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I Want a “Puppy Cut”

Don’t you love it when an owner walks into a salon and ask for this trim by name? They actually think this is a universal standard trim that all groomers and pet stylists should know how to do. When we start asking them questions, they get all huffy, thinking we don’t know how to do our jobs. Frustrating!! You and I know there isn’t a consistent right way to do a “puppy cut.” There are many – many variations!

The puppy cut is one of the most popular haircuts. It works well on a wide variety of pets. From Shih Tzus to Doodles. From Pomeranians to Bichons. Almost any breed that grows longer coat can be done in this easy-to-care for style.

Yet, the puppy cut is also the most misunderstood haircut in grooming salons around the country. Why? There are no clear directions of what this trim actually is or how it should be done. It’s left up to individual personal interpretation by owners, groomers, or talented pet stylists.

The puppy cut started out as a trim style for Poodles. The puppy cut is a specific trim used on young Poodles in the dog show world. Once the puppy turns a year-old, they are put into the elaborate adult haircut for the conformation ring.

Today, the term “puppy cut” is used very loosely. It can apply to a wide variety of different breeds. It’s highly adaptable to any size of dog. Coats can be curly, wavy, or straight. Almost any purebred or mixed breed that grows hair looks appealing in a “puppy cut.”

quote 2 Many owners love this style of trim. It can be very cute. It’s easy to care for. It’s highly versatile. That’s a win-win-win for any busy family! The dog does not drag in dirt and debris from outdoors. Their ears do not drag in the food or water dish. The need for brushing between grooming appointments is minimized. And on smaller pets, bathing between grooming appointments is a breeze. When done well, it can be extremely attractive, to boot.

So what is it?

Essentially, the puppy cut is one length all over. The most common length is between 1-2 inches over the body, legs, tail, head, and ears. Typically, it’s done with a clipper fitted with a long guard comb over the blade. There should not be any clipper marks, uneven coat, or sharp edges left in the fur. Next to a powerful clipper, high quality blenders are your best friends when doing this trim. Everything is soft and plush, like a fluffy puppy.

The term “puppy cut” can be tricky. In some circles the puppy cut can also be known as the “teddy bear trim”, “summer cut”, or “kennel cut.” I’ve even seen some salons turn their version of the trim into their “signature haircut.” So the puppy cut becomes “The Posh Pet Special” (brilliant marketing by the way!) Generally, the only things that change between theses trims are the names and the length of coat.

It’s important to keep this in mind, too: one person’s interpretation of a puppy cut might be that of a smooth-coated puppy. Think Boxer, Pug, or Beagle. Another person’s interpretation would be that of a fluffier breed like a Shih Tzu, Bichon, or Poodle. There’s also a big difference between a four-week old puppy and a ten-week old puppy in terms of coat growth.

With all these interpretations, there is a wide variance of what each individual dog will look like and what each owner expects their dog to look like. If an owner is requesting this trim for the first time, be prepared to discuss the trim in detail with the owner. DO NOT ASSUME YOU ARE BOTH ON THE SAME PAGE! Communication is the key to a happy customer.

Here is a great tip to remember when talking with clients: whoever is asking the questions controls the conversation. As groomers and pet stylists, we are problem solvers. Uncover the problems in five simple steps.

  1. Observe the pet as the client walks through the door. Let common sense guide your line of questions.
  2. Find the problem. Ask basic questions like, “Were you thinking of a short and smooth style or something a bit fluffier?” Letting the client talk will help uncover problem areas.
  3. Gather clues from what the client tells you and what you observe.
  4. Offer limited choices as you help the client solve the problem.
  5. Guide the questions in five areas of the pet: overall body – head – ears – legs/feet – tail.

Here is a list of talking points when a new client request a “puppy cut.”

  • In general, what is the look they are hoping for? Something smooth and sleek so it’s easy to care for? Or something that makes the dog look slightly fluffy, plush, and super cute?
  • What is the lifestyle of the dog? Active? Sedentary? City dweller? Enjoys outdoor activities?
  • What is the texture and coat density of the dog? Fine, thin coats will looks shorter than dense coated dogs even with the same length clipper blade.
  • How much length do they want left on the body? What about on the legs? Feet?
  • What type of head style would they prefer?
  • Depending on the pet’s ear set, ear styles can change dramatically (dropped ear or pricked and pointed). How do they want them styled? Long? Short? In-between?
  • Do they want a long coat left on the tail or trimmed down to match the body? Or something in-between?

It’s important to have a thorough conversation with the owner when considering this haircut. There are so many variances with a puppy cut. Simply having the client state they want one is not specific enough.

Advise the client about trim options that would work best for their dog. Based on the condition of the coat and your pet’s body structure, you will be able to offer some valuable suggestions. A skilled pet professional will know how to make minor changes to the trim enhancing the pet’s appeal. Maybe the pet’s coat is too tangled to do the longer trim today. You’ll be able to suggest alternatives on how to modify a trim that works best as you discuss options for future trims.

Educating clients on proper pet hygiene is a valuable service most salon offer for free to their clients. In order to keep the dog looking its best, you can advise the client on how to best maintain this haircut between grooming appointments. At home brushing and bathing can make a big difference in how they look and smell, too. You can also make suggestions on how often the trim should be done based on the pet’s life style and coat texture. Maybe you suggest they get a full haircut every 4-6 weeks. Or maybe a maintenance program would be better suited for the client when you see them for weekly or bi weekly appointments.

Always remember, your clients are the lifeblood of your business. Taking a little extra time up front for a warm and welcoming pet consultation will go a long way toward building a solid relationship with them.

There is a good reason why the “puppy cut” is one of the most popular trims in grooming salons around the country. There are many – many variations!

What is YOUR first thought when you hear this term? How do you address this issue?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it!
Happy trimming,

~Melissa

P.S. You can make this and ALL grooming conversations easier and more successful.

This is a great tool tool for getting the conversation started in a way that is easy for you to explain and for the client to understand. The photos and drawings make it even simpler! Try it the next time you talk to your guests. Even better? Use this as a teaching/training tool for your staff so you are all consistent in the ways you speak to your clients. Once everyone on your team knows how to discuss the essential parts of the pet, they’ll sound more knowledgeable, your clients will feel more comfortable, and you’ll waste less time (and possibly profits) correcting “guess work!”

It’s Shedding Season!

DG It’s shedding season in the northern hemisphere. All those heavy coated bath and brush dogs have begun the seasonal shedding process. It’s my favorite time of year!

Is it messy? Absolutely. Can it be a lot of work? You bet. But if you’re prepared, have the right tools, and know the tricks, it doesn’t take that long. And it’s not that hard. I don’t know about you, but for me, this is the most gratifying grooming work. There is nothing more rewarding. I love the feel. I love the smell. I love to watch the dogs move as their coat floats and glistens in the sun.

I love big furry dogs. My husband and I live with three Maremma Sheepdogs. We live on a farm in Michigan and experience all four seasons. Seasonal shedding is something we battle every year. As owners of a grooming school, we are fortunate to have our dogs groomed on a regular basis.

Pearl2editAfter a recent grooming session, our Maremmas came home looking and feeling great. However, although one looked amazing, a closer inspection told a different story. Her loose and shedding coat was still stuck next to her skin. In another week, we were going to have a mess. She was going to start leaving tufts of white fur everywhere. When done well, all the packed coat is removed and a comb will glide through the coat from the skin out. Each hair shaft stands independently. This wasn’t the case with this grooming.

As professional pet groomers, we are problem solvers. People bring us dirty dogs. Shedding dogs. Stinky dogs. Overgrown dogs. Matted dogs. Our job is to clean them up while treating them with respect and compassion. The faster and safer we can get though a big job, the better is it for all involved – people and pets. But we want to be thorough at the same time. If a grooming job is not going to hold up or it’s not thoroughly done, the client isn’t going to come back and/or become a repeat customer.

What are the tricks to get these heavily coated, shedding dogs done in the least amount of time?

Here’s what I think about every single time I groom a heavy coated dog:

The bigger and messier it is, the more impressive and rewarding the outcome will be.

  1. A clean coat is going to facilitate speed in the grooming process. Let’s face it, it’s much more enjoyable to work on a clean coat versus a dirty coat! Let the shampoo do a lot of the work for you. If you remove the dirt prior to doing a lot of brushing, your products and your tools can do most of the work for you to remove matted and shedding coat. My rule of thumb is if the water can penetrate to the skin, get the dog directly to the tub. If there are sections that are so dense that water can’t penetrate, cut those areas into sections so that it can. Do at least two lathers with a shampoo. The first one can be quick and the second lather much more thorough. Occasionally, you might need a third lather in certain spots to get it clean. Using a great conditioning treatment after the bathing process can also be very beneficial.
  2. pearl3editA powerful high velocity dryer or “blaster” is the key to getting through this type of grooming job. A powerful stream of air from the high velocity dryer will do the bulk of the work for you when it comes to removing mats, tangles, and shedding coat. Ideally, you will want to have a condenser cone on the nozzle of the dryer when you first start the drying process. On well-behaved dogs who enjoy the high velocity dryer, two or even three high velocity dryers can be used to speed up the entire process. On pets that have a lot of mats, tangles, and densely packed coat, using a high velocity dryer with a condensing nozzle to blow the shampoo out of the coat on the second lather in the tub is a great trick. What do you do when you have a ring on your finger that you can’t get off? Apply soap, right? The same principle applies. The shampoo provides the lubrication and air pushes the hair apart. Easy on the dog – and easy on you.
  3. Being efficient and effective starts with focus. Your eyes should always be looking directly where the air is striking. Hold the dryer nozzle as close to the skin as possible without curling the hair onto itself, which can cause whip knots. (These whipped knots are almost impossible to remove.) As you’re moving the nozzle around the dog, watch for problem areas with the skin and coat. As the air strikes an area, the coat spiders out. The spidering area is loose coat, mats, and tangles as it’s pushed out and away from the skin.
  4. Elbow grease is a must. Once all the problem areas have been loosened and pushed out as much as possible, it’s time to remove the condenser cone and pick up the brush. You will brush using a pat-and-pull method just where the air is striking. It’s a very soft and methodical brushing technique. Done correctly, it’s highly effective while also being gentle on the dog. Brush only where the air is concentrated. This allows you brush to work through the rest of the problem area while the air blows excessive fur out of the way and off the dog.
  5. Pearl4editBe methodical. Be kind. Be considerate to the needs of the pet. Sometimes, on these heavily coated dogs, slowing it down will actually speed you up. Be thorough. The dog is not done until a wide toothed comb can be sunk down to the skin and pulled smoothly through the coat. Feel for dampness. Feel for inconsistency in coat density. Let your fingers sink to the skin. Let your hands be your guide. If anything triggers a quality control check, don’t ignore it. Go back and redo that area.

This type of work is a challenge. Not everybody can do it well. But those who do enjoy working on the large and the furry know what I’m talking about. We love it. I get so much gratification seeing piles of loose coat on the floor. I love those days when we have to empty out our shop vac multiple times because of so much shedding coat floating around the salon! At the end of those days, I know I’ve earned my money (and a glass of vino!)

If you’d like to learn the details of dealing with a heavy coated dog, here are some resources:

Notes From the Grooming Table16_CMYK_Grooming_Cover_4-18Bnew-image:

Bathing, Drying, Brushing, and Structure of a Mat sections

Theory of 5:

Bath and Brush section

Learn2GroomDogs.comL2GD_LOGO_Web

streaming video lessons:

  • Bathing & Drying Combination Coat
  • Bathing & Drying Heavy Coated
  • Brushing Skills
  • Finishing the Bath & Brush Style Pet
  • Salvage Work on a Heavy Coated Dog
  • Structure of a Mat
  • The Magic of Forced Air Drying
  • Speed & Efficiency – How to Groom a Monster Sized Dog in 76 Minutes

I love seeing a coat that glimmers in the sun. That moves with the dog as it moves. When you sink your hands into it, it feels soft and silky. Not only does the dog look good – they smell good too! The dog knows it. They have an air of distinction – they are proud and it shows. This type of work, done well, makes me proud to be a professional pet groomer.

~Happy trimming,

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white P.S. Did I miss any tricks? Tell me what works for you.  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.


How to Use Anatomy to Groom the English Setter

Anatomy is the Foundation of All Grooming 

You’ve heard me say this before:

All dogs – whether a Yorkshire Terrier, a Great Dane, a Bulldog, or a Dachshund – possess identical bone and muscle structure. Fundamentally, they all are the same.

Excellent grooming starts always starts with a firm understating of canine anatomy. It is the FOUNDATION of all grooming.

Basic pattern lines are set based on the muscle and bone structure.

Depending on how physically active a dog is, the muscle structure may be very prominent. It could be lurking under a layer of fat. It may also be poorly developed due to age or lack of physical activity.

Nonetheless, those muscles are there. They will help you set symmetrical and correct pattern lines.

The bones are there, too. Whether the dog is anatomically correct when compared to the breed standard is something else altogether when we are dealing with pet dogs. Understanding what a physically sound dog is will help you immensely. When you know the difference between good and bad structure, you’ll be able to hide many faults.

When we combine all the layers of the dog – the bones, muscles, the skin and the fur – we will be able to mold and shape the coat to highlight the dog’s best features and downplay the others. If the bone structure is a little less than perfect, you can use the hair to camouflage those defects.

Before you begin grooming any dog, get your hands on them! Close your eyes. Feel the structure under the coat. Sink your fingers deep in the fur. Pay close attention to the muscle groups highlighted in color in these diagrams.

The Essence of the Breed

Before you start grooming any dog, you need to familiarize yourself with the breed and understand its essence.

The English Setter is a Sporting dog of great style. It should be physically fit and structurally sound to work long hours in the field flushing game. The general outline of the English Setter will be rectangular. The shoulder lay back and the angles of both the front and rear assemblies should allow for adequate reach and drive.

The coat is silky, flat, and should lay close to the body. English Setters have longer feathering on the ears, chest, abdomen, underside of thighs, back of all legs, and on the tail. The longer coat should not be so long as to hide the true lines of the dogs, movement, or the function of field hunting.

Landmarks for Grooming & Styling

When it comes to grooming, let’s work around the dog using its anatomy as a reference.

When done “correctly,” Setters are hand stripped for a very natural look. However, in pet grooming circles, it is common to see the pattern clipper-cut or styled using a combination of clipping and stripping to save time. Regardless of the method you chose, the anatomy reference points – or landmarks – will remain the same.

Setting the Throat: Feel for the muscles at the sides of the neck to set the throat pattern line. A visual clue to this area is at the “frill” or cowlick line running down the sides of the neck. The throat area is directly below the jaw, inside the muscles running down the outside of the neck. The shape is generally a soft “U” shape. The lowest part of the “U” stops a few fingers above the prosternum bone.

Body: The jacket coat on the bulk of the body is shorter and lays flat on dog. Follow the natural lay of the coat when working this area.

Shoulder: Use the turn of the muscle at the shoulder to set the jacket pattern on the body.

Elbow: The turn of the shoulder will also tell you the location of the elbow. This is the general location of where to start the pattern on the body, sweeping back and upwards towards the flank of the dog.

Spring of Rib: The turn of the ribs will help set the pattern line separating the dog’s body jacket which consists of much shorter coat, blending invisibly into the longer feathering found on the lower portion of the dog’s body.

Undercarriage: The undercarriage line creates a focal point for balance of the overall dog. The highest point of the graceful sweep will be directly under the last few ribs.

Flank: Moving into the flank area, the thigh muscle should be exposed to help accentuate a physically fit and muscular dog.

Tail: For balance, the tail should reach to the hock and be a triangular flag. There is a slight gap of fur on the underside of the tail at the base. This slight space separates the longer rear furnishings with the feathering on the tail.

Topline: The top line maybe level or slightly sloping from the withers to the tail.

Neck: The long graceful neck is well muscled and slightly arched.

Head: The lines of the skull are parallel with a well definite stop.

Ears: Set well back and low, even with or below the level of the eye.

All these areas are natural landmarks used as reference points on any breed. When you combine anatomy with the official breed standard for any purebred dog, you have knowledge. You can use this understanding to accentuate the proper structure of the English Setter.

Always remember, all transition lines should be invisible. Ideally, the English Setter should look totally natural when finished – as if the coat simply grew that way.

Combining the use of these anatomical landmarks and skillful technical skills, a talented pet stylist can easily create a symmetrical, stylish, and well-balanced trim on any dog – purebred or mixed breed.

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteP.S. Has this helped? Let us know if there are other topics you’d like us to explore.  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us what would help you.


The 2017 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is Almost Here!

Westminster2017-1This time of year I always get excited. The 141st Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is just around the corner! For almost as long as I can remember, I have firmly planted myself in front of the TV for two nights. I would watch the show in its entirety. Why?

Because, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is the “Superbowl” of the dog world. It is the best way to stay up to date with the latest trends and styles. I would throw a Westminster party. I loved inviting my entire grooming team over to be glued to the TV for two nights as the show aired. For days after the show, we would talk about the newest breeds that had been accepted by the AKC. The unique haircuts we saw. The latest style trends on established breeds.

The show was important for me. I was actively competing in the pet grooming contest arena. In the old days, we would record the show on VCR tapes. I can’t tell you how many times I would review those tapes before I stepped into the contest arena. Today, you can stream videos to any device or save it on DVR systems. By watching some the most spectacular dogs in the country compete at this level, I was able to get a clear image etched in my mind before I stepped into the ring at a grooming competition. Visualization is a key to success.

Secondly, I used the Westminster Dog Show as a way to help keep my grooming staff up-to-date with the latest styling trends.  Once I opened The Paragon School of Pet Grooming, we continued to use the show as a key learning tool for students. The annual dog show was instrumental for students learning breed identification and trim styles.

Tune in this year and enjoy the 2017 show. The Westminster Dog Show airs Monday, February 13 LIVE ON Nat Geo WILD from 8-11 p.m. and Tuesday, February 14 is LIVE ON Nat Geo WILD from 8-11 p.m. For streaming videos of each individual breed class, click here.

Happy Trimming!

~Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white

P.S.  Do you watch? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell me your thoughts about how to use this show or other resources to inspire yourself and your team.

 


Top Five Reasons I Don’t Allow Blue Jeans at Work

jeansI know I’m going to ruffle a few feathers with this blog. But… my blog – my opinions. It’s ok if you don’t agree with me, but this is how I feel.

Call me old-fashioned. Call me a stick in the mud. Call me conservative. All of them are true.

When it comes to presenting a professional image appealing to our service-based clientele, I want simplicity. I want neat. I want clean.

Why?

Professional pet groomers have an image problem. As a whole, we are not seen as “true” professionals. We are not respected. Professional pet grooming is not commonly viewed as a credible profession. My father wasn’t thrilled about my early career move back when I was twenty. (He’s OK with it now!) What about your dad?

Unfortunately, this image problem is often well deserved. We are our own worst enemies. If we want to be true professionals, we need to look and act the part. Not just in how we present ourselves, but how we present our businesses, as well. Are we personally presenting a neat, tidy, and clean appearance? What about our salons and mobile vans?

If we can’t groom ourselves, how do we ever expect our clientele to view us as educated professionals? How do we instantly gain their trust? How do we build a long-term relationship based on respect?

None of this will happen if we don’t take pride in ourselves and our workplace.

Not allowing my team to wear blue jeans at work is my first line of defense.

We have less than 30 seconds to make a first impression. When a new client walks in the door, the impact is almost instant. What do they see? What do they smell? And what do they hear?

I’m not here to argue some people can rock it in a pair of well-fitted blue jeans. The problem is – most of us can’t. When I’m working with a large team of people, it’s much easier to require a basic dress code.

Dress codes don’t have to be complicated. They go a long way to set the first stages of creating a positive first impression.

006b14ed7c8bcb88d198fb55ef140b6c_-dress-for-success-and-dress-for-success-clipart_1602-16035 Reasons Why A Dress Code is Good For Business

  1. A dress code creates uniformity. Keep it simple. Matching attire goes a long way to create a positive impact on clientele. Black, khaki, or even white slacks, capris or longer shorts look professional, especially when teamed up with coordinating business shirts or jackets. Some pet service businesses find matching medical scrubs a simple way to unify their team. If you’re dealing with dog hair all day, matching hair-repelling garments make it simple to look stylish. Clients instantly know who is a staff member.
  2. It’s controllable. With a well-written dress code, it’s easy to get a consistent look within your entire team. Plus, it’s easy to enforce it.
  3. It minimizes risk. Dealing with dogs all day presents risks. You need to be stable on your feet and be able to stand for hours. Sturdy footwear is a must. Hooped jewelry poses a health threat to the wearer when handling dogs.
  4. It builds trust. Having a clean, crisp, and simple – but polished – dress code in place instantly builds credibility with clients. Trust is at the heart of all successful service based business, bringing clients back on a regular basis.
  5. It simplifies life in general. Today, we all have hundreds of decisions to make. By establishing clear boundaries with a dress code, you simplify your team’s daily decision-making process. By giving them direction on what to wear to work, they clearly understand what type of impression the company puts out to its clients and potential customers.

Some employers struggle with employees who believe they have the right to dress and groom in a way that represents their personality. This is true – outside of the employer’s business. However, businesses have rights to establish a dress code that aligns with their company and their target market. While individuals have a right to express themselves, so too do businesses. The way your employees dress sends intended or unintended messages to your clientele.

Suitable attire, along with basic politeness, cleanliness, and knowledge are a few of the most common threads within professionalism. Torn, sloppy, or ill-fitting blue jeans, in my opinion, do not convey the type of professional image I want to present to the community.

It’s human nature to form instant options of others. Personal presentation affects the perception clients have of you, your business, and your team. It is important to maintain a dress code which creates a positive first impression.

Never forget, the point of a dress code and professional conduct, at all levels, is to make others comfortable, including your clients. Its implementation ensures the instant impression a business is credible, trustworthy, and reliable.

Happy trimming,

~Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white

 

P.S.  I know this is a controversial topic.  Let’s talk about it.  I want to hear what you think.  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell me your thoughts.


Thinning Shears are the Pet Stylist’s Eraser

Are you thinking about upgrading any of your pet grooming tools? For many dog groomers, The Groom Expo in Hershey, PA that is coming up later this month is a perfect time to see and test new items for your tool kit. If you are saving your tip money to buy new thinning shears, this blog is for you!

pencilThinning 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.

It 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.

ToolboxStylists 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.

royale-double-teeth-thinning-shear-bladesThe 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.

What are your favorite shears? What do you look forward to shopping for when you go to Hershey? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa


Why Should I Schedule Holiday Appointments in September?

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

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

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

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

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

So how do you kick this off?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa


Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

Everyone 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


Do I Really Need to Learn Anything Else?

(Welcome to my blog!  This week, my marketing expert, Joelle Asmondy, will be filling in for me.  Joelle is a whiz with marketing and is a firm believer in education.  Enjoy!)

handI was at one of our industry’s amazing trade shows recently and had a brief but memorable exchange with a lady that walked past our booth. I wished her a good morning and without turning her head, she glanced at the table in front of me and the many books we had on display. Never breaking stride, she dismissed me with a quick,
“I’ve been in this business for 28 years – I’m good.”

“What a blessing that she has been in business that long!” I thought. “AND that she still comes to trade shows! She must really love the work she does!” I was so impressed that for a second I didn’t realize the subtext of our “conversation.”

“I don’t need to learn anything else.”

Wait – what?!

It was such a quick encounter, but I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve replayed it over and over in my head. This morning I finally realized why this struck such a chord with me.

ramirez-bored-yawnWhen I was working my way through college, I worked for several months in a plastics assembly plant. The work wasn’t hard and I actually enjoyed working with my hands, but I could see the lifeless glaze in the eyes of my co-workers who had been at the job for years – and would probably never leave. They had done the same tasks at the same stations for years. There was no challenge in it for them anymore. They would fall into trance-like states while working. This was not the same look I got when I lost myself in a painting I was working on, when time fell away and I lost track of my surroundings until I came up for air. This was different. For them, everything was the same, with nothing to stimulate or relieve the mindless repetition until lunch time. There was no joy and no pride in what they were doing. It was just a job – something to be done for a paycheck.

Dog grooming, like anything else, has routines. It’s how we maintain consistency, quality, and safety. However, I just can’t imagine being satisfied with doing things the same way, every day, for the rest of my life. After all, technology changes. Breed standards evolve. Styles change. People certainly change. How can anyone in an industry as rich and diverse as ours possibly think that there is nothing more to learn, nothing to be gained by looking at something anew?

“I’m good.”learning-priorities-Development

Anyone in sales or who works a trade show will tell you that you have to accept hearing, “no” more than you hear, “yes.” Was this person just telling me that she didn’t want to spend her money with us? Possibly. Maybe she had other priorities – shampoo, sharpening, new shears – that needed the cash in her wallet. I respect that. The difference is the deferral she gave. It wasn’t, “I already have that,” or “No thanks,” or even, “Leave me alone.” I have a very strong feeling that, had I offered the books for free, I would still have been met with, “I’m good.”

“I’ve been in this business for 28 years….”

I love it when people stop by to tell us how long they’ve been grooming – and that they still love learning new things. I love it because I know they’re happier in their lives. There’s something about trying new things and embracing change that stimulates us and makes us thrive, not just live. Think about the last time you experimented with a new technique. Maybe you tried Asian Fusion for the first time and your customer LOVED it? Maybe you learned a different scissoring method that saved time and effort which enabled you to groom another dog each day – or to go home a little earlier? Maybe you tried a new shampoo that reduced the amount of time you had to spend brushing a tangled pet and your arms weren’t so tired every night?

13178553_10154208688333593_7385084264050383064_nWhatever it was, it happened because you were open to learning something new. Does that mean you HAVE to go out and buy our books? Of course not (although we wouldn’t mind!). Don’t automatically short-change yourself because you’ve been at it for years. There is always something new to be learned and so much more to life than just slogging through the days.

Successful people know that learning is the key to their success. If you settle back and decide that you’ve learnt everything you need to know about running a business, about succeeding in your career or about managing and motivating your team … you’ll lose out to competitors who have a passion for learning.”

So true.

It may not be easy or convenient to learn new things. It takes time to adapt to new things until the change feels natural – but isn’t it worth it? Best friends were strangers at first. Think of all the movies you might have missed, the books you’d never read, and the amazing food you’d never have experienced if you’d never tried anything new. I try new things every day and I can honestly say that because of it…

“I’m good.”

 

Make it a great week!

~ Joelle Asmondy

Are YOU still learning?  What inspires you to keep educating yourself?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

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


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