Check out this flashback interview from 2016 with Melissa Verplank and Colin Taylor. Join these two friends as they talk their passion for education and their books Notes from the Grooming Table (Second Edition) and What Would Colin Do?
Blog » dog grooming
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!
When people come to me and ask how they can earn more, I always remind them that time is money – regardless of how you are paid. The faster you can get through a pet safely, the more money you will ultimately make.
5 Easy Ways to Give Yourself a Raise
Use Guard Combs
Guard combs are one of the easiest ways to speed up your grooming. They allow you to set consistent length over the dog quickly. With the variety of lengths, it’s easy to customize the haircut just by switching out the guard comb. When working with guard combs you don’t need the time it takes to get a beautiful scissor finish. This is a much safer option that also minimizes the stress large amounts of hand scissoring can cause.
Invest in Chunkers
This scissor style is taking the industry by storm. Chunkers are oversized thinning shears or blending shears with wider teeth. In some cases, they can be used for the entire groom. Chunkers give a beautiful natural finish in no time.
Some stylists choose to use them in conjunction with scissor or guard comb work. When used in this manner, they dust the top of the coat, removing any imperfections swiftly. There are plenty of styles to choose from with a wide price point based on the quality of the shear. Talk to other pet stylists before you invest in a pair. Find out which chunkers are their favorites and then try them out before you buy them.
Pet parents are spending more on their dogs. Many clients love a little bling – and it doesn’t always have to be shiny! It’s easy to upsell special accessories:
- special bows
- feather extensions
- nail wraps
- temporary color
- pup tattoos
- jeweled neckwear
- bow ties and ties
- temporary body bling
- feather eyelashes
There is no limit to the creativity you can have – as long as it is safe for the pet. It’s a fun way to add a little extra revenue and get people talking!
Up-Grade Specialized Shampoos or Services
Every salon has its favorite economical go-to shampoo. But what if your clients had a choice? For some clients, nothing is too good for their pets. Many spa lines of pet shampoo do a fabulous job getting the dog clean and smelling fabulous. There are many specialty shampoos that treat special skin and coat conditions. Most of the time they cost a little bit more than your everyday shampoo. There’s no reason to charge the same. Some specialty shampoos need to sit on the pet a little bit longer to be effective (if it takes extra time it should also add a little more cost). Consider these liquid tool gold mines:
- blueberry facials
- anti-itch shampoos
- odor neutralizing treatments
- skin and coat remoisturizing treatments
- deshedding shampoos
Try a paw-i-cure instead of just trimming the nails. This type of service is a package deal. It includes:
- filing nails with a Dremel to get them smooth and short
- trimming the coat between the pads
- sometimes a skin soothing ointment is even included for rough foot pads.
Many of these upsells don’t take any more time to do yet add more income to you or the business.
Don’t get distracted. Most small to medium-sized basic grooms should take about an hour to do. If someone else is bathing for you, the finish trimming should only take between 20 to 30 minutes for the same sized basic groom. Minimize the idle chitchat with your coworkers. Put your cell phone on silent and deal with it when YOU have time. Keep your station highly organized. Create a routine for everything you do from start to finish. The more dogs crossing your table translates into more money going into your pocket. Sometimes it’s in the form of a paycheck, sometimes it’s in the form of tips.
It doesn’t matter if you are commission or hourly. The efforts you put out will create faster grooms, higher-quality trims, delighted customers, and repeat business. Applying these five tips can help you groom dogs better in less time while providing great service for your customers – while adding cash to your pocket!
What are some ways that you’ve tried? What works for you? Go to our Facebook page and chat with your Melissa Verplank family!
Excellent grooming starts always starts with a firm understating of canine anatomy. It is the FOUNDATION of all grooming.
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.
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.
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.
Use the turn of the muscle at the shoulder to set the jacket pattern on the body.
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.
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.
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.
Moving into the flank area, the thigh muscle should be exposed to help accentuate a physically fit and muscular dog.
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.
The top line maybe level or slightly sloping from the withers to the tail.
The long graceful neck is well muscled and slightly arched.
The lines of the skull are parallel with a well definite stop.
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.
What breeds are a struggle for you? Let’s talk about it on our Facebook page with your Melissa Verplank family.
“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!
What’s YOUR idea of a puppy cut? Share some pictures on our Facebook page with your Melissa Verplank family.