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Get Ready for the Westminster Dog Show

Master Groomer Melissa Verplank explains why you should save the date to watch the Westminster Dog Show, America’s oldest institution for purebred conformation. Spawned in 1877, Westminster’s all-breed show is a source of inspiration for great grooms as breeders and owners show their top dogs.

See the “stack” of the 204 eligible breeds across every group and variety as the best-in-breed and best-in-show are selected Monday, Feb. 11 and Tuesday, Feb. 12. Check out the Masters’ Agility competition starting on Saturday, Feb.9 and Sunday, Feb. 10. Visit Westminster for the full schedule to tune-in: https://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/plan-your-visit/general-info

Whether you’re just learning to groom or striving to improve your repertoire, don’t miss this chance to study top dogs!

Want to brush up on your AKC standards? Look into our advanced education opportunities at https://www.paragonpetschool.com/home-study.

Want to pick up new tips on the fly? Check out https://www.Learn2GroomDogs.com, where our library of great grooming videos can help you level-up.

Transcript
Melissa: Hi guys. Melissa here. I want to talk to you about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. That is coming up pretty soon here. It is going to be February 11th and 12th. For us in America, this is definitely our premiere dog show. There’s a lot of really high end dog shows but what I love about this one is that it’s actually televised, and they do a really nice job with it being televised. If you’re a little bit like me, I just don’t get out to dog shows the way that I did at one point in time. Now, some of you guys, you’re dog show junkies. Hey, have at it. I’m sure not only do you watch it but more than likely, you’re immersed in it. You might even be exhibiting, which is wonderful, and I know a lot of my friends are definitely there and get really caught up with the excitement.

Melissa: For me, I would really prefer to watch it from the comfort of my living room, cuddled up on my couch. Even though I might be in the comfort of my own living room watching it, I am learning so much. Each year when the dog show is aired, I get to see the new breeds that are being introduced. There have been so many new breed introduced since even I wrote Notes from the Grooming Table, or way in the back in the day when I first got my certification, there’s been a lot of new breeds have been introduced. This is my way to stay current and up to date with what’s going on in the dog show world.

Melissa: Everything that we do in the pet grooming world, it literally transfers from the confirmation ring to our grooming salons, and so even though we’re working on every day pet dogs, and they’re not getting these high show style trims, it doesn’t matter. We are visual. If you show me a nice representation of any single breed, I can turn around with my skillset and my knowledge and transfer it into a very functional pet trim for my clients. That’s what I love to be able to do, is to be able to pull the best attributes of the dog and be able to turn it into something that the owners are going to really enjoy, and be able to live with it.

Melissa: But, you know what, I couldn’t do that if I didn’t know what it should look like. Being able to watch the Westminster Dog Club, the dog show, that is absolutely the best way for me to stay current with those trends. When we look back at it, dog styles have changed over the years. Not only are there new breeds, and a lot of the breeds aren’t necessarily new, they’re very ancient breeds, they’re just new to the United States, but when we start looking at how those haircuts have changed over the years on different breeds, it’s pretty astounding.

Melissa: Not only does the breed itself kind of change and morph into something else based on what it needs to be doing today versus what it did when it actually had a real job, but also the haircuts are also changing. When you look at Bichons from 20 years ago, it’s a very, very different haircut today than what it was back then. Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers are gonna be the same type of thing. There’s a lot of breeds that are like that. Being able to watch these top dogs being shown really gives me that edge to know what to do, or what not to do.

Melissa: There’s so many, again, with those new breeds coming in. If all of a sudden you’ve got a Pumi that a client calls and they want you to groom their Pumi, more than likely when it comes in, it might just be a shave off. But, if all of a sudden you know exactly what that breed is supposed to look like, and you know it’s got these funky cute little ears and it’s got this little wedge head, and it’s got this rustic kind of coat that is a little bit different, it’s not supposed to be blown out and straight. It’s supposed to be messy looking and curly. But, if a client calls and you don’t know visually, you can’t see what that dog is supposed to look like, you are gonna have a really hard time making that dog, or even pulling components of what that breed is supposed to look like onto your pet dog when it comes through your door.

Melissa: Again, I really encourage you to watch the show. It was one of our favorite things to do back in the day when I had a whole team of stylists, and actually a lot of our stylists still do this, is they watch the dog show either online or on TV. They talk about it. It’s just a really great way to open up communications within your own salon, and within your own team members.

Melissa: Definitely check it out. Like I said, it’s gonna be airing this year February 11th and 12th. It airs normally in the evening on TV, but you can catch it streaming online at a lot of different time points, and you can actually see a lot of the classes as well. Go to, I think it is the WestminsterKennelClub.org, and check out all of the schedule of events. You go to their website, everything is there that you need to find out what’s going on and how you can best check out the show yourself, so, enjoy.


The Jennifer Hecker Story

Bouvier HugrIt was May, 1996. Star pupil Jennifer Hecker was three days away from graduating from grooming school and I was still very much a hands-on Director of The Paragon School of Pet Grooming.

I remember walking into the lobby during check-in. The front staff was just greeting a new client with a very large Bouvier des Flandres. I looked at the dog and immediately sensed something was off. The dog came in willingly enough, but its body language and eyes were telling me to be very, very careful with this dog.

Once the owner was gone, I told the front staff to attach the dog to a wall tether. I sensed we could have a real problem if we tried to place that dog in a kennel. Being out on the practical skills floor where we could closely observe this dog without the housing restriction was much safer. I suggested that the instructors place a muzzle on the dog before they attempted to do any grooming, just in case.

Because we didn’t see that many Bouvier’s at the Paragon Training Center, it was assigned to Jennifer, one of our most advanced students. At that time, Jennifer had shown Giant Schnauzers and had advanced one of them through the highest levels of French Ring Sport. She was not intimidated by the size or the potential attitude of this dog.

Not 15 minutes into the class, someone raced into my office and told me I’d better get out to the practical skills floor – fast. Someone had been hurt. Seconds later, I was on the practical skills floor. The first thing I noticed was how empty and quiet the room was.

The second was the blood trail.

It led diagonally across the space towards the bathing room. There was a crowd of people around a small prep sink. One person in particular was obviously in great distress – Jennifer.

Our general manager was holding her hand under cold water and asking her series of questions. One of the questions still haunts me today…

“Can you feel your fingers?”

I got a glimpse of Jennifer’s hand. Place a quarter on the meatiest part of the heel of your hand. Now imagine that area… gone.

handrThe Bouvier had done exactly what I had feared. The instructor and Jennifer had done what I had requested. They had muzzled the dog before team-lifting it onto the table. That’s when it struck. Unbelievably, it bit Jennifer through a muzzle. It was a nylon muzzle that was open at the end of the mouth so the dog could breathe freely. This type of muzzle can be effective as long as it fits snugly. In this case, they had selected a muzzle that was slightly too large. Even though the dog was muzzled, it could still open its mouth just enough to grab the heel of her hand to chew through her flesh…

…and it did.

We raced Jennifer to the medical treatment center. The local med-station felt that they could handle this wound despite the fact that she had lost sensation in her little finger – or maybe the pain was so great – she couldn’t be sure. They stitched her up, bandaged her, pumped her up with antibiotics, and sent her home.

The following day she was she was back at the doctor, but this time to see a hand specialist. They ripped out all the stitches from the night before and started over. Jennifer was looking at a long recovery period.

Jennifer had such a great attitude towards this whole thing – it was hard to believe. Even though she missed the last three days of class, she still graduated with very high grades. However, finding a grooming job was certainly out of the question for her – at least for a while. We ended up hiring Jennifer for our front office at Paragon while she healed.

As Jennifer’s medical bills mounted, we collected everything and turned them into our insurance company.  However, our carrier did not feel the situation warranted a payout on their behalf.

What??

That’s when we learned that in the state of Michigan a pet owner is ultimately responsible for their dog – even if they are not with it. The insurance company went after the pet owner. They were able to collect from their homeowner’s policy. That was news to me and served as a lesson to all of us.

As the story unfolded, we got more information that was unnerving. My initial gut reaction was well-founded. This was the third reported bite case for this dog – and the third owner. Of course the owner never bothered to share that information with us upon check-in. The dog was destroyed after this third incident with Jennifer.

We learned 5 lessons through this unfortunate event.

  1. Trust your gut. Never do a dog that you feel is dangerous to you, your team, or itself.
  2. Use muzzles when necessary and make sure they fit properly (we changed to full basket-style muzzles).
  3. The pet owner is ultimately responsible for their pet regardless of whether they are with them or not.
  4. In the state of Michigan, if the dog creates an insurance situation, the pet owner’s homeowner’s policy will be responsible for paying any damages or claims.
  5. Love and passion for dogs can still shine through despite severe injuries inflicted by them and long recovery periods.

Jennifer has been grooming with us for over 18 years. I’m fortunate that she is still on my team. She has become one of our most talented and productive pet stylists. She grooms every day at our luxury kennel, Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa. Plus, Jennifer has been one of our talented Training Partners on Learn2GroomDogs.com since the beginning.

We just filmed her for Learn2GroomDogs.com. We had been looking for someone to do a traditional style grooming lesson on a Bouvier des Flandres for a very long time. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect Jennifer Hecker to step up to the grooming table for this lesson! I’m so glad she did. Her love and compassion for all dogs is clearly evident – even for the Bouvier des Flandres.

 

Happy trimming,

Melissa

 

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Great grooming lessons from Cheryl Purcell

Cheryl Purcell earning Best In Show at the NDGAA 2004 Fun in the Sun Show

This week, we are releasing an incredible triple feature on Learn2GroomDogs.com focusing on the Kerry Blue Terrier. Your training partner is Cheryl Purcell. She will be reviewing the common mistakes that people make when they groom a Kerry Blue and how to avoid them.

We are so happy to have Cheryl on our team of training partners. Cheryl Purcell started in the industry as a manager of a pet store. After a fire destroyed the retail section of the building, all that was left was the grooming salon. The owner wanted to continue grooming and the rest is history. After picking up the basics from their in-house groomer, Cheryl has had an impressive career.

It was her Mom who really encouraged her to be a groomer. They opened a shop together in 1994. Since then she credits much of her success with continuing education. After taking advice from a friend, she started taking private lessons from groomers she looked up to in the industry. Cheryl offers private training herself. (See her bio for details)

She has been on GroomTeam USA numerous times since her first competition in 1994. Cheryl can be seen here at the 2004 NDGAA Fun in the Sun where she won Best in Show. I am very proud to have Cheryl on our training partner team. She will continue to be a valuable asset to groomers who want to continue their education.

Photo by Animal Photography


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