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10 Tips for Trimming Nails in a Professional Grooming Salon

30063787_mrrWe all dread this phone call.

You’ve just groomed one of your favorite client’s dogs. The nails were super long so you trimmed them. You accidentally got one nail too short. It bled.

A lot.

You didn’t panic. You had the tools and know-how to fix the bleeding toenail. You successfully stopped the bleeding and finished the groom. The dog left your salon looking fabulous and with nicely trimmed nails. You might have even painted them – pink.

Half an hour later, the client calls in a panic. Their freshly groomed pooch is bleeding from a toe. It’s getting all over everything – and they have no idea what to do!! Their back hall looks like a war zone. There is blood everywhere!! And to make matters even worse – the carpet is light cream-colored.

The client wants to know two things:

  1. How do they stop the bleeding?!?!
  2. What are you going to do about their new cream-colored carpet??

What do you do? You have a very upset client on your hands, a dog with a bleeding toenail, and probably a huge carpet cleaning bill. You groan. You shake your head in disbelief. You kick yourself for not checking that nail one more time before the pet left.

Sound familiar? Yep. If you’ve been grooming dogs professionally for any amount of time, you know first-hand what I’m talking about.

Personally, I’m not a nail Nazi. I will get nails as short as I can without bleeding them. However, I have groomers that are a bit more diligent about getting nails trimmed back so they don’t tap the floor. They routinely have to use a styptic powder to get nails to stop bleeding.

Whether I’m dealing with a groomer who believes in getting nails short or someone who is a bit softer on the nail front like me, I still have rules.

Here are my 10 Nail Trimming Guidelines:

  1. Trim nails as closely as possible without creating a bloodbath.
  2. If you do trim a nail too close and it bleeds, use it is as a reference guide so you don’t repeat trimming another nail too short.
  3. If you do bleed a nail, use styptic powder to stop the bleeding. Apply a generous pinch of powder to the nail tip. Hold FIRM pressure on the end of the nail for a MINIMUM of 30 seconds (count OUT LOUD!). If the nail is REALLY a bleeder, hold the powder to a count of 60.
  4. If there is blood on the fur, clean up the area with hydrogen peroxide.
  5. Check the nail again before the pet leaves.
  6. ALWAYS inform the client if any nail was trimmed too short. Let them know what toe it was and have them keep an eye on the foot.
  7. Instruct the client not to let the dog run across abrasive surfaces like concrete or asphalt for the next few hours.
  8. Always send the client home with a nail mending kit that includes a small amount of styptic powder and instructions on how to use it.
  9. If they have ANY problems, inform them to call or text the shop immediately.
  10. If the nail breaks open again in the car or at their home and the client needs professional help to clean up the blood, pay the bill – no questions asked.

These are the policies I put forth in my shops. If you run a professional salon, nails are occasionally going to be trimmed too closely. By following my 10 step action plan when the inevitable does happen, we are proactive in our customer service approach. We the head off all problems prior to the pet even leaving the shop with a nail that is trimmed too short. Hopefully you will, too.

-Happy trimming,

Melissa

 

PS

Here’s a video about nail art you won’t want to miss!

 

[youtube]http://youtu.be/GW3VUhh_YsE?list=UU6QEPG7JG7exQRpEr9e_nHA[/youtube]

 

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Tips for Booking a Smooth Holiday Season

blog imagerDon’t blink. The holidays are going to be here before you know it. Are you ready?

If you have a reasonably busy salon – and have been at this for a few years – you know the holiday season is crunch time. In a very narrow window of opportunity, you will be busy grooming the regular clients in your database.

Every

one

of

them.

Are you going to let your clients run rampant over you or are you going to take charge of the situation before it runs out of control?

The holidays are a special time of year. Yes, it’s one of the busiest times for a professional grooming salon. However, it’s also the time of year to enjoy time with those closest to your heart.  If you are chained to your grooming table throughout the entire holiday season – how can you possibly enjoy your family and friends?

Sure, keeping your customers happy is important, but so is your family. So are your close personal friends. Don’t let the insanity of the holiday season put a damper on your festive mood.

Believe me, I learned the hard way, too. Grooming super long hours up to 14 days straight before Christmas left me totally spent and exhausted. I was definitely a Scrooge throughout the entire holiday season. I knew I had to make a change when one Christmas I literally slept through the entire day.

Here’s a trick I implemented a number of years ago. It’s worked like a gem for me and my teams.

We start looking at our holiday season in September. We start booking our top priority clients months out. How do we figure out which clients those are? Simple.

We start pre-booking all our premiere clients based on the number of weeks between grooming appointments. It’s a service we offer to our best clients for free.

We work in the following order:

Weekly clients get top billing. They get their choice of premier times and days. Once those clients are booked, we move to our biweekly clients. Next, our two-week clients are booked, then we move on to our three-weekers and so on until we reach the end of our 6-week clients. Always go in that order.

By the time we complete pre-booking all of our holiday appointments, there are very few holes left to fill with other regular customers. Those are the only other customers that we would take. Any customer that walks through our doors for grooming appointment during the holiday season MUST have a history with our grooming salon. During the peak holiday season, we never take a new customer.

Once we started utilizing this type of scheduling, the three days prior to a major holiday were a breeze. Almost every dog on the schedule is at least a three week client. How hard is it to groom dogs like that? You know the answer to that – they are EASY!

To me, that’s this best way to deal with the holiday season. Take care your best customers. Set limitations on how many dogs you going to do per day. You will be busy but you won’t (and shouldn’t) be chained to your grooming table during the entire holiday season.

Never forget the true meaning of the holidays. They are meant to be spent with family and close friends.

Have you already pre-booked all of your holiday appointments? Excellent . You’re well and your way to having a joyful and well organized holiday season. If you haven’t already started booking those clients – don’t waste any more time. Start now.

Here’s a little more on the subject – and aren’t our hats the BEST!  You can see more on this topic – and so much more – on Learn2GroomDogs.com.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/tvO4Ji8Lli4?list=UU6QEPG7JG7exQRpEr9e_nHA[/youtube]

-Happy trimming,

Melissa

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Thinning Shears are the Pet Stylist’s Eraser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy trimming!

-Melissa

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How to be an Indispensable Groomer’s Assistant

blogrThis always shocks me. 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. These are all constant problems I see all the time. Not only at in the ring or at hands-on events, but in salons with every day grooming 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 in if you want to be highly valued in your grooming salon, if you want to move ahead in your career, or before you can you gather loads of glowing clients.

1.  Be 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.

2.  Be 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.

3.  Understand 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.

4.  Bathe the dogs until their coats squeak

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

Period.

This is absolutely 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.

5.  Dry 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!

6.  Learn 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 with 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.

7.  Nails, 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.

If you need detailed information in how to do any of these skills, become a member of Learn2GroomDogs.com and watch the Core Grooming Skills & Techniques Skill video lessons (click here for a complete video list) or review the front section of my book, Notes From the Grooming Table. Learning the skills does take time. They take dedication and focus to master them. You should never underestimate the value of strong foundation skills. They will form the building blocks of a long and successful career. Mastering these core skills to an absolute fault will ultimately determine how successful you will be in your career. (For more tips on how you can be more efficient and make more money, read my blog, The Need for Speed.)

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.

Happy trimming,

Melissa

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Don’t Let Your Salon Become a Doggie Day Care (for Free, Anyway)

kennelrA salon owner recently asked me how I would handle a situation we all face.

What do you do when pet owners drop their dogs off for grooming that should only take 2 to 3 hours and expect you to keep them all day – at no additional cost?

Here’s what you do…

CHARGE FOR IT!!

Let’s face it – you’re never going to get away from this problem, so flip it into a positive.

Add a policy on pet pickup to your service menu: “We pride ourselves in getting your pet back to you as quickly as possible.“ Then briefly explain what your typical timeframe is for most grooming services. It might be something like, “Most grooming services take 1-3 hours depending on the size, condition, and the type of service.” Add something pleasant along the lines that you appreciate prompt pickup upon completion of the groom.

Next, add half-day daycare for select clients. Be bold! Proudly display this in your service menu. Place tasteful signs around your reception area announcing this new service – for “their convenience.” Set a price that establishes the excellent value of this service. Be strong. Be positive. If you’re feeling hesitant about this tactic, remember that this is something you’re doing to help them – you’re giving them the gift of time! They can now be pet free for a little while so they can get their shopping done, clean the house, or just take a little quiet time to themselves (because after all, don’t they deserve it?). You just also happen to earn back some cash for the time and effort you used to spend caring for their pet – for free. If you’re going to end up doing this for them anyway, why not charge fairly for it -because after all, don’t you deserve it?

If you don’t mind acting as canine daycare service – make it a reasonable rate. If you don’t want to do it or basically want to discourage it, set the price at a point that very much makes it WORTH your effort.

Maybe you charge $10 for it… or $25… or MORE. Whatever you choose, make sure people understand it’s by the half-day. If people have been abusing you in this area, you have to be strong. Be pleasant but do not let the clients walk all over you. Remember that this is a mutually beneficial thing you’re doing – you have the upper hand. Be consistent and follow through.

To enhance that positive spin, I would make it sound appealing on the service menu. Make it fun. Tell the client that their pet will be offered water, a mid-day snack, a potty break, and a cozy place to stay.

Then there’s another area we definitely need to talk about: the fine print on your service menu. This is where you state “your rules.” You don’t have to go overboard but you certainly need to set some boundaries for your clients.

One of the rules I would certainly encourage would be a late pickup policy. For example, if the pet is not picked up within an hour of its completed groom, you reserve the right to charge $XX per 15 minutes the pet is left in your care. You get the idea. You need to have something written and posted along those lines to help them remember. And you must follow through. The guests that take advantage of you will need consistent enforcement if you are to make any headway with them.

A late fee is different from a daycare expense. The Paragon School of Pet Grooming doesn’t charge for “daycare.” As a school, Paragon has the space to keep the pets – a luxury you may not have. Because we need high pet volume for our students, we don’t charge clients extra if they need to leave their pet all day due to work situations – we need the dogs more than we need the space!!

However, there are a few clients who just can’t seem to get there by closing time. We found that charging the late pick-up fee to clients that don’t respect our closing time works well to help re-train their thinking about lateness.

Basically, the client is charged $15 for each 15 minutes that they are late. Remember, it’s not just a late pick up – while this might seem a minor inconvenience from the client’s perspective, the staff member has likely made repeated phone calls, has delayed all closing activities (counting the register, closing out credit cards, etc.), and has sacrificed personal time. If you pay your staff by the hour, this may also result in paying out overtime, which adds to YOUR bottom line.

The staff member will wait up to half an hour. After that, the dog is taken out to go potty and is bedded down for the night. A note is left on the door and a message is left on their phone that lets the client know their pet is safe, it’s been made as comfortable as possible, and that it can be picked it up at opening time the following morning. Luckily we’ve never had anyone leave their pet on a Friday night! We let whoever waited for the client collect every penny of the late pickup fee. I just feel that is fair.

All of our front desk team is salaried. If they need to stay late, they don’t get paid extra for it. It’s totally their call whether they charge the fee or waive it, depending on the situation.

Needless to say, people don’t forget their dogs very often. And if somebody has had a true emergency – we’ve totally waived the fee.

Every shop is a little bit different. Find a solution that works for you. You don’t have to be ugly about it. You don’t even have to get frustrated about it. Put a positive spin on it and turn it into a newfound revenue generator! And make sure you smile when you’re talking to your customers about your new service!

Happy Trimming,

~Melissa

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The Need for Speed

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

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

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

Top 10 Areas Where Pet Pros Can Improve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.  Towel Dry – Towel Dry – Towel Dry

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

6.  Three clipper passes or less!

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

7.  Create a routine for everything you do

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

8.  Cheat like crazy with attach on combs

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

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

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

10.  Love What You Do

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

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

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