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Time = Money in a Pet Grooming Salon

blog imagerrTime is money in our business. Sure, we love pets. I don’t know anyone who gets involved in this career who isn’t passionate about animals. Still – time is money. And in this fast paced world, it never seems any of us have enough of either!

My goal is always to turn a small to medium-sized pet in an hour or less; bathe, dry, haircut, and/or finish-work on a bath and brush style pet.

If you are not turning at least a dog an hour, you have an issue somewhere in your routine.

Here are some ideas/methods that allow seasoned pet professionals to hit that goal. Take a read and see if you can identify ideas you can try to help increase your speed in the grooming department. The times given are for small to medium-sized pets.

Prep-Work: 5 – 15 minutes

  • Get the dog to the tub as quickly as possible. In the case of a 6 week or less small pet, 5 minutes would be enough time to do the nails, ears, and privates.
  • On a six-week or more pet, you may take up to 15 minutes to do the prep work. Quickly knock off the bulk of the coat to minimize wash and dry time. But still, no more than 15 minutes.
  • Leave loose matting alone. Soap, lather, conditioners, and high velocity dryers are magic on a clean coat. It will be much easier to remove in the bath and blow out stage.
  • If water cannot penetrate the mat or tangled coat, it needs to be removed prior to bathing.
  • Notice trouble areas whether it be dirt, oil, or matting. Pay attention to those areas when you move through the grooming process and handle them when it would be most effective.

Bathing Time: 5 – 10 minutes

  • Let gravity do the work when wetting a dog down. For smaller dogs, stand them up and let the water run from their shoulders.
  • Don’t worry about getting them TOTALLY soaked if you dilute your shampoo. Diluting shampoo allows for the water to act as a distributing agent of the shampoo, allowing for even saturation.
  • If you are working with a shampoo dilution ratio of 15:1 or more – skip wetting the dog down all together prior to applying shampoo. Just apply the shampoo and water together at the same time.
  • Apply shampoo in the same order, every time. Let gravity do the work. Start at the back, down the legs, under the tail, ears, and face.
  • Use a scrub brush or a rubber curry on very dirty dogs . This works well in exceptionally dirty areas to enhance speed, thoroughness, and ease of cleaning.
  • If washing twice, don’t worry about getting every trace of shampoo from the coat on the first rinse, only enough to remove the bulk of the dirt build-up.
  • If dealing with exceptionally dirty areas, let ‘em soak a bit before you handle them. Coated faces often have hardened food in them. Tackling them before the food has time to soften causes you too much work and discomfort for the pet. Use a bristled brush, toothbrush, or even a slicker brush for really tough, stuck in food particles.
  • If dealing with major mats, utilize a slicker brush in the tub. Just be sure to protect the skin while brushing through the matted coat. The shampoo will aid in making the coat slippery, much like getting a stubborn ring off a finger.
  • Use the correct shampoo for the job, especially in the “problem areas.”
  • Utilize some sort of squeegee to aid in the speedy and thorough removal of shampoo.
  • If the coat does not feel “squeaky clean,” it’s not rinsed well enough. Double check the area for soap residue or cleanness. Unclean coats appear oily when dry and will never allow for a quality finish in the final product. Soap residue can also lead to skin irritation.
  • Have a routine that you use to wash every dog and follow it every time. Repeating the same method EVERY TIME builds consistency, effectiveness, thoroughness, and speed.

Drying Time: 5 – 10 minutes

  • Squeegee and squeeze as much excessive water off as possible in the tub.
  • Utilize a towel magnet to take off the majority of the moisture.
  • Use a second towel to wrap the pet. Hold off on areas that do not lend themselves to wrapping. You will not be as effective as possible if there is any water dripping off any portion of the pet, feet, ears, tail, etc. You will also be ineffective if there is a visible spray of water coming off the pet when you do use the high velocity dryer with a condensing cone.
  • Turn on your dryer to let it come up to running temperature a few minutes prior to drying the pet.
  • If the pet is new to you or seems nervous, introduce the pet to the dryer slowly.
  • Once the pet has accepted the dryer, start at either the base of the tail or the withers. Where you start depends on how you want to set up the coat for finish work. Blow the coat so that it lies close to the skin (example: many Terrier or Sporting dogs) or fluffed up for clipper work (most haircut type trims). Next, move to the legs and finally the chest. If the dog allows it, work the head quickly as well. Go over the entire pet first with a condensing cone to remove loose water. Cover every inch of the pet in this manner. If there is a fair amount of moisture still retained in the coat during this process, hold a towel just ahead of where you are working to catch the spray, minimizing how much moisture is passed on to other areas.
  • If you are dealing with a curly coated dog, leave the condensing cone on to straighten the coat out, working the shortest areas first, moving into the longer areas and finishing with the head, ears, and tail. Do not move out of a small area until the coat is perfectly dry and fluffed.
  • If dealing with a shedding dog or a slightly matted dog, leave the condensing cone on, working in the same order as described earlier. Once the bulk of the moisture is removed, start again at the rump and work small areas until dry and loose coat is no longer coming out. Keep the air flow as close to the body as possible without folding the coat back onto itself.
  • If dealing with mats or tangles, use the force of the air to move the mats away from the skin. Stay in one area and move the air slightly, pushing the mats out. Watch the area closes to monitor the progress. It will look like a spider web as you loosen the tangle.
  • If dealing with a slightly wavy or straight coated dog, once the bulk of the moisture is removed, remove the condensing cone and hold the nozzle right next to the skin allowing for maximum temperature and lift of the coat.
  • If the pet has a long, shedding type coat, remove the condensing cone and place the air close to the pet’s body. Use a heavy brush where the air is flowing to “boost” the rest of the loose, spider webbed, coat out of the pet.
  • If dealing with longer coat that will need to be scissored or trimmed with a long guard attachment, “stretch drying” will be needed for additional lift and straightening of the coat. Use a heat dryer and a brush. With very light and rapid strokes, brush only where the air is blowing on the pet. Work against the grain if lift is needed for fullness. Work with the grain if a close lying coat is desired. Use caution – too much heat applied to an area can be painful or even burn the pet. In many cases, only sections will need to be attended to in this manner for optimum quality.
  • If you noticed mats still in the coat, finish with stretch drying the areas. Utilizing a heavy brush. Use line brushing techniques from the toes up the leg. Work with very small sections at a time and keeping the touch of the brush very light. Rapidly pat and pull the coat where the air is flowing over the area. Very little heat is needed for this method.

Clipping Time: 20 – 30

  • You are never done clipping until there is not anymore coat coming off when the coat is properly set up.
  • Three pass passes over the pet and you should have the coat super smooth… anything less than that will reduce time.
  • Minimize the amount of movement around the pet. Arrange the pet on the table so that the loop is taut but not tight. Place a small pet crosswise on the table minimizing groomer stretch and maximizing comfort.
  • Start your clipper work by standing behind the dog and pull the clippers towards you starting from the neck or withers. If you are reverse clipping, reverse the process by starting at the rear or the dog and work towards the head.
  • Handle the bulk of the body first, including the underside if that is to be clipped as well.
  • Lift the pet from the haunches to effectively get the undercarriage while still standing behind the pet.
  • Move to the side of the pet and work the neck and shoulder areas. Return to the rear of the pet and back brush the entire dog. Repeat process a second time. Back brush once again and check for high spots or rough spots.

Attitude

  • Work methodically; be friendly but aloof with the pet. Correct any undesirable action before it becomes a major problem. Accept what you cannot correct and work with it in a calm, cool, and collected manner. Once the job is complete, they you can snuggle with the pet and let it know how much you enjoy your job.
  • Always remember the “Three Cs” – Calm, Cool, and Collected. Whenever you forget them, you are wasting time and energy.

blog rrJust like pennies add up to dollars, seconds add up to minutes and hours. Anywhere you can save time without making a major sacrifice in safety or quality, it’s a skill or technique worth learning.

The most indispensable thing any of us can have it time; when it’s gone, it’s gone – never to be retrieved.

Time Frames for ProceduresrrHere is a graphic breakdown of how long each phase of grooming should take.  Print off a copy and keep one by your work station to help keep you on track.  Click here to download the PDF: Time Frames for Procedures.

Happy trimming,

~Melissa

P.S.

Click here to see the latest video available on Learn2GroomDogs.com.

 

 

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Thinning Shears are the Pet Stylist’s Eraser

Blog ImagerIt doesn’t matter how long you’ve been grooming or how talented you are as a pet stylist – sometimes you just need a little help. An “oops” can occur at any time. Mistakes happen.

Maybe there is a spot on the coat that you just can’t get smooth. Maybe there is tracking in the coat from the clippers or guard comb. You may have left scissor marks in the coat – or a hole in the coat you accidentally made with clippers or scissors. You might even be working with a dog that will not hold still long enough to work safely with clippers or scissors – leaving the coat rough and jagged.

Thinning shears can be your savior. They erase rough spots. They blend out jagged edges. They smooth out transition areas. They fix mistakes.

The difference between a good stylist and a great stylist can be determined by how much value they place on their blending shears.

Thinning shears (or blending shears) are the best-kept secrets in the grooming world. Used properly, they can make mistakes much less noticeable. For a new stylist, this is one of the first shears I always recommend upgrading in your toolbox.

Stylists that understand the value of this type of shear will invest in multiple pairs. Just like straight edge shears, there are wide varieties from which to choose. Some are for more general use while others have more specific usage. The key is to know how you want to use the shear. Do you need it for light wispy coats? Drop coats? Terrier styling? Working around the head or eye area or dealing with large surface areas? There is a blender to fit every single one of these needs.

I always suggest you personally try out thinning shears before you purchase them. Just like Colin Taylor says, shears are like shoes. You need to find the ones that fit… you! They have to fit properly as well as cut smoothly and run effortlessly in your hands.

So how do you narrow down your choices? Ask. Find out what other groomers and stylists are using. Determine which thinning shears they rely on every day in their salons. Believe me, they have opinions! There are lots of fabulous thinning shears out there – but there’s also a lot of junk.

Most high quality blending shears will have an average cost of $150 – $350. Of course, you can spend more if you like. Your equipment is an investment in your career. You may not need the Rolls-Royce when you first start out — but you do need something that is reliable and dependable. Luckily, there are many styles and varieties from which to choose.

The difference between a good stylist and a great stylist is that they know how to fix mistakes. Every one of us makes them. Having a nice collection of thinning and blending shears will be the erasers you need when that “oops!” happens.

Happy trimming!

-Melissa

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Come! Sit! Stay!

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

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

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

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

So how can you improve your leadership skills?

Here’s an angle that might help.

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

Nice.  Good work!

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

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

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

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

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

Training your dog is an exercise in leadership.

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

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

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

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

– Happy trimming,

Melissa

 

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

 

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What Does the Client Want?

puppy-trainingThe #1 Role of Service Based Businesses: Solution Experts

A product is a physical thing. You can see it and touch it. You can box up the parts or the assembled item and know how it will look, how big it is, and where you’ll put it when you get home. A service, by contrast, is intangible. You can’t mail a service to your house or carry it from a store.

In most cases, services are purchased – touch, taste, smell, and sight unseen. It’s a leap of faith based on the client’s ability to say what they want and the expert’s ability to interpret them correctly. When you go to a salon or barbershop, you can’t try out a haircut before you buy it. You tell your stylist what you want, then – hopefully – you get it. The better you describe what you want, the better the outcome.  Dogs can’t tell you to take a little off the top, so how can you unlock the secret of what your (human) client wants?

By understanding that the person asking the questions controls the conversation!

When you are asking a question, it forces the other person to pay attention to you. It involves them in the conversation. If you’re doing all the talking, the listener’s mind can (and will) wander to other matters – and the end result may not be satisfactory to either of you. But the minute you say, “Let me ask you this: what if we…” the listener must pay attention because they’ll need to answer. It is an automatic reflex.  The power of the words “what” and “how” is almost magical – they command a response.

You’ve now included them in the process.  It’s become a team effort.  You want to get the client on your team – that’s why this conversation is so important.  When you ask questions, you show compassion and concern for the needs of the client and their pet. It helps build rapport. It also allows you to get valuable information from the client.

On average, a person can speak at about 250 words a minute while a person who is listening can think at about 1200 words a minute. So, if you are doing all the talking, the client has a great deal of time to figure out what they may not like about what you are saying, thus giving them an opportunity to complicate the situation! Not only are they manipulating the conversation out of your control, they haven’t heard a thing you’ve said!

How do you develop an effective line of communication with your clients?

Find a Solution in 5 Simple Steps

1)  Make observations. Let your senses guide you when your client walks in. How does the pet look? How does it smell? Do you hear the ticking of nails on your floor? Don’t stop there – observe the human client, as well. Is the dog owner elderly or did s/he come in with small children? This might indicate that a nail filing service might be beneficial to protect sensitive skin. Let common sense, experience, and intuition guide your line of questions. Remember – you’re a problem solver. The more observant you are, the easier it is to find solutions.

2)  Be a detective. This step involves your observations in Step 1 and takes them to another level. Gather clues from what the client tells you and what they don’t. Use your experience and expertise to find solutions that go deeper than the cosmetic.

3)  Filter your data. Ask basic questions like, “Were you thinking of a thorough bath and brush for ‘Fluffy’ today or more of a full haircut?” Let the client talk. Then listen. This will help form an overall rough picture in your mind of the outcome*. Think of this as a sketch to your finished masterpiece.

4)  Pinpoint focus to 5 areas of the pet+.  Ask more specific questions about these key aspects of the pet so you can make a better decision about how they should be styled.  This will provide details that fill out the sketch.  The areas of the body pet are:

  • Overall body
  • Head
  • Ears
  • Legs/feet
  • Tail

5)  Offer limited choices. Now that you know what you can (and maybe should) do for the pet, I personally suggest limiting options to two possibilities. Paint your picture back to the client to show you understand what they want and how it should look.  This also demonstrates that you have listened to them and care about what they have to say.  After all, isn’t that what you expect when you’re the customer?  Make these options your best two – offering more just means spending more time narrowing the field from those that will have less favorable outcomes, anyway.

Always remember, the person asking the questions controls the conversation!

Successful groomers and stylists are master problem solvers. While solving the problem, they also demonstrate concern, compassion, and respect for the pet and the owner. That’s what creates happy customers who keep coming back!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

 

*Remember to start from the desired end result.  My blog Begin with the End in Mind has more on this topic.

+I recommend using Theory of 5 as a guide to guiding the conversation. Understanding how to break each dog into its essential parts helps simplify the process.

 

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The Importance of Systems

systemsrMy husband and I were just at the hospital for a scheduled surgery. Luckily, it was a non-emergency situation – just to get his nose repaired so he could actually breathe out of BOTH nostrils. Still, it was surgery and as much as he wanted to have it done, the anticipation levels were running high. We were a bit nervous.

The medical team was great. Their thorough procedures helped squelch our anticipation jitters. Everything, from the pre-screening call days before… check in… pre-surgery… waiting room… recovery… home… and follow-up, was explained to us. At every step along the way there were systems in place to ensure that the surgery went off without a hitch, which put our minds at ease. There weren’t any hiccups in the communication process or the surgery itself.

Checks and balances were firmly in place. Everyone in the medical team clearly knew their job. They understood how important their roles were, no matter how large or small. If even one of them made a mistake, it could have a devastating effect on the outcome of the surgery. We’ve all heard the horror stories.

If you stop and think about it, a grooming salon client has the same kinds of anticipation levels. They are entrusting you with one of their most precious possessions – their pet. Most clients are not that familiar with the grooming process and have no idea what truly goes on behind closed doors.

Is you grooming salon set up like a well-oiled medical team? We may not be doctors but our “pet clients” are extremely important to their owners. There are many steps within the grooming service procedure that could turn into shining moments – or go horribly wrong:

  • They get the wrong haircut.
  • The pet isn’t done when promised.
  • They’re charged the wrong amount.
  • They get the wrong collar or lead – maybe even the wrong pet!
  • A pet is injured – or worse.

This list could go on and on. The larger the team that works together, the more processes you need in place for a smooth running operation.

Every grooming salon needs:

  • a customer service team (even if that team is YOU)
  • a bathing department
  • a drying department
  • a grooming/styling department
  • someone in charge of client records/data entry
  • client education
  • marketing
  • proper cleaning and sanitation

To be successful in the long-term, you need to spend time in the short-term setting up processes. Systems are your routines – the way you do things every time. Here is a short list of items that need to be in place for systems to work:

  • Every procedure needs to be broken down, step by step.
  • Each process needs to be written down and reviewed regularly.
  • Every person participating in the activity needs to know and understand how to correctly perform the procedure.
  • Every person then needs training and follow-up supervision until the task is perfected.

Accountability is the key to success. Positive and negative consequences need to be in place and consistently enforced.

If you don’t have any systems in place at the moment, don’t fret. Take one procedure at a time and break it down into smaller chunks. Figure out what needs to be done or happen for each piece. Then move to the next one – and the next one.

Remember the story book fable about the tortoise and the hare? You don’t need to be a jack rabbit straight out of the gate. Slow and steady will win this race. It all starts with the first step. It might take you a month to get your systems in place – it might take a year. If you are in a state of growth, creating systems for your business might be an ongoing process. The trick is not to be overwhelmed by looking at the big picture. Keep it small so you don’t give up – and keep going.

At the end of the day, you always need to focus on your overall goal: to offer outstanding, consistent customer service – just like my husband and I received with his recent operation.

… As for those horror stories? Don’t be one of them. The salons that have the right systems in place will be prepared. Their staff will offer better service and the guests (furry and human) will feel better knowing that they are in good hands. it’s never too late to start. Do it now! Take that first step.

 

Happy Trimming,

-Melissa

 

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The Jennifer Hecker Story

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

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

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

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

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

The second was the blood trail.

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

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

“Can you feel your fingers?”

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

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

…and it did.

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

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

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

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

What??

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

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

We learned 5 lessons through this unfortunate event.

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

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

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

 

Happy trimming,

Melissa

 

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Neutralizing Stench

stinky Cache - CopyrI love being a professional pet groomer. It’s creative. It’s gratifying. There’s nothing better than having a dog leave your salon looking and smelling amazing.

Being a professional pet groomer means we are problem solvers. Our clients do not have the skills – nor the products – that can solve many coat problems. As pet professionals, we know which products and tools work.

My husband and I live on 160 acres. We have approximately 6 acres enclosed with Invisible Fence. All four of our 100+ pound dogs can roam unsupervised. This keeps our dogs safe – and out of trouble – while giving them the luxury of freedom. Most of the time it works.

Occasionally, it does not.

I was driving back from the farmers market when I got a call from my husband. He was headed out for an appointment and called the dogs into the house. All of the dogs came bounding up to the door like they typically do. However, two of the dogs seemed to be especially proud of themselves. As they got closer, my husband understood why. THEY STUNK TO HIGH HEAVEN!!!!! Especially one of them. Cache was absolutely covered in something very black – and very gooey. You could hardly get near them without wanting to vomit.

Because he was headed out the door, he simply called me and told me what to expect when I got home. I didn’t think much about it, our dogs are rolling in things all the time. He simply shut them back in their “dog room” towards the back of the house.

20 minutes later I stepped through the front door and was virtually attacked by the odor. This was as bad as a direct skunk hit – maybe worse. I made my way to the dog room and peered over the half-door. (By this time I was holding my breath.)

I had never seen a dog so successfully cover herself in a foul material. Heck, Cache even had it on her tail! I booted all the dogs out immediately and set to work steam-cleaning the back room before I tackled the dogs themselves.

I knew I had my work cut out for me. Not only are our dogs all over hundred pounds – they’re extremely heavily coated. At our home, we do not have standard professional grooming tubs or tables, but we DID have the products and tools to wash, clean, and neutralize the foul substance that was all over two of them.

Once I got the back room cleaned up, it was bath time for the pooches. Needless to say, they were not thrilled with me as I gingerly clipped leads to their collars. They were quite proud of their accomplishment. Down to the horse wash rack we went. It wasn’t the most sophisticated dog bathing station – but it worked.

A long time ago, I learned that the Coat Handler product line is my ‘go-to’ product of choice for all my bathing needs. One of the best odor neutralizing products on the market is Odor Handler. There are literally thousands of uses for this product. I personally use it so much (and not just on dogs) that I keep and 9 1/2 pound container of it in the laundry room! Down in the barn, we keep gallons of Coat Handler’s 15 to 1 Shampoo, Coat Handler Conditioner, plus a high velocity dryer for our horses.

My products and tools of choice for this project: Coat Handler 15 to 1 shampoo mixed in a squirt bottle with a generous scoop of Odor Handler and hot water, a long-handled scrub brush, a firm horse brush, a rubber curry, and a garden hose. (Luckily it was 80 degrees outside so no one minded a cool bath!)

I did my best to hose off the bulk of the offensive material clinging to their coats. Luckily it was water-soluble so with the water pressure from the garden hose, I was able to remove most of it. But the odor still remained.

I generously applied my hot soapy solution of shampoo and Odor Handler to the soiled areas. I worked it in with a rubber curry (there was no WAY I was going to touch that nasty stuff with my bare hands!) Then I went back with a horse brush to really work it into each strand of the hair. I finished with a smaller handled brush to deal with the hard to reach places. I let the solution sit for approximately 10 minutes before thoroughly rinsing the dogs until their coats were squeaky clean.

It was time to use my gallon jug of Coat Handler Conditioner. I poured generous amounts into my hands and applied it to their coats, straight. I did not rinse out the conditioner.

I let them have a few generous shakes before I proceeded with towel drying. Then, I pulled out my trusty K-9 II high velocity dryer. I needed them to be dry so I could see if I had been successful with neutralizing the foul stench before I let them back into the house.

By that night, all of our dogs joined us in the living room, lounging at our feet. Everyone had a slight scent of baby powder which was much more appealing to my husband and me.

The reason I was so successful in neutralizing the odor was because I had the knowledge and the tools at my fingertips. As a pet grooming professional, it’s up to us to know the products and techniques that work the best. I’ve tested many products over the years, and the Coat Handler line of products (especially Odor Handler), beats everything else, hands down.

Just ask our noses – and Cache, of course!

 

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

 

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The Aha! Moment

blog imageIt’s no secret that I love learning new skills, ideas, and applications — it’s the main reason why I love the pet grooming industry so much. You can never learn it all. There is always something new, different, or enlightening to learn.

In 2010, I founded the Learn2GroomDogs.com (and cats) streaming video library. I have directed and produced over 400 educational grooming video shoots. Each one is both a lesson and a demonstration. Every video inspires and teaches me something new. I’m constantly having my own ‘Aha! Moments’ – even after 30 years in this business!

I’m proud to be able to bring the quality of training directly to you that will challenge, educate, and energize the student in you. All you need is access to the internet and you can have your own ‘Aha! Moments’ wherever you are. Our Training Partners have earned their right to be labeled “the best professional pet stylists in the country.” They are simply amazing.

I take detailed notes on every shoot. Heck, with some Training Partners, I can barely make my fingers fly across the keyboard fast enough! Those comprehensive notes eventually become the video descriptions. As I review the lesson during editing, I sift through the pages of my notes and highlight the key points that I feel would be worthwhile takeaways for you. Believe me, there are loads of them!

I truly believe you will only be as good as your teachers. Being a member of Learn2GroomDogs.com is like going to a massive pet grooming summit. There are over 400 lectures and demonstrations from over 40 training partners that are hand-picked as the best in the industry. We provide the information you want and need from people who know dogs – including a camera man who is also an accomplished pet stylist and a long time grooming instructor, so he knows what you need to see through the lens!

When you are fresh to the field – you are like a dry sponge. ‘Aha! Moments’ come fast and easily. As a seasoned pro, they become harder to come by — you must seek them out with dedication and apply them to your work.

But there are still plenty of golden nuggets to unearth.

Take notes as you watch the videos. Pause, rewind, and watch again. And again. You have unlimited access to every video lesson we offer with your membership, so wring every drop of learning gold you can from each one. If you can pick up even one of those per month of membership, it’s worth the price of admission and more.

There is a great saying that goes, ‘The more you learn, the more you earn.” I have always believed that the more educated you are in your craft, the more self-confidence you will have. That turns work into a joy no matter what you do. You have the power and the choice: keep learning and keep your passion for your career alive…

…or let it get stale and face burn out.

With Learn2GroomDogs.com (and cats too) we make it easy to learn at the touch of a keystroke. Wherever you have access to high speed internet, you can watch, listen and learn. In your home. At your shop. Traveling to a grooming event. By yourself or with your team. We have grooming video lessons for everyone. We can help you achieve more wherever you are in your grooming journey.

The key is to invest in you, whether that is time, money, or both. You have to make an effort – a commitment to put in the work to get better and seize any opportunity to do so. Once you open your mind to education, you will be amazed at how many ‘Aha! Moments’ you will have.

Enjoy the ride. The educational voyage is a blast.

Happy Trimming

Melissa

 

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The Need for Speed

12506739_lTime is the most common concern for professionals in this industry. New groomers worry that they’ll never be able to do more than 4 dogs a day. Salon owners need employees who can hit the ground running.  They need people who can groom 6-8 dogs per day.  Or you’ve been at the table for a while but still struggle to get beyond 5 dogs per day.

Seasoned pros are knocking out 8… 10… 12… 14 or more pets every day.

So what are you doing wrong? What are the common areas that seem to be the sticky spots? What areas in your day are robbing you of precious minutes?

Top 10 Areas Where Pet Pros Can Improve

1.  Always start with the end result etched firmly in your mind

The better you know where you are headed – the easier it will be to get there. Know what a high-quality trim looks like – even if it’s a shave off or a close body trim. Know what balance and style is. Know what a beautifully brushed out dog looks and feels like. If you’re working on a purebred, know what a beautiful specimen should look like.

2.  Don’t start with elbow grease – always let products and tools do the work first

In the past 30 years, there have been great developments in products and tools that make our jobs easier. Go to trade shows and test them for yourself. Ask others on social media outlets what they like to use. Find out what products and tools the top pros use at their grooming tables. They likely have a very solid reason why they use what they do. They did not get to be top stylists by using inferior products and tools!

3.  If water can penetrate the coat, wash the pet first

Don’t waste time pre-clipping a dog that comes then every six weeks or less. Get it straight to the tub. You’re wasting time clipping off that small amount of coat. The same thing goes with a dog that is matted or is shedding. If the water can penetrate the coat, get them right into the tub. A clean coat is going to be more pleasant to work on. Plus, a large majority of mats and tangles are held together by dirt. Remove the dirt and the job just got easier.

4.  A powerful high velocity dryer is the professional stylist’s greatest asset in time management

In my opinion, the development of the high velocity dryer is one of the greatest advancements the grooming industry has ever seen! Put simply, (if used correctly) this tool produces the fastest results with the highest quality on any given coat type.

  • it dries the coat with lightning speed
  • it can straighten the coat for a beautiful fluff dry
  • when used prior to the bath it will loosening dirt next to the skin
  • it effectively removes most mats or tangles
  • it is extremely efficient with the removal of shedding fur

5.  Towel Dry – Towel Dry – Towel Dry

It never ceases to amaze me how many people miss this step. Incomplete towel drying costs precious minutes in the drying process. Multiply that by six or eight dogs and you’ve lost 30 to 60 minutes out of your day. Here’s my goal: towel dry thoroughly enough so that spray does not come off the dog once I start working with a high velocity dryer.

6.  Three clipper passes or less!

If your dog is bathed and blown out properly, the goal is to make three clipper passes – or less – to get it absolutely smooth. The first pass knocks out the longest coat (at this point I’m not going for smoothness). The second pass smooth’s it out. The third pass eliminates high spots that I’ve missed. Three times around the dog with the clippers – period. If you can get done quicker than that – bonus!

7.  Create a routine for everything you do

This is a bit like the waitress listing off the salad dressing choices at a restaurant. She has a routine that she follows. If you stop her mid-list, she often has to start all over again. She never misses a choice because she sticks to her routine. You should have a routine for every dog that comes into your salon. Stick to your routine so you never miss a step.

8.  Cheat like crazy with attach on combs

If there was ever a cheat tool in your toolbox, this is it! For many pet stylists, attach on guard combs have replaced a lot of the hand scissoring work. They come in a wide array of sizes. They let you establish a depth of coat just by following the dog’s body. For most people, this is much simpler than to master exquisite hand scissoring. It allows you to mold and sculpt the fur quickly and efficiently. With knowledge of proper canine structure and creative use of your guard combs, you can create a highly stylized trim in no time.

9.  Never, ever work on a pet that you feel is dangerous to itself or to you

With so many cooperative pets to work on, there is no reason for you to tackle a highly aggressive dog. Your hands are your livelihood. You need to protect them at all costs. No one needs the aggravation, frustration, or anxiety of having to deal with a dangerous dog. I’d rather have a client who is upset with me for refusing to do their dog than have a groom result in injury. Or to be bitten. It’s just not worth it.

10.  Love What You Do

Being a professional pet groomer or stylist has huge rewards. For many, it’s one of the most gratifying and creative jobs they have ever held. However, it has is down sides, too. It’s a far cry from playing with puppies all day. If you’ve crossed that line and grooming pets is no longer enjoyable, do yourself and your clients a favor – step away from the grooming table. Love your career or leave it.

In order to be a valuable member of a pet grooming team, you need to have to have a burning desire – the need for speed. The more pets you can get through safely, without sacrificing compassion and quality, the more valuable you are to your salon.

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Do Your Clients Sleep with Their Pets?

blog-imageThere is no doubt about it, Americans love their pets! In 2013, American pet lovers spent $ 55.72 billion on their animals. That’s BILLION with a capital B! They spent $4.73 billion just on grooming and boarding services. The pet industry is definitely on a major growth trend. The growth started in 1994 and shows no sign of slowing down. That’s a fabulous trend for professional pet groomers and service care providers!

In this day and age, many owners treat their pets like children. They share their homes. They buy special clothes and gifts for their dogs and cats. Our best clients have a very close and personal bond with their pets. They share their lives, and even their beds with them.

So let me ask you something. Do you know how many of your clients sleep with their pet? There’s a great sales tactic buried in this – innocent – but loaded question.

Fellow groomers, we all know a clean pet is much more enjoyable than one that isn’t routinely groomed. The standard time frame between haircuts for most pets is about 4 to 6 weeks. Regular grooming appointments keep the coat manageable and the dog relatively well groomed.

Check this out.  Joelle, one of our managers came up with this brilliant idea.

With a little strategic questioning, you can boost that frequency level tremendously. Gone are the harsh products that might do a good job cleaning but they leave the skin and coat dry and damaged. Today there is a wide variety of fabulous products to wash, condition, and style our furry friends.

When you’re doing a client consultation, you need to learn about the pet and the family. One of the key questions you need answered is to learn about the lifestyle of the pet. If you’re dealing with an outdoor farm dog, this tactic will not work. However, if this is a pampered pooch that shares the owners home, life and even their bed – this approach works great.

Here is the money question. Do they allow their pet to sleep with them or their children?

If the answer is yes, you have a perfect scenario to suggest weekly or biweekly bathing. It’s easy. Simply suggest the dog be washed as frequently as they change their sheets. For most people that’s weekly or biweekly.

This could be a two-way win. The client might opt to do it themselves. That’s okay. You can counsel them on the best products to use – and of course you have them on your shelves to sell. Or maybe the client doesn’t want to be bothered. You can offer a steeply discounted rate for in between haircut maintenance baths.

Of course, there are some special perks that go along with this weekly or biweekly bathing schedule when they bring the pet to you. You could do just the bath and blowout for your client. But what if you knock it up a few notches? Bathe the pet in a special shampoo and conditioning rinse. Toss in a complementary nail filing. Offer minor trimming around the eye, feet, and rear for FREE. And don’t forget to add fresh bows or bandanna.

Let’s look a little math on how this works out;

$50 full groom every 6 weeks = 9 groomings annually = $450
$20 maintenance bath every 2 weeks = 26 baths annually = $520
$15 maintenance bath every week = 52 baths annually = $780

Now keep in mind, the client would maintain their regular six-week $50 haircut. That price is higher than the maintenance bath. So instead of getting $520 annually you’d actually be getting $790. Or if you’re looking at the weekly maintenance it would work out to $1,095.

I love this scenario because it’s a win for the salon. It’s a win for the client. And it’s a win for the pet. If you have clients who sleep with their pets, you have the perfect opportunity to help the client keep their pet clean and fresh while enhancing your bottom line.

 

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