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What is at the Root of All Success?

rrimageEveryone loves do a good job. We like the way it feels to excel and to please other people. For some, doing well is a starting point – they yearn for more.  Do you know the steps and work it takes to go from good to great?

What are your goals? Do you admire today’s top competitive pet stylists? Maybe you have your sights on certification. Do you have a dream of someday becoming a certified master groomer or pet stylist? Maybe you hope to become a member of GroomTeam USA or represent your country in world team competition?

Maybe your aspirations have nothing to do with competitive styling. Maybe your goal is winning the trust and respect of pet owners, turning them into regular clients.

They’re all worthy goals – and guess what? It’s not as hard as you think. There is no complicated recipe. But there is a secret.

Focus on the fundamentals.

Success is all about the fundamentals. The fundamentals are the little things. The ordinary things. And often, they are the tedious things. But to be the best you must master them. You must become a master of those ordinary, everyday tasks. With every act of greatness, whether in sports, business, the arts, or in pet grooming, the best of the best achieve extraordinary feats by doing ordinary things with amazing consistency, commitment, and focus.

c00aa89c0f35c77225dcdc099b7a0f84What are the fundamentals in dog grooming?

It means perfecting the core skills: bathing, drying, brushing, fluffing, and dematting. It’s also clipping, scissoring, as well as understanding basic structure and anatomy. It means having solid and safe handling skills.

As a professional pet groomer and stylist, we get to practice these skills all the time. In fact, many of us practice them every single day. World-class pet stylists don’t master their craft by working every day on perfect dogs with fabulous coats in perfect condition. For many of them, the only time they work on a “perfect dog” is in the ring – and under the pressure of competition. Even then, there is no such thing as a perfect dog. Every dog has its flaws – even the perfect ones.

Top stylists know it takes years of practice with everyday pets to master the fundamentals. Winning doesn’t just happen on the day of the competition. Winning is a result of dedication and hard work. The trophy is a product of training, study, and sacrifice. You cannot earn a high grade in certification testing on testing day, alone. Winning or earning high grades on your practical skills tests starts in every bathtub and on every grooming table, every day. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Typically, it takes years of uncountable numbers of hours of dedication to the craft.

Practice, in itself, is not enough. In order to truly succeed you need to follow this rule: Perfect Practice Makes Perfect. If you are not practicing the fundamentals correctly, you’re wasting your time. Clients will not return if your work is sub-par. Awards will not be given. High test scores will be out of reach.

514_400x400_NoPeelWith so many variables with pet grooming, where do you start? What coaching or training technique should you trust? How do you learn the RIGHT skills?

Start at the ground floor and learn from the masters. The information is out there. You will find it in:

  • magazines
  • books
  • clinics
  • workshops
  • seminars
  • schools
  • trade shows
  • conformation dog shows
  • obedience classes
  • grooming competitions
  • videos
  • blogs

Research online. Talk to vendors and manufacturers. Work with a mentor, a coach, a consultant. Look. Listen. Learn.  But don’t blindly trust everything you find – check references whenever possible. Today, there is a lot of information out there – unfortunately not all of it is good information! Talk to the experts to make sure the material you are learning is correct and safe.

As you learn, take it one small step at a time. Dissect every step. Break it down. For every technique there are micro steps to learn to perfect any skill. Study those micro steps.

stairsStart at the very beginning just like with a long flight of stairs. You start at the bottom, taking one step at a time. Mastering the fundamentals is a lot like a staircase. Jumping ahead or skipping steps will not get you ahead any faster. In fact, missing steps is way more detrimental to a career than staying on course dealing with each step moving up the flight of stairs.

With every step along the way, you are creating a knowledge base. It will continue to grow with your career. It is paramount for any pet professional to have fabulous pet handling skills to build trust with our furry clients while keeping them safe. Another area that is critical to any successful pet groomer or stylist is learning the finer details of structure and anatomy.

The key is to focus on improving each day, taking the necessary steps. If you incrementally improve each day, each week, each month, each quarter – by the end of the year you will see remarkable results and growth. Over time, by committing to this process, the best develop their skills and enhance their performance as they strive for excellence and achieving perfect execution.

If you want to be at the very top of your game, to become one of the best professional pet groomers/stylists in your town, in your state, in your country, you need to practice perfect fundamentals. Every. Single. Day. You don’t need to have perfect pets to make this happen. Grooming everyday pets offers an abundant opportunity to practice the fundamentals.

Your success doesn’t necessarily mean winning the award or scoring a high grade. Sometimes success means having a full appointment book with happy customers. That’s what truly makes a successful grooming business.

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

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa


How to be an Indispensable Groomer’s Assistant

Wallpapersxl Dog The Wet Hq For 695583 1366x768It always shocks me when a competitor or a workshop participant presents me with a DIRTY DOG for evaluation. A dirty dog?! No joke – it happens all the time.

Nails are not trimmed correctly.Coats are not dried properly or completely.

…or worse yet, there are still mats and tangles left in the coat.

It’s not good grooming but I see all the time. Not only in the ring or at hands-on events, but in salons, too.

To me, bathing and drying are the most critical parts of any groom. One bather can make or break your entire grooming department.

Here are 7 skills I look for in an indispensable groomers’ assistant (AKA the bather!) All 7 of these skills must be MASTERED if you want to be highly valued in your grooming salon, if you want to move ahead in your career, or before you can gather loads of glowing clients.

1Be able to identify popular breeds

Anybody working professionally with pets needs to be able to identify the top 15 or 20 breeds that regularly come into your salon. It’s the fastest way for groomers to be able to communicate to one another.

2Be able to handle pets safely and compassionately

How many times have you heard others (or maybe even yourself) say, “This dog is driving me nuts!” Impatient treatment of a pet is never acceptable. If you lose control, you can bet that you won’t have clients for long. Being able to understand canine body language is job requirement #1. If you are going to win the pet’s trust and cooperation, you must be able to speak its language. It will keep you and the pet safe. It will also make the entire experience much more enjoyable for all parties.

3Understand the many different coat types found on individual pets

Each coat type has special needs that need to be addressed in the bathing and drying process to get the best results. A Beagle has different bathing and drying needs than a Standard Poodle. The same holds true with a coat on a Golden Retriever or an Airedale Terrier. A talented bather will instantly be able to identify dogs that possess simple coats or dogs that are going to be time-consuming and a challenge.

4Bathe the dogs until their coats squeak

If they don’t squeak, they are not clean.

Period.

This is the foundation of every fabulous grooming job. I cannot stress its importance enough. There are many products on the market to help achieve superior results in only one or two baths. Even if you use the best shampoos on the market, the dog will not get squeaky clean unless they are rinsed thoroughly. Rinse until the water runs clear and you hear the “squeak” when you push the water through the coat. And not just the easy to see or reach parts. Get soap and water to the undercarriage, under the ears, and the special parts. If the whole dog isn’t clean – it’s still dirty. Nothing wastes time or money more than having to re-bathe a dog because you didn’t do the job right the first time. There’s an old saying: if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? Get it right the first time.

5Dry the coat to perfection

Most of the time, this will mean utilizing a form of active drying. There are several drying methods and combinations to choose from, based on the coat type, trim, and the pets’ tolerance. Incorrect techniques or careless attention to drying will waste more time than almost anything else in the grooming process. In most cases, high velocity and stretch (or fluff) drying techniques will need to be used to get superior results. Oh, and the pet needs to be bone dry too!

6Learn efficient and SAFE brushing techniques

Systematic brushing is the only way to effectively work through a coat and get right down to the skin. Selecting the correct tool for the coat type will be important. Knowing how to hold the tool along and how much pressure to exert is also important. Not enough pressure and you will not be efficient. Too much pressure and you’re going to make the pet uncomfortable and could cause injury. The key is to work methodically and gently over the entire dog – right down to the skin until a wide tooth comb can easily be pulled through the fur.

7Nails, ears, and glands

Trimming nails and cleaning ears is just an automatic process when it comes to grooming pets. If it is not done – or not done well – it’s considered sloppy. Clients don’t want to spend their hard-earned money on sloppy work. Stylists executing haircuts should not have to go back and double-check this type of preliminary pre-work. Some salons routinely check and/or express anal glands. Whatever your salon option is, you should follow their guidelines.

Being a bather – or being a groomers’ assistant – can be extremely rewarding. However, it does carry a lot of responsibility. Many of these skills are considered the foundation of all grooming.

Remember: every owner faces a choice when it comes to grooming. They can come to you, do the job themselves, not have the pet groomed all… or go down the road to someone else. Make sure they make the right choice by sticking with you.

What do you look for in a great groomer assistant? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa


Salvage Work

Many of us are seeing a lot of pets that are ready for a great makeover.  With that in mind, I thought it was the perfect time to revisit my blog on salvage work.

As many of you know, I’m a big dog person.  Working on these large furry dogs that have a huge shedding problem is one of my favorite things to do in a grooming salon.  I know, I know, call me crazy – but I just love seeing the transformation in this type of job.  Over the years I’ve gotten really quick with the process and rarely cringe, no matter what the size of the dog, nor the condition – I see it as a fun challenge!

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

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

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

Prepare your bathing area.  If the dog is exceptionally dirty, use a shampoo especially designed for dirty dogs.  Using a follow-up treatment of a skin and coat conditioner after bathing twice (or maybe three times in some areas) will assist with the brush out and dead coat removal during the drying process.  Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need to aid in getting the dog clean like rubber curries or scrub brushes.  And make sure you have plenty of towels handy.  To see my video lesson on salvage work at Learn2GroomDogs.com, click here.

K9IIIVS-LGMy favorite trick when working with this type of job is to bring my high velocity dryer right into the bathing area (bring your eye and ear protection, too!).  With the dog fully lathered, blow the shampoo right off the pets while they are tethered in the tub.  The slippery soap will allow the dirt, loose coat, and tangles slide out, being trapped in the shampoo and sticking to the back wall of the tub, minimizing the mess.  Not all the shedding coat or mats will be removed but a lot will, making your job easier once you transfer to the drying table.  Once you have blown out the pet,follow up with the rinsing process.  Repeat this process as many times as necessary to get the dog “squeaky clean.”Once the pet is clean and thoroughly rinsed, apply a skin and coat conditioning treatment before heading to the drying table.  Read your directions: some conditioning treatments need to be rinsed out while others do not.  Your high velocity dryer and a heavy slicker brush will be your best friends during the drying process.

Rule # 2: Be Methodical and Thorough

First, blow out as much moisture and loose coat at possible with the air flow.  Use the highest power setting the pet is comfortable with, and a condenser cone.  Once you have pushed as much water and loose fur from the pet, remove the condenser cone, and bring the air flow close to the pet’s skin.  “Boost” any loose coat out of the dog by lightly patting the area where the air is striking the skin with a slicker brush.

Continue to work over the dog in a methodical manner until your brush glides through the coat easily and no more loose coat is trapped in the brush.

Rule #3 – ENJOY!

When the dog is complete, it should smell clean and fresh.  The coat should be glossy and float freely as the dog moves.  There should be an irresistible desire to reach down and bury your hands in a freshly groomed pet.

What are your best methods? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa


Production Bathing & Drying

production-blogPet bathing and drying seems to be a huge time challenge for many professionals. Many of you are all overflowing with pets to bathe during the summer season. I thought this would be a great time to review my time-tested “game.” I loved to play this game whether it was with 8 or 80 dogs a day! I’ve done it both ways and every number in-between over the years.

If you are one of those high volume shops doing 40 – 70 or more pets per day…  that’s a lot of toenail trimming no matter how you look at it!! How can you get more done in less time while not letting the quality of the work suffer? Here’s my method –  it’s a fast paced game with lots of variables to mix it up every day. After all, whoever thought pet grooming was going to be a boring job?

It’s not a mystery but it is like cooking a meal. The larger and more extravagant the meal (with multiple dishes being served), the more complicated the timing and the choices get to be. With a few dogs, it’s pretty simple – the choices are limited. Add more dogs and the variables increase.  Move to a full-blown shop pushing through 50+ dogs and you have something like a full force, successful restaurant that is managed by an experienced head chef.  OK, so how do you manage your bathing and drying roster so all the pets are done to the highest degree of quality and proficiency, just like getting multiple dishes to the table all done to perfection and hot?

The Three Basic Rules & Guidelines to Follow

1Review all the dogs on your roster for that day or session. This game works best when you have multiple pets arriving at one time so you can stagger them according to coat type, size, and degree of difficulty.

2Do your largest and furriest dog first. Something that can be bathed and then lightly high velocity dried to lift and separate the fur. By spending a few minutes with the high velocity dryer on each pet, it allows a clear view of any special needs of that animal while enhancing airflow to the coat once it is placed in an inactive drying situation. Bathe and set up the coat on all the bath and brush pets first, starting with the largest and most time-consuming dogs, working down the line of difficulty to the least difficult of the bath and brush pets. Once all the bath and brush pets are bathed, then proceed with dogs that need active drying to yield the best results

3Your goal on all trim dogs is not only to get the pet clean, but the coat needs to be tangle free and as straight as possible for the finished trim. After all the B&B pets are bathed, start washing your trim dogs. Start with the pet that has the heaviest and straightest coat – something that can sit for a few minutes while you bathe your other haircut pets without risking the coat drying before you get to an active drying method. Let the pet sit in a warm place wrapped in a towel. Proceed washing the next pet based on size, coat density and curl factor – less curl hits the tub before a curly coat – curly coats such as Bichons or Poodles go to the tub last. Once all the trim pets are bathed, start drying. The first pet up on the drying table should be the one that has the curliest, but lightest coat since that coat type will dry the quickest. If the coat dries before an active form of drying can take place while the coat is still damp, it will be impossible to remove the curl unless you re-wet the pet. Once the curliest coats have been fluffed dried so they are absolutely straight, move to the next kinkiest or wavy coat type – also weigh in the coat density factor. A lighter or shorter coat will need to go before a heavier or longer coats. A typical example would be that you have two dogs of equal size and similar haircuts like a 1 guard on the body and a fuller leg style. One dog is a Lhasa and the other is a Maltese/Shih Tzu mix. Normally the Maltese cross would have a lighter density of coat than the Lhasa, thus the Maltese mix gets dried before the Lhasa. Continue this process moving from the curliest coats down the line. The key is to get to a coat before it is dry so the heat of the dryer can straighten the fur out. Remember, the goal is always to have a straight, fluffy, mat free coat to finish. Curls and kinks in the fur make it impossible to execute a trim that is smooth and sleek. If a coat gets too dry, it must be re-wetted and the drying process started over.

????????There are many variations to how this game gets played out to be effective. It is what makes a day interesting to a professional pet stylist. The better you get at this game, the faster you will be able to get through multiple pets without sacrificing quality. Think about what we do in the terms of food. An average home cook should be able to get 2-3 dishes on the table at the same time. A first-class home cook should be able to handle a meal with 4-5 dishes and at least 6 people. Seasoned home entertainers can handle an elaborate holiday meal for 20 with ease. A professional chef will master an entire shift serving over a 100 meals and all their side dishes with it all arriving to the table hot and beautifully prepared.

How far can you push yourself – before you get lost in the order of bathing pets? Test yourself and see how you do. It’s a fun game that can be challenging yet really invigorating. The more dogs, the more fun, and reward when it goes smoothly!

What are your best methods? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa


4 Reasons Why You Need the Updated AKC Complete Dog Book

Have you seen the new American Kennel Club Complete Dog Book? It’s mammoth! When I grabbed mine, I questioned if I needed a roller cart just to carry it. (Just kidding… but the thought crossed my mind!)

I have been purchasing AKC Complete Dog Books since I first started my career almost 35 years ago. With each edition, the number of pages has increased. Breeds have been added. The covers have been yellow, red, green, and blue. Other than that, few major modifications had been made within the pages of the book.

That’s all changed.

The new AKC Book has been fully reformatted and published in full color! Even the hard cover of the book has a stunning image of a dog on it!

This latest edition features:

  • Official standards for every AKC-recognized breed
  • All the newest breeds accepted into the AKC
  • Seven varieties : Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding Groups – plus the Miscellaneous Class
  • Freshly written breed histories
  • Breed overviews created by the parent club of each breed
  • Over 800 color photos showcasing young and mature dogs (good photos too!)
  • The year the breed was recognized by the AKC
  • Name and website of every AKC recognized parent club
  • Enlightening personality traits and maintenance of each breed
  • Overview of the American Kennel Club itself
  • Images and descriptions of canine anatomy
  • Glossary of canine terminology
  • Information that potential dog owners need to know when selecting a quality puppy
  • The Sport of Dogs: an outline of sports, competitions, and events held for the purebred dog

It’s been almost nine years since the last edition was published and quite a bit has happened during that time. There have been approximately 50 new breeds recognized. A few of the standards have been modified. Plus, the AKC has a number of new events and programs that are spotlighted in this new addition.

Weighing in at over 5 pounds, the 912-pages are filled with profiles of all 200 AKC breeds, which boast four or more pages on each. After years of seeing only black and white images, it’s refreshing to see each breed showcased in color. Even though the book is huge, the layout of the breed groups is well done and easy to digest.

Content from previous editions has been removed. I miss the information that was in the previous book(s) on what constitutes a healthy dog, basic nutrition, common illnesses, and simple first aid – but there are plenty of books about that – and this one is hefty enough already!

So, as a pet groomer/stylist – why do you need this massive book taking up space on your bookshelf?

1) Breed Identification

To me, being a “professional” means you are can identify your subject matter. Breed Identification is an elementary skill we all need when it comes to professional pet grooming. If you can’t instantly visualize a breed of dog as you speak to a prospective client on the phone, you can’t even begin to address their needs or questions about the services you can offer to groom their pet.

2) Terminology

Every field has its own language. It’s the parlance of the industry. You need to learn it. Embrace it. Use it. It’s just like learning any new language. If you immerse yourself in the culture and apply yourself, you will learn it out of necessity. Learning the language of dogdom is critical to your success in any aspect of working professionally with dogs.

3) Comprehension of the Breed Standard

Every purebred breed has a written ideal standard. It describes what the “perfect” specimen would look like – if it existed. You need to be able to read that standard and understand it. That takes work. It takes study. But if you can’t understand what makes up the “ideal” breed, you will never be able to do justice to any purebred dog and make it fit the breed profile.

4) Knowledge of Your Subject Matter

Every breed was developed for a purpose. They all have individual personality traits. They all have unique physical characteristics that set them apart from other breeds. In the world of the purebred dogs, there is a bounty of information. The more you know about a breed’s history, what its original function was, and what it is like to live with a particular breed, the stronger your professional presence will become.

For those of us “in dogs” this is definitely a book to add to your professional reference collection.

It has been a long time since the last edition. With the AKC approving new breeds at a breakneck pace, it is nice to have an up-to-date (at least for the moment) reference. The AKC Complete Dog Book is the foundation of all great pet groomers and stylists. In comprehensive grooming schools around the country, it is the groundwork for the curriculum. It is at the root of every grooming competition. It is the foundation of every voluntary grooming certification program.

If you take your career seriously, and I hope you do, this is a professional reference guide you cannot be without. If you have an old edition of the AKC Complete Dog Book – fabulous. However, I encourage you to invest in yourself by getting the latest copy of this amazing reference manual.

How often do you refer to the AKC book? Do you use it at all? Why or why not? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


3 Things You Need to Know to Groom Any Breed

What Do You Do When You Have to Groom an Unfamiliar Breed?

A client calls stating they own a breed that you have never groomed before. You’ve seen it at dog shows but have never had an opportunity to groom one. Or maybe you’ve never even heard of or seen the breed before.

The conversation goes something like this:

“I have a Bedlington*. Do you know how to groom them correctly?”

 “Why yes, Mrs. Jones,” you say with confidence. “We certainly can make your Bedlington look like a Bedlington!”

You book the appointment for the following day, but once you get off the phone, panic sets in. You’ve never seen this type of dog cross your grooming table. You don’t have a clue as to how to actually groom it correctly. What do you do?

The first thing I would tell you is – don’t panic!

Here are three core strengths you need to have in order to groom any dog breed.

  1. Strong technical skills – If your clipping, guard comb work, scissoring, blending, and basic hand stripping skills are good, you should be able handle this without much of a problem.
  2. A solid understanding of canine anatomy – If you understand that bones and muscles create a sound dog, it becomes even easier.
  3. Know how to translate a breed standard – If you can interpret the written breed standard into a visual – you are golden.

So what’s next? How are you going to be confident when that client walks in the door tomorrow?

Your next step is to look up the breed in reference books. If you have an American Kennel Club (AKC) Complete Dog Book (or a similar book from your country), start there. This will give you the official breed standard. Review the breed profile. Read about the history of the dog to gather clues about the dog. After a quick scan, you will have a good idea of the size, temperament, structure, and coat type of this new dog. Most will also have photos that accompany each breed. If you don’t have an official breed standard book handy, you can always look it up online.

Once you have become familiar with the breed itself, take a look at your grooming books. Review the instructions. Compare the instructions to what you have read in the breed standard.

The Internet is an invaluable research tool. Use it wisely. Most breeds will have a parent club that hosts an official site for the breed. Spend a few minutes reviewing images of top winning dogs in their galleries. With a little luck, you may even find grooming directions or links to grooming directions from dedicated breeders.

As groomers and stylists, we are a visual bunch. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. This is so true for us. I love to do Google image searches of breeds I’m not familiar with. Here’s a key to finding good images. When you enter the words in the search bar, add words like this: AKC Champion Bedlington Terrier or UKC Champion Fresian Water Dog. There is a big difference if you type into your search engine, “images of Miniature Schnauzers” verses “images of AKC Champion Miniature Schnauzers.” You will pull up a WIDE assortment of images. Some will be great. Others not so great. Some will be worthless. And others will be totally off the mark. You need to have enough knowledge to filter through the images, finding the best images to suit your needs.

Use a little caution when looking up information online. Always remember – not everything posted on the internet is correct or presents the best image of a breed. Make sure you use all your resources to gather the most accurate information possible.

Watching videos on the breed in question is also a great option. Again, a word of caution – not every ‘how to video’ on the internet will be beneficial. Today, anyone can post a video online. Unfortunately, there is a lot of poor quality grooming being featured – especially if it is free. Go to trusted sources that are truly qualified to demonstrate how to groom a particular breed.

Yes, you need to do a little research. Will it require a little effort? Yep.

As pet groomers and stylists, we get to see plenty of dogs. It’s rare and exciting to get a breed you are not familiar with. Most of us pros enjoy the challenge of learning about a new breed. Figuring out what we will need to do to make the dog look like it should – or could – look like if the owners allow you to groom it correctly.

I know, I know… Many owners just want the hair shaved off their dogs once they walk through your door. If the dog is in poor condition, the only humane option is to shave the coat off and start over. That’s always a disappointment once you’ve put in effort to educate yourself. But hopefully, the new client spurred you to learn few new things you can add to your knowledge toolbox even if you didn’t get to execute the trim!

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

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

 

*insert random breed here

Why Get Certified?

Anybody that knows me knows that I’m a huge advocate of continuing education for professional pet groomers and stylists. I firmly believe there are no limitations on how far advanced training can take your career.

Just like anything else, if you want to excel at it, you need to work at it. Remain focused. Have a goal. Have a plan mapped out to reach the target. Get that plan on paper. Then, just do it.

In our profession there is very little regulation or mandatory testing. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is. Anybody can pick up a pair of clippers or scissors and start whacking hair off of a dog and call themselves a professional pet groomer the second they take money for it. They don’t even need to have any type of formal training. Heck, they don’t even have to like dogs that much!

And we wonder why this profession is not taken seriously?

8296567-standardrrWhen I first started working with pets, I’m sure my parents thought it would just be “a phase.” They were positive I would go on to college and get a “real job” once I graduated. Ha! Little did they know I had my sights totally focused on a pet-centered career.

My career started just about the same time one of the first voluntary certification organizations was launched in the late 70’s or early 80’s. I had no formal training. The groomer at the kennel that I was working at in my late teens was fired. The next day I became the groomer – with six dogs on my roster – and no clue how to groom them. It was truly on-the-job training!

Well, I got through that first day. I got through the next weeks and months. I actually enjoyed it.

Did my early attempts at grooming look good? Not a chance. I had a few photos of my early work. You don’t take pictures of dogs that you are not proud of. As I look at those photos today I’m horrified!! High water Poodle feet. #15 blades on the backs of English Cockers. Schnauzers with hourglass head styles. Razor sharp lines on Sporting breeds and Terriers. Hula skirts. Oh my…

I was fortunate. The woman that owned the kennel was pretty progressive for the time period. She got the trade magazines of the era and never threw them out. They were neatly organized on the shelves in the storage room. Whenever had an opportunity, I would sneak off and thumb through those magazines behind closed doors. I felt like I was thumbing through Playgirl! What an education.

UntitledIt did not take me long to realize that there were tradeshows with grooming competitions that I could attend. The closest one was in Chicago – right in my backyard!

I also learned that there was a new organization being formed – one of the first certification testing programs. I had no idea what it entailed but I knew I wanted to do it. After all, I was doing a fabulous job on all the dogs that were coming in! My customers kept coming back. Clients loved my work. I was fabulous. I knew passing a grooming test was going to be a breeze.

NDGAA

National Dog Groomers Association of America, Inc. (NDGAA)

Then reality set in. I got all the information available about voluntary certification testing. This was not a single test. Oh no. This involved multiple tests that were both written and practical – on multiple types of dogs – using many different techniques. The study material? It wasn’t even a grooming guide…

It was the daunting (and huge) AKC Complete Dog Book!

This was going to be a challenge. Luckily, I like challenges. I dug in and set to work studying. I also realized I was going to need some hands-on help. I signed up for a hands-on certification testing workshop.

The first workshop was an eye-opener. I wasn’t going to be able to just waltz in, do the testing, and succeed. Far from it.

 

IPG_Logo_Correct

International Professional Groomers, Inc. (IPG)

At that workshop, I had my grooming skills critiqued for the first time. I was able to compare my work, up close, to other professional groomers. I had to swallow my pride. I was way off base. My work was horrible and I knew it. But instead of getting angry or frustrated or tucking tail and running the other way, I was inspired. I wanted to become a Certified Master Groomer more than ever. But to earn it, I was going to have to work hard for it – very, very hard.

300rrIf I remember correctly, it took me two to three years before I earned my Certified Master Groomer status. By that time I had started my own company, Four Paws Mobile Grooming. I was in my early 20’s and hiring my first employees. My reasons for certification testing changed. As an employer, I needed to have industry knowledge and respect of my staff. Certification testing was one way to do it.

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International Society of Canine Cosmetologists (ISCC)

At the time, I was clueless at how much certification testing would help me. In my gut, I just knew it would be beneficial. Today, I realize certification testing was the launching pad of my career. It opened up countless doors of opportunity. It gave me the confidence to take charge of my own destiny. It allowed me to travel the globe both as a competitor and an educator. I’ve had the chance to work with amazingly talented people. I have never felt like I was stuck in a rut with my career choice.

It also taught me that I will never totally master my trade. There will always be new things to learn – new challenges to conquer. The doors of opportunity will continue to open as I learn new skills. The saying, “The more you learn the more you earn,” is so true.

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PetTech (CPR and First Aid for Pets)

Today there are many voluntary certification organizations that put your skills to the test. I would encourage anyone to seek them out and go through the training.

There are many more voluntary testing organizations available. Whether you are seeking to learn more about pet handling, first aid, obedience – and so much more – there is something out there for everyone.  Be sure to check with trusted sources to be sure that the organization you’ve found is reputable and qualified.

Why would you want to do this? The reasons are almost countless but there is not a single reason not to go through the educational and testing process!

Here is a short list of the benefits:

  • Become more knowledgeable
  • Improve your skills
  • Advance your career
  • Increase confidence and self esteem
  • Verification of your skills
  • Increase your earning potential
  • Gain respect from your peers
  • Increase your professional credibility

Even if you are in a small town and deal primarily with shave-downs, seeking out certification testing will only enhance your career. Who knows, if you get a little advanced training, the next shave-down could turn into a stylized haircut!

Remember, there are no limitations on how far you can advance your career by continuing your training. You just have to put your mind to it and do it!

We’d love to hear why YOU got certified. Please jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us why you feel certification testing is important. Don’t forget to tell everyone which organization(s) you are certified with!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

P.S.

1696Did you know that Learn2GroomDogs.com Training Partner, Michell Evans is one of the very few stylists to be certified with all three voluntary certification organizations?

Click here to find out why she thinks certification is so important.


Salvage Work

Spring is edging closer – and not a moment too soon!  Many of us will be seeing a lot of pets that are ready for a great makeover in the coming weeks.  With that in mind, I thought it was the perfect time to revisit my blog on salvage work.

As many of you know, I’m a big dog person.  Working on these large furry dogs that have a huge shedding problem is one of my favorite things to do in a grooming salon.  I know, I know, call me crazy – but I just love seeing the transformation in this type of job.  Over the years I’ve gotten really quick with the process and rarely cringe, no matter what the size of the dog, nor the condition – I see it as a fun challenge!

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

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

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

indexPrepare your bathing area.  If the dog is exceptionally dirty, use the shampoo especially designed for dirty dogs.  Using a follow-up treatment of a skin and coat conditioner after bathing twice (or maybe three times in some areas) will assist with the brush out and dead coat removal during the drying process.  Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need to aid in getting the dog clean like rubber curries or scrub brushes.  And make sure you have plenty of towels handy.  To see my video lesson on salvage work at Learn2GroomDogs.com, click here.

My favorite trick when working with this type of job is to bring my high velocity dryer right into the bathing area.  With the dog fully lathered, blow the shampoo right off the pets while they are tethered in the tub.  The slippery soap will allow the dirt, loose coat, and tangles slide out, being trapped in the shampoo and sticking to the back wall of the tub, minimizing the mess.  Not all the shedding coat or mats will be removed but a lot will, making your job easier once you transfer to the drying table.  Once you have blown out the pet, follow up with the rinsing process.  Repeat this process as many times as necessary to get the dog “squeaky clean.”

Once the pet is clean and thoroughly rinsed, apply a skin and coat conditioning treatment before heading to the drying table.  Read your directions: some conditioning treatments need to be rinsed out while others do not.  Your high velocity dryer and a heavy slicker brush will be your best friends during the drying process.

Rule # 2: Be Methodical and Thorough

First, blow out as much moisture and loose coat at possible with the air flow.  Use the highest power setting the pet is comfortable with, and a condenser cone.  Once you have pushed as much water and loose fur from the pet, remove the condenser cone, and bring the air flow close to the pet’s skin.  “Boost” any loose coat out of the dog by lightly patting the area where the air is striking the skin with a slicker brush.

Continue to work over the dog in a methodical manner until your brush glides through the coat easily and no more loose coat is trapped in the brush.

Rule #3 – ENJOY!

When the dog is complete, it should smell clean and fresh.  The coat should be glossy and float freely as the dog moves.  There should be an irresistible desire to reach down and bury your hands in a freshly groomed pet.

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa

If you’d like to see more on this topic, click here.


7 Qualities of High Quality Pet Stylists

blog photoI’ve been working within the pet grooming industry for a very long time. Frightfully, probably long before many of you were even born. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by top end pet stylists, especially in the past 5 years being on the film set of Learn2GroomDogs.com. All of our 40+ Training Partners are at the top of their game. They are simply some of the best professional pet stylists in the world.

As I work beside these talented stylists, I’ve seen a few very common threads. Outstanding pet stylists are tenacious. They push themselves constantly by developing a deeper understanding of the grooming process:

  • any type of dog (or cat)
  • with any coat type
  • of any size
  • using any technique

Then add in:

  • many times the pets are in poor condition
  • the pets often have a less than perfect temperament and the stylists still get the job done well

These exceptional pet stylists don’t entertain frustration. They have the ability to see through the dirty, messy mound of fur. They see the potential of what could be. With their ever growing set of skills, they see beauty Blog quoteof what the finished product could be – not what is on the grooming table before the process begins (for more on this topic, read my blog, Begin with the End in Mind). They feel the creative challenge calling their name. The only question left in their minds is not IF they can do it – but HOW they will accomplish the task in a safe and comfortable manner for the pet.

Here are seven qualities I’ve seen in almost all high-quality pet stylists:

  • Appreciation of Knowledge

High-quality pet stylists know, the more you learn – the more you want to learn and the more you will earn. Building a strong foundation of knowledge insures that you will always do the best work possible. As your knowledge base improves, you will immediately be able to apply that knowledge to every pet you groom. Even if it’s a #7 shave off, a knowledgeable pet stylist will always try to improve the dog’s appeal. They draw upon a vast array of learning experiences to complete a task – and most of it is not learned in school!

  • Value High Quality Products & Tools

High-quality pet stylists know their products and tools will make or break them. If the shampoo does not leave the coat squeaky clean, you will never get a quality finish on the coat. Coats need to be dried with the correct type of dryer using the correct method for optimum coat preparation. It’s impossible to produce a velvet finish with dull blades or shears. It does not matter what product or tool we are discussing. High-quality pet stylists know they need to invest in the best. Period.

  • Firmly Understand Time is Money

High-quality pet stylists know time is money. There are always options for the pet based on the condition of the coat, the pet’s temperament, the amount of time you have on your schedule, and the amount of money the client is willing to spend. High-quality pet stylists instantly know how to weigh out the variables and select the best option.

  • Self Confidence

High-quality pet stylists are confident in their abilities. Yet, at the same token they are humble. Even though they’re highly confident they know there is still room for personal growth. They freely share their knowledge with others while they continue to build their skills to an even higher level.

  • Understand Canine and/or Feline Psychology

High-quality pet stylists are keen observers. They understand canine and feline body language. Animals are pretty transparent when it comes to their behavior. There are always clues to an animal’s behavior, even if it is subtle. A high-quality pet stylist will always try to gain the trust and understanding of the pet they are working on.

  • Compassion for the Pet

High-quality pet stylists are compassionate to the needs of the pet. They understand each pet is an individual. They all have different tolerances to standard grooming and practices. High-quality pet stylists will always live by the Golden Rule – maintaining a calm, cool, and collected composure at all times.

  • Always Push to Improve

High-quality pet stylists always push themselves to improve. Once they have mastered one technique, one skill, one breed, they always know there’s more to learn just around the corner. Learning and improving is a never ending journey.

Outstanding pet stylists are humble, talented, practical, and passionate – sincere with exceptional character. They go after the goal of being the best they can be and they don’t give up. For them, there is always room for improvement. They raise the bar for themselves and set new and better standards for our industry.

What skills would you like to hone to become the best you can possibly be?

Happy Trimming!

-Melissa


Introducing the ALL NEW Learn2Groomdogs.com Website!

It’s a new look – AND MORE!

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In 2010, we were thrilled to announce the launch of Learn2GroomDogs.com. It was something brand new to the pet grooming industry – an online library that streamed videos right to your computer, phone, or device. We opened our cyber doors with 60 videos and were thrilled with the response from professional and amateur groomers, alike.

Fast forward four years later and Learn2GroomDogs.com has over 500 videos – and we’re still growing!

Now we invite you to see our biggest surprise, yet… our brand new, completely reconstructed website with amazing features created just for you!

It’s beautiful and easy to use!

We wanted you to love looking at the site. It needed to be fresh and inviting, with crisp colors and beautiful photos.

The layout needed to be fun and functional with a logical format so you can navigate easily.

We wanted all of our information to be fun as well as informative. You’re our guests, so to make you feel more welcome, we loosened up a little and had some fun. We think you’ll like our new style!

Wait until you see our new Search feature!

s2We know how hard it was to find what you needed, so we really dug deep to make this the best feature. We’re thrilled with the capabilities of our new site. e

Search by Category

Choose from a wide variety of search items, including: video length, topic, and dog group.

Search by Expert

Find your favorite Training Partners – Melissa Verplank, Lisa Leady, Lindsey Dicken, and many more!

Search by Breed

Looking for Bichons? Poodles? Terriers? How about mixed breeds? We’ve got them!

… and because sometimes you just need to browse to find what you’re looking for, we’ve made that easier, too! Just type in a keyword to look around.

There are so many ways to find what you need!

Try it for yourself!

There is so much more to see and experience – it’s impossible to tell you about everything.  Try it and see for yourself. You’re going to love the new Learn2GroomDogs.com!

Coming to you in January 2015!


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