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Make Time For Yourself

In this video, Master Groomer Melissa Verplank talks about the importance of taking time for yourself to maintain and improve your performance. From focus to stress-reduction, she discusses six ways that time off the job makes you better on the job. Read the rest of this entry »


Cache’s Pâté Meat Balls

CacheHow to Get a Dog to Eat When Her Appetite Wanes

Last week was a week none of us want to deal with. We had to make the difficult decision to bid farewell to one of our beloved Maremma Sheepdogs. Most of us who have had multiple dogs have a few “heart dogs.” Cache was one of mine.

Maremmas are livestock guardian dogs. Their natural instincts allow them to take responsibility, making their own decisions in the absence of their owners. This means they are very independent thinkers. They decide for themselves how best to deal with prospective invaders (people or varmints) or potentially dangerous situations. Typically, the breed is not well suited as a typical household pet. They need space and a job to do.

Cache’s personality was true to her breed. However, we heavily socialize all our Maremmas. When we are in public, ours are soft, gentle, and friendly. On our own property, their natural instincts come out loud and clear. Cache was serious about protecting her turf, the animals she was raised with, and guarding us. She always made me feel comfortable and safe. She was with me most of the time, whether it be at work or at home.

Last year a nasty growth had to be removed from her third eyelid. The vet felt he got good margins and she healed up in no time. Seven months later, the growth was back. This time, when we had it removed we sent it in to be tested along with full blood work.

Unfortunately, we learned she had a very aggressive form of cancer that takes over the entire system in a short amount of time. The best thing we could do was keep her comfortable and enjoy the limited time we had left with her.

The first few weeks she was pretty good, but then her appetite started to fade along with her weight. Within a month we had to entice her to eat. We added eggs to her kibble. When she started turning her nose up at that, we added ground meat. Before long she was eating around every kernel of kibble, eating only the meat. Even though we fed her twice a day, she was not consuming enough calories to maintain any weight. We increased the ground meat. As we increased the straight protein, her system had a hard time digesting it. We found ourselves having to do regular spot bathing to clean up her hind end.

At the end of May, Judy Hudson and Sue Zecco arrived for National Dog Groomers Association of America Certification Testing at the Paragon School of Pet Grooming. They came in a few days early just to hang at our farm, ride horses, cook healthy meals, and drink a little wine.

Judy watched me as I tried unsuccessfully to entice Cache to eat. By this time, I was making small raw meatballs for Cache. I would mix it with a little bit of her kibble and feed her by hand. I could always get her to take the meatballs but I could not get her to eat any of her kibble.

Ms. Hudson is a natural problem solver. Judy has been around my dogs quite a bit. Even though Cache’s mind was still sharp, Judy knew she was going downhill quickly. She needed to eat something more than just a small about of raw meat.

That’s when she asked, “Would Cache eat meatballs if you mixed other things with it?”

PATEShe suggested utilizing a food processor and creating custom meatballs more suitable for Cache’s digestive system. Judy proposed we soak a small amount of kibble in hot water until it was soft, then add some cooked rice, a little bit of bacon grease, and some raw meat. If we needed more moisture we could add some bone broth. Sort of like a pâté. Brilliant!

We quickly pulled out the food processor and got to work. We ground everything up until it was the consistency of cookie dough. Once it was mixed well, we tested it. I rolled out five ping-pong ball-sized meatballs and offered them to Cache. After a couple sniffs, she tried the first one. She did not hesitate on the second, third, fourth, or even fifth meatball!

I was thrilled! But as happy as I was that she was eating, I had a huge fear looming in the back of my mind.

The following week I left for Australia for a 10-day speaking engagement. I was terrified Cache would not hang on until I returned home. I knew if we could get her to eat, there was a good chance she would make it until I got home.

My husband Marc had been gone during Judy and Sue’s visit. When he got home, I showed him how to mix up these enticing pâté meatballs.

Cache rode to the airport with us as I left for Australia. I told Marc he needed to send pictures of Cache every day. He did. Lots of the photos were of her enjoying her meals. Sitting on the couch. Getting belly rubs. Laying comfortably in her bed – many times totally upside down.

When I returned home, Cache was in the car when Marc picked me up. I wanted to cry. My girl had waited for me.

Her mind remained sharp. She was alert. She was responsive. She seemed comfortable if she was lying down. Unfortunately, her legs were giving out. Before I left, she was just very stiff. When I got home, she was severely lame on three legs.

I was able to spend 5 more days with her before she told me it was time. Her legs refused to work any longer. Even when she could no longer walk, she still looked forward to her meatballs.

We bid good-bye to my sweet girl on June 22, 2017. Cache had just turned 11 years old.

I wonder if it was the pâté meatballs or the fact we were feeding her by hand that had made her eat so well. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that she was able to eat up to the very end.

rollingI want to share the recipe with you. At some point, you may have a dog that loses its appetite. Maybe this recipe will help you get a beloved pet through a difficult situation.

I used a full-size food processor. I would mix up a batch to last for three or four feedings. Cache normally weighed about 85 to 90 pounds. When she was sick, she dropped to about 65 pounds. We fed her twice a day, 5-7 meatballs with each feeding.

Cache’s Pate Meatballs

Equal amounts of:

  • moistened dry kibble
  • cooked rice
  • cooked or raw ground meat
  • 1 or 2 hotdogs
  • small amount of avocado oil, olive oil, or bacon grease
  • enough bone broth or meat stock to form a dense dough-like consistency

ROLLEDPlace moistened kibble, cooked rice, ground meat, and hotdogs into the food processor. Grind until mixed. Add oil or bacon grease. Grind until incorporated. Add enough bone broth or meat stock to form a dough-like consistency.

Place mixture in a sealed container and store in refrigerator until ready to form pâté meatballs. If cold, heat for 30 seconds in the microwave to soften the pâté slightly. Roll out enough meatballs for a single meal in a size suitable for the dog.

Place in a bowl, on a plate, or hand feed.

Cache was a special dog to me. She was way more than just a dog or a pet. She truly was a fur child in my eyes. One of my heart dogs. I’m so grateful for my time with her. I have beautiful memories of my girl.

This recipe worked wonders for Cache.  If you are struggling to get a dog to eat, maybe this meatball pâté will work wonders for your dog, too.

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteTry out the recipe and tell us if it helped your pet, too. Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and share recipes that you love for your dogs!


The Importance of Downtime

HAMMOCKIn many of my business lectures, I ask my audience how many of them take regular vacations. I’m always shocked when I see how many pet professionals don’t schedule vacations or downtime for themselves.

Did you know roughly half of all Americans don’t take annual vacations? And if they do take vacations, it’s common that they stay connected to work or even bring work along with them! Are you guilty of either of these situations? I have always scheduled downtime for myself. However, I admit I am guilty of being connected to work wherever I am – even when on vacation.

Scheduling time off for yourself is important to your overall physical and mental health. There are many positive effects to your well-being.

Here’s a short list of positive attributes to scheduling down time for yourself.

  • increased productivity
  • open to new ideas and viewpoints
  • increased creativity
  • lower stress levels
  • higher energy
  • improved moods
  • positive relationships with family and friends

2017-02-08_1539I learned early in my career the importance of scheduling time off for myself. I have always been an over-achiever, taxing my system both mentally and physically on a regular basis. Yet, I always maintain an intense pace. Why? I know the importance of unplugging.

The key is getting it SCHEDULED.  What gets scheduled – gets done. That’s true for everything, including down time!

Schedule time to disconnect. Schedule time to unplug. Schedule time to breathe. Schedule time to just enjoy life.

Here is a collection of ways to unplug. Use it to get your ideas flowing on how YOU can find time to decompress from an abundant (and sometimes insanely busy) life.

  • Daily Down Time – Do something every day you enjoy. Maybe it’s spending quality time with your family or friends. Cooking. Exercise. Sports. Reading. Doing something creative. Just take the time to enjoy the simple things life offers.
  • ab3ca0e2f7a04a4ad659c82ea2485e0eFull Days – Book a day just to do something fun and special. You might opt to include only yourself. Or plan an activity with friends. Or with family. Many times, special days don’t require money but they do require time and planning.
  • Weekend Jaunts – When is the last time you booked a weekend excursion? Everyone has different tastes. Some enjoy the solitude of the woods, water, or slopes. Others get a charge out of dog show weekends. Others gravitate to the city. There are literally thousands of things you could do on a weekend, creating special memories for a lifetime.
  • Staycations or Holistay – If your life is supercharged or you don’t have the financial resources for a full-fledged vacation, staying home could be the best answer. What is a staycation or a holistay? It’s when you stay home and participate in leisure activities within driving distance. You sleep in their own bed at night. You might make day trips to local tourist sites, swimming locations, or participate in fun activities such as horseback riding, kayaking, wine tasting, hiking, or visiting museums. Most of the time it involves dining out more frequently than usual or participating in carefree dinner menus.
  • Vacations – Think big. Have fun. Head to the islands. The slopes. Experience a cruise. Explore areas you have never been. Participate in activities that are new to you. Every city, state, and country has a wide range of activities. The only thing holding you back is your imagination and possibly your pocketbook.

A word of caution. When planning any type of downtime – is make sure it stays downtime. Don’t over schedule too many activities. If you do, you will just jump from one frenzied lifestyle into another. You won’t relax and rejuvenate.

Vacations and down time reduce stress and improve health. Time away makes you an effective, productive, and happier worker. You’ll be refreshed and ready to tackle whatever life tosses your way. Take the time to get down time into your calendar.  You deserve it!

~Happy trimming,

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteP.S. How do you unplug?  If you don’t – or can’t – tell us why.  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 

 

clinicSpend the day with Melissa

Melissa Verplank will be in Lutz, Florida on Sunday, March 19, 2017 for an all day seminar.  Melissa will present four of her most popular lectures that are sure to help you and your business!


Why Should I Schedule Holiday Appointments in September?

dogIt’s hard to think about scheduling for the holidays with apples still growing bright on the trees and pumpkins still turning orange in the fields. Warm weather makes it hard to start thinking about holiday plans. What if I told you that this is the perfect time to avoid holiday stress?

The secret to avoiding holiday madness is to put your festive season pre-booking plans into gear before the chill hits the air. Are you surprised? It’s true! Here is an added perk to pre-booking holiday appointments. ‘Tis the season to guarantee the typically quiet months of January and February are lively and robust. This is the perfect time to ensure you have a holly, jolly, and profitable grooming season.

When you count it out, we are not that far out from many prime holidays. In just six short weeks it will be Halloween. In 10 weeks we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States. In about 15 weeks we will celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah. All of these holidays revolve around friends and family.

holiday-stress-600x300pxOne of the biggest ways to eliminate being frazzled by all the holiday pressures is to get organized, now. The last thing your clients want to worry about is having their four-legged fur baby looking unkempt and bedraggled as friends and family enter their homes to celebrate the season.

Years ago we discovered that pre-booking was a great way to get control of our salon schedule. It offered a great benefit to our customers, as well. We even found a few hidden bonuses. One of those bonuses was shortening the time frame between appointments on our five and six-week clients. Our customers often opted to shave off a week or two from their regular schedule just to make sure their dog was looking fresh and festive. By doing so, the added revenue dropped directly to our bottom line. Another bonus was the generosity of tips around the holiday season. The third bonus was our ability to pre-book into the typically slower January and February appointment time frames here in Michigan. When done correctly, our January and February can be some of our more profitable months.

So how do you kick this off?

Start by going through your client list. Identify your premiere clients. You know who they are – the clients that book regular appointments every one, two, three, four, five, and six weeks. You will start pre-booking appointments based on the frequency your clients typically come into the salon.

5-phone-calls-that-saved-me-100Once you have them identified, it’s time to pick up the phone and get them scheduled. I consider it a courtesy call to our most important and regular clients.

Your weekly and bi-weekly clients should have automatic standing appointments throughout the entire year. Those clients are your most valued premier customers. Confirm all of their appointments. They should be dropped into the schedule first, getting premium appointment choices. Once all your one and two-week clients are booked, move to your three-week clients. If they do not already have pre-scheduled appointments through the holiday season, pick up the phone to get them scheduled. Continue to move down the list to the four-week clients. Finish up with your five- and six-week clients.

By the time you are done, you will have very few appointments left. Why? Because you’ve done such a good job taking care of your most valuable clients. If you do have any appointments left, you can be selective about what you take. You will have the control and confidence to know what can be done or what needs to go on to a cancellation list or when you simply need to say, “I’m sorry, but we are full.”

Once the schedule is set – stick to your guns. Sure, the holiday season can be extremely profitable for grooming establishments, but do you really need to push yourself beyond your limits?

No. Not if you value your mental and physical health.

istock_83916991_mediumOnce you get into the final countdown in November and December, looking forward six weeks will be January and February. Before those clients leave, they should have their January and February appointments pre-booked. If you struggle to get clients to pre-book during the colder months, think about incentives to help encourage pre-booking. Maybe it’s a discount off their next grooming. Maybe it’s a free add-on, upsell, or spa treatment. Get creative – but make sure you’re ready to offer the incentive at checkout to get those deep winter appointments booked.

Don’t forget, the holiday season is about friends and family. You have a right to enjoy them, too. How can you fully enjoy family time when you’re totally drained? Some of you may miss festivities altogether! I can’t tell you how many Christmas Eve’s and even Christmas days I totally missed because I was simply exhausted. Most successful groomers have to learn this lesson the hard way – including myself!  Don’t believe me? Click here to check out my video on Learn2GroomDogs.com!

When you have a pre-booking priority system, you are in control. You’ll be able to recapture your holiday spirit and sanity – and so will your team!

Remember, as the holidays draw closer, the dogs get easier. Typically, these are the one- to three-week regularly scheduled pets. Simple spruce-ups are usually all that’s needed to make them look amazing for their families.

This system works best when you start pre-booking in September. Don’t wait. You’ll thank me later when you have time to enjoy loved ones and some holiday cheer.

What steps do YOU take? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa


Overspending Your Time Budget

Time-Is-Money-740rrIt’s interesting that some people who are so disciplined and focused regarding their financial budget, think nothing of overspending their time budget.

Let me explain what I mean. There are only so many hours in a day, a set number of days in a week, and a measurable number of days in a year. Those hours and minutes never change. These blocks of time shape our lives. They frame when we work, when we sleep, when we eat, and when we play. Yet, many people treat these blocks like hands full of cash just waiting to be spent. They forget that time is finite and has limits.

Many of us know, whether we create definite schedules or just have a rough idea, how our days, weeks, and months will be shaped. Others schedule their whole lives down to the last detail. I’ll bet you know:

  • what time you’ll get up each day.
  • what days you’ll work.
  • when you’ll leave work and go home.
  • what time you hope to go to bed.
  • your plans for the weekend.
  • when you’d like to take a vacation.

Given those facts, you also know:

  • roughly how many hours you’ll work this week.
  • how many hours of sleep you’ll get tonight.
  • how much time you have left to sleep if you wake up in the middle of the night.

Our lives are all about time. We think about it constantly, whether we realize it or not. Tapping your foot because someone is late? You’re thinking about time. Honking your horn because the car in front of you didn’t go when the light changed? You’re thinking about time. How many times did you glance at your watch, clock, or phone today? It’s all about time.

So now that you realize you’re thinking about it, let’s talk about spending it. Time is like money – when you have it, life seems more in control. So why do so many of us spend time like it’s a limitless resource?

Time is the same for all of us. We all have the same amount of time in our “wallets.” We all have the same numbers of seconds, minutes, hours, and days. Yet, I see people who overspend their time budgets everywhere I go.

Have you ever thought about what mismanaged time is doing to you and those around you? Let’s start with your health. Are you eating right or just grazing on whatever you can find? Are you sleeping well or enough? Is your body reacting to the stress with pain, skin issues, or illness? What about your relationships with others? Are your irritable, impatient, and withdrawn? Are you missing out on family events? How much time do you get to spend with your friends? For that matter, when did you last take any time for yourself?

If the answers to those questions are negative ones, it’s time to make some changes before you lose your mental and physical health, relationships, or job. There are ways to stop that flood of overspending, but like anything else, you have to be honest with yourself and assert some discipline.

Know your limits

You need to eat and sleep. To nurture your relationships, you need to set time aside for those you love. You need to pick your kids up from school. You need to set time to take care of yourself. That means you need a reasonable schedule and you need to stick to it. That doesn’t mean you have to be inflexible, but if you’re in time trouble, you need to be as ruthless with your time spending as you would your cash if you were deep in debt. You need to retrain yourself and that means that at first, there is no bending of the rules you set for yourself. Eventually, with practice, you may be able to lighten up on the reins, but until then, stick to the plan. How will you know when you’ve achieved the proper balance? Simple. Ask your doctor, family, and co-workers. When they give you the thumbs up, you can ease up a bit.

Create an emergency fund

Setting a schedule or framework builds in the gift of time. When you set time goals and stick to them, you suddenly have time available at the end of your day. No, that doesn’t mean you can start spending it like a $10.00 bill you discovered in your jacket pocket. That time is emergency money, like a credit card that you use only for dire straits. Use that time to get other scheduled tasks done ahead of schedule, so if something urgent comes up (and it will), like a family emergency – you can handle it with limited effect to those who are depending on you.

Become a master of efficiency

Doing things the same old way has gotten you into this mess. Are you using your time properly? Just because it’s the “way you’ve always done it” doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Finding better ways to do tasks reduces their power over you. Sometimes you do a task the most efficient way, but at the wrong time of day, and it eats up valuable minutes.

Do you always put that phone call off because you’re uncomfortable? Do it first and get it out of the way so you don’t spend the rest of your day dreading it. Some tasks can be made easier with technology. Look for better ways to do things and you’ll be surprised how those moments, like pennies, begin to add up.

Eliminate procrastination from your vocabulary

Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “I can’t wait to procrastina…” I love that joke, but it’s also so true. Think of all the time we waste by putting things off. We waste time just thinking of ways to avoid a task. We waste even more by trying to think up ways to justify it to ourselves. Some things are just always going to test your nerve, your resolve, or your patience. Just do them and get them over with, then move on to the good stuff as a reward.

Accept that sometimes the answer is, “No.”

I remember asking my mom for something when I was little. I can’t remember what it was, or even why I wanted it (which shows how important it was, right?). What I do remember is what she told me when I asked why I couldn’t have it. She simply (and not unkindly) said, “Honey, sometimes the answer is ‘no.’”

It was an important lesson then and it still matters now. Sometime you have to say “no.” When you make a promise you can’t keep, it’s more than an inconvenience – it’s a breach of trust. Keep it up and your word is worthless. Be realistic with your expectations and abilities. Know when to say that more time or help is needed – or even the reality that you can’t do it. Give the other person a chance to pursue other options. They won’t look down upon you for being honest – they’ll be glad you didn’t leave them high and dry when you couldn’t keep your promise.

Know when to ask for help

This goes hand in hand with the previous point. Maybe you can’t do a task alone, but with the right help…? You still have worth and value even if you need assistance. Knowing that you need help lets others know that you understand the problem and have a plan.

Asking for help can actually save time. Two people carrying in all those grocery bags will get the job done a lot quicker, right? Just because you can do something alone doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

Be present

Being present means you are paying attention to the task at hand, not the next thing you’re worrying about. With proper planning, you will be able to compartmentalize tasks a little easier. That means that you can get things done in the time allotted. Being present also means understanding that loved ones need you just as much as those tasks you are trying to get done. When you can’t remember the last time you tucked your child in at night or thought to give your spouse a kiss goodnight, things need to change.

Respect boundaries

This is a big one. Know your limits AND those of others. Do you have deadlines? Meet them especially if you’re part of a chain of events. If you’re late, they will be, too. If they can’t make up the time downstream, the end result will be late. People who plan can often help those who don’t, but they won’t for long.

Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on theirs

If you overspent your time, it creates a ripple effect on others involved. If you created an emergency because of poor planning and execution, don’t always expect others to bail you out. Mutual respect breeds trust and a solid team. When we all work together, everyone wins.

Time can be a beautiful thing. When you have it, you can appreciate the loveliness of the world around you. You can enjoy time spent with others. You can actually be present with those who matter most. When you are a slave to time because you failed to control your misspending of this finite resource, you create a prison for yourself. Luckily, there is a key… YOU!

Do you sometimes struggle with time management?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Guest blogger

~Joelle Asmondy


Correcting Behavior During Grooming – Learn the 4 Keys to Successful Pet Handling

blog image12If you are a long time pet professional, you’ve probably mastered today’s topic. If you are fresh to the industry, you are probably struggling with it. How do you handle the dog that does not want to cooperate with the grooming procedure?

You’ve heard me say this about dogs before – but let’s do a quick review.

  • They are hard-wired to think like a dog.
  • They are a predatory pack animal.
  • They are silent communicators.
  • They read body language.
  • They respond to energy.
The most over used word in a dog’s vocabulary is “no.” It’s a common enough word, but it means nothing to them. Why? They hear it all the time. How often is that word spoken every day? Pet owners are constantly “crying wolf” around the dog.

It’s typical. Dog owners overuse the “no” word, yet never back it up. They don’t project the energy necessary to stop the behavior. Thus, they do not convey a strong pack leader presence. The issue they are trying to correct continues unchecked. Many dogs are not trained to understand basic rules and boundaries within their own family pack.

Dogs that are unruly, wiggly, or mildly aggressive on your grooming table have not had consistent training at home. You see it in your shops, salons, and mobile units don’t you?

It’s painful to watch someone who does not understand how to project authority work with these dogs. They think they can win the dog over by using high-pitched baby talk. First, they coo to the dog. Next, they try to reason with it. Not only are THEY getting more and more frustrated… so is the dog. Plus, any staff members within earshot of this ineffective banter are about to lose their minds!

The dog continues to be unruly… wiggly… mildly aggressive. The groomers’ frustration builds. Next, you hear:

“No!”

“Stop it”

“Quit it!”

“No!   NO!!  NO!!!”

As they spew out the words, their breathing is becoming short and rapid. Their energy is weak. They are losing control of the dog. Someone is going to get hurt – either the dog or the groomer.

So how do you stop this acceleration of bad behavior?  

#1. Stop using the word “NO.”

#2. Remember the 3 C’s – stay Calm, Cool, and Collected.

#3. Correct undesirable behaviors before they manifest into an action from the dog.

#4. Be consistent, consistent, consistent.

First, you need to have the proper equipment. Always have control over the dog with a kennel lead or grooming safety loop. The leads and loops need to be adjusted high on the neck, right behind the ears.

On leash, keep mild tension on the lead. Not so much that you are choking the dog, but enough so that you can control the pet. Once you know the pet, you will probably be able to relax the lead tension if they are mild-mannered and well-behaved. Adjust the tension of the grooming loop so that there is a very slight amount of slack when the dog is standing comfortably.

Here’s a trick for working with new dogs that I learned ages ago. I teach them what MY sound is for correcting an undesirable action. I use a sound – not an actual word. It comes from low in my gut, coming out sounding more like sharp grunt. While I use the sound, my breathing is deep and slow. My eyes are steady on the dog. I’m giving the dog eye contact that means business (women, you know what I’m talking about! We all have ‘the look.”). I gently, but firmly, redirect the dog as I wish them to behave.

As soon as the dog cooperates, I soften my eyes and my hands. I might give a calm, single word of praise combined with a gentle, reassuring stroke.

The SECOND the dog makes a move to repeat the undesirable action, I repeat the correction. I am consistent in the training. I never step out of the 3 C’s mental zone: Calm, Cool, and Collected

My 10 Rules When It Comes to Dealing with Challenging Pets

  1. Never work on a pet that you feel is dangerous to itself or to you.
  2. Always maintain the 3 C’s: Calm, Cool, and Collected.
  3. Remember that dogs are silent communicators that respond to energy.
  4. Never take an unfamiliar pet from the owner’s arms.
  5. Always maintain some form of physical control.
  6. Become a lifelong learner of canine psychology and body language.
  7. Remember that not all pets are candidates for all professional grooming settings.
  8. If the eyes glow red or green – DO NOT GROOM THE DOG.
  9. Humanity always comes before vanity.
  10. Your hands are your livelihood – always protect them.

We will constantly be faced with less than cooperative pets in our careers. It is always better for you to win the trust and cooperation of a pet for the grooming process. Most of the time, this translates into becoming a highly effective dog trainer.

Dogs are hardwired to think like dogs. We love them, even treat them like children, but we need to remember that they are not humans. They are dogs. The more experience you can have handling dogs, combined with actively studying their language, their psychology, the more effective you will become.

Remember these four important rules. Do not use the word “no.” Always abide by the Three C’s: Calm, Cool, and Collected. Correct undesirable actions before they become an issue. Finally, be super consistent in everything you do with a dog.

What techniques do you use to redirect challenging behaviors?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


8 Steps to Overcoming Professional Burnout

Finding Passion in Your Work Again 

How in the world do dog groomers and pet stylists get burned out?

Come on… We get to play with sweet, charming little puppies all day – right?

What could be stressful about that? For most folks, grooming dogs all day is a “dream job.”

I’m here to tell you – it isn’t all fun and games with puppies. I still remember the day when I hit the burnout wall myself.

I had six mobile grooming vans out on the road as well as a salon. I had employees to manage. Budgets to make. Goals to set. Bills to pay. Marketing strategies to create. Accounting records to review. There always seemed to be an endless list of tasks that went along with running successful businesses. Plus, I was still grooming five days a week in my grooming van! I was running as hard as I could while burning the candle at both ends. It’s a typical recipe for disaster.

The moment that I hit that wall happened in June. We were booked out weeks in advance. Not a day passed without our dispatchers trying to squeeze in another dog. I was routinely grooming 10 to 12 hours a day plus doing all the other stuff too. On that fateful day I just lost it.

I had been on my way to my last client. I just totally broke down. I hadn’t even pulled into the client’s driveway yet. I was so overwhelmed. I was physically and mentally exhausted. I pulled over to the side of the road in the subdivision, unbuckled my seat belt, and walked over to my tub. I took a few deep breaths to get a hold of myself. I could do it. Just one more dog…

But then tears started to flow. I slowly slid down in front of my tub and just cried.

Have you ever had one of those days?

There are lots of ways to experience personal burnout.

So what is burnout?

Burnout is when you are at the point of physical and emotional exhaustion. It can occur when you experience long periods of stress in your job, when you are overworked in a physical or emotionally draining way for an extended period of time. You can also experience burnout when your efforts have failed to produce the results that you expected. If you are approaching a point of personal burnout, it’s time to reassess what you’re doing.

Understand what is creating the burnout.

This takes some soul-searching. Take the time to identify what activities that got you to this point. You need to get to the root of the problem. Once you have identified what is causing your distress, look for ways to lighten your load. You are going to need to remove, delegate, simplify, or find new meaning in those activities that are causing the stress.

Once you discover the underlying cause of your burnout, you can uncover ways to resolve it.

In the pet grooming world, there are some options:

  1. Reduce the number of pets you groom in a day. Many busy pet stylists have found that by simply raising their prices, they can reduce the workload without losing any revenue.
  2. Eliminate difficult clients. That might mean dogs or cats you don’t enjoy grooming due to size, haircut, or attitude.
  3. Delegate tasks. Focus on those skills that ONLY YOU can do for your business. Analyze any item that could be handed off to someone else – even if it’s only part-time to start. Accounting. Bathing. Grooming. Cleaning. Marketing. Sales tracking. Reception. Inventory. Errand running. You get the idea.
  4. Get out of your rut. Do whatever it takes to rekindle your grooming spirit. Learn new skills. Find a mentor you can learn from and who will help motivate you. Discover new, better, and more efficient ways to do your job. Read books and magazines to expand your horizons. Attending industry trade shows, joining an online job-related community, watching videos with inspirational industry leaders, or even hooking up with local groomers a couple of times a year can do wonders to ward off burnout.
  5. Set a realistic goal. The target could be related to reaching a sales goal. What about a customer satisfaction goal like improving client retention rates or rebooking appointments at checkout? Look at sprucing up and reorganizing your salon so it’s more pleasant and easier to work in. Maybe you want to be officially certified in some area that would lend credibility to what you do professionally. Enter a grooming competition – or work toward becoming a consistent winner in the contest area. All of these are super goals, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Finds goals that motivate YOU.
  6. Change up your own personal job description. When you’re wearing too many hats, simply stop. Change gears. Select another role in your own company if you can. Or maybe it’s time to totally step away altogether, seeking out another career or life choice.
  7. Take time for yourself – daily, weekly, monthly, annually. Take time away from constantly dealing with pets, your business, or the numerous other tasks that are always nipping at your heels. Taking time for yourself, even if it’s only a few minutes a day, will allow you the distance you need to relax. When was the last time you took a vacation? Come on… a real vacation?
  8. Learn to say “no.” It’s a powerful word. It’s a simple action that could save your sanity when pushed too hard. Learn to use it in a conscious and responsible way.

In order to avoid or reduce burnout, you need to think about what gives true meaning in your work – the why of what you do. This self-analysis will give you a deeper understanding of what you find most important. It will also allow you to uncover elements, if any, missing from your life or your work and make adjustments.

When I hit my own personal wall, I did much of the soul-searching listed above. I made many changes to positively affect my daily workload and my personal life. The changes I made allowed me to contribute in a much more rewarding way to my companies, the industry itself, to my life, and to my health.

Always remember, life is ever-changing. Just because you successfully avoided burnout at one point in your life, does not mean you will not encounter it again. However, if you’ve overcome it once, you know you’ll be successful at overcoming it again in the future.

Question: Have you ever faced burnout? If yes, what did you do to overcome it? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about your experience!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


Canine Influenza

If you’ve been watching the news lately, 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.

The dog flu originally appeared in Korea, China, and Thailand. Earlier this year, an outbreak occurred in Chicago. This flu can spread quickly from dog to dog by contact with respiratory secretions and contaminated objects. Any dog, regardless of age or breed can fall victim to this illness. This virus can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for 12 hours. That means that infected dogs that come into contact with these items can potentially pass on the illness:

  • Food and water dishes
  • Collars and leashes
  • Dog toys
  • Kennels
  • People who move back and forth between healthy and infected dogs

Experts estimate that 20-25% of exposed dogs will become infected, but may show no actual signs of illness. 80% of infected dogs may develop the flu and have mild symptoms such as a persistent and treatment-resistant cough, similar to kennel cough. They may also include sneezing, runny nose, and fever.

A small percentage of the infected dogs may develop serious issues, including pneumonia or even bleeding in the lungs. Death is also possible in some cases.

Diagnosing and treating the illness should be done by your vet. Most dogs recover within 2-3 weeks.

Those of us in the pet industry must take a leading role in preventing the spread of this illness. That means making a serious upgrade in how we look at cleaning and disinfection of our facilities. Kennels, grooming salons, vet’s offices, and dog parks can help increase – or reduce – the chances of spreading the flu. Because it can take 2-4 days after exposure to develop the flu, it’s important to take steps to prevent the illness before symptoms appear. Being proactive is the best defense.

An outbreak of the flu in your area can have devastating results. Your clients could be affected. Even your own pets can be at risk!

  • Imagine what would happen if your salon or kennel experienced an outbreak? No one wants a pet to experience a serious case of the flu, or even mild symptoms of the illness.
  • What would the impact be on your business? You would surely see a difference in your daily bottom line as pets become ill and need to stay home to recuperate.
  • What about your human clients? Would they feel like you took the necessary steps to prepare for and prevent an outbreak?
  • Are you prepared to answer questions about the flu? What about your staff?

Preventing the Flu: Step One

It’s important to be plan and be prepared. That means educating yourself and training your staff on what to do if you are in a risk area. Do you make calls to remind your clients of their appointments? That’s a great time to talk about the health of their pet.

Know what you’re going to say before you place the reminder call. That way you know what questions to expect and will be able to answer them without sounding unprepared. Knowing what you are going to say also reduces panic and hurt feelings from sensitive clients.

You might consider creating educational materials for your clients to take home. Those of you who send emails to your clients may consider sending out a newsletter with details about the illness so they can monitor their pets more closely. Posting informative links on your social media outlets is also effective.

Remember – you’re not trying to frighten your guests, so having a script to refer to is a great tool. Know the facts and use them to help create a team with your clients so you can work together on preventing an outbreak.

Step Two

You and your staff should know what symptoms to look for. If a pet client shows signs of illness, it should stay home.

Remember, you are a trained observer and not a vet. You shouldn’t diagnose the pet. But you can certainly suggest that contacting their vet might be a good idea.

Infected pets should be isolated from other pets – that means no trips to the dog park, the kennel, or the grooming salon. If you need to send a pet home, immediately disinfect the area once it leaves your building.

Step Three

Get out your rubber gloves – it’s time to disinfect and sterilize.

The flu virus is killed with routine disinfecting products that contain quaternary ammonium compounds (e.g., benzalkonium chloride), aldehydes, phenols and those with 10% bleach content.

Clean all surfaces, kennels, tubs, tools, equipment, floors… anyplace a dog has been or you have touched after coming in contact with a dog. Get to work on the entry way to your building. Don’t forget your lobby and seating areas. And pay attention to your offices supplies such as phones, pens, and anything else you pick up every day. That leads us to…

Step Four

Wash your hands! Do it before and after eating. Wash them after touching a pet. Scrub them after touching the garbage. Are you doing it right? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says to follow these guidelines:

The Right Way to Wash Your Hands

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Remember that educating yourself and your client is a great defense against canine flu. The better prepared you are, the better your chances of preventing or reducing an outbreak in your area. Don’t wait until it’s too late to understand the risks and your responsibilities. The sooner you understand how you can help, the healthier your pet clients will be.

To read more on Canine Influenza, click here .

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


Come! Sit! Stay!

blogrLeadership. If you’re running a business, you know leadership is important. Yet, when I’m speaking before groups of pet professionals, there are always questions on this topic. Here are a few typical ones that always seem to crop up when I do an open mic session.

  • How do I create a reliable team?
  • How do I motivate my team?
  • How do I bring consistency to my team?
  • How do I create respect?
  • How do I stop the bickering?
  • How do I create an enjoyable work environment?

I’m not going to lie. Being a great leader is certainly a challenge. It constantly takes work on the part of the leader. The second you let your guard down, forward momentum can be lost. Directions are not followed. The morale of the team sinks. Productivity dwindles. And customer service goes out the window. Sound familiar?

These are not good things when you’re the boss or the manager of a grooming business.

So how can you improve your leadership skills?

Here’s an angle that might help.

If you are involved in the pet care industry, my guess is it’s because you are passionate about dogs. I’m also going to assume you are naturally good with them. You enjoy their company. Your own pooches are well-behaved. They are trained. You’ve put in the time and effort to create a well-mannered dog.

Nice.  Good work!

(Didn’t that little bit of praise feel good?)

Most packs or herd animals have an ‘alpha’ leader. They are hard-wired to think in those terms. It’s totally natural. If you have even one well-behaved dog – you are ‘alpha’ in that dogs mind. You are his leader.

Guess what? If you’ve trained pets, you already know some of what is involved in being an effective leader.

And dog training is something you are good at – right? You have expectations that challenging, but attainable.

When your dog does something that pleases you, you lavish them with praise. When they misstep, you gently correct them. To win their trust, cooperation and appreciation, you are going to use the most appropriate form of behavior modification that is effective for the situation. You are going to encourage them whenever they start heading in a favorable direction.  You spend time with them – teaching them and helping them to understand.

Training your dog is an exercise in leadership.

Now stop and think about how you can apply those same principles to your team at work. What actions would you take to win the trust, cooperation, and appreciation of the people you work with? Did a light bulb just go off in your head?

Leadership doesn’t have to be hard, but it is more than barking orders and expecting immediate results. You have to be fair, consistent, and reliable as you develop your team. Give solid instruction. Lead by example. Praise often. Show appreciation. Correct undesirable actions quickly before they become bad habits. Remember, some people are going to be easier to train than others. You don’t need harsh action to get results – and belittling someone is never appropriate. Proper training takes a little longer. The time you put into it is worth the result… and it starts with you.

Use what you know to provide proper training. And don’t forget that to motivate and inspire your team that YOU have to keep growing, too. Seek out the training that you need that will help you become a better leader.  Webinars, books, and trade show seminars are a few places that can help you become an effective leader who can create an amazing team.

The perfect team does not happen by accident and won’t magically appear on its own. Your team is the lifeblood of your salon.  Your leadership will determine whether you have what it takes to make an amazing team.  And an amazing team keeps customers coming back!

– Happy trimming,

Melissa

 

PS If you’re interested in more on this topic, I’ve got something amazing to show you.  Click here.

 

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How to Get Your Clipper Work Smooth – Like a Summer Hay Field

blogrIt’s been over 35 years since that first time. I still remember standing in awe, watching a talented pet groomer give a dog a haircut. She handled her clippers with ease. The long fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and gorgeous. And she was fast – super fast. She made the whole process seems so simple.

The first time I tried, I quickly discovered it was not simple. Those initial attempts were pretty pathetic. Saying my first efforts were rough and choppy would be polite. There were long tufts hanging out everywhere. I was frustrated beyond belief.

I was determined to master the skill. After all, the groomer I had been watching proved it could be done. It was simple – I just had to focus and figure it out.

Fast forward a few years of practice and a couple hundred dogs later, and I could make any dog look amazing. When I did a simple haircut on a pet, the fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and appealing. I could finish dogs in no time. I’d gotten very efficient with my clippers.

It took years of hard work. There were years of standing on my feet until they throbbed, working until my hands and shoulders ached. However, my pain can be your gain. Here are a few tips to enhance your speed when it comes to simple, low maintenance haircuts:

  • Use the most powerful clipper you can afford and are comfortable holding. Duel speeds or variable speed clippers are great options.
  • Work with the natural lay of the coat. You can work with or against the grain. If you reverse clip, the end result will leave that fur approximately two blade lengths shorter than working with the natural lay of the coat.
  • For a large majority of low maintenance trims done with a #4F, #5F, or a #7F blade with the grain, you will go over the pet three times before it’s really smooth.
  1. The first time removes the bulk.
  2. The second time takes out the high spots.
  3. The third time erases what you missed.
  • The strokes are long and smooth. They overlap slightly. I often tell students to think about a hayfield. The farmer wants to be as efficient as possible – but he doesn’t want to miss anything, either. Most farmers work in nice, neat rows as they cut hay, slightly overlapping each row to ensure they don’t miss any portion of the field. Think about the dog’s body in the same manner. It’s a hayfield. Your clipper is the tractor. You want it done right… and you want to be done before the dinner bell rings.
  • When clipping the legs, remember the actual contact of the cutting blade is minimal due to the shape of the surface. It’s round – like a pencil. Only a few teeth will make contact with the surface as you run the clipper down the leg. Thus, on legs you need multiple passes to get the same effect as three passes on the larger flat surface of the body. You can clearly see this relationship by simply running a blade down your own finger and looking at the blade’s point of contact.
  • Back brush. Back brush. Back brush!

You’ll always get a smoother cut on a dog that is clean and the coat has been fluffed. Once you make the initial pass to remove the bulk of the long coat, it’s time to pick up the brush. Back brush the entire dog and go over it a second time. On the third pass, again gently back brush the entire area that needs final attention. Did you get that? Back brush!

When do you know you are done? You are done clipping when there is no more coat coming off the dog after it is been washed, dried, and effectively back brushed. Period.

Clipper work on a low maintenance haircut style can be extremely frustrating for new groomer. But once you master the clipper and understand how to work with the coat, it becomes second nature. It becomes simple. You become fast. And you will be able to perform the haircut safely with great precision.  You can do it. It just takes focus.

 

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

 

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