The #1 Strategy to Build a Thriving Clientele

April 28th, 2016 by Joelle

Marketing has always been an interesting component to running any of my companies. After all, if I don’t have customers, I don’t have a business. And if my business isn’t flourishing, I do not earn a paycheck – and speedneither do any of my team members.

Here are a couple of questions I’m asked all the time:

  • What’s your secret to creating a thriving company?
  • How do you get repeat clients?

Do you know what’s at the heart of all businesses?

People.

I don’t care how much you love the animals, it’s the people who make companies thrive. And people are experts at knowing if they FEEL valued. That goes for both your staff and your clients. If you’re working with a team of people, it has a trickle-down effect. It’s important to treat your staff with respect. With dignity. With fairness. Bottom line, make them feel valued. If you can do that successfully with your team members, they will in turn treat the customers in the same manner.

When it comes to service-based businesses, you’re not selling the service of grooming dogs or cats. In professional services, you’re not really selling YOUR expertise. It’s taken for granted that you must know what you’re doing. What you are selling is a personal relationship. A relationship with the owner.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with all types of professional groomers and stylists. I have seen some of the most talented pet stylists struggle to maintain a healthy clientele. Even if they were passionate about their trade, maintaining a robust clientele and growing a business just wasn’t in the cards for them. At the same time, I have seen mediocre groomers grow an amazing repeat client base that keeps their appointment book overflowing.

What’s the difference?

It stems from the ability to interact positively with their staff and the clients. In the end, the most successful grooming salons are professionally run AND highly personable. They have the ability to win over the customers, building their trust with their precious four-legged babies. Simply put, it’s a personality contest – just like in high school!

Always remember, most clients of complex services cannot gauge knowledge.

They can’t tell…

  • If their tax return was done exceptionally well.
  • If they have had an insightful diagnosis on a complicated illness.
  • If they have a brilliant attorney that’s going to win their case.
  • If they are going to get a fabulous grooming job on their pet.

What a client or a perspective client can tell is if they were involved in a positive relationship.

They can tell…

  • If phone calls are returned.
  • If they are treated politely.
  • If the job was completed when it was promised.
  • If their pets are treated with compassion.

In a service-based business like pet grooming, having a highly personalized team of people handle your clientele is the key to a thriving business. Technical skills will only take you so far. Being able to win over the trust and hearts of your clientele is the real key to a successful grooming business.

Grooming salons and pet stylists who have captivated more than 60% retention rate of their clientele is going to succeed in any market. If your salon or stylist isn’t retaining over 40% of their appointments, you need to look deep within your level of service – dissected and fix it.

Make your clients feel special.

  1. Listen to their needs.
  2. Solve their problems.
  3. Treat them with dignity and respect.
  4. Handle their pets with kindness and compassion.
  5. Under-promise and over-deliver on everything you can do for them.
  6. Always be grateful and thankful they are giving you the opportunity to serve them.

 If your technical skills are not up to par – improve them.

  1. Become a more talented groomer/stylist by increasing your knowledge base.
  2. Continuously practice to improve your current technical skill base; bathing, drying, clipping, scissoring, thinning, and hand-stripping.
  3. Learn to be more efficient with your grooming time.
  4. Always work with safety, quality, and compassion worked into the equation.
  5. Constantly push yourself to a higher level in everything that you do.

If you focus on making people feel valued – while offering a solid service – people will follow you. It will seek out the services you offer. I’d love to say people will flock to you just because you are the best groomer in the area, but they won’t. You have to win their respect – and their trust. And you do that by being personable.

And the real beauty of this? Treating people with respect so that they feel valued doesn’t cost anything. It takes is a grateful attitude, a smile, and the willingness to serve with a heart.

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Go online and tell us what you think on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


How to Avoid Stress & Burnout

April 20th, 2016 by Joelle

Professional stress and burnout is the number one thing that stops a successful career in its tracks. So how do you keep it from happening? How do you keep your job fresh? Fun? Rewarding?

Here are a few of my top suggestions.

Difficult Dogs

Dealing with difficult dogs or cats is one of the biggest challenges we face every day. You know the feeling in your gut when you see them on your appointment book. Those feelings of dread, anger, and sometimes fear – those negative emotions that get associated with one pet or client. You begin fretting about them right away, don’t you?

I don’t know many people who enjoy dealing with an uncooperative pet. One of the easiest ways to minimize your stress level is to simply eliminate them from your schedule.

There are plenty of nice, well-behaved dogs in the world to groom. I strongly suggest not doing any more than you can handle confidently and safely. Your skill level should dictate how much you can comfortably take on. Typically, the more experience you have, the more challenging the pet you can safely handle. To stay safe, know your limits – and the limits of the pet entrusted to you.

Here is the rating scale I’ve used to rate a dog’s (or cat’s) personality.

#1: Perfect angel on the grooming table. We love these pets!

#2: Bouncy and wiggly. Does not respect rules and boundaries but is not mean or nasty. They are a bit of a handful to deal with on the grooming table.

#3: Will bite when provoked (tugging on mats, cleaning ears, and trimming nails). With the exception of these trigger points, the pet can tolerate the rest of the grooming process.

#4: Will bite – even the smallest thing sets this personality type off. They cannot be trusted. A well-fitted muzzle can be helpful – and many times, necessary. They require a seasoned and experienced handler/groomer to keep both the pet and the person safe.

#5: Dangerous and unpredictable. Eyes will typically glow red or green. Good candidate for veterinarian-supervised grooming with a sedative.

You should consider charging extra for handling difficult pets. They take more time to groom – and time is money. Let your fee reflect it.

Difficult owners

This one can be a little tricky. If they are just mildly annoying, deal with it professionally but don’t put any more effort into the client than needed to keep them at bay. If they are rude and nasty, most likely they are just that way all the time – that’s how they go through life. I would do a great job for them, just like with any other client, but I would not go out of my way to do anything “special.”

If they are difficult to deal with AND neglect their pooch or do not respect my time, I would charge extra for that.

Just as we rate our dogs, at times we will rate difficult owners.

I have no problem referring #4 or #5 rated pets and/or owners to another groomer who might be more successful in meeting their needs (i.e. – always fire them professionally and politely).

Lateness

Nothing is more frustrating than a client who does not respect our time! We give them a 15-minute window to arrive, either to  arrive to their scheduled appointment or to pick up their pet. If they do not arrive within that window, it counts as a strike against them. For arrivals, we have a three strike rule…

  • Strike one: we let them off with a mild warning.
  • Strike two: we remind them how much we value our time. If they can’t value it as well, they will need to look for another stylist.
  • Strike three: we fire them.

If they do not pick up their pet prior to our posted closing times, we give a few extra minutes. As soon as we know they are running late, we try to get in touch with the owner. If the owner calls and can give us a reasonable estimated pick-up time, my staff has the option of waiting for them if it’s beyond closing time. I will post a hefty late pick-up fee (in 5-minute intervals) but leave it up to the employee to charge it. If they waited, they get to keep the entire late pick up fee as long as they collect it. If we can’t reach them or have not heard from them, we’ll bed the pet down for the night. We leave a pleasant note on the door for the client. We simply state our hours and let them know we look forward to seeing them in the morning. I have heard many salons charge an overnight fee, too.

5 More Quick Suggestions

Each one of these could be a blog topic on its own. However, for right now, I’ll just toss these out there for you to ponder.

  1. Keep learning to make your career interesting while allowing you to expand your career opportunities.
  2. Take time for yourself and your family.
  3. Maintain physical health and wellness through diet and exercise.
  4. Learn to say NO when your schedule becomes overwhelming.
  5. Charge enough for your services. Avoiding living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Don’t forget the little things that made this career attractive to you in the first place – never forget WHY you followed this career path. This is a career with UNLIMITED potential for those willing to stay focused. Work hard – and never stop learning. How cool is that?

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Go online and tell us what you think on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


The NEW Notes From the Grooming Table is HERE!

April 18th, 2016 by Joelle

 

Notes From the Grooming Table has become an industry staple in most grooming salons. My guess is you have at least one copy tucked somewhere in your shop. Others have it right out in the open. The pages are stained, worn, and tattered.

I love seeing books that look like that!

The original Notes was released in 2004. It took three years to create the book. Lisa VanSweden did an amazing job illustrating the entire thing. It was a massive undertaking. There were times I questioned if we would ever complete it. At that time, I was questioning my sanity…

Thanks to all those copies tucked away in grooming salons and on book shelves around the world, Notes From the Grooming Table became one of the most popular grooming books ever written. I don’t question my sanity anymore.

Fast forward 10 years. The AKC was adding recognized breeds at a record pace. New grooming tools were being added to our tool kits. Coat types we had not seen before were walking into everyday pet salons. Styling trends were changing on a number of breeds. I knew it was time to think about updating Notes.

Like everyone else, I had a lot on my plate. When I first created Notes in the early 2000s, I only had one business, The Paragon School of Pet Grooming. Today I oversee four different companies, each with additional sub-companies. It was a lot easier for me to focus solely on writing the book on the first go around. Even then, there was an ongoing joke within my team. They all swore my husband Marc locked me in my home office and threw food under the door. In all honesty, they were not far off – especially in the last 6-8 months. Seven days a week with typical days running between 10-16 hours each.

We started talking about a revision in 2013, but it took until the fall of 2015 before the pieces fell together. Lisa and I felt like it was the Fall of 2003 all over again. The focus and the commitment to this revision was just as intense as the last 6-8 months on the first edition.

As we were getting close to finishing up the written section of Notes (I lost count on how many rounds of proofing went into the new version!) it dawned on us the cover needed to be updated. Hmmmm...

“How do we handle that?’ I thought to myself at the end of a very long day. We were tossing color options around and having a hard time deciding. Then it hit me. The cover should be the color of a nice glass of red wine – something we were all going to be celebrating with once this massive project was finished!

As I write this – I can see the finish line. Yesterday the very first three books hit the office HOT off the press. I don’t even think the ink was dry! We are definitely closing in on the finish line of the Notes From the Grooming Table revision. I can taste a lovely bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon about to get uncorked. If we dribble any on that new front cover, no one will know!

What’s inside? What’s new? Here’s a preview of what has been added to the Second Edition of Notes From the Grooming Table. Check it out.

  • THERE’S MORE! We’ve added 145 more pages.
  • NEW Bathing & Drying sections – including Hairless and Rustic Coats.
  • We’ve added tools and products that did not exist or were not commonly used in pet grooming prior to 2004.
  • Trim style trends on many of the breeds have been updated – including pattern lines and profiles.
  • NEW! What each dog group was designed to do.
  • Replaced the art on a number of illustrations to better showcase the breed.
  • Changed the terminology of guard combs to reflect the diverse brands in use today.
  • Additional illustrations to add clarity to grooming instructions.
  • Grooming directions for 51 new breeds added to the AKC since Notes was first released.
  • FINALLY! A complete index for easy reference.
  • Added the Miscellaneous Group section.

I’m so excited for this second release. Notes has stood the test of time and continues to be a leading reference guide in our industry. It’s been exciting to team up with Lisa VanSweden again to add all the new breeds while utilizing the easy to follow format that has made Notes From the Grooming Table so popular.

The art and diagrams as well as the easy to follow directions continue to be the hallmark of the book.  Every bit of this book was created in the USA – from conception, to creation, to printing, to distribution.

I’m super excited to share this with all of you. If you loved the old Notes From the Grooming Table, you are going to LOVE the second edition!

Make sure you watch previews and announcements coming out. They will tell you where you can get your own copy in the upcoming weeks. We have some special deals we are working on right now if you are one of the first to place your order.

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Go online and tell us what you think on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


Dealing with Trouble Areas in Fur

March 16th, 2016 by Joelle

SONY DSCMats. Tangles. Knots.

Call them what you like. That woven mess of dirt and hair can often determine what kind of a trim can be done on a pet. They are the best friend – and the worst enemy – of the professional pet groomer.

The key to dealing with these trouble areas is knowing how to identify them and deal with them effectively.

4 Types of Mats

1.) Lack of Maintenance: The owner brushes between grooming but it is not as effective or as often as it should be. Dirt, static, and moisture are usually the culprits. More frequent bathing and brushing to remove dense undercoat is needed in these cases. The mats produced from poor maintenance are generally smaller and can be removed with the proper knowledge, tools, and products.

2.) Neglect: These tangles are tough. Typically, these mats result of longer-term neglect and are very tight and difficult to remove. Many times, the dog’s coat is in extremely overall poor shape and is very dirty. They can be a hiding place for pests like fleas and ticks and may lead to skin damage or injury.

3.) Friction: Friction mats are caused when two areas rub together. It could be from a collar, dog sweater, or from a body part (like behind the ears or under the front legs) – but is not limited to those areas. Depending on the activity level of the dog, friction mats could be found up and down the legs, on long ears, or the tail. These are the areas that come in contact with other areas like tall grasses or even the ground.

4.) Compression: This type of tangle is generally found on the rear of the dog. It is caused from sitting or lying down. Dogs that shed heavily will have dead coat packed into the guard coat, and if not removed, will clump and mat as moisture and compression do their work. Just like people, dogs tend to be left or right-sided. The compression type density will be worse on one side more than the other.

Here is the best way to deal any type of tangle…

Find them before the client leaves!

That means at check-in. This is not just a time to be catching up with your client. Use this time to diagnose problem areas with their pet’s coat. Get your hands on the dog – not just your eyes! The eyes can be deceiving. The owner doesn’t even have to be aware of what you’re doing.

I disguise my hands-on inspection as a meet-and-greet to the pet. It warms up both the pet and the client. But more importantly, it gives me valuable information. Information that I can use to communicate effectively with a customer about the type of trim we can do, the cost, and the amount of time it will take.

Sink your hands deep into the coat. Keep moving. Feel under the ears, in the armpits – get to those friction and compressed areas so there are no surprises once you get the dog in the tub. Do you know what you’re feeling for? You’re trying to find patches of density/inconsistent density in the fur. You should be able to come into contact with the skin. Often, your client will insist that the dog is completely brushed out when in truth – they’ve just been brushing out the tops of matted areas. This is where your comb comes in handy for a demonstration. Sink the comb through the coat. If you feel resistance, that’s your matted area.

quoteRemember, the groom starts as soon as the client walks in the door, not when the dog is on your table. You should start assessing the dog visually as soon as the pet walks in and continue your examination until you are satisfied that you have found everything you need to discuss with your client before s/he leaves. Having to make repeated phone calls because you didn’t take the time to properly check over a pet will annoy your client – and will waste much of your own precious time.

But don’t stop there. You should always have a comb within reach. Clients may not always understand what a mat is, but it’s hard to deny a comb stuck firmly in the middle of tangled fur. It’s also a great way to open the discussion about the necessities of combing, as well as brushing, to maintain proper coat condition.

If there are problems or issues, I want to deal with them immediately before the client leaves. In the service-based business, education is the key. Most of the time, this means educating the client as to what is proper maintenance for their pet. Guide their hands to the problem areas. Have them feel for themselves what to watch for, so that when they’re brushing their pet at home they are better able to identify mats and how to deal with them. Many first time pet owners have really no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into when it comes to proper pet maintenance. They may love the idea of having a Golden Doodle, but have no idea that they should be groomed more than twice a year.

This is the perfect time to do that. With new clients, I would talk to them about trim options based on the condition of their pet. If their pet is in extremely difficult condition, I would talk to them about the risk factors the pet is going to experience due to its condition. Explain the potential risks that could occur during dematting. And always have the owner sign a pet release form (see examples from the Paragon School of Pet Grooming below). It also offers you an opportunity to offer beneficial special products or services to the pet or its owner.

By using your training, experience, and professional intuition, you can educate your client and make a real difference in the lives of the pets entrusted to your care.

~Happy trimming,

Melissa

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Client Check In Form

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Pre-Assessment Evaluation Form

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


This Little Gem is One of Your Best Marketing Tactics

March 9th, 2016 by Joelle

There’s a secret to marketing your salon.  Do you want to know what it is?

~ Bows ~

Top secretThat’s right, bows.  Well-made, brightly colored, and altogether wonderful, bows.  The bow is your secret weapon and one of your best marketing tools.

“Seriously?!  I thought bows were just for decoration?”

Bows are a genius marketing tool.  They bring attention to your business.  In a nutshell, that little splash of color is doing your promotion work for you.
How?

The best part about this tip is that you already know the answer.  Look at this page.  What grabbed your attention first?  Was it the pictures?  The colorful text?  If so, that’s no accident.  The eye is naturally attracted to bright colors.

Beautifully groomed pets attract even more attention when they have a bright splash of color.  Applying bows as a finishing touch on a marvelous groom is a sure way to generate interest.

Getting attention is the #1 goal of any marketing campaign.  Beautiful bows do that in a fun and attractive way.

Accessorizing a freshly groomed dog can be a highly successful marketing opportunity.  Adding colorful bows to a pet can be the perfect way to get owners talking about your styling services any time others see them.

I learned this trick when I was very young, with our family’s first dog.

When we traveled, we’d send our Golden Retriever to a local kennel before we left.  When we picked her up, she’d always be freshly bathed and sporting a simple, felt fabric bow on her collar.  The bow color would change with the seasons, but this simple bow was there every time.

In our small community you could always tell when a neighbor had been traveling, because his dog would be wearing the same type of bow.  As we stopped and chatted, mixed in with the conversation would be the name of the kennel and how wonderful they were.

If that basic little bow had not been there, the kennel name would never have been mentioned, and a marketing opportunity would have been missed.

I carried these lessons of my childhood over into my grooming business.  Every dog that stepped out of my salon or mobile van had this bright finishing touch – unless the client requested otherwise – which wasn’t very often.

The bows were always subtle and stylish.  I used the seasons and holidays to dictate the color and themes of the bows.

Christmas and springtime bows were always popular.  At Christmas, we pulled out all the stops to add a festive sparkle and shine to the bows.  In the Spring, we made basic bows adorned with small silk flowers.  After a long Michigan Winter, this fun little bow lifted everyone’s spirits.

Successful people know that the difference between good and great is in the details.  Bows and finishing touches are part of the entire service package you offer to your clients.

Making attractive bows does require finesse.  It takes a bit of time to learn.  But once you figure out a method that works well for you, you will be limited only by your own creative spirit and time.

Many professional groomers and stylists use down time to create bows, in the same way that many people use knitting or crocheting to relax.

However, if basic bow tying just isn’t for you, there are many companies that specialize in wonderful, ready-to-use bows.  We encourage you to use them!

There are thousands of ways to market yourself as a professional pet groomer.  Choosing to accessorize a freshly groomed dog can generate lots of word-of-mouth advertising.  Adding colorful bows to a pet gets people talking about – and remembering – your styling services.

Isn’t it time you took advantage of the best sales tool for your business?

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Did this idea help? Go online and tell us what you think on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.

To see videos on this topic, click here!


3 Things You Need to Know to Groom Any Breed (What You Need to Do If a New Breed of Dog Lands on Your Grooming Table)

February 23rd, 2016 by Joelle

It’s a day like any other when you get a phone call from a client:

“I have a (insert breed here). Do you know how to groom them correctly?”

Um…

You’ve never groomed this breed before. In fact, the closest you’ve come to one is seeing it at a dog show. Maybe you’ve never even heard or seen the breed before.

“Why yes, Mrs. Jones, we certainly can make your Bedlington look like a Bedlington!” you say confidently as you book the appointment for the following day.

You hang up the phone and reality sets in. You’ve never seen this type of dog cross your grooming table. You don’t have a clue how to actually groom it correctly. What do you do?

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

Here are three core strategies you need to groom any breed of dog.
 

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

So what is your next step? How are you going to be confident when that client walks in the door tomorrow?

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

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

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

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

Use a little caution when looking up information online. Always remember – not everything posted on the internet is correct or presents the best image of a breed. Make sure you use all your resources to gather the most accurate information possible.
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Watching videos on the breed in question is also a great option. Again, a word of caution – not every “how to video” on the internet will be beneficial. Today, anyone can post a video online. Unfortunately, there is a lot of poor quality grooming being featured – especially if it is free. Go to trusted sources like Learn2GroomDogs.com that are truly qualified to demonstrate how to groom a particular breed.

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

However, if you have those three nuggets of knowledge, you will have the foundation skills to groom any breed.

  1. strong technical skills
  2. solid comprehension of canine anatomy
  3. ability to interpret the breed standard

With those 3 skills, you can groom any breed of dog that comes your way.

If you are a newer stylist or just don’t have the time to do all the research, there is a shortcut. Notes From the Grooming Table will allow you to fast track your knowledge. Simply grab the book and turn to the breed you have a question about. We are just about to release the fully updated Second Edition of Notes From the Grooming Table. Keep your eyes open for how to get this revised edition – announcements on how to get yours will be available soon.

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

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

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Did these tricks help? Go online and tell us what you think on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


Westminster Dog Show: What I’m Watching For This Year

February 11th, 2016 by Joelle

February is Westminster dog show month! It is one of the few dog shows getting full national TV coverage at the Groups and Best In Show levels. I look forward to it. Every. Single. Year.

1rrI will be parked in front of my big screen TV for both nights watching and studying.

This year I’m even more excited. The 140th Westminster Dog Show is coming on the heels of a two-day advanced grooming session we just filmed for Learn2GroomDogs.com.

Master pet stylist, Irina “Pina” Pinkusevich, was our guest Training Partner. Guess what? Just three years ago she won the prestigious Groomer of the Year Award which was presented at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. She worked on six different dogs, all in show trims:

  1. Miniature Poodle in a Continental Trim
  2. Kerry Blue Terrier
  3. Bichon Frise
  4. English Setter
  5. English Springer Spaniel
  6. American Cocker Spaniel

Pina is one of the most advanced educators in our field. Every time I see her work on a dog, I learn something. These lessons were no different. What I especially love about Pina is that she has the inside scoop. She knows the hot styling trends and/or the direction they are going from the conformation show ring.

If you are focused on expanding your career as a high quality pet stylist, it’s more than just washing and knocking the hair off pets. It’s about anatomy. It’s about geometry. It’s about balance. It’s about style. It’s about bringing out the best of a dog based on its written standard. It’s about creating artful illusions. The art of pet styling is sculpting fur.

With every L2GD film shoot, I take detailed notes. With Pina, I find it challenging to keep up. My fingers never stop on my keyboard as I watch her work. I always walk away with loads of notes from her lessons.

Here just three takeaways that I learned from Pina two weeks ago. As I watch this year’s dog show, I will be noticing how these particular trends apply to the dogs in the ring on Monday and Tuesday nights.

Takeaways From the Learn2GroomDogs.com Film Sessions with Irina “Pina” Pinkusevich

Number 1: The ⅔ to ⅓ Rule

I’d never heard this rule of balance, style, and proportions before. Pina said when a dog is in properly balanced, the ratio is ⅔ to ⅓. Two-thirds makes up the front section of the dog. One-third makes up the rear of the dog. When trimming, the tuck-up or front jacket will be placed at the dividing line between the ⅔ and ⅓ points to create proper balance on a dog.

To test the theory, we pulled a number of images of top winning show dogs.

Dang!

There it was there over and over again. I also pulled images of the gorgeously groomed dogs Pina has done for Learn2GroomDogs.com.


Yep… the rule holds true on all of them, too.

This rule might be a new concept to many of us, but it’s been put into practice in the conformation ring for quite some time.

I will be watching to see how this rule plays out on the big screen at the dog show.

Number 2: The Lowest Point on the Throat is Level with the Topline or Loin

What??!

The throat is level with the topline? Seriously? This one caught me off guard. But then I started looking. Really looking. Sure enough. There is was over and over again. It especially held true on the Sporting dogs.

OK, I get it. Level with the back but what if you have a dog with a “sloping topline?” Now where do you take the point of reference from? The loin. It’s the point just in front of the hip bones on the top of the back. Draw an imaginary line from that point level and straight forward to the throat. That’s the lowest point on a clipped throat.

“Huh…,” I thought as I raised a questioning eyebrow. I will be on the lookout for this new grooming development. I saw how the rule held up in the Sporting dog images we pulled – but would it hold up to other breeds in different groups as well? I can’t wait to see how many Sporting Dogs utilize this “rule.” Trust me – I’ll be looking!

Number 3: Use the Front Pastern as a Guide When Setting the Undercarriage on Well Coated Dogs

Really?!

There is a point of reference when setting this line? Who knew? Certainly not me! I would just eyeball it and pray. My guess is I’m not the only one out there who has used that technique.

This principle applies nicely to many of the Setters and some of the Spaniels in the Sporting Group – as long as they have long enough furnishings to pull it off.

I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled to see if this third rule applies to other breeds, as well.

We had many more aha! moments while we watched Pina work her magic on these six lovely dogs. We will be releasing Pina’s latest L2GD video lessons all through 2016.

The three points I chose to outline here are all points I’ll be looking for closely as I watch this years televised Group and Best in Show classes at the 140th annual Westminster Dog Show.

People say to me all the time, “But I only groom pets… I don’t need to know how to groom show dogs.” You know what? I only groomed pets, too. But that never stopped me from learning as much as I can about what different breeds SHOULD look like. If you don’t have any reference as to what a nice representation of a breed looks like, how are you going to know how to bring out the best of any purebred or mixed breed?

Watching a dog show of this caliber keeps me fresh and excited. Watching top stylists at work, like our Training Partners with Learn2GroomDogs.com does, too. I hope you will join me as I hunker down Monday and Tuesday night to watch the show. I know I’ll have a pencil and paper close by to take notes!

February 15 and 16, 2016 marks the 140th Westminster Kennel Club Annual Dog Show. There are 199 breeds and varieties are eligible to compete. For 2016, there are nearly 3,000 dogs entered. For more information on the dog show, streaming or television schedules go to: http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Did these tricks surprise you? Go online and tell us what you think on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


Maintain a Steady Pace

February 4th, 2016 by Joelle

Speed is the key to being a successful pet groomer. Have you watched a highly proficient pet stylist at work? They don’t race around frantically. They don’t whip from one task to the next with lightning speed. They are not frazzled. They are not stressed. They blow through 10, 12, even 14 dogs with ease.

How do they do it?

business-womanHow do they manage a full day and still get home to meet their kids coming off the bus from school? They still manage to get to the gym after work. They enjoy their own dogs when not grooming client’s pets. They have the time AND energy to have a life when they step away from the grooming table.

Do you?

When I observe these successful groomers, I’ve noticed important traits they all share. They work with a steady pace. They have a rhythm to their tasks. Their tempo doesn’t change. They follow the same order as they work on each pet. Their tools are laid out in an orderly fashion, sharp and within arm’s reach. They are not distracted by ringing phones, tales from their fellow team members, nor the personality of the pet they are working on. They are focused and efficient as they work around the pet. There is no wasted effort. No wasted motion.

There are methods to each grooming job. Following a particular order with each type of groom will assistance you with getting through the tasks the quickest. There will be five main types of jobs you do every day – day in – day out at any grooming shop.

The five types of grooming jobs

1. Short haircuts, six weeks or more
2. Short haircuts, six weeks or less
3. Guard comb trims
4. Bladed body with fuller legs and/or furnishings/pattern trims
5. Bath and brush type pets

Generally speaking, the faster you can get a dog to the tub, the faster the trim will go. Dogs with six weeks or less coat growth can normally go straight to the tub. With today’s products, shampoos, conditioners, and high velocity dryers, much of the pre-work can be eliminated. Dematting or pre-trimming is a waste of time with six weeks or less trims.

When it comes to haircuts or finishing a bath and brush dog – pay attention to the order you work. Develop an order – the same order every time for each of the five grooming jobs. If you struggle with remembering the order, write it down and post it at your grooming station. Time yourself on each task. Work on improving your speed with small components within each job. Don’t jump around.

Always follow the order.

Watch top stylists at work. Watch their videos. Sit ringside at grooming competitions and watch the leading stylist compete. With consistent repetition, you’ll increase your speed in no time. You’ll have more time to spend enjoying your free time doing what you want to do. The stress and frustration will be highly minimized. And the best part – you’ll make more money, in less time!

Don’t hurry or rush around frantically to get the job done. Maintain an easy pace and work steadily. Remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare? Highly productive people work a certain rhythm that allows them to flow through enormous amounts of work without becoming stressed or anxious.

Here is a great Learn2GroomDogs.com video lesson that shows how the pros get it done.  Join today!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Do you have any tricks like this one? Tell us about them on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


How to Brighten a Dogs Coat Using a Staple Pantry Item

January 28th, 2016 by Joelle

Today, we have a wide assortment of products to make our grooming jobs easier. They give us better results and may even help us do the job faster. It could be anything from a shampoo, to a coat conditioner. It might be a magical spray or powder you apply to the coat. Take a look at any grooming catalog and you’ll find a vast array of items from a variety of manufacturers that can take care of just about anything you could need.

But how do you know exactly what to reach for when a unique situation presents itself? Sometimes you don’t always know what you need. Or maybe what you need is a specialty item and you don’t have it at your fingertips. What do you do then?

Smart groomers and stylists often turn to home remedies. Years before we had the variety of products we do today, most clever groomers turned to their own cabinets for solutions. They used their ingenuity and developed home remedies to solve their grooming dilemmas.

Recently on the Learn2GroomDogs.com set, we had an unusual situation. Luckily, we had the masters of home remedies in for a filming weekend, Lisa Leady and Suesan Watson. (If you haven’t caught their L2GD lesson on home remedies – click here! Not only is it educational, the sister duo missed their true calling as a comedy routine!)

All of the dogs for that filming weekend were dogs that were supplied to us, sight unseen. We’d simply made the request for eight dogs.

The criteria was:

  1. They needed enough fur so that Lisa and Sue could actually groom them.
  2. The dogs needed reasonably nice temperaments.

That’s it.

While we were at lunch, the dogs were checked in. Our team had placed them in a holding area to await their afternoon film session. When we returned, we were excited to see what was we had to film. I knew all our afternoon dogs were mixed breeds that had come from a large 300+ dog puppy mill rescue that took place a few years ago. Luckily, all of the dogs found loving homes. The family supplying the dogs for the Learn2Groom film shoot had adopted three of the puppies. Many of the rescued pets were Shih Tzus, Pomeranians, Malteses, or mixes of the three breeds.

When we walked into the kennel room at the Paragon School of Pet Grooming, we were so excited. Every dog was adorable! But one really stood out – a Pomeranian/Shih Tzu mix. It had plenty of coat that brought out a few key features, making him even more appealing. But it did have a problem – and it was smack dab on the top of his head: a huge, rusty-colored lick stain.

If you’ve been in this profession for any amount of time, you know exactly what we were looking at. Apparently, one of his four-legged siblings had taken to cleaning the top of his head on a frequent basis. The constant licking had turned the white fur a rusty red color. He also had a fair amount of rust staining near his eyes and around his mouth.

Sue immediately reached for this little cutie. As she was snuggling with him she looked me right in the eyes and said, “Do you have any ketchup?”

What?

Why did Sue want ketchup?? Even though I hadn’t said a word, my expression must have asked the question.

Sue quickly went on to explain that ketchup would lighten the stain on the top of the dog’s head. “Really?” I exclaimed. I didn’t bother to question her – I knew she had something good up her sleeve. Sue said it didn’t matter what brand of ketchup we chose – any ketchup would work. I quickly went and found a couple packets of ketchup in the kitchen and handed them to her.

We took the dog out onto the practical skills floor and set him on a grooming table. Sue simply opened a package of ketchup and started to apply it to the dry coat. She generously worked it into the top of his head, under his eyes, and on his muzzle area. Once the ketchup had thoroughly saturated the hair, we set this little guy aside to sit for about 30 minutes before bathing him.

I was amazed after Sue bathed and dried this little dog. The rust-colored staining was significantly lighter! Was it gone altogether? No. But it was considerably lighter on the top of his head. Around his eyes and on his muzzle area it was almost totally removed.

I was astounded.

Sue suggested that we do a couple more applications in the future to really lighten the top of his head.

After seeing what a single application of ketchup (yes ketchup!) had done to brighten this dog’s coat, there was no doubt in my mind that a few more applications would lighten the stain even further.

I love home remedies when it comes to grooming. These problem-solvers are made from items that you just naturally have on hand. Many times they are common pantry items that all of us have hidden away in drawers or cupboards.

Who knew you could use ketchup to lighten and brighten the coat? It was a new one for me.

Watch for Suesan Watson in an upcoming Learn2GroomDogs.com video lesson featuring this adorable little Pomeranian/Shih Tzu mix.  Join today!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Do you have any tricks like this one? Tell us about them on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


Making the Most of a Seminar

January 21st, 2016 by Joelle

When you attend trade shows and clinics, preparing in advance can help you make the most of this experience.  Seminars are a great way to improve your skills and recharge your batteries.  Meeting your mentors and soaking up their knowledge is a fantastic opportunity, and if you can see and hear them in action, it maximizes the experience.  When you know what you need and what you hope to get out of the session, you can better prepare yourself to squeeze out as much as you can from your time together.

1.  Step into the session with a very open mind.

If you are young and fresh to the industry, the amount of information that you get can be intimidating.  Listen, take notes, and soak up every bit of knowledge that you can.  Sometimes that may mean suspending what you know in order to make room for something new.  Trying new techniques or ideas can be uncomfortable just because you’ve never tried it before.  Keeping an open mind enables you to break from your routine to get different results.  With time and practice, the awkwardness goes away and you become more efficient.  Remember: having more tools, techniques, and knowledge allows you to have multiple approaches to a problem.

2.  Make efficient use of the time available.
Many trainers at these sessions have limited time.  They are often rushing from one obligation to another – judging competitions, speaking in seminars, or providing hands-on clinics.  If they can, many will take the time to answer your questions.  If you know what you need to ask, it helps you make the best use of the brief time you may have together.  Be prepared – write down your questions in advance so you don’t forget something important or stumble over your words.  Being ready to participate in the learning experience helps you make the best use of the session – and the presenter will respect you for it.

3.  Don’t be nervous – plan ahead.
With so much to see and do at trade shows, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  Break out the catalog and study the floor plan before you arrive.  Map out your plan of attack to make sure you get to everything you need to see.  Some shows have free apps you can download to help make the most out of your experience.  Know the schedule of events so you don’t miss that speaker you’ve been hoping to see.  Sometimes it’s good to go to shows like this with a friend – divide and conquer, then compare notes later.

As your knowledge and skills advance, the clinics won’t be as daunting. They will become a great way for you to fine-tune your skills.  You can begin to network and exchange thoughts with others in the industry who can provide insight when you need it.  Plus, these types of functions are a great way to invigorate your career.

These principles remain valid for many forms of advanced learning in the pet grooming industry. Maybe you don’t have the opportunity to do a hands-on training session. There is a wealth of information to learn from these all-star pet stylists. You might be in the audience at a trade show, pet grooming competition or watching a grooming video lesson featuring one of these top stylists. The better you can execute the core skills with your everyday grooming, the easier it will be to successfully transfer their lessons to your own grooming table.

If you are not as accomplished as these award-winning and highly successful pet groomers are – take note. You can learn a lot from their well-developed skills. Learning new skills, tips, and tricks make grooming pets all that more fun!

Click here to register to see Pina Pinkusevich in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Do you have any tips to share?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page  and tell us.


 
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