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7 Speedy Grooming Tips for a Happier Pet

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Speedy pet grooming is one of many ways we show compassion for the animals in our care. Grooming efficiently doesn’t mean you care less about their needs. You can groom a pet quickly while still being gentle, respectful, and without sacrificing quality and thoroughness.

I understand this not only as a groomer, but from personal experience with my own fur family. I have Maremma Sheepdogs, two of which are over 10 years old. They are heavy, double-coated, large dogs. At one time, they had the physical strength to endure longer grooming sessions. However, as they’ve aged, grooming has become more uncomfortable to tolerate.
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Growing Your Business? Make Room for New Customers!

Growing your business starts with two simple equations:

Marketing AmyIf you want your business to thrive in any economy, you need insurance – and repeat business is your insurance plan.

During my recent lecture about client management at a large trade show, an audience member said something so amazing I knew I had to share it with you. I wish I had caught her name so I could give her full credit for her brilliant idea.

Professional groomers are always busy when the weather is warm. Most of us are booking out two to three weeks (or more) in advance. When the weather is toasty, people always want their pets groomed. The dogs are hot, dirty, and stinky. Even the once or twice per year clients start calling.

BLOGWhere are those clients during the slower times when your appointment book needs filling? Those are the times when you wish you had more regular clients that book consistently every few weeks.

Those regular clients are your bread-and-butter. They keep your bills paid and food on your table. They are the ones you can count on. Any successful grooming salon wants a roster full of regular customers and the time to look for them is not when you’re slow. You need to get them while you’re at your busiest.

It’s not as crazy or as impossible as it sounds.

Remember that brilliant audience member? She said she always leaves at least one opening per day to accommodate walk-ins and new clients.

Some of you are shaking your heads. Why would you leave an appointment slot empty when you can fill it with a regular client? You’re probably thinking that you’re losing easy money.

Here’s where that insurance plan idea kicks in. The problem isn’t being booked out when the weather is nice. The problem is that you need to be booked no matter what kind of weather you’re having. You do that by adding clients – and when are new clients calling? The same time as everyone else.

A new client will not wait 2 or 3 weeks to book an appointment with you. They will just move on to the next groomer who set that time aside, just waiting for that client to call.

If you’ve nurtured a relationship with your regulars, they will wait for you. They love you. Their pets love you. Making sure to pre-book their next appointment ensures they get premier treatment and the best appointment times. The long-term investment you’ve made in keeping these customers happy will now start to pay off.

Setting aside those five slots a week is how that lady in the audience maintains a constant stream of new clients. These walk-ins become customers that she can educate and count on during the slower times of the year. As she builds up her regular clientele, she can eliminate the once or twice a year dogs. After all, wouldn’t you rather work on a super regular client instead of a twice a year outdoor farm dog?

Quote In A Circle$100 for a once a year farm dog seems like a lot of money – but is it?

Let’s say you have a 6-week regular client who pays $50 per visit. That’s half of the once a year farm dog. You are going to see that client eight to nine times a year. On an annual basis, you’re going to earn between $400 and $450 for that single client.

The farm dog? You will earn $100. $100 you can’t count on next month or next year.

Which would you rather do?

If you do not make time in your schedule to take on new customers, you might miss out on adding a valuable client that will keep your bills paid when it’s slow. This client could make the difference between working or being sent home because you don’t have any dogs to groom.

Which salon would you rather work at?

As a bonus, making room in an already packed schedule allows you some wiggle room. Maybe you don’t have a walk-in on that day. Or maybe you don’t have a new customer calling to book an appointment. That open slot allows you a little breathing room. Probably at a time when you most need it.

Do you have to take every first-time appointment or walk-in coming through your doors? Absolutely not.

I would ask for some critical information before you get too far into the conversation. Of course, the customer will want to know the price. That gives you the opportunity to learn the breed, the age, the size, the coat condition, and how long it’s been since his last professional grooming. These questions will help you determine whether you should book the appointment. Trust your gut with what the client says. It’s your appointment book.

When you do make room for a new client, make sure you also take the time to educate them. Most clients don’t know how frequently they should have their dogs (or cats) groomed. Talk to them about their lifestyle and how much maintenance they’re willing to do between appointments. Talk about what you can do for them as well their limitations based on the condition of the pet. Custom create a regular schedule that will suit their needs and keep their pet looking and feeling its best.

Will you get it right every time? No. But if you don’t make room for prospective new customers during your busiest times, you won’t have regular clients to carry you through when it’s slow.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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How Do You Remove Track Lines from a Coat?

I still remember how frustrated I got when I first started grooming.

eraserI was the assistant, doing mostly bathing and drying for the groomer. One day, she was overbooked and was falling deeply behind schedule. She had a basic “all trim” on a larger dog that she hadn’t even started yet. Out of desperation she asked if I would remove some of the coat before the bath.

I thought to myself, “Sure, why not? How hard could it really be?” I picked up the A2 clipper as the groomer handed me the appropriate head. I twisted it on and set to work.

What a mess. The dog wasn’t hurt but my work was awful. The dog was full of uneven coat and lots of tracking.

The groomer had always made it look so easy. Coat seemed to melt off like a hot knife through butter. Her clipper work was always smooth and even. No track marks. No sticky-outies.

This was not nearly as easy as I thought!

However, I stuck with it.

Quote In A CircleThe groomer coached me as I struggled with the second side. It turned out somewhat better but was far from perfect. Today, I would not consider my work that day as acceptable – not even as pre-work before the bath. It was that bad! Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about all the tracking. It was just the rough cut before the bath. Once the dog was clean and blown dry, the groomer finished it in no time.

Fast forward 10 years. I had mastered the clippers and figured out how to eliminate tracking in the coat. On rare occasions, I still had problems. By that time, I was in my own mobile grooming van and running my own business. One of my clients was a buff American Cocker whose owners wanted clipper cut.

Most of you who have been groomers for any amount of time know some buff-colored Cockers track terribly when clipper cutting. This dog was no exception.

It didn’t matter what blade I chose.

Tracks.

It didn’t matter how powerful the clipper was.

Tracks.

It didn’t matter what time of year it was.

TRACKS.

The. Coat. ALWAYS. Tracked.

On one appointment, I basically threw my hands up. I could not get the tracking out of the coat. I had used all the tricks I knew to no avail. As I sat there contemplating how to remove the lines, I had an idea. What would happen if I reversed a blade over this coat? Hmmm. At that point, I figured I didn’t have much to lose.

I tried out the technique on an obscure spot on the dog’s body. I reversed a #7F blade then stepped back to check my work. I realized it was going to be way too short. I bumped up to a longer #4F blade. When I tried again – it was perfect. It was the length of a #7 blade. And even better, it was baby butt smooth. Eureka!

Over the years, I’d figured out how to get all coat types super smooth, but this Cocker type coat had always given me trouble. Once I mastered that coat type, coat tracking was a thing of the past for me.

So how do you get coat super smooth without any tracks?

There is not one simple answer but there are lots of techniques and trouble-shooting options. Here are a few tricks that I discovered with years of practice.

Page 479 Ways to Eliminate Track Marks

  • You need super sharp blades. The sharper the blade, the faster and smoother the cut.
  • Get a powerful set of clippers. They don’t necessarily have to be large and clunky. They do need to have enough power, speed, and torque to glide effortlessly through a thick coat.
  • Use consistent speed when clipping through the coat. As you guide the clippers through the coat, you need to run the clipper consistently over the pet’s body.
  • Card thick and dense coats before AND after. Dead undercoat clogs clipper blades. Removing as much dead undercoat prior to clipping and then again after the clipping will greatly reduce lines.
  • Always follow the lay of the coat either clipping with the grain or against the coat growth. Cross coat cutting typically creates track lines. Focus on working with the natural lay of the coat.
  • Reverse blade clipping. When the coat growth pattern is distinctive, reverse clipping can be beneficial to remove or eliminate clipper tracks. Instead of working with the coat growth, work directly against it. Reverse clipping cuts the coat closer than working with the grain. Always bump the blade up two lengths longer – a #4F cuts the length of a #7F with the grain.
  • Maintain a consistent degree of tip on the blade as you clip. Every clipper blade works most efficiently when the heel of the blade is tipped up slightly. The shorter the clipping action, the higher the degree of tip.
  • Keep consistent pressure against the skin as you clip. Typically, the weight of the clipper is the correct pressure to apply. Keep a supple wrist as you guide the clipper over the pet’s body.
  • Fine detailed thinners work as erasers on stubborn lines. When all else fails, you can buffer clipper lines with thinning shears, knocking off just the high points of the tracks.

Every coat type is a little bit different. Some coats barely track at all. Others are almost impossible to get smooth. Learning how to minimize tracking takes time and practice. Mastering a smooth clipper cut in the least amount of time takes focus and attention to details.

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to mastering clean perfect clipper work. Groomers who have mastered a track free simple “All Trim,” on a regular small to medium-sized can groom a pet in one hour or less.

If you struggle with this problem, my book, Notes from the Grooming Table, has a very detailed section about clipper work in the front of the book. My Learn2GroomDogs.com streaming video platform also has some great videos about efficient clipper work in the Core Video Category. Make sure to check out those two educational resources. If you work with a team of stylists, someone within your group might be able to coach and mentor you. You can also look for local clinics or workshops where you can work with a seasoned professional.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat are the tricks you’ve used to eliminate tracking? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 


How to Get Your Clipper Work Smooth – Like a Summer Hay Field

blogrIt’s been over 35 years since that first time. I still remember standing in awe, watching a talented pet groomer give a dog a haircut. She handled her clippers with ease. The long fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and gorgeous. And she was fast – super fast. She made the whole process seems so simple.

The first time I tried, I quickly discovered it was not simple. Those initial attempts were pretty pathetic. Saying my first efforts were rough and choppy would be polite. There were long tufts hanging out everywhere. I was frustrated beyond belief.

I was determined to master the skill. After all, the groomer I had been watching proved it could be done. It was simple – I just had to focus and figure it out.

Fast forward a few years of practice and a couple hundred dogs later, and I could make any dog look amazing. When I did a simple haircut on a pet, the fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and appealing. I could finish dogs in no time. I’d gotten very efficient with my clippers.

It took years of hard work. There were years of standing on my feet until they throbbed, working until my hands and shoulders ached. However, my pain can be your gain. Here are a few tips to enhance your speed when it comes to simple, low maintenance haircuts:

  • Use the most powerful clipper you can afford and are comfortable holding. Duel speeds or variable speed clippers are great options.
  • Work with the natural lay of the coat. You can work with or against the grain. If you reverse clip, the end result will leave that fur approximately two blade lengths shorter than working with the natural lay of the coat.
  • For a large majority of low maintenance trims done with a #4F, #5F, or a #7F blade with the grain, you will go over the pet three times before it’s really smooth.
  1. The first time removes the bulk.
  2. The second time takes out the high spots.
  3. The third time erases what you missed.
  • The strokes are long and smooth. They overlap slightly. I often tell students to think about a hay field. The farmer wants to be as efficient as possible – but he doesn’t want to miss anything, either. Most farmers work in nice, neat rows as they cut hay, slightly overlapping each row to ensure they don’t miss any portion of the field. Think about the dog’s body in the same manner. It’s a hay field. Your clipper is the tractor. You want it done right… and you want to be done before the dinner bell rings.
  • When clipping the legs, remember the actual contact of the cutting blade is minimal due to the shape of the surface. It’s round – like a pencil. Only a few teeth will make contact with the surface as you run the clipper down the leg. Thus, on legs you need multiple passes to get the same effect as three passes on the larger flat surface of the body. You can clearly see this relationship by simply running a blade down your own finger and looking at the blade’s point of contact.
  • Back brush. Back brush. Back brush!

clippersYou’ll always get a smoother cut on a dog that is clean and the coat has been fluffed. Once you make the initial pass to remove the bulk of the long coat, it’s time to pick up the brush. Back brush the entire dog and go over it a second time. On the third pass, again gently back brush the entire area that needs final attention. Did you get that? Back brush!

When do you know you are done? You are done clipping when there is no more coat coming off the dog after it has been washed, dried, and effectively back brushed. Period.

Clipper work on a low maintenance haircut style can be extremely frustrating for new groomer. But once you master the clipper and understand how to work with the coat, it becomes second nature. It becomes simple. You become fast. And you will be able to perform the haircut safely with great precision.  You can do it. It just takes focus

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat did you think about these ideas? What do you do that works great for you? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.


The Secret to Handling Challenging Dogs

Dollarphotoclub_57676672In my years of teaching new pet groomers, I’ve seen hundreds of dogs take advantage of a new students. Dogs pull, squirm, whine, snarl… and bite. I’ve seen many students frustrated to the point of tears.

Then a miracle happens.

An instructor will walk over to the pet and gently take over for the student. Suddenly, this challenging pet turns into a perfect angel. The students’ jaw drops. A moment in stunned silence passes before the student exclaims, “How did you do that?!” The answer is simple:

Energy.

Dogs have keen senses and an uncanny ability to pick up on our energy and our confidence. They read us clearly even when we don’t think we are connecting to them. In the example above, the dog picked up on the instructor’s energy without a word having to be said.

Dogs are primarily nonverbal communicators. They have a language of their own. They are very clear in the messages that they give us. It is up to us to be able to interpret that language.

The #1 rule when working with pets is to remember the three C’s. As a professional you must remain: Calm, Cool, and Collected in ALL circumstances. The second you step out of this energy mode, the dog pet will know it.

Dogs are hardwired to think like dogs. They need a pack leader. If you do not exude the three C’s, dog language translates that to “poor leader.” The pet will not follow you. It will not cooperate with you.

So how do you gain the upper edge in this situation? Believe it or not, it all starts with your BREATHING.

I know it sounds far-fetched. How could something we do without conscious thought help in this situation?

To create a calm, cool, and collected energy, you need to be cool, calm, and collected. Deep breathing allows you body to channel that calm and focus. To make it happen, your breaths need to be deep and saturating. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Draw in the air and feel it fill your lungs. Now exhale slowly through your mouth. The most important part of deep breathing is to regulate your breaths. Three to four seconds in. Three to four seconds out.

Try it. You will feel the oxygen saturating your body. Tension begins to leave your shoulders. You will start to feel more relaxed almost immediately.

Screen-Shot-2015-11-05-at-4.08.52-PMDeep breathing can release stress and provide other noticeable health benefits. You will likely feel calmer after performing deep breathing exercises, and may trade feelings of anger or fear for a focused, relaxed state of mind. Most dogs will totally gravitate to this energy in a very positive way.

I firmly believe that 98% of all dog bites are preventable by reading the animal correctly and taking the appropriate precautions to protect yourself while gaining humane control over the pet. Your hands are your livelihood. You must take utmost care not to let your hands become injured.

Every pet is an individual with different physical and emotional characteristics. Some dogs receive clear directions and boundaries at home, making them very easy to work on in a professional setting. Other pets will not have the skills necessary to be well-mannered candidates in a professional grooming setting.

The personality quirks that you’ll experience while working professionally with pets will range from dogs that are perfect angels, to dogs that are mildly annoying, to dogs that could be potentially dangerous to work on for both the handler and to the pet itself.

Whenever working with pets it is always critical to remember the 3 C’s. As a professional you must remain calm, cool, and collected in all circumstances. And don’t forget to BREATHE.

Whenever you have a dog on a table or in your grooming facility, you must use humane, respectful, and consistent training messages. The more you can learn about dog psychology and combine it with actual experience, winning the control and the respect over the dogs will become second nature.

Always remember that dogs are primarily silent communicators. Excessive talking or giving of commands is not necessary to effectively communicate with them. Much of your control can come from maintaining the Three C’s – Always remain Calm, Cool, and Collected while working with any animal.

Any time you feel you are losing control of the three C’s, it’s time to step away from the grooming table and take a break. Breathe. Only when you can totally regain your composure is it time to step back and begin your work again.

There are many videos on Pet Handling in the Learn2GroomDogs library. Also my blog on Rating Dog Personalities is very helpful when determining how to rate personality and behavior in dogs.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat did you think about these ideas? What do you do that works great for you? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.


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 5Theory Cover:

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.

clinicSpend the day with Melissa

Melissa Verplank will be in the Tampa, Florida area on Sunday, March 19, 2017 for an all day seminar.  Melissa will present four of her most popular lectures that are sure to help you and your business!


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


What is at the Root of All Success?

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

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

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

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

Focus on the fundamentals.

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

c00aa89c0f35c77225dcdc099b7a0f84What are the fundamentals in dog grooming?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa


The Pet Grooming Field – Do You Know Where Do You Fit?

Discovering the Meaning Behind the Job Titles

Groomer.

I have always struggled with this word. Stop and think about it. Is it really the best definition for the wide variety of skills necessary to do our job? Personally, I think the term “Groomer” is too broad a term to use within our field.

Think about how the medical profession is organized… when you need a routine annual medical exam, do you book an appointment with a Podiatrist? No. You’d get an appointment at your regular clinic, where they deal primarily with routine and preventive health care. Depending on your condition, you might get an appointment with a nurse practitioner who is qualified to treat a certain spectrum of illnesses. For situations requiring more formal training and experience, you’d see your family doctor. If a health disorder required attention from an expert in a particular field of study, you would seek the help of a specialist.

Another point to ponder… how do you think their pay scale is structured? I would bet the medical specialist takes home a much larger paycheck than the nurse practitioner or even the family physician.

Let’s flip this over to what we do. Bottom line – we’re pet specialists with three distinct skill levels:

  1. Bather, Assistant, or Bathing Technician
  2. Groomer, Pet Groomer, or Grooming Technician
  3. Stylist or Pet Stylist

Here are my definitions for each of those areas.

1. Bather, Assistant, or Bathing Technician

These folks have a basic knowledge base of core grooming skills. In some cases, the Bather’s duties may cross over into other job descriptions. In many smaller salons, the Bather might act more as a personal assistant to the Groomer or Stylist. A Bather’s duties might include any task that could be easily delegated by the Groomer or Stylist so they can focus on getting dogs completed in a timely manner.

Bathers, Assistants, and Bathing Technicians should have a basic understanding of:<

  • Selection and Care of Equipment
  • Canine Psychology and Temperament
  • Safety and Sanitation
  • Anatomy
  • Pet Handling
  • Breed Identification
  • Skin and Coat Conditions
  • First Aid and CPR
  • Parasites and Their Control
  • Diseases and Preventive Vaccination
  • Nutrition
  • Common Illnesses and Skin Disorders
  • Common Grooming Products
  • Equipment Handling
  • Coat Pre-Assessment and Pre-Work
  • Bathing and Drying Skills
  • Brushing and Combing Skills
  • Mat Anatomy and Safe Removal
  • Equipment Handling
  • Nail and Feet Trimming
  • Ear Cleansing
  • Tooth Care
  • Anal Gland Expression (Optional)

Although the Bather role in a busy salon is typically considered an entry level position, in reality it’s one of the most important roles of a successful salon. If a dog is not washed perfectly and dried properly, quality work can never be achieved. No matter how talented the Groomer or Stylist is when it comes to trimming and styling pets, they will never be able to do a good job on a dirty or incorrectly dried pet. Period.

Earning Potential – Entry Level

2. Groomer, Pet Groomer, or Grooming Technician

A Groomer deals with basic grooming needs. They can get dogs clean, dried properly, and thoroughly brushed out. They can do everything the Bather does but they kick it up a few notches. Groomers can complete challenging bath and brush pets with ease. Plus, they can trim pets safely and efficiently with clippers. Groomers are comfortable with a variety of clippers and blade choices. They can handle a wide range of coat types on both bath and brush style pets as well as simple, low maintenance haircuts. They have basic knowledge of how to work with scissors and blenders, getting adequate results for non-discriminating clients.

Pet Groomers should have advanced knowledge and understanding of the previously mentioned areas and be able to work with greater speed and efficiency without sacrificing quality and safety.

The Groomer in almost any salon is the workhorse. They focus on non-nonsense, low maintenance trim styles. Their concentration is on getting the dog thoroughly brushed out, mat free, and super tidy. Trim work focuses more on the neat and clean aspect of grooming than creating highly stylized haircuts. Advanced training and continued education in this area can vastly improve grooming speed, quality, and enjoyment of the job.

Earning Potential – Mid-Range Level

3. Stylist or Pet Stylist

A Pet Stylist molds and shapes the coat in a manner that accentuates the features of the pet. They have a firm understanding of anatomy, breed profiles, as well as structure and movement. They have a firm comprehension of technical skills. An accomplished Pet Stylist can apply those skills in an artistic manner. Their personal tools are of the highest caliber, allowing them to create remarkable trims in a very short amount of time. A seasoned Stylist will often also specialize in particular breeds, grooming techniques, or personality types.

Pet Stylists should have expert knowledge and understanding of the previously mentioned areas, be able to work with greater speed and efficiency without sacrificing quality and safety, and have expert control of clippers, shears, combs, brushes, blades, and stripping knives.

Serious Pet Stylists are generally highly motivated. They advance their careers through continued education. It’s common for an aspiring Pet Stylist to seek out many forms of advanced learning. Many of them turn it into a personal goal or an enjoyable outlet. Conformation dog shows, grooming trade shows and competitions, certification testing, books and magazines, videos, clinics, workshops, private coaching and training, and canine trials are just a few areas the motivated Stylist can use to ramp up skill levels.

Earning Potential – Highest Level

The term “Groomer” is just not descriptive enough. It just doesn’t cover it all – especially if you wear multiple hats in your salon like Receptionist, Accountant, and Cleaning Crew. When a business starts to grow, layers of expertise will develop within your team.

Just like in the medical profession, the more you learn, the more you earn. The stronger your knowledge base and the more proficient you are, the more money you’re going to make. And knowledge has a wonderful side effect – confidence. Why not take steps toward building your skills and confidence every day?

Using a generic term like “Groomer” just doesn’t work for me. I bet it doesn’t work for you, either. Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us what woks best for you!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa


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