I knew that education was the key, and I was able to get a really well-rounded education because I was… Finally, I did. I was very competitive. I stepped into the ring and I learned so much by entering that first grooming competition.
That first grooming competition, I thought I was good. Man, was I wrong. But I went back, I licked my wounds a little bit, and then I went, “I’m going to figure this out.” And so I started to study. I entered the ring not to win, not to place, but to learn. So the ring was a really big foundation of my education. You can learn a lot by having your judges go over your dogs, but also just by the people that were around me. I could look directly into their toolkit and see what tools and products they were using.
I could watch them as they groomed. I could see what their techniques were. Pretty soon, they became my friends. We started sharing ideas, and sharing this and sharing that, and communicating to one another. Just one thing led to another. That’s the one thing that getting out there, not being that one individual person on an island all by yourself, I really encourage people to get out there and communicate with other people in the field. Network with each other, because networking will allow you to grow your career.
It will allow you to share information, and it will put you in a position where opportunities are going to literally fall in your lap. The more you know, the more education you have, the more readily available those opportunities will come to you, and you can actually act on them. So today, one of my key phrases, and our key phrases in all of the educational companies, is “Education is everything.” I cannot stress that enough. Education absolutely is everything.
I have set so many goals for myself. I have hit so many high points in my career. Every time I hit a high point, I just look at what can I do next? How can I help somebody improve what they’ve done? How can I short step it so that they don’t have to struggle maybe the way that I did. When I look at my career timeline, and I know you really can’t see it and it’s backwards, just know that it’s pretty extensive year by year what I’ve been able to accomplish.
Somebody said recently that it’s like, “Wow, you’ve accomplished so much.” To me, it’s basically been almost a 40-year success story because it happened in very small increments, and I just kept going and going, and going, and looking at what I could accomplish next. When my body gave up, and my hands seized up, and I couldn’t stay at the grooming table, that was a real adversity for me but I was able to turn around and say, “Okay, fine. My hands aren’t going to work for grooming anymore, but what else? I’ve learned so much. How can I share what my knowledge is?”
That’s one of the reasons that I started this school. That’s really all of the educational programs or educational products and programs that we’ve been able to put together have all stemmed from, how can I share the wealth of information that I have in my head and get it out there to help others hopefully have as rewarding of a career as I’ve been to have.
My career is not over. That’s one of the coolest parts about the pet grooming industry, is you can make professional grooming be whatever you want it to be, whether you want to be a stay-at-home and just stay small, that’s fine. But if you have aspirations to grow your career, to travel the world, to work with teams of people, to help pets, to help pet parents make their animals be more appealing to be around, if you want to be creative, all of these things come into play with professional pet grooming.
There is no limit to what the career is, other than the limitations that you place on yourself.
Ask 10 customers or groomers to describe this style and I bet you get 10 different answers. One one hand, it’s a great conversation starter! On the other, it’s a quick way to discover how easy it is to misunderstand one another.
The puppy cut is popular because it works well on a wide variety of pets. Almost any breed that grows longer coat can be done in this easy-to-care-for style. Yet, the puppy cut is also the most misunderstood haircut in grooming salons around the country. Why? There are no clear directions of what this trim actually is or how it should be done. It’s left up to individual personal interpretation by owners, groomers, or talented pet stylists. Read the rest of this entry »
Certified Master Groomer and author Melissa Verplank talks about the evolution of The Theory of Five – a method of grooming she developed to create reproducible results and systematic communication with team groomers and clients. From it’s early inception to the foundation it has become for dog grooming instruction, the Theory of Five has helped groomers around the world save time and make money.
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Melissa V: Hi, guys, Melissa here. I want to talk to you a little bit about my newly revised The Theory Of 5 book. Some of you guys don’t necessarily know the history of why The Theory Of 5 was even created and, to me, understanding the “why” of anything is really important.
So when I first started to think about The Theory Of 5, it wasn’t because it was just this great concept that I had; it was because I had a problem. It was back in the mid 80s. I was running a fleet of mobile dog grooming units. And this is way before mobile dog grooming was even remotely cool; I was definitely a forerunner with that. I had a team of groomers and stylists and we were kind of off in our own little island. You know? Keep in mind this was in the 80s. It was before the age of cellphones and we worked with two-way radios, because that was our only way to really communicate and there wasn’t a whole lot of good training for groomers out at that time.
So here I’ve got a whole fleet of mobile vans out there with groomers in them, and no consistent training. So I’m having to do a lot of training to bring everybody onto the same page because when I’ve got a customer that was calling Four Paws Mobile Grooming – which was the name of my company back in the day – I wanted to be able to send a groomer to their doorstep that could offer very consistent styling within the entire team. So it didn’t necessarily matter if we sent Anna, or we sent Melissa, or we sent Kim, to the client’s driveway, that we could all groom somewhat similarly, and the client could be satisfied with a number of different groomers and know that they were going to get a consistent result every single time they called my company to book an appointment.
Well in reality that wasn’t the case. Everybody was off doing their own thing. I was doing, at the time, a lot of competition-level grooming. I was working on my certification to get my master’s status and so I was really focused on the higher level of grooming. And my team? Meh, not so much. They were just interested in making a dollar, and paying their bills, and they weren’t as focused on the upper level of grooming. And so I really had to figure out a way to simplify the very complicated process of breed profile, trimming, and corrective grooming, so that they could duplicate what I was doing out there in the field.
So that’s really how The Theory Of 5 got started was it was a loose, kind of a raw concept that I started to work on and work on, and over the years I’ve really been able to fine tune it. And once I started introducing it, it started to simplify the entire grooming process and my team was being able to create a very consistent result for my clients – which is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to bring unity to what we were doing as we serviced the customers. The Theory Of 5 was able to do that, utilizing pet grooming techniques and tools, and so we were really working a lot with our clippers, with different lengths of blades, and guard combs, and minimizing the amount of hand scissoring that we were doing, really looking at anatomy closely, and working on how to bring out the best features of the pet, and then looking at how to simplify that so that we could use it very easily and very simply.
And so, bottom line, The Theory Of 5 deals with there are five different areas that we work with every single day. And within those five different areas, there are five things. So basically you’re looking at five different types of jobs that we do every single day. And within that there’s five different body styles, five different head styles, five different ear styles, five different feet and leg styles, and five different tail styles.
So it takes and it compartmentalizes the grooming so that you know exactly what area you’re talking about. And as I have developed The Theory Of 5, and there’s been clarity with the whole concept, I have been able to apply it in so many different areas of working within the professional pet grooming field.
So one of the things that I love about it is not only is it really flexible, but if offers unique styling for each dog – not because the trims are different, but because the dogs are all a little bit different. Each pet is going to be unique. They’re going to have different physical size and shape. They’re going to have different coat textures. They’re going to be different colors. And so when you start combining all of those things together, you end up with a very unique trim for each and every dog. And like I said, it takes the complicated method of grooming and simplifies it and refines it down to an application that is super easy to apply out in the field for each individual groomer to be thorough with what they’re doing, to give great direction. It’s super easy to communicate with a client because now you have a system that you can talk with them and get a very consistent result over and over again. Also, it’s really easy to teach it. That’s the beauty of The Theory Of 5.
Over the years, it hasn’t stayed a very simple concept. It has certainly expanded and there’s lots of different ways that we’ve been able to use it. I’ve been using this theory for well over 30 years and every time that we apply it into a new category, a new way, it seems to work really well for us. Whether it’s just giving grooming direction or whether it’s for mobile, it works. In a salon setting, it works. If you’re dealing with training students, it works. When you’re communicating with customers, it works. Over and over again, The Theory Of 5 is an application that you can use in many, many different ways.
So those are just some of the things that I really love about The Theory Of 5. The book is simple. Notes From the Grooming Table, that is the big … kind of the grooming bible is what a lot of people call it. I think of Theory Of 5 as just the simple book that you can sit down, you can pick up, there’s lots of images in there, there’s drawings, there’s photographs. There’s not a whole lot of reading involved and so you can just pick it up and get through it really quickly. It’s very simple to understand, which kind of goes along with the whole concept of simplifying the complicated; that’s exactly what I’ve been able to do in The Theory Of 5.
And just as Notes From the Grooming Table went through a revision a few years ago, we did the same exact thing with The Theory Of 5. And so we have updated it with some new images. We’ve added some new tools that maybe when I first wrote the book they weren’t available to us, and now they are and they’re just tools that we work with all the time. We’ve even added a few new breeds into the book and changed the front cover. And, heavens, one of the most popular breeds that we’re all dealing with every single day is the doodle. So we show how to utilize The Theory Of 5 and apply it to a mixed breed, a doodle-type dog, and the doodle even made the front cover of the newly revised Theory Of 5.
So if you haven’t seen the book, definitely check it out. There’s going to be links down below so check it out.