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Check out Melissa Verplank’s latest vlogs!

Spend a few minutes to get inspired by Melissa’s tips on how to be a better groomer. From canine anatomy to time-saving tips, Melissa lends her years of experience to help power up your grooming career, whether you’re independent, and employee or own your own salon.

Introduction to Paragon’s Distance Learning Program

For those who want to become a professional pet groomer, but have difficulty attending a physical grooming school, Paragon’s Distance Learning Program offers more options. In this video, Melissa Verplank shares an update on the Paragon Pet School’s Distance Learning Program. Not only has this home study program proven itself effective for training people entering the industry, but it’s also being embraced by grooming salons of all sizes too!

If you want to learn the skills necessary to become a professional pet groomer at home, or you need help training your grooming staff, check out Paragon’s Distance Learning Program. Visit ParagonPetSchool.com today and use the promo code “LUCKYDOG” and get $100 Off your tuition!

Why Become a Dog Groomer?

Is professional pet grooming the right career choice for you? It’s a field with many benefits, and Melissa shares some of the perks that resonate with many people entering the field. In this video, she shares her own experiences with what it’s like to work as a professional groomer and what can make a groomer successful.

If you’re ready to start your pet grooming career, whether full or part-time, check out Paragon Pet School’s Distance Learning Program and start learning all the skills you need from home. Get started on our Home Study Page today and use the promo code “LUCKYDOG” and get $100 Off your tuition!

The Importance Of Setting Goals and Planning

Time is money. How long does it take to dry a small dog? How long should you budget for a full groom on a Shih Tzu? Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank talks about the importance of setting goals and planning to improve efficiency without compromising quality. Focus and a methodical tracking of time will help you improve your workflow and increase your profitability.

Want to learn time-saving tips from the pros? Join https://www.Learn2GroomDogs.com today for access to hundreds of videos from top groomers. Use code word “LUCKYDOG” to get 50% off your first month!

Do you have staff or friends who would like to train the Paragon way, using Melissa’s cutting edge curriculum? Check out Paragon’s new Distance Learning Program. Refer someone and get a free Pocket Pal. New students who signup this month using “LUCKYDOG” get $100 off.



Melissa: Hi, guys. Melissa here, again. I want to talk to you about one of my time saving tips. That is setting time goals and objectives. If you don’t know how long something takes there is no way you are going to be able to improve your best times on anything. So it’s important, first, to know where you’re at, where you’re going to start. If you’re a brand new newbie you are not going to be as quick as somebody who’s got 14, 15 years of experience underneath their belt. So be a little bit patient with yourself but know that’s an area that you’ve got to work on. Let’s start with where you’re at.

Melissa: Now, my personal objective is always to turn a pretty normal groom, an everyday, simple groom, small to medium-sized dog, nothing fancy, no scissoring, not a whole lot of styling, just no-nonsense everyday groom. I want to turn one of those types of dogs, generally about one an hour, maybe a little bit less. I’ll tell you what, if you’ve got a bather working for you, half of the time is in the bath and the dry area. So if you’ve got a bather you might be turning those dogs a lot quicker than one dog an hour. But let’s say you’re doing the full thing. You’re doing the bath, the dry, and the finish trim.

Melissa: My general rule of thumb is if water can penetrate the coat and the dog is coming in on a regular basis, it doesn’t had anything done to it, it just goes directly to the bathtub. With that type of dog, that’s where I’m saying the bath, the dry, and the haircut should all take roughly about an hour. If you’re not hitting those time goals, let’s take a look and see what you can do to improve upon your time. The first thing I want you to do if figure out where you’re at. Know how long does it take you to bathe a small, simple-type haircut. Know how long it takes to dry a simple-type haircut. Know how long it takes to finish a basic haircut. Once you establish the ground rules, now you’ve broken it up into chunks. Now you can take a look and start working on improving those times and those particular areas. So break it apart in chunks, into steps.

Melissa: Get yourself a timer. It doesn’t matter whether it be a kitchen egg timer, one of those types with a dial and it turns and you hear it ticking off and bing it goes off and you need to be done or whether it’s a digital timer. Or you can even use your phone and set the timer on your phone. But time yourself. Break it in chunks and time yourself. Always try to beat your best. So know how long it’s going to take to do any procedure and then work really, really hard to beat your best time. Whenever you’re working on beating your best time, you don’t ever want to sacrifice quality or safety. Those are going to be really critical areas that you’re not going to want to shave off five or 10 minutes. That’s not what we’re looking for.

Melissa: We’re looking for just really small incremental steps to get better. Because once you start adding all of those little minutes and those seconds up, it’s amazing how fast it adds up. In no time, you’re going to be able to be doing and turning those dogs in an hour. If it’s a bigger dog, if it’s a fuzzy dog, no, you’re not going to turn it in an hour. There’s no way, or it’s hard, to turn a Doodle, a big, fuzzy Doodle, in an hour, big Standard Poodle, in an hour. It’s not going to happen. So I’m not talking about the big fuzzies. I am talking about your small, everyday, your Lhasas, your Shih Tzus, your mixed breeds, the dogs that are getting really basic, simple haircuts where you’re being able to do most of it with clippers or guard work. You can knock those dogs off pretty quickly.

Melissa: That just means more time for yourself, more time for your family, more time doing more things that you want to do. Or maybe it’s putting more money in your pocket. If you can do six dogs versus four dogs you’re going to be making more money. If you can do eight dogs versus six. When you first start out from grooming school or when you’re first learning or you’re apprenticing or whatever, I mean, your success might be finishing four dogs a day. That might be great for you. But know that as you work down the road, most professional pet stylists are working at a much quicker rate than that.

Melissa: We have seasoned stylists at one of my organizations over at Whiskers Resort, and they do anywhere between 10 and 16 dogs a day. Now, granted, a lot of times they’re working with assistants so they’ve got bathers that are helping them get through those dogs. But the bottom line is they are focused, they know how long it takes them to do a particular job, and they’re being able to work through their day very methodically, and they’re getting through it without killing themselves. When they leave, they’re still smiling at the end of the day.

Melissa: So working faster isn’t necessarily about killing yourself. It is about being efficient with what you’re doing and having the confidence to do it well. The only way that you’re going to be able to build speed is to be able to know where you’re at, where you’re starting from, and to get better from that point and move forward. So good luck getting through those dogs in the most efficient manner that you possibly can.

Grooming Tips for Rustic Coated Dogs

Have you ever worked with a Rustic Coated dog? In this video, certified master groomer Melissa Verplank shares her learning journey on the topic of Rustic-Coated breeds. Learn2GroomDogs expert groomer, Kendra Otto, introduced the MV team to tips and tricks on grooming the Lagotto and Pumi breeds.

Want to watch Kendra working on a Rustic Coated Lagotto? Sign up today at https://www. Learn2GroomDogs.com and Get 50% off your first month. Use code: “LUCKYDOG” on check out.

If you’re already a member, visit this link to see Kendra’s video: Video @Learn2GroomDogs

Looking to train staff or level-up your own grooming techniques? Check out Paragon Pet School’s Distance Learning Program  – Sign up and Get $100 Off with code “LUCKYDOG.”

Melissa: Hi guys, Melissa here and today I want to give a shout-out to one of our Learn2GroomDogs.com training partners and that is Kendra Otto, and Kendra Otto has been one of our training partners for quite a while now and when I first approached Kendra and asked her to be one of our educators on the streaming video library, I asked her what did she want to film, what does she want to share, what did she feel confident with, and what she said was rustic coated breeds. No one knew how to deal with a rustic coat at that time and that was a very new coat type that we were just starting to see at the time that Kendra was really working with rustic coated breeds.

The two that really come to mind and that we have filed with Kendra is both the Pumi and the Lagotto. When she first approached us and she said she wanted to do a Lagotto, I didn’t know what it was, but I didn’t want to let on to Kendra I didn’t know what it was, so I just said, “Okay, that would be great.” I quickly ran to the computer because at the time the Lagotto wasn’t even in the AKC book. It was just being introduced. It might have been in the miscellaneous class at that time or it still might have been in the foundation stock area coming up and looking at being accepted into the AKC.

Melissa: But at any rate, I went home, did my research, found out what a rustic coated breed was, found out what a Lagotto was and we ended up filming with Kendra. I didn’t know anything about that coat type at all, and some of you may not have had the opportunity even to see them, or maybe you’ve seen them at dog shows but haven’t really gotten your hands on them and luckily I have, but this is the 22nd edition of the American Kennel Club complete dog book.

Melissa: We’ve got a little bit of a … there we go. There’s a Lagotto and so just really a no-nonsense kind of a breed as far as look. It’s a medium sized breed with what they call a rustic coat and then this one is the Pumi, and the Pumi is a very whimsical looking little dog, goofy. They’ve got a little different ear set. They have a wedged shape head and their ears are semi-erect and the way that you end up doing them is it’s almost like a Bedlington ear but where the Bedlington ear is gonna be down, the Pumi ear is gonna be semi-erect and so it really lends to this whimsical type expression that they have.

Melissa: But until I met Kendra, I didn’t know anything about either one of these breeds and that rustic coat is really different. The other thing with a rustic coated breed is they are not to be blown out, where normally when you’re looking at your scissor type breeds, the Bichons, the Poodles, you want them blown out straight, straight, straight so that you can get that really plush finish on your scissor work. But with the rustic coated breeds, that’s not the case at all. You want that coat curling. You don’t … you want it to look almost messy. Perfection is not what you’re looking for when you’re grooming those breeds.

Melissa: Again, until I met Kendra and actually filmed for Learn2GroomDogs with Kendra, I just didn’t know what these breeds were at all, so it was really interesting to learn about these newer breeds. Both of these breeds are now in, fully in, the American Kennel Club. The Lagotto is in the sporting group and the Pumi is in the herding group. They both had very different jobs and very ancient breeds, but caring for their coats is definitely different.

Melissa: One of the things I learned from Kendra was that you really want to use a wide toothed undercoat type rake, and that because they definitely have an undercoat and they have coat that … actually it’s not considered coat, it’s considered hair. Both breeds are considered somewhat non-shedding and so for folks that have allergies many times this is a breed that they can tolerate pretty well. But you’ve really got to get in there. You have got to keep them combed out but you don’t want to remove all of the undercoat so that wide toothed type comb really does a nice job to get in there and get the snarls removed, the mats removed, but then when you go to dry them, they need to be air dried because you need that coat really curly.

Melissa: The biggest thing with the rustic coated breeds is you don’t go for perfection. That’s kind of nice. But if you want to take a look or learn more about how to groom the rustic coated breeds, definitely check out Kendra on Learn2GroomDogs.com. She’s got a couple great videos on dealing with the rustic coat and rustic coat care plus she’s got videos on the Lagotto and also on the Pumi and I want to say with the Pumi we have a show Pumi and also how to work with a pet Pumi and how to maintain that coat and how to give the client a haircut that is going to accentuate the breed profile of the dog but be manageable for that dog to live in a pet home as well. Definitely check them out. It is the rustic coated breeds, the Lagotto and the Pumi.

Making the Most of Trade Shows – Atlanta Pet Fair 2019

Check out Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank’s discussion on the value of trade shows as a source of professional development and networking. A self-professed “trade show junkie,” Melissa will be one of the guest speakers at the Atlanta Pet Fair slated for Thursday, March 7th through March 10th.

Love learning new grooming tips? Check out Learn2GroomDogs.com.

Do you know someone who wants to get started in a pet grooming career? Check out Melissa’s online curriculum at Paragon Pet School’s Distance Learning Program: ParagonPetSchool.com

Planning to go to Atlanta? Stop by the Paragon booth!

Melissa: Hi guys. Melissa here. And I want to talk to you a little bit about attending a trade show. I know a lot of you guys have never even been to a trade show and they are absolutely amazing. When I first started out in the industry, I worked for a kennel and she had a whole lot of magazines up in a storage room, and I would sneak up there, and I would start thumbing through these magazines, and I started learning about seminars and trade shows.

Melissa: And I’m going to tell you, when I attended my first trade show, which happened to be in Chicago, it was the All American Grooming Show, it absolutely opened my eyes to what the industry had to offer. And from that time, and this was way back … Oh gosh. I’m going to really date myself. I want to say it was the very early 80s, if not the late 70s, when I attended my first trade show. And so every since then, I’ve kind of been a junkie on this kind of information because one of the things that’s so cool about our industry is that you can never know it all.

Melissa: And so if you’re going to attend a seminar or a trade show, which I certainly encourage you to do, you need to go in with a really, really open mind. Now when you’re a newbie, when you haven’t been out to one of these events, there is so much information. It’s almost like you’re a dry sponge, and you expand your knowledge base and by the time you get done with your first trade show, generally when I talk to folks, they are so almost overwhelmed by the amount of information that they’ve just learned.

Melissa: And what I want to remind you is that when you’re brand new, everything is new, and you do have a lot of information to absorb and gather and take home and apply. But once you get your core skills down, once you start working through the entire process of grooming on a professional level and becoming efficient and being able to be proud of the work that you are being able to do and knowing the difference between a good job and a bad job, then you start attending the trade shows and instead of just being this super dry sponge, and absorbing everything, you’re going to be going in and you are going to be targeting certain aspects.

Melissa: You’re going to be able to go in and look at the speakers and look at the programs that are being offered. And to be selective about what you want to learn next. And everybody’s gotta staircase their career, and you’re not going to be ready to hear some of what the speakers have to say, or it might not apply to you, and other things are going to be more elementary. You’ve already got that down. You don’t necessarily need to attend that one, so you can start to kind of cherry pick those particular golden nuggets that you really need. But whenever you walk in, always know there is not black and white in professional dog grooming.

Melissa: There’s lots of shades of gray. There’s lots of opinions. And so that’s one of the cool things is that we get to pick and choose and the more information and the more speakers and the more folks that you can listen to and gather information from, the better you’re going to be able to go back and provide a better service for your customers, and that’s what makes it so fun. So, go in with a really open mind and be selective. When you do go into a trade show, make the most of your time. Have a game plan going in, because again, it can be really overwhelming and there’s a lot of different programs that are going on. A lot of these trade shows will have grooming competitions also going on. And I’m going to tell you what, if you sit over on a division or the open division side of the ring, oh man, can you learn a lot just by observing what is going on in the competition ring.

Melissa: Really great education, just to sit ring side and watch what those competitors are doing. And not only watch their techniques, but watch the products and the tools that they’re using to get this gorgeous finish on these dogs. So be … Look at the classes that you want to take. Know who you want to see. When, what time those classes are. And plan ahead, so that you can go in and make the most of your time and you can not only get to the classes you want to get to, watch the grooming competition go on, get around to all the vendors. Man, I’ll tell you what, if you want to get an idea of what is available for our industry and literally get your hands on the products, no better place than a trade show to do that.

Melissa: Because there are clippers, and shears, and bows, and dryers and you name it. If it has anything to do with professional pet grooming, more than likely there’s going to be a vendor at that show that you can actually talk to and you can test out the equipment. And you’re going to see a lot of folks that, maybe you’ve just seen in the magazines, or you’ve just seen on video. They’re going to be there. And you know what, everybody started out at a beginner at some point in time. And so, it doesn’t matter how far anybody has made it to the top. More than likely, they are going to be approachable.

Melissa: Now if you’ve got a competitor in the ring, or you’ve got a speaker racing to get to a class, they may not be able to stop and talk to you and give you their full attention at that moment. But I can guarantee you, everybody is very approachable and they want to help, and they want to help the new people succeed and move forward. So get yourself out to those trade shows and you know, sometimes the best education that you can get isn’t necessarily on the trade room floor. It’s not in the classes. It’s not sitting ring side. It’s by meeting new people, [inaudible 00:06:52] getting out and socializing and meeting new people and the conversations that you have while you’re waiting in line or maybe you’ve gone to the bar or the restaurant to have a refreshment, and you’ll be able to meet new people and share ideas and the networking opportunities that are available.

Melissa: You stop and think about, when are you in a room full of people that all have the same passion that you do? Dogs and cats and grooming. And so everybody’s got something in common, so it’s really, really easy to strike up a conversation and just start talking to one another. As you’re sitting in your seminar rooms, you’re going to be sitting next to somebody. Introduce yourself. It is so fun to be able to network that way. So we’re looking at the trade show season just starting. We’ve got the California show out coming up in February, and the Atlanta Pet Fair is March 7th through the 10th of March, and I know I’m going to be at that show, along with my entire team, and that’s a great show to get out to. Lots and lots of exhibits. I think they’ve got over a hundred different exhibitors.

Melissa: They’ve got over 70 different classes that you can take. So get out there. It does take a little bit of planning. You’ve got to plan some time off, you’re going to have some travel, but if you want to come back to work energized and ready to start fresh and new, there is no better way to get re-energized then going to a trade show and learning something new. So hopefully, we’ll see you at the next trade show.

10 Things That Take Zero Talent but Earn 100 Percent Respect

Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discusses the power of 10 simple best business practices that will command client respect and build your business.

Want more business inspiration to fuel your grooming salon? Check out these articles. MelissaVerplank.com/blog/?s=tips+on+building+repeat+clients&submit=Search

If you’ve mastered the art and want to bone up on your own technical skills, check out Learn2GroomDogs.com

Want to train your staff to perform at the highest skill level? Check out Paragon’s Distance Education program for Grooming Salons. ParagonPetSchool.com/product/studio-enrollment-bundle/

Melissa: Hi Guys, Melissa here, and I want to talk to you about something, whether you be an employer or whether you are an employee, it’s not gonna matter, and this is something that doesn’t take any money whatsoever. Totally zero. It’s 10 things, and a lot of you have probably seen this list before, but it’s 10 things that require zero talent, zero money, but it is going to give you 100% respect.

Melissa: And so I just wanted to talk a little bit about these 10 different items and how it applies to what we do as professional pet groomers. The first thing, and this is just such a huge one for me, but being to work on time. Being done with your dog when you tell your customer, when you promised it, and anytime that you can’t uphold that, whether you’re running late to work or whether you’re running behind on a dog, let either your employer know or let your customer know that things might have changed a little bit.

Melissa: If you just can’t get up in the morning because you just can’t get up, change something, get up earlier, see if maybe your employer is willing to have you start on a later time during the day versus first thing in the morning. When I had all of my mobile stylist, I had early birds and I had folks that were just couldn’t get up in the morning, and we customized their schedule for them. I had some of my drivers, they were arriving to base at 6:30 in the morning, sometimes even earlier than that.

Melissa: Sometimes they were on their client’s doorstep at 6:00 AM, but they were also done and they were out at the beach by 2:00 in the afternoon. I had other stylists that were rolling in maybe at 10 o’clock and that was fine. As long as we knew, but whatever the time you set be on time. Number two, have a great work ethic. A work ethic will get you so far and it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, whether you are an employer or an employee, whether you are a coach on some type of a team, whatever it is, wherever it is in your life, a strong work ethic will always earn you respect.

Melissa: The next one would be effort, and effort and work ethic to me go hand in hand. When we’re dealing with brand new students, they’re not going to get it perfect straight out the gate. One of the best teachers is experience, and making mistakes is a fabulous way to learn as long as you can minimize the mistakes and hopefully most mistakes are correctable with a little bit of adjustment, but if somebody comes in with a strong work ethic and effort, oh my gosh, they are going to go so far with me and in their life. Guarantee that is going to get them somewhere in their life.

Melissa: The next thing is body language. If you can smile, the smile totally comes right through, whether you’re working on a dog, whether you’re talking on the phone, whether you’re dealing with a customer, it doesn’t matter, whether you’re dealing with your staff members or the staff members dealing with anybody else on the team. If you’re sitting there going, “Nope, I don’t want to do it,” or “Gosh, I’ve never done it, but let me try it.”

Melissa: There’s different way that that body language came through where one person was workable and the other wasn’t, and body language and energy and positive energy. There’s that phrase out there that says, “Is your attitude contagious?” “Is it worth catching?” And I love that image where there’s a whole bunch of matches lined up and there’s one match and they’re getting ready to ignite just that whole row.

Melissa: Energy is absolutely fabulous. And dogs also, they read energy. So if you come into the salon and you’re in a grumpy, nasty mood and your body language is not positive, you just don’t want to work. You don’t want to be there, you don’t want to put forth the effort. Well, you know what, your day is going to get even worse because that energy is transferred right over to those dogs. And so it’s really important to have positive energy and have that great attitude coming in.

Melissa: Not only is your day going to go smoother, but every coworker that you have, their day is going to go smoother and the dogs are gonna respond in a much more favorable way when you’ve got that positive attitude, the positive energy coming into work, and you’re going to get that respect from your coworkers and your customers and also from the dogs. Passion is right in there.

Melissa: I still remember my high school teacher, and I was definitely not the best student. I mean if I was pulling a C average, I was lucky and if it was Spanish, it was something else altogether. But I had a counselor at this little tiny high school that I went to in Colorado, and I’m still in touch with her today and she believed in me so much and she said, “Melissa, when you find what you’re passionate about, nobody is going to be able to stop you.”

Melissa: And so passion is critical. If you want to succeed in your job and in your life, you’ve got to be passionate about what you’re dealing with. And again, it’s just gonna make your life be a lot more fun, a lot more enjoyable. Be coachable. If I sat there and said, “Nope, I know it all. I don’t need to learn anything,” I’m just not gonna get anywhere. And that’s one of the things with this particular industry, with professional pet grooming, you can never know it all. So always stay open, always stay coachable, always think about what you can learn more and be humble at the same time.

Melissa: That’s not on the list, but humble to me is be coachable and be humble and that will gain you respect, hands down, over and over again. Another thing is do something extra, go a little bit more. No one is going to criticize you for doing something a little bit up and beyond what they expected, and that’s what makes people talk about you.

Melissa: With a service space business, if you want to really go far, you want to be able to do something extra to get people talking about you because people don’t talk about boring services, they talk about things that excite them and referrals are the number one way that grooming salons grow. And so you want to do something a little bit extra to get those customers talking. They will love you for it and you will earn the respect.

Melissa: And the last thing on the list of 10 is be prepared. Be prepared for whatever you’re going to be dealing with. If you come skidding into work at the last minute, you’re running late and your workstation isn’t set up. If your stuff isn’t ready to go, you’re not prepared for your day, your day is going to tumble in a downward fashion pretty quickly. And so it really pulls all of the 10 together, is be prepared.

Melissa: If you do these 10 things, you are going to earn the respect of your employer, of your clients, of your boss, all the way around you’re going to earn respect and you will also have respect for yourself. And so I really encourage you to think about these items that absolutely cost zero intake, zero talent to just do.

Selling a Service Equals Selling a Relationship

In this video, Master Groomer and savvy entrepreneur Melissa Verplank discusses the importance of building a trusting relationship with your clientele as the foundation of a thriving salon.

Want more tips on increasing your client retention rate? Check out another article on this topic here.

Would you like to train new staff with Melissa’s curriculum? Check out Paragon’s Salon Distance Learning packages here.

Want access to hundreds of grooming business and technique videos for busy professionals? Visit Learn2GroomDogs.com

Melissa: Hi guys. Melissa here, and today I want to talk to you about what we do every single day, and that’s grooming. And grooming is a service based business, and it’s a little bit different than if you were able to pick up a widget and test it and look at it and try it out, and then make the decision whether you’re going to buy it or not. When we are grooming dogs, we’re selling a service. And a client isn’t going to know whether they like that service or not, most of the time until after you have finished. And so people that are calling us as a professional pet groomer, they are assuming that we’re talented, that we’re skilled, that we’re trained.

Melissa: It’s the same thing if you need to hire an attorney. Unless you have a great referral, you don’t know whether you’re hiring the best attorney for your particular situation. You don’t know when you go to the doctor whether you truly have the best doctor for the situation, whether you’re getting the correct diagnosis for what is ailing you. Taxes, shoot. How do you pick somebody to do your taxes? And if you have a complicated return, how do you know whether somebody is really doing a good job for you? You don’t. You don’t know it until after the fact. And that’s the same thing with dog grooming.

Melissa: Our customers don’t know whether they’re going to get an excellent grooming, or they’re not, until after it is done. But you know the one thing that customers can really tell, and you think about the services that you go to, they can tell whether they feel valued, whether they feel like it’s a good relationship. You just get that gut feeling that you like that person. And clients can tell when phone calls are returned, when they’re treated politely, when their pets are being treated with compassion, they can tell that.

Melissa: And so bottom line, when you’re selling services, you’re basically dealing with a popularity competition. And the winners of that competition are the ones that make those customers feel valued. That is absolutely key with what you’re dealing with. Just remember when clients and prospective clients call to see what you offer, they are going to assume that you know what you’re doing, that you know how to trim their dog the way that they think it should be trimmed. And so it’s really important that you get at least to that first base, and you’re being able to communicate with that customer and make them feel amazing.

Melissa: And you know through years and years of experience, I have found the stylists that have full books sometimes aren’t the most talented stylist. But they are the groomers and the stylists that make that customer feel important. They are the ones that make up with that dog, and that client feels comfortable leaving their beloved little fluffy with you for the day. And so that’s really, really critical, is make that customer feel valued, feel important, and build that trust so that customer keeps coming back to you over and over again.

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, May 8,  and Tuesday, May 9. Check out the Masters’ Agility competition starting on Saturday, May 6 and Sunday, May 7. Visit Westminster for the full schedule to tune-in: https://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/2023-dog-show-info/2023-schedule-of-events

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 http://www.paragonpetschool.com/home-study.

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

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.

Anatomy: The K9 Blueprint

Do you know your croup from your withers? In this video, master groomer Melissa Verplank discusses the vital role of canine anatomy knowledge in successful grooming. Great grooms flow from a solid understanding of the structure and kinetic capabilities of your subject.

Want to bone up on your canine anatomy? Check out Melissa’s definitive Notes from the Grooming Table at the Paragon Pet School bookstore: https://paragonpetschool.com/product/notes-from-the-grooming-table-second-edition/

Want to take a course? Explore your distance learning options at Paragon: https://paragonpetschool.com/home-study/


Melissa: Hi, guys. Melissa here, and today I want to talk to you about the importance of canine anatomy and structure. This is the root or foundation of everything we do in the pet grooming world. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a pure bred dog or whether it is a mixed breed. There is going to be basic structure and basic anatomy that we all need to understand so that we can bring out the best features of the pet or possibly hide some features that may not be that desirable. And you know, when you’re looking at canine structure and canine anatomy, it’s kind of like as groomers, we are the architects of this groom.

Melissa: If you were building a home, and you didn’t have an architect that was formally and professionally trained, more than likely, that house isn’t going to be as sturdy and as strong as what it could be. And so when I look at dealing with dogs, the more you understand about canine structure, about canine anatomy, and also movement, you’re going to be able to do a better job in your everyday pet grooms just by having that knowledge in your head. So I really want you to think about how important it is, because if we don’t have an understanding of canine anatomy and structure, we, number one, aren’t going to be able to work efficiently, and with a harmonious relationship with that pet, because you just don’t understand how they’re put together. And if you don’t understand how they’re put together, then you know, we’ve got to move and manipulate these dogs all through the grooming process. And if you don’t understand what is comfortable for that pet or what’s going to hurt it, you’re going to constantly be at a disadvantage, and you’re not going to win the trust and cooperation of that pet.

Melissa: So understanding canine anatomy just from a working relationship with a pet is really, really critical. But then we’re going to take it another step further. If you don’t understand canine anatomy and canine structure, we’re not going to be able to communicate to one another. Nor are we going to be able to or are you going to be able to set patterns on a dog that’s going to accentuate their best features and detract from less desirable features. And so it’s really important that you’ve got a well-rounded education with canine structure and anatomy.

Melissa: And so when we first start out, what I want people to understand is to think about the dog in almost X-ray vision. I want you to be able to see the bones and how they lay in. I want you to understand that a hip is held in position by a ball and socket, and there’s only going to be certain ways that that hip can move. So that’s going to determine the range of motion when you’re moving that pet, how far you can lift that dog’s leg up to maybe get the sanitary area done. And depending on whether it’s a young dog or an older dog, they’re going to have a different range of motion. So you’ve got to be really, really aware of that.

Melissa: The shoulder is held together with muscles and tendons. But what type of lay back, how should that shoulder fall in on that dog? What’s the perfect structure for that particular dog? You know, every breed of dog was built to do … well, not every breed of dog, but most breeds of dogs had originally had a job to do. And depending on how they’re built will determine how efficient they are at doing that job, whether they are a digging type breed, like a lot of the terriers, and they’re going to ground. Or maybe it’s an arctic dog that was a sled dog originally. They’re going to have a different structure than the terrier is going to have. And that’s … the purebred dog is a man-made creature. And man developed it to help him do the job that it was originally intended for. So every dog is going to be a little bit different. And that’s where those breed standards are going to come in.

Melissa: They’re going to tell you, you know, if it was the perfect dog. How would it be built so that it can do its job? So again, the better you understand that, and it takes time to learn all of this. But when you first start grooming, the minimum I want you to understand is to be able to shut those eyes, shut your eyes and be able to see how those bones lay out so that you know how to move and how to work with that dog. And then the next thing you really need to understand is topographical anatomy. And that’s so we can communicate back and forth.

Melissa: If I say take your clippers from the withers and go to the croup, if you don’t know where the withers are, and you don’t know where the croup is, you’re going to have a hard time doing what I’m telling you to do. So that’s really, really important. Where is the elbow? Where’s the spring of grip? Where’s the upper thigh? Those are all terminologies that we’re going to use when we’re talking and giving direction about how to groom a particular dog. It’s also, you need to be able to get your hands on that dog and literally feel where those underlying bones are and how the muscles are going to play in, because the muscles are the key to setting the patterns.

Melissa: And if you don’t know where those muscles are and how they interrelate with the terminology and the bones, again, you’re going to have a really hard time making that dog be the absolute best it can be. So I want you to be able to tie everything together. From the foundation, you got to understand it, to what may be the finished picture should look like. If it was the perfect world or not, sometimes you’re looking at a matted dog, and you can’t be the sculptor of the fur. You’re not going to be setting patterns. But you still need to understand where those bones and muscles are going to play in, so you can handle that dog, and you can hold it so that it is safe and solid on the table, you’re not going to hurt it. All of those things are really, really critical. So it doesn’t really matter whether you’re doing a #7 All strip, or whether you are doing a contest-style trim, or you’re dealing with just an everyday pet in a low maintenance type trim. The better you understand canine anatomy and canine structure, the easier it’s going to be for you to get through that groom in the least amount of time possible while doing the best job possible.

Too Busy? What Now?

What do you do in a service-based industry like pet grooming when you’re too busy and booking way out? You have two choices: trim your clientele or expand your team. Melissa Verplank shares her secrets for balancing your workload. In this video, she’ll help you weigh the pros and cons of growth. How do you find a great groomer to grow your business? What are the pitfalls of trimming your clientele?

Want to read more about hiring professional groomers? Check out the Melissa Verplank library using this search.

Want to train a promising apprentice? Check out Paragon’s Distance Learning Program, where you can sponsor an employee to get the best pet grooming education available in the industry: Distance Learning


Melissa: Hi guys, Melissa here. Today, I want to talk to you about what is one of the hardest things about running a business. Honestly, the hardest thing about running a business isn’t about grooming the dogs, it isn’t about dealing with customers. The hardest thing about running a business once you start to grow, and that is finding staff. Absolutely, hands down, the hardest part. Not only finding staff, but dealing with staff.

Melissa: If you are finding yourself on that cusp of you’re really, really busy, and you’re questioning, what do you want to do, do you want to grow, do you want to hire help, so that you can service more clientele, or do you just want to scale it back a little bit and just keep it being a one man show? Sometimes, the one man show is a little bit easier to deal with. Only you, only you, know what’s right. What’s right in your heart and what you want to deal with. My advice to you is, if you find yourself just way overbooked, booking clients out so far in advance, that you just can’t get all your customers in, and you’re just basically running out of bandwidth for your own personal self and your family, then it’s time to either scale it back or to hire.

Melissa: If you need it scale it back and you want to do it without having to hire somebody, then one of the easiest ways to reduce your clients is simply by raising your price. That naturally will thin out the number of appointments that you’re going to have. Now, sometimes it won’t fix everything, and there is no way to really thin out your appointment book. It’s always going to be painful, because you’re going to have to use that word no. No is hard. If we’re in the service-based business, if we’re dealing with customers, we want to be that yes person. We want to do it all. We want to handle all the appointments.

Melissa: You get around and you’ve got some experience under your belt, and you know that you just can’t sacrifice yourself for your customers, using the no word is a whole lot easier. Honestly, one of the easiest ways to thin out your appointment book is simply by raising the prices. When you raise your prices, it does a couple things. Melissa: Number one, it gets rid of the lowest clients, not always the lowest, but it gets rid of clients that you just get frustrated to service because maybe the value isn’t there. It also really tells you who truly appreciates what you do for them.

Melissa: When you raise your prices, when you get through the challenging part, what’s left are clients that really appreciate what you do. Those are the best kinds of clients to have.

Melissa: Think about that. If you do want to grow your business through staff, know that finding staff, maintaining staff, and keeping staff happy, and working as a well-oiled machine, there is a lot more to it than just saying, I need help, and bringing somebody in, because at some point, you are going to pour so much of yourself into that team member, because most of the time, when you’re growing your business, you don’t have the systems in place that training them and getting them to understand what you do, and when somebody comes into your business, it’s your business. It’s your reputation that’s on the line.

Melissa: That team member has to be trained up to provide the services that you have built your reputation on. So many staff members just don’t really seem to realize that, it’s your name, that is on the bottom of their check. You are the one who’s calling the shots. In order to have a staff member working with you, or multiple staff members, you’ve got to be the leader, because if you’re not the leader, one of those other team members will be the leader. More than likely, that is not a good situation. That’s where you start running into a lot of issues with morale, with authority.

Melissa: You’ve got to be fair, but very, very firm. You just have to really think deep and hard, whether, not only do you want to deal with the growth of your business, but do you want to handle what comes along with adding staff. Not only do you have the, just emotional part of training that staff member and putting systems into place, and making rules and holding people accountable, but then you’ve also got a lot of the legal kind of stuff that you’ve got to deal with. The taxes, and the workman’s comp, and insurance, and all of those things.

Melissa: Now, a lot of that stuff can be delegated. Don’t let that weigh too heavily on you. You do have to deal with it. Just, before you grow your business, think hard, what you want to do. Do you just want to keep it simple, and do you just want to be that one man show, and just do what you love to do, and focus on the dogs that you are enjoying doing? Or, do you want to grow? Do you want to scale your business?

Melissa: There’s good and bad with both. The only person that is going to be able to answer that question is you. You are the owner of the business. You are the one that gets to make that decision. Think about the opportunities that you have, think about the downfalls that come. There’s always pros and cons with everything that you do. Weigh them out and do what’s right for you.

California Fire Victims Update

From November 16 – December 31, The Paragon School of Pet Grooming took the revenue from a groom a day and donated a total of $1,350 to the California Professional Pet Groomers Association (CPPGA).

Having experienced a devastating fire herself, Melissa Verplank realizes the importance of giving back when able, and challenges The Paragon Team and other business owners to do the same!

Below is a special update from Melissa Verplank on Paragon’s impact on the California Fire Victims:

Melissa: Hi, guys, Melissa here. You know, awhile ago I talked to you about the California wildfires and how devastating that was, not only for everybody involves, but especially the grooming community. There was a group of core folks in California that really pulled together and started raising money to help these guys get back on their feet and put their businesses back together. It was pretty amazing in a very short amount of time how much money they were able to raise for those folks that really really needed some help. And I’ve lived through a fire, and it was a barn fire. And we came out okay with that particular situation, but living through that fire, I know how difficult it can be and sure, insurance came in and ultimately we got a beautiful new barn, but initially, I mean, what we needed just to get ourself back on our feet, all of our horses were fine, but everything that they needed burned in that fire, from the hay, to feed, to lead lines, to halters. Stuff that we needed immediately.

Melissa: As soon as the fire was somewhat under control, we went down to our local TSC, luckily they kept the doors open for us, because I think we were going down just before they closed, and we called and they said they would hold the doors open. So, really a great situation with TSC, but I think we dropped probably $800 just in initial stuff that we needed in 15 or 20 minutes. We had quite a few horses, and we needed a lot of stuff. And so, that’s where this money was coming in for the folks that had situations with a fire where they lost their businesses, they lost all their equipment, they lost everything. They needed so initial finding just to get back up on their feet immediately following those fire.

Melissa: At any rate, the Paragon School, what we started doing, was we took a groom a day and the revenues that we earned from that groom, we put into kind of a kitty. And I just wanted to let you know how that turned out and we’re still donating that money, but this was for the fire situation. We sent off money initially and then, we just kept raising money. From November 16 to December 31, we were able to raise, at the Paragon School, donating just one groom a day, $1,350 and that is going to be heading off to California just to continue to help with that funding to get those folks back on their feet.

Melissa: One of the things that I just said to my team was, “Guys, this was so easy. One dog a day. We’re able to take the revenue that that one, just that single dog generated and put it into a pool that we’re able then to turn around and give back and help somebody who was really really in need.” And I said, “I think we just need to keep doing this.”

Melissa: So, I’m going to challenge all of you that if you’ve got a business that’s going well, what can you do to help somebody who might not be having it go so well. I mean, there’s so many natural disasters that affect businesses in the grooming community. And I said, “Let’s go ahead and just keep it rolling and keep putting that money aside so the next time there’s a crisis that we can go ahead and step up to the plate right away and send that fast check that people need well before the insurance companies will step in to help them get back on their feet.”

Melissa: My challenge to you is do the same thing. Not everybody has a perfect day and life doesn’t always go exactly the way you think you want it to go. And so, I just feel really good about being able to help those people that need a little help to get started before insurance kicks into place when a natural disaster strikes.

Maintaining Mental Control

Melissa: Hey guys, Melissa Verplank here. And I want to talk to you today about one of my time-saving tips, and that is about mental control. You know, when you’re working with dogs, being in control of your mental attitude is so critical. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with a customer, whether you’re dealing with a dog, or whether you’re just dealing with yourself, but you’ve got to be in mental control. And Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” And that phrase and that quote has always resonated with me. And so, the next time that you’re feeling a little out of control, that you’re not totally got your mental capacity totally with you, I want you to stop and take a deep breath, and go, and look at either stepping away from the situation for a moment, or putting it into a more positive light.

Melissa: So, let’s take an example of a day that maybe hasn’t gone quite the way that you would really like it to go. So, when you’ve got a day where, you know, you walk in and you’ve got way more on the roster than what you would really like to have on it … Maybe you’ve got a client with three bichons, and then maybe you’ve got an American cocker that is in pretty tough shape. And then of course, there’s got to get a doodle tossed in there because everybody’s doing doodles these days. Okay, that’s a big job. And then you’ve got a golden retriever, and then you’ve got maybe a lawson, a Shih Tzu. And, there’s just more on your schedule than what you are comfortable with. And you know, whether you think you can get through that day or you think you can’t, you’re right. So, if you go in there and you start worrying, and you start fretting, and you start pointing fingers at somebody because somebody else booked you too many dogs, you’re going to get frustrated. You’re going to lose that mental control.

Melissa: So, what I really encourage you to think about is look at the positives that can come out of that day. You know, you’ve got three bichons, and being able to practice and repetition is always one of the best ways to perfect any skill. So, all of a sudden you got three bichons. You can focus on your scissor work. Or, maybe you’re struggling with heads. And so, you’ve got three opportunities to work on styling that head. You’re going to get through those dogs and move on to the next one. The next one, okay, so it’s that American cocker. It’s going to go short. How long? I mean, it doesn’t take that much to get a five or a seven all on a dog. So put your head down, get through it, and move on to the next one.

Melissa: And maybe the next one is that monster doodle. You know, we’ve all got them these days. But you know what? You’ve got the skills to get through that dog in a relatively short amount of time. And you know, half of it is in the bath and the dry. So, if you’ve perfected your bathing skills, and you’ve perfected your drying skills, by the time that dog comes out into the finished area for this final haircut, you got this, you know? You’re going to be able to utilize your clippers, and your guard combs, and your scissors. And you know what? If you make a blunder somewhere, that’s all right, because that’s where your thinning shears are going to come in. Thinning shears are the pet stylist eraser. So, pull those thinners out, get rid of those mars, and just keep moving on to the next dog.

Melissa: And you know what? If you maintain that positive attitude, maintain that mental control throughout the entire course of the day, you’re going to get through it in no time. So, whether you think you can get through your day or you think you can’t, you’re right. And I certainly encourage you to stay positive and get through it with a smile, because that’s the name of the game.

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