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Melissa’s Story – The Many Paths to Professional Grooming

Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank describes her own unique path to a career in grooming and the importance of the motto: Education is Everything!

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Transcript

<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.


Simplifying Dog Grooming with The Theory of Five

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.

If you’d like to purchase The Theory of Five, Click Here.

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Transcript
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.


The Three C’s: Calm, Cool, and Collected

How do you stay Calm, Cool and Collected when grooming dogs? It’s all in the attitude. Learning to read “dog body language” and to correct undesirable behaviors before things get out of control. Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discusses the tips to mastering the 3Cs.

Want to learn more from the pros? Check out the video tutorials at Learn2GroomDogs.com, and get 50% off your first month!

Interested in learning to become a professional groomer but don’t live near Paragon’s Pet School? Check out our new Distance Learning Program at ParagonPetSchool.com/home-study – All the great curriculum materials and mentoring brought to YOU, wherever you are, from Melissa Verplank. Sign up with code LUCKYDOG and get $100 Off tuition.

Transcript
Melissa V: Hi guys, Melissa here again and I want to share another one of my favorite time-saving tips with you. This one is practicing the three C’s. What are the three C’s? Whenever you’re working with pets you always want to maintain being calm, cool, and collected. So when you’re working with the pets you want to maintain an attitude of aloofness with the dogs and you want to be friendly but aloof.

Melissa V: Dogs can get really jazzed up if you start talking in a high pitched type tone, so if you just minimize the amount of chatter that you have with that pet, maintain a friendly but an aloof attitude, guaranteed it’s going to go a lot further for you. You’re going to win the trust and the cooperation of that pet a lot faster.

Melissa V: You know if a pet starts to do something that you really don’t want them to do, correct an undesirable action before it gets out of control. To me, one of the most overused words in a dogs language is the word no. So I always come up with a sound that means or indicates to the pet, cut it out, don’t be doing that. A lot of times it’s just something sharp and quick, a sound sometimes not necessarily a word.

Melissa V: I want to make sure that I am going to use that sound early on before an action becomes totally out of control. So, be aloof, be friendly but aloof, stop an undesirable action before it goes out of control and remember that there is absolutely no place for frustration or anger when you’re working with animals. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a cat, a dog, whether you’re, I work with horses a lot and we use the same thing. There’s just absolutely no place for frustration or anger with a horse either.

Melissa V: So it’s going to carry through with all animals and I’m sure it’s going to carry through with kids too, now I don’t have kids but you get what I’m saying there. So, always, always maintain the three C’s when you’re working with animals, calm, cool, and collected. Don’t try to be a hero, not every animal that comes into our salon is groom able. You always want to maintain safety for those pets, and so you know, sometimes you got turn something away. So don’t try to be a hero, maintain those three C’s at all times and your day is going to go a whole lot smoother for you.


Westminster 101: Guide for Student Dog Groomers

What is Westminster?

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.

Learn more @ Westminster

How a Dog Show Works

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.

Learn more, including judging criteria, a glossary and terminology, at Westminster Dog Shows 101 

This Video By Purina Pro Plan Describes the Show Mechanics:

Additional Shows During Westminster Week:

For information on the Masters Agility Championship Sat. Feb. 9, follow this link.

For information on the Masters Obedience Championship, Feb. 11, follow this link:

The Schedule – 143rd WKC Dog Show

Monday, February 11, 2019

  • Daytime Session (8 am – 4:30 pm)
    • Breed Judging across Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding groups
    • Junior Showmanship preliminaries
      For more information about Junior Showmanship, click here. 
  • Dog Show 101 (12pm- 1pm)
    • Pier 94, Ring 10
      For more information about Dog Shows, click here. 
  • Evening Session (7:30 pm – 11:30 pm) Doors open at 6 pm for Best of Breed benching area
    • Group Judging across Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding groups (begins at 7:30 pm)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

  • Daytime Session (8 am – 4:30 pm)
    • Breed Judging across Sporting, Working and Terrier groups
    • Junior Showmanship preliminaries
  • Dog Show 101 Presentation (12pm- 1pm)
    • Pier 94, Ring 10
      For more information about Dog Shows, click here. 
  • Evening Session (7 pm – 11:30 pm) Doors open at 6 pm for Best of Breed benching area
    • Junior Showmanship Finals (begins at 7:00 pm)
    • Group Judging across Sporting, Working and Terrier groups (begins at 7:30 pm)
    • BEST IN SHOW!

Links for Viewing:

Weekend Television/Streaming Schedule

Monday Television/Streaming Schedule

Tuesday Television/Streaming Schedule


Blast from the Past! An interview with Melissa Verplank and Colin Taylor


5 Easy Ways to Give Yourself a Raise

Let’s face it, many salon owners aren’t charging as much as they feel they should. Local competition and price-sensitive clients are two strong reasons why. In some cases, grooming rates are already as high as considered possible without losing customers.

In most service-based businesses, payroll is the highest expense. A typical grooming business pays out more than 50% to 60% in payroll, alone. When salons are paying out those percentages, raises are rare.

We’ve talked to lots of groomers. It’s no surprise that one of the main complaints with their jobs is not making enough money. It’s not all about the money but having fair compensation for the work we do is not unreasonable!

Read the rest of this entry »


Salvage Work

Spring is here – and not a moment too soon!  Many of us will be seeing a lot of pets that are ready for a great makeover in the coming weeks.

As many of you know, I’m a big dog person.  Working on these large furry dogs that have a huge shedding problem is one of my favorite things to do in a grooming salon. Over the years I’ve gotten really quick with the process and rarely cringe, no matter what the size of the dog, nor the condition.

My #1 rule is: Never work on a dirty dog. If water can penetrate the coat, let your products do the job.

Working on a dirty dog is not only unpleasant, but it also takes longer to do.  There will be a lot of coat damage and breakage.  A dirty coat is dry and brittle. The dirt and dander trapped within the fur makes it more difficult to brush out. Working on a clean coat will be easier for both you and the pet – and much more enjoyable.

If there are large chunks that water cannot penetrate, go ahead and break up the tangle using the tool that is safe for the pet.  Don’t worry about removing it completely, just break it apart so the water and shampoo can do their job. Read the rest of this entry »


How to Use Anatomy to Groom the English Setter

Quote In A CircleExcellent grooming starts always starts with a firm understating of canine anatomy. It is the FOUNDATION of all grooming.

Basic pattern lines are set based on the muscle and bone structure. Depending on how physically active a dog is, the muscle structure may be very prominent. It could be lurking under a layer of fat. It may also be poorly developed due to age or lack of physical activity. Nonetheless, those muscles are there. They will help you set symmetrical and correct pattern lines.

The bones are there, too. Whether the dog is anatomically correct when compared to the breed standard is something else altogether. Understanding what a physically sound dog is will help you immensely. When you know the difference between good and bad structure, you’ll be able to hide many faults.

When we combine all the layers of the dog – the bones, muscles, the skin, and the fur – we will be able to mold and shape the coat to highlight the dog’s best features and downplay the others. If the bone structure is a little less than perfect, you can use the hair to camouflage those defects.

Before you begin grooming any dog, get your hands on them! Close your eyes. Feel the structure under the coat. Sink your fingers deep in the fur. Pay close attention to the muscle groups highlighted in color in these diagrams.

The Essence of the Breed

Before you start grooming any dog, you need to familiarize yourself with the breed and understand its essence.

The English Setter is a Sporting dog of great style. It should be physically fit and structurally sound to work long hours flushing game in the field. The general outline of the English Setter will be rectangular. The shoulder lay back and the angles of both the front and rear assemblies should allow for adequate reach and drive.

The coat is silky, flat, and should lay close to the body. English Setters have longer feathering on the ears, chest, abdomen, underside of thighs, back of all legs, and on the tail. The longer coat should not be so long as to hide the true lines of the dogs, movement, or the function of field hunting.

1Landmarks for Grooming & Styling

When it comes to grooming, let’s work around the dog using its anatomy as a reference.

When done “correctly,” Setters are hand stripped for a very natural look. However, in pet grooming circles, it is common to see the pattern clipper-cut or styled using a combination of clipping and stripping to save time. Regardless of the method you chose, the anatomy reference points – or landmarks – will remain the same.

Setting the Throat

Feel for the muscles at the sides of the neck to set the throat pattern line. A visual clue to this area is at the “frill” or cowlick line running down the sides of the neck. The throat area is directly below the jaw, inside the muscles running down the outside of the neck. The shape is generally a soft “U” shape. The lowest part of the “U” stops a few fingers above the prosternum bone.

Body

The jacket coat on the bulk of the body is shorter and lays flat on dog. Follow the natural lay of the coat when working this area. 

Shoulder

Use the turn of the muscle at the shoulder to set the jacket pattern on the body.

Elbow

The turn of the shoulder will also tell you the location of the elbow. This is the general location of where to start the pattern on the body, sweeping back and upwards towards the flank of the dog.

2Spring of Rib

The turn of the ribs will help set the pattern line separating the dog’s body jacket which consists of much shorter coat, blending invisibly into the longer feathering found on the lower portion of the dog’s body.

Undercarriage

The undercarriage line creates a focal point for balance of the overall dog. The highest point of the graceful sweep will be directly under the last few ribs.

Flank

Moving into the flank area, the thigh muscle should be exposed to help accentuate a physically fit and muscular dog.

Tail

For balance, the tail should reach to the hock and be a triangular flag. There is a slight gap of fur on the underside of the tail at the base. This slight space separates the longer rear furnishings with the feathering on the tail.

Topline

The top line maybe level or slightly sloping from the withers to the tail.

Neck

The long graceful neck is well muscled and slightly arched.

3Head

The lines of the skull are parallel with a well definite stop.

Ears

Set well back and low, even with or below the level of the eye. All these areas are natural landmarks used as reference points on any breed. When you combine anatomy with the official breed standard for any purebred dog, you have knowledge. You can use this understanding to accentuate the proper structure of the English Setter.

Always remember, all transition lines should be invisible. Ideally, the English Setter should look totally natural when finished – as if the coat simply grew that way.

Combining the use of these anatomical landmarks and skillful technical skills, a talented pet stylist can easily create a symmetrical, stylish, and well-balanced trim on any dog – purebred or mixed breed.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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What breeds are a struggle for you? Let’s talk about it on our Facebook page with your Melissa Verplank family.


I Want a “Puppy Cut”

“Give my dog a puppy cut.”

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.

The puppy cut started as a trim style for young Poodles in the dog show world. Once the puppy is a year old, it  is put into the elaborate adult haircut for the conformation ring. Today, the term “puppy cut” is used very loosely. It can apply to a wide variety of different breeds. It’s highly adaptable to any size of dog or coat type.

Many owners love this style of trim – and with good reason. It’s cute, easy to care for, and easy for customers to remember by name. In this trim, the dog does not drag in dirt and debris from outdoors. Their ears don’t drag in the food or water dish. The need for brushing between grooming appointments is minimized. On smaller pets, bathing between grooming appointments is a breeze. What’s not to love?

So what is it?

Essentially, the puppy cut is one length all over. The most common length is between 1-2 inches over the body, legs, tail, head, and ears. Typically, it’s done with a clipper fitted with a long guard comb over the blade. There should not be any clipper marks, uneven coat, or sharp edges left in the fur. Next to a powerful clipper, high quality blenders are your best friends when doing this trim. Everything is soft and plush, like a fluffy puppy.

This is where things get tricky. In some circles the puppy cut can also be known as a teddy bear trim, summer cut, or kennel cut. I’ve even seen some salons turn their version of the trim into their “signature haircut.” Generally, the only things that change between theses trims are the names and the length of coat.

It doesn’t stop there! Others associate the puppy cut with smooth-coated breeds like the Boxer, Pug, or Beagle. Basically, the idea is of a youthful, “puppyish” look.  Hence the name.

With all these interpretations, it’s easy to envision things differently. While that’s not a bad thing, not being clear on what the final look will be can definitely affect the result and your relationship with the customer. If an owner is requesting this trim for the first time, be prepared to discuss the trim in detail. DO NOT ASSUME YOU ARE BOTH ON THE SAME PAGE! Communication is the key to a happy customer.

Getting a clear understanding starts with a conversation. Spend a few minutes with the client and the pet before the customer leaves your salon.

Getting the conversation right starts with the 3 L’s:

Look – Use those precious moments as your clients walks in to observe the pet. What do you see? These first impressions can be used to guide your conversation.

Lead – This is the time to ask for clarity.  Ask leading questions about each area of the pet (body, head, ears, legs/feet, and tail):

  • How do you want your pet to look? Smooth and sleek or fluffy and plush?
  • What is the pet’s lifestyle? Is he the life of the party or a designated lap dog?
  • How long should be coat be? Remember, “short” means something different to everyone. Be specific to be sure.
  • How should the head look? The head and face are a big part of the dog’s personality. Getting this part right is very important to your customer.

Listen – Listen for details and clues. The customer may not know grooming terminology – that’s one reason they rely on you. Interpret their observations and preferences so you can create a clear mental picture of style options.

Now that you’re clear about what the customer wants, it’s time to put your talent and experience to work. A skilled pet professional will know how to make minor changes to the trim that will enhance the pet’s appeal. If the coat is too tangled to do the longer trim, you’ll be able to suggest alternatives that work best for his current condition. You can then discuss ways the customer can work on the coat at home to make it possible to have a longer, fluffier look as the pet grows out.

Educating clients on proper pet hygiene is a valuable service most salons offer for free to their clients. In order to keep the dog looking its best, you can offer suggestions for maintaining this haircut between grooming appointments. At home brushing and bathing can make a big difference in how they look and smell, too. You can also make suggestions on how often the trim should be done based on the pet’s lifestyle and coat texture. Always remember, your clients are the lifeblood of your business. Taking a little extra time up front for a warm and welcoming pet consultation will go a long way toward building a solid relationship with them.

Try these tips and see if it helps you get closer to your client’s idea of a puppy cut… the first time!

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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What’s YOUR idea of a puppy cut? Share some pictures on our Facebook page with your Melissa Verplank family.


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