Canine Influenza

April 23rd, 2015 by Joelle

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you have probably heard about the newest illness threatening our pets. Canine influenza (CI), or dog flu, is a highly contagious infection that can have serious implications not only for our pets, but for your business and our industry.

The dog flu originally appeared in Korea, China, and Thailand. Earlier this year, an outbreak occurred in Chicago. This flu can spread quickly from dog to dog by contact with respiratory secretions and contaminated objects. Any dog, regardless of age or breed can fall victim to this illness. This virus can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for 12 hours. That means that infected dogs that come into contact with these items can potentially pass on the illness:

  • Food and water dishes
  • Collars and leashes
  • Dog toys
  • Kennels
  • People who move back and forth between healthy and infected dogs

Experts estimate that 20-25% of exposed dogs will become infected, but may show no actual signs of illness. 80% of infected dogs may develop the flu and have mild symptoms such as a persistent and treatment-resistant cough, similar to kennel cough. They may also include sneezing, runny nose, and fever.

A small percentage of the infected dogs may develop serious issues, including pneumonia or even bleeding in the lungs. Death is also possible in some cases.

Diagnosing and treating the illness should be done by your vet. Most dogs recover within 2-3 weeks.

Those of us in the pet industry must take a leading role in preventing the spread of this illness. That means making a serious upgrade in how we look at cleaning and disinfection of our facilities. Kennels, grooming salons, vet’s offices, and dog parks can help increase – or reduce – the chances of spreading the flu. Because it can take 2-4 days after exposure to develop the flu, it’s important to take steps to prevent the illness before symptoms appear. Being proactive is the best defense.

An outbreak of the flu in your area can have devastating results. Your clients could be affected. Even your own pets can be at risk!

  • Imagine what would happen if your salon or kennel experienced an outbreak? No one wants a pet to experience a serious case of the flu, or even mild symptoms of the illness.
  • What would the impact be on your business? You would surely see a difference in your daily bottom line as pets become ill and need to stay home to recuperate.
  • What about your human clients? Would they feel like you took the necessary steps to prepare for and prevent an outbreak?
  • Are you prepared to answer questions about the flu? What about your staff?

Preventing the Flu: Step One

It’s important to be plan and be prepared. That means educating yourself and training your staff on what to do if you are in a risk area. Do you make calls to remind your clients of their appointments? That’s a great time to talk about the health of their pet.

Know what you’re going to say before you place the reminder call. That way you know what questions to expect and will be able to answer them without sounding unprepared. Knowing what you are going to say also reduces panic and hurt feelings from sensitive clients.

You might consider creating educational materials for your clients to take home. Those of you who send emails to your clients may consider sending out a newsletter with details about the illness so they can monitor their pets more closely. Posting informative links on your social media outlets is also effective.

Remember – you’re not trying to frighten your guests, so having a script to refer to is a great tool. Know the facts and use them to help create a team with your clients so you can work together on preventing an outbreak.

Step Two

You and your staff should know what symptoms to look for. If a pet client shows signs of illness, it should stay home.

Remember, you are a trained observer and not a vet. You shouldn’t diagnose the pet. But you can certainly suggest that contacting their vet might be a good idea.

Infected pets should be isolated from other pets – that means no trips to the dog park, the kennel, or the grooming salon. If you need to send a pet home, immediately disinfect the area once it leaves your building.

Step Three

Get out your rubber gloves – it’s time to disinfect and sterilize.

The flu virus is killed with routine disinfecting products that contain quaternary ammonium compounds (e.g., benzalkonium chloride), aldehydes, phenols and those with 10% bleach content.

Clean all surfaces, kennels, tubs, tools, equipment, floors… anyplace a dog has been or you have touched after coming in contact with a dog. Get to work on the entry way to your building. Don’t forget your lobby and seating areas. And pay attention to your offices supplies such as phones, pens, and anything else you pick up every day. That leads us to…

Step Four

Wash your hands! Do it before and after eating. Wash them after touching a pet. Scrub them after touching the garbage. Are you doing it right? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says to follow these guidelines:

The Right Way to Wash Your Hands

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Remember that educating yourself and your client is a great defense against canine flu. The better prepared you are, the better your chances of preventing or reducing an outbreak in your area. Don’t wait until it’s too late to understand the risks and your responsibilities. The sooner you understand how you can help, the healthier your pet clients will be.

To read more on Canine Influenza, click here .

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


Why Get Certified?

April 15th, 2015 by Joelle

Purchased PhotosrrAnybody that knows me knows that I’m a huge advocate of continuing education for professional pet groomers and stylists. I firmly believe there are no limitations on how far advanced training can take your career.

Just like anything else, if you want to excel at it, you need to work at it. Remain focused. Have a goal. Have a plan mapped out to reach the target. Get that plan on paper. Then, just do it.

In our profession there is very little regulation or mandatory testing. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is. Anybody can pick up a pair of clippers or scissors and start whacking hair off of a dog and call themselves a professional pet groomer the second they take money for it. They don’t even need to have any type of formal training. Heck, they don’t even have to like dogs that much!

And we wonder why this profession is not taken seriously?

8296567-standardrrWhen I first started working with pets, I’m sure my parents thought it would just be “a phase.” They were positive I would go on to college and get a “real job” once I graduated. Ha! Little did they know I had my sights totally focused on a pet-centered career.

My career started just about the same time one of the first voluntary certification organizations was launched in the late 70’s or early 80’s. I had no formal training. The groomer at the kennel that I was working at in my late teens was fired. The next day I became the groomer – with six dogs on my roster – and no clue how to groom them. It was truly on-the-job training!

Well, I got through that first day. I got through the next weeks and months. I actually enjoyed it.

Did my early attempts at grooming look good? Not a chance. I had a few photos of my early work. You don’t take pictures of dogs that you are not proud of. As I look at those photos today I’m horrified!! High water Poodle feet. #15 blades on the backs of English Cockers. Schnauzers with hourglass head styles. Razor sharp lines on Sporting breeds and Terriers. Hula skirts. Oh my…

I was fortunate. The woman that owned the kennel was pretty progressive for the time period. She got the trade magazines of the era and never threw them out. They were neatly organized on the shelves in the storage room. Whenever had an opportunity, I would sneak off and thumb through those magazines behind closed doors. I felt like I was thumbing through Playgirl! What an education.

UntitledIt did not take me long to realize that there were tradeshows with grooming competitions that I could attend. The closest one was in Chicago – right in my backyard!

I also learned that there was a new organization being formed – one of the first certification testing programs. I had no idea what it entailed but I knew I wanted to do it. After all, I was doing a fabulous job on all the dogs that were coming in! My customers kept coming back. Clients loved my work. I was fabulous. I knew passing a grooming test was going to be a breeze.

NDGAA

National Dog Groomers Association of America, Inc. (NDGAA)

Then reality set in. I got all the information available about voluntary certification testing. This was not a single test. Oh no. This involved multiple tests that were both written and practical – on multiple types of dogs – using many different techniques. The study material? It wasn’t even a grooming guide…

It was the daunting (and huge) AKC Complete Dog Book!

This was going to be a challenge. Luckily, I like challenges. I dug in and set to work studying. I also realized I was going to need some hands-on help. I signed up for a hands-on certification testing workshop.

The first workshop was an eye-opener. I wasn’t going to be able to just waltz in, do the testing, and succeed. Far from it.

 

IPG_Logo_Correct

International Professional Groomers, Inc. (IPG)

At that workshop, I had my grooming skills critiqued for the first time. I was able to compare my work, up close, to other professional groomers. I had to swallow my pride. I was way off base. My work was horrible and I knew it. But instead of getting angry or frustrated or tucking tail and running the other way, I was inspired. I wanted to become a Certified Master Groomer more than ever. But to earn it, I was going to have to work hard for it – very, very hard.

300rrIf I remember correctly, it took me two to three years before I earned my Certified Master Groomer status. By that time I had started my own company, Four Paws Mobile Grooming. I was in my early 20’s and hiring my first employees. My reasons for certification testing changed. As an employer, I needed to have industry knowledge and respect of my staff. Certification testing was one way to do it.

iscc

International Society of Canine Cosmetologists (ISCC)

At the time, I was clueless at how much certification testing would help me. In my gut, I just knew it would be beneficial. Today, I realize certification testing was the launching pad of my career. It opened up countless doors of opportunity. It gave me the confidence to take charge of my own destiny. It allowed me to travel the globe both as a competitor and an educator. I’ve had the chance to work with amazingly talented people. I have never felt like I was stuck in a rut with my career choice.

It also taught me that I will never totally master my trade. There will always be new things to learn – new challenges to conquer. The doors of opportunity will continue to open as I learn new skills. The saying, “The more you learn the more you earn,” is so true.

logo_PetTech400

PetTech (CPR and First Aid for Pets)

Today there are many voluntary certification organizations that put your skills to the test. I would encourage anyone to seek them out and go through the training.

There are many more voluntary testing organizations available. Whether you are seeking to learn more about pet handling, first aid, obedience – and so much more – there is something out there for everyone.  Be sure to check with trusted sources to be sure that the organization you’ve found is reputable and qualified.

Why would you want to do this? The reasons are almost countless but there is not a single reason not to go through the educational and testing process!

Here is a short list of the benefits:

  • Become more knowledgeable
  • Improve your skills
  • Advance your career
  • Increase confidence and self esteem
  • Verification of your skills
  • Increase your earning potential
  • Gain respect from your peers
  • Increase your professional credibility

Even if you are in a small town and deal primarily with shave-downs, seeking out certification testing will only enhance your career. Who knows, if you get a little advanced training, the next shave-down could turn into a stylized haircut!

Remember, there are no limitations on how far you can advance your career by continuing your training. You just have to put your mind to it and do it!

We’d love to hear why YOU got certified. Please jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us why you feel certification testing is important. Don’t forget to tell everyone which organization(s) you are certified with!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

P.S.

1696Did you know that Learn2GroomDogs.com Training Partner, Michell Evans is one of the very few stylists to be certified with all three voluntary certification organizations?

Click here to find out why she thinks certification is so important.


The Importance of Canine Anatomy

April 9th, 2015 by Joelle

“Why bother learning about canine anatomy?” is a phrase I hear all the time.

MV Skeletal StructurerrIf you are a “professional groomer,” this is the most important lesson you can learn. Combined with effective pet handling, understanding canine anatomy is the FOUNDATION of all good grooming.

If you don’t know how the pet is put together – or in some cases – SHOULD be put together, you simply won’t do a good job at your profession. You will not earn the trust and cooperation of a pets entrusted to you. So, whether you are a long time groomer, a newbie, or a bather working with a team of pet stylists – understanding canine anatomy is critical to your success.

All dogs, regardless of breed, possess identical bone and muscle structure. Fundamentally, all dogs – from Great Danes to Yorkies – are the same. The domestic dog is the end result of generations of carefully controlled breeding practices. Man has domesticated dogs to assist us in many daily functions.

Many breeds still do the jobs they were bred to do, such as herding, hunting or tracking. As times changed, the breeds remained but it was no longer necessary for them to perform these tasks. Other breeds have evolved a proficiency in other activities that allow them to continue to assist man.

lesson 1For every purebred dog, there is a written standard developed by parent breed organizations that outlines what the “ideal” dog of that breed should be. The key to maintaining a dog in a condition to proficiently perform its original role is to know the standard.

I get it. Being able to decipher the official breed standard can be challenging at first. Speaking the “language” is a key component to understanding how to work professionally with dogs. As I was coming up the ranks, I struggled with understanding the written breed standard, too. It was like Greek to me! However, with focus and intentional study, I did learn it – and so can you!

In order to safely handle a dog during grooming or to style the dog to accentuate its best features, you need to understand basic anatomy and individual breed standards.

  • What are the key components that make up a structurally sound and balanced animal, purebred or mixed breed?
  • How do you measure or select reference points?
  • How do you apply those points in the trimming process?
  • How can you handle or manipulate the dog to create a harmonious relationship?

For dogs with definite trim styles, you can accentuate proper structure while minimizing conformational faults. To the untrained eye, accentuating or detracting from the conformation of the pet will be subtle. However, it will make a large difference in the overall quality of the haircut.

Are you familiar with the dog’s natural movement limitations? If you are, you can make grooming much more comfortable for the pet. When the pet is comfortable, it is much more willing to cooperate. If you don’t understand the mechanics of a pet and try to move it beyond its physical limitations, you will eventually cause or contribute to an injury. Understanding key pressure points as well as using proper holding techniques allows both the pet and the stylist the greatest degree of safety through the entire grooming process.

Scottie FramworkrrTHE STRUCTURE OF A DOG: FRONT & REAR ASSEMBLIES

Front Assembly

This area makes up the shoulder and front legs. It consists of bones, muscles, and tendons. The angles of the bones, combined with their length, dictate how efficiently the dog will move. The shoulder blade is held in place by muscles and tendons that allow for good forward and back movement, but is limited from side to side. Some dogs are more limber than others. When lifting a foot or leg, never extend it beyond the point of mild resistance when the dog is relaxed.

Rear Assembly

Bones, muscles, and tendons make up the hips and rear legs. The angles of the bones, combined with their length, dictate how efficiently the dog will move. The pelvic and femur bones are held in place by a ball and socket that form the hip joint. The ball and socket offers a greater degree of rotation through the hip joint than in the front assembly. However, older dogs or dogs with joint discomfort will not be as flexible as a pet that is pain free. When lifting a foot or leg, never extend it beyond the point of mild resistance when the dog is relaxed.

Welsh Box StructurerrMEASURING A DOG: KEY LANDMARKS

Outline of a Dog

The overall length of a dog is measured from the point of shoulder to the point of rump and from withers to ground. The distance between the withers and the top of the elbow and the distance between the elbow and the ground will dictate the overall balance and proportion of a dog. Most breed standards refer to the body proportion as being square or rectangular.

Measuring the Head

Skull types come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. The overall length refers to the points from the occiput to the tip of the nose. The stop area is frequently used as a key measuring point of the relationship between the length of topskull and the muzzle.

PATTERN SETTING

Pattern Setting

All patterns are set in relationship to bones and muscles on the dog. There are a few key areas about the neck, chest, shoulders, ribs, and thighs that allow stylists to set body patterns on the dog that are well-balanced and symmetrical. On the head, the key pattern-setting points are the stop area, eye socket rims, ears, cheeks, the back corners of the mouth, and the occiput.

Sporting Dog StructurerrWhether you are working on a show dog or a family pet, where you set the pattern will make a huge impact on your finished groom. On dogs with haircuts, pattern placement is critical to create a stylish haircut that accentuates the dog’s features in a positive light.

Balance, style, and flair all are seen at their best when a trim is founded on a sound basic knowledge of overall canine anatomy. Like anything else, the more knowledge one has on a topic, the easier it is to apply. With time, correct application will become second nature.

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


The Challenges of Success

April 1st, 2015 by Joelle

blog imagerrSuccess breeds its own set of challenges. One moment, you’re giddy with glee as you prepare your bank deposits. The next, a wave of anxiety hits you as the phone continues to ring off the hook.

Do you have a business that is growing beyond your wildest dreams? Is your appointment book packed with appointments? Are you booking 3–4–5 or even 6 weeks out? Is your cancellation list brimming with clients hoping to get in sooner? Are your clients growing frustrated when it takes weeks instead of days to book an appointment?

To cope, you pick up extra days and longer hours to help alleviate the backlog. You have no free time to yourself. You become a stranger to your own family because you’re never home. You’re feeling stressed, frustrated, and overwhelmed.

Sound familiar?

Oh, the joys of success. Nobody told you about the other side of the coin.

I’ve been there countless times myself. Depending on the circumstances, I’ve handled it different ways.

Before you can make the correct decision for your situation, you have to do a bit of research. Look at trends in your salon or your business. Is this a seasonal pattern that comes in waves or is it consistently getting more intense? Do you have the space to add more help another grooming station? Can you reconfigure a solution to speed up the process or remove the bottleneck? Can you improve/enhance a piece of equipment to make you more efficient?

Once you firmly understand WHY it is happening, then you can create a game plan that will tackle the issue. The last thing you want to do is to react in a hasty fashion. Slow down and think… What is the best plan of attack for the company?

You will probably have to do a bit of soul-searching. What is it that you want to do – and I mean really want to do? Hold steady, minimize your work load, or grow your business? There is no wrong answer – but there is a right answer for YOU.

You have three choices:

#1: Do nothing.

Even though it’s frustrating, sometimes this is the correct path to take. When would that be?

  • When it’s a seasonal rush
  • If it comes sporadically when 4-5-6 week appointments all collide within the same time frame
  • A team member is temporally out of work

This is a perfect time to push your grooming techniques. In order to improve anything, you need resistance. If you have trouble getting through 6-8 dogs yourself, this might be the motivation you need to get yourself into high gear (for more on this topic, read my blog, The Need for Speed).

Are you working with the best product and equipment? Are your shears and blades super sharp? Is your grooming station stream-lined, neat and tidy?

Is there a bottleneck anywhere? What can you do to loosen the jam?

  • Change the way you check pets in and out for their appointments?
  • Is there a back-up in your wet room? What could you do to free up the gridlock in that area?
  • Look at the way you book appointments. Simply splitting your daily appointments into full haircuts and bath and brush pets could alleviate some of the stress while boosting your bottom line.
  • Get a timer and start timing yourself. Break each grooming into sections: pre-work, bath, dry, and finish work. Most small to medium-sized pets should take an hour or less to do. Set your timer and fight to stay on track (Click here for a helpful handout on time management).

#2: Weed out your clientele. Reduce your active client load.

There are a number of ways to reduce the number of clients you serve.

  • Eliminate a breed or size of dog you are willing to work on.
  • Accept only regular, repeat customers.
  • Eliminate all challenging and/or aggressive pets.
  • Reduce your service area (mobile groomers).
  • Raise your prices.

The last one is easiest and my favorite way to downsize your appointment workload. Depending on how price sensitive your clients are, you could reduce your workload by 10%-30%.

The key to reducing your client load is balance. If you don’t raise the prices enough, you won’t lose enough clients to even notice a difference. Raise them too much and you might have a hard time staying busy enough to pay your bills.

Remember that raising prices is just like trimming hair – you can always take more off. It’s much harder to glue it back once it’s been cut. Price increases work the same way. It’s better to err on the side of too little than hitting them deep in the pocketbook. You can always do another price increase in 6-12 months if you still need to lighten your load.

Personally, I like a sliding scale price increase depending on the size of the dog and the amount of coat. I also believe in warning clietextnts ahead of time. When we do a price increase, we will post a sign predominately in the lobby area a minimum of two months prior to when the price increase will go into effect. We also tell every client what their new price will be at checkout prior to the price increase.

Yes, they grumble. That’s a part of the game – just like bartering at a flea market or a garage sale. They will grumble before, during, and after the price increase goes into effect. Be polite. Be firm. Be professional. Do not apologize. Stick to your guns. It stops with time.

I have seen this technique used over and over again. Most salons that use this method to reduce their client load find they are actually making the same or MORE money with less effort. I call that a win-win.

#3: Expand and grow. Build your client base and serve more customers.

Before you jump – think.

Employing a couple people is simple. Get beyond three or four employees and your role needs to change from pet groomer to serious business/personnel manager. Your life will get much more complicated – in a different way. More clients. More dogs. More responsibility. More training. More challenges.

It’s the nature of the beast. Are you ready for that?

Hiring responsible help is one of the biggest challenges growing salons and businesses have.

If you are skilled stylist, your most valuable asset is locked at your grooming table. There are plenty of duties in any busy grooming business that can be delegated.

Finding a full-fledged, qualified stylist that can seamlessly slide into your team and mimic your salon style is nearly impossible. If one does cross your path, grab that person immediately and count your blessings!

Salon owners report they are most successful hiring and training entry-level type positions to get started. If the new hire shows potential and a willingness to learn, they can advance through the ranks, learning new skills. By doing this, you ensure you put your time and energy into your most valuable team members.

Look for people that could assist you so you can focus on what you do best – grooming dogs. Hiring the right people will allow you to be extremely proficient. You don’t need to be washing dogs, making bows, answering the phones, or doing laundry. These are duties that can be delegated to others, allowing you to focus on finish grooming.

Developing a team of people that are willing to work hard and continue to learn is at the heart of every successful salon.

Finding great information to help your team grow has gotten easier than ever. There are trade shows, seminars, workshops, and clinics across the country that can help grow your team. But even if your team members are unwilling to travel, there still many options.

  • Books and magazines
  • Training manuals
  • State approved home study programs
  • Industry related Certification programs
  • DVDs/online video services
  • Dog shows
  • Mentoring programs
  • In-house training

If you are struggling with hiring, make sure you watch this lesson in the membership-based Learn2GroomDogs.com library. It’s called, “Slope Side Chats – What to Look for in a New Hire.” This is an impromptu lesson that was filmed while skiing in Utah a few years back with my friends and industry leaders, Kathy Rose and Teri DiMarino. In that lesson, Teri states, “…I always hire based on attitude and POTENTIAL.” That single concept is a key to successful hiring.

As with any educational program, always check the references of the material. This is especially true of anything available through the Internet. Remember, the information is only as good as the people presenting it.

Success breeds many challenges. They are great problems to have. Don’t be overwhelmed. Think about your situation and what YOU want to do with your business. You have many routes. Choose your path and then set your sights on your goal. Expand your business or keep it simple. The choice is all yours.

Happy Trimming

~Melissa

PS.

If you are looking for more resources, clicks the links below.

L2GD_LOGO_Web

Go to Learn2GroomDogs.com

Paragon_LOGO_Web

For Training Options, click here

MVpaw_LOGO_Web

Go to Our YouTube Channel

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Click here for your copy

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Dealing with Trouble Areas in Fur

March 26th, 2015 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

66720

Client Check In Form

66720

Pre-Assessment Evaluation Form

 

 

 

 

 

coupon


Pet Care Professionals: Presenting a Professional Image – #2

March 19th, 2015 by Joelle

Professional-ImageA few weeks ago I was at the Atlanta Pet Fair. I always love this show. For me – it’s typically the first big show of the season. I get to see all my fellow pet professional friends and acquaintances. The trade show floor is always busy. I always have a great turn out at my lectures. And the competition ring is packed. This year was no different.

One thing I really noticed this year was how pet professionals represented themselves. I saw both good and bad – tasteful to tacky – and everything in-between.

One of my favorites was the cute little blond with her hair neatly pulled back in a stylish side ponytail wearing the little black hair-repellant dress in the contest ring. Her make-up was light yet very tastefully done. Her shoes matched. And she accessorized just enough to be elegant but not overdone. Or the young man in the ring. He was impeccably groomed himself right down to the matching bowtie. Both of these competitors where in my novice level class this weekend. I was so proud of the way they represented our industry. I would take my own dogs to them in a heartbeat.

I observed hundreds of people over the weekend. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say that about everyone. Even pet professionals I know and respect greatly, totally caught me off guard.

Folks – HELLO… If you want to be respected as a “professional” you have to act the part whenever you are in the public.

All. The. Time. Period.

I think it’s time to pull this blog back out for a reminder. I learned a long time ago with my early staff that I had to lead by example. My staff never saw me looking anything but professionally turned out. Even today, although I do not work in day-to-day operations, I would never dream of even stopping by one of my companies looking unprofessional. Even if I’m only dropping something off or would be there for a 15 minute meeting.

As pet care ambassadors, it’s our job to keep things looking professional. There are plenty of salons and pet businesses that fall far below the realm of professionalism in my opinion. I know the saying can be cheesy, but seriously, dress for success. Would you want to have your personal pet groomed by someone who doesn’t take pride in his or her own personal presentation?

Let’s put this in perspective. Have you ever been shopping around for a new hair stylist? What if you met her for the first time and her hair was so fried from chemicals it looked like it would break from the slightest touch? What if he smelled like he just left a smoky bar and was still wearing clothes so wrinkled you wondered if he slept in them? How confident would you be to let them style your hair? How are they going to make you look your best if they can’t be bothered to look theirs?

Would you trust a dentist who had rotten teeth?

I know it can get tiring to dress up a little every day. However, our clients are entrusting us with the care of their pets. Like it or hate it, you can easily influence their trust factor simply by the way you look when you greet your clients. Think of yourself like your own brand. Don’t you want your product to be consistent and look great? Of course! And your clients are looking for that, too.

A fashionable, well groomed appearance is essential when it comes to professionalism in this industry. When you are in a salon, kennel, pet resort, veterinarian clinic, or mobile grooming unit, you have to look the part. Come to work each day looking crisp, clean, and pulled together. Blue jeans and sweat pants ARE NOT professional attire! Black, white, or khaki slacks work well. Longer skirts are great for women and so are skorts in warmer climates. Conservative shorts or capris may work for your environment as well. I’ve even seen leggings work when paired with an oversized, long top or smock. Look for clothing that is not prone to wrinkling or learn to iron!

Today, there are many options for hair repelling garments. There are all types of tops and bottoms in a wide variety of styles. If you work in a salon with a dress code, this may be easier. If not, have some fun with the pet styling fashions that are available. Heck, even medical scrubs will work! It may even be a good idea to keep an extra outfit or smock around the shop as a back-up.

If you get drenched or messy, a quick change will instantly boost your comfort level and mood.

And gals, remember, low cut tops and short- shorts are never professional! If you have shorts that are too short or a top that is too revealing (especially when you are squatting down to pick up a dog), then you’re not displaying professionalism.

Don’t forget your footwear. Most pet groomers are on their feet for hours. You are standing, lifting, bending, squatting, and twisting – all day long. Although clients may not be looking at your feet, having solid, supportive footwear will promote comfort for you. Being comfortable allows you to be warm and friendly to all your clients. Supportive footwear will also enhance the longevity of your career. Over the long haul, your feet will take a beating. Don’t skimp on your footwear. Invest in the best.

Scent is a very powerful sense. When it comes to your perfume (or fragrance you put on pets) be light-handed with the spray. Many people have allergies and are sensitive to fragrance. Plus, if you have multiple staff members wearing all different scents, it can be unpleasant for all. The same can be said for your makeup and hair color. You want to appeal to a wide range of clients, so conservative is best in most cases. When in doubt, be a minimalist. Remember, you can always “be yourself” once you leave the shop.

While we are on scent – what about your breath? If you are communicating to others – clients or coworkers – bad breath is down-right offensive. Brush, floss, and use a mouth wash regularly. Not only will it save your teeth, your clients won’t be offended as you discuss what trim will work best on Fluffy. Breath mints and gum can be helpful between brushings. Lose the gum quickly once it has done its job. Chewing gum in front of clients is distracting and it is unprofessional in front of clients. The same can be said for eating and drinking on the floor. Keep snack and coffee breaks limited to behind closed doors.

Proper hygiene is crucial. It should go unsaid, but being clean and odor-free is a must. There is nothing more offensive – and embarrassing – than personal body odor. A famous quote from Zig Ziglar, who was a very successful motivational speaker, said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” Nothing could be more true!

Your own hair needs to be clean and simply styled. If your hair is long, get it tied back and away from your face. As your work with clippers or shears, you don’t want to be trimming a lock of your own hair as you scissor that leg. I hate to think of how many people with long hair have caught their tresses in the spinning grinder as they worked. Ouch! Or worse yet, drag it through anal gland expressions, defecation, or urine.

Having a touch of jewelry is a nice finishing touch. Done well, it always reflects positively. However, just like with fragrance – go light. A few simple rings. A durable watch (you always need to know the time!!). If your ears are pierced – stick with super simple earrings, something a dog can’t accidently catch in their paw, ripping your ear lobe. If you opt for a necklace, keep it tasteful. Don’t be in love with it. Dogs will catch it in their paws and break it eventually. The same thing with is true with bracelets.

torirrHaving well groomed fingernails is what I consider a bonus. Working with dirty dogs and trimming toenails lends itself to dirty fingernails – even if you do a lot of bathing. Trimming poodle feet has a tendency to chip fingernails. Personally, I liked to keep my nails painted. Painted fingernails will hide all sorts of flaws. Unfortunately, when you do a lot of bathing standard nail polish has a tendency to peel off quickly – sometimes as quickly as one day. My solution was to have my fingernails professionally done every 2 weeks. Both acrylic and shellac nail applications seem to hold up well to the abuse groomers put their hands through. Plus, it gives you a little time to pamper your most valuable asset – YOUR HANDS!

SONY DSCPay attention to the details. Judy Hudson is one our popular Learn2GroomDogs.com Training Partners. In her video, What I Know For Sure she shares this tip: It doesn’t cost a lot to be clean. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to be neat and tidy. All it takes is a little elbow grease.

As pet care ambassadors, not only is it our job to groom pets – but it’s also our job to present a professional image for our industry.

  • At your place of business.
  • At certification test sites.
  • At trade shows.
  • On the speaking circuit.
  • In the competition ring.
  • ANYWHERE you are representing the pet grooming profession!

I don’t know any successful person that doesn’t sweat the details. Being impeccable, both personally and in your workspace, shows the client that you care about yourself. The message you are sending out is that you are confident with your skills. You are successful. You respect yourself enough to do the same for them – and their pet.

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


Salvage work

March 12th, 2015 by Joelle

Spring is edging closer – and not a moment too soon! Many of us will be seeing a lot of pets that are ready for a great makeover in the coming weeks. With that in mind, I thought it was the perfect time to revisit my blog on salvage work.

As many of you know, I’m a big dog person. Working on these large furry dogs that have a huge shedding problem is one of my favorite things to do in a grooming salon. I know, I know, call me crazy – but I just love seeing the transformation in this type of job. Over the years I’ve gotten really quick with the process and rarely ­­­cringe, no matter what the size of the dog, nor the condition – I see it as a fun challenge!
My #1 rule is: Never work on a dirty dog. If water can penetrate the coat, let your products do the job.

Working on a dirty dog is not only unpleasant, but it also takes longer to do.  Plus, there will be a lot of coat damage and breakage.  A dirty coat is dry and brittle. The dirt and dander trapped within the fur makes it more difficult to brush out. Working on a clean coat will be easier for both you and the pet – and much more pleasant.

If there are large chunks that water cannot penetrate, go ahead and break up the tangle using the tool that is safe for the pet.  Don’t worry about removing it completely, just break it apart so the water and shampoo can do its job.

indexPrepare your bathing area.  If the dog is exceptionally dirty, use the shampoo especially designed for dirty dogs.  Using a follow-up treatment of a skin and coat conditioner after bathing twice (or maybe three times in some areas) will assist with the brush out and dead coat removal during the drying process.  Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need to aid in getting the dog clean like rubber curries or scrub brushes.  And make sure you have plenty of towels handy.

My favorite trick when working with this type of job is to bring my high velocity dryer right into the bathing area.  With the dog fully lathered, blow the shampoo right off the pets while they are tethered in the tub.  The slippery soap will allow the dirt, loose coat, and tangles slide out, being trapped in the shampoo and sticking to the back wall of the tub, minimizing the mess.  Not all the shedding coat or mats will be removed but a lot will, making your job easier once you transfer to the drying table.  Once you have blown out the pet, follow up with the rinsing process.  Repeat this process as many times as necessary to get the dog “squeaky clean.”

Once the pet is clean and thoroughly rinsed, apply a skin and coat conditioning treatment before heading to the drying table.  Read your directions: some conditioning treatments need to be rinsed out while others do not.  Your high velocity dryer and a heavy slicker brush will be your best friends during the drying process.

Rule # 2: Be Methodical and Thorough

First, blow out as much moisture and loose coat at possible with the air flow.  Use the highest power setting the pet is comfortable with, and a condenser cone.  Once you have pushed as much water and loose fur from the pet, remove the condenser cone, and bring the air flow close to the pet’s skin.  “Boost” any loose coat out of the dog by lightly patting the area where the air is striking the skin with a slicker brush.

Continue to work over the dog in a methodical manner until your brush glides through the coat easily and no more loose coat is trapped in the brush.

Rule #3 – ENJOY!

When the dog is complete, it should smell clean and fresh.  The coat should be glossy and float freely as the dog moves.  There should be an irresistible desire to reach down and bury your hands in a freshly groomed pet.

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa

 


A Vet’s Wisdom

March 5th, 2015 by Joelle

My husband, Marc was in Arizona for a week at a disc golf tournament. I was looking forward to a peaceful week at the farm and getting a lot of work accomplished. After all, it is February in Michigan. It’s just not that enjoyable to be outside for long periods of time unless you are really bundled up!

The weekend was wonderful. I loved being in the barn doing chores, caring for our six Friesian horses, hanging out with our four large dogs, snuggling with all the cats and filling the wood burning furnace all weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

When Monday came, my week blew apart.

Melissa and Ilene

Melissa and Ilene

My beloved old Friesian mare had to be put down that morning.  She would have been 30 year old in May.  Those of us that have had horses know there is always a “special one.”  Ilene was mine.

On Tuesday, Lisa VanSweden, my artist and good friend, came to the farm to help me keep my mind off Ilene.  She was going to spend the night, just hanging out, relaxing.  Little did we know, we would be racing one of our beloved Maremma Sheepdogs into the pet emergency clinic with bloat late Tuesday night.  We were there all night as Reagan went through emergency surgery to save his life.  Marc was catching the first flight out in the morning to get home and Lisa helped keep me somewhat calm as the night wore on.  I was an emotional wreck.

Running a farm is a lot of work and ours is no exception.  Fortunately, we have someone who works at our farm and cares for all our critters.  Tina is indispensable to Marc and me.  Without someone like Tina, we could never do what we do.  She helps us with all the chores associated with a farm.  When we travel, she moves into the house and tends to everything in our absence.  She loves and cares for our animals like they are her own.

Tina was the one who found Ilene down in her stall early on Monday.  She called me immediately to come to the barn.  For the last two years, we had known that Ilene had been running on borrowed time.  We also knew that if she went down, she would never get up.

Marc and Reagan

Marc and Reagan

When Tina learned that Reagan was in emergency surgery Tuesday night, she stayed up the rest of the night.  We texted updates and surgery reports back and forth until we knew the surgery was successful.

On Wednesday, with eyes blurry from a serious lack of sleep, Tina told this tale to Lisa VanSweden and me.  We loved it.  I know if you are reading this blog, you are an animal lover and will love it, as well.

Two weeks previously, Tina had to put down her beloved Beagle mix.  She found it very helpful to recall these wise words from an old-time vet long ago.

 


Over 20 years ago, I sat sobbing quietly in the vet’s office.  I told the vet, “Please don’t let this puppy die, I just can’t lose him.”  Then, this older, gruff vet, who was not known for a good bedside manner, did something very unexpected and unforgettable.  He pulled up a chair, sat directly in front of me, took my chin in his hand and said, “Young lady, look at me.”

When I looked up, his expression was soft and kind.  His eyes glistened with unshed tears.  He said, as best as I can remember, “Raising, having, and loving animals is hard work and heartbreaking.  Their life span is nowhere near ours.  If you have them, most likely you’re going to have them die.  There’s accidents, injuries, diseases, or if you’re lucky, just plain old age.  Now that’s life.  No amount of care, precaution, love, or medicine can change that.  There’s nothing a loving owner, a skilled vet, or anyone can do to stop it.  Now death isn’t pretty or easy, and at times it is brutal and just plain awful.  Sometimes, as an owner you are forced to make a decision that relieves their suffering and that’s always a tough call.  Now I know you love this puppy just like you loved Bear.  I will do all I can, but I can’t promise he will make it.  Now if you really just can’t handle that – and there’s no shame if you can’t – I suggest you get out of having animals.  Everything that lives – dies.  It isn’t easy and you never really get used to it.  I’ve lost and had to put down many, and sometimes even I still get emotional.  You just have to decide if all the love and joy they bring to your life is worth the heartbreak.”

And with that, he stood up, put the chair back, and said, “I’ll call you in the morning and let you know if he made it through the night.”

Well, that beautiful, sweet puppy lived and went on to bring joy to the whole family for over 13 years.  He grew up with my kids and was loved by all that knew him.  The vet never showed his soft side again, but at one visit a few years later, this time with a horse, he did look at me with a wink and said, “You made the right choice.  There are lots of animals that could use the amount of love and care you give them.”

After Annie passed away, and with the events of this week, I have reflected back on that advice and all of the great furry friends I have been privileged to know.  I’ve learned to smile through the tears and embrace the memories, and never question my decision to keep them a part of my life.


 

Such wonderful wisdom.  No amount of sorrow will ever keep me from having animals in my life.  The joy they bring far outweighs their passing.  I will always do my best to keep pets safe, healthy, comfortable, and happy.

I, like Tina, have never questioned my decision to make them such a large part of my life.

~Melissa


Making the Most of a Seminar

February 26th, 2015 by Joelle

DogStudyingWith the Atlanta Pet Fair just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to revisit one of my favorite topics: getting the most out of a seminar.

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.

UntitledAs 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 see a seminar in action!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

What do YOU want most from a seminar?


7 Qualities of High Quality Pet Stylists

February 20th, 2015 by Joelle

I’ve been working within the pet grooming industry for a very long time. Frightfully, probably long before many of you were even born. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by top end pet stylists, especially in the past 5 years being on the film set of Learn2GroomDogs.com. All of our 40+ Training Partners are at the top of their game. They are simply some of the best professional pet stylists in the world.

As I work beside these talented stylists, I’ve seen a few very common threads. Outstanding pet stylists are tenacious. They push themselves constantly by developing a deeper understanding of the grooming process:

  • any type of dog (or cat)
  • with any coat type
  • of any size
  • using any technique

Then add in:

  • many times the pets are in poor condition
  • the pets often have a less than perfect temperament and the stylists still get the job done well

These exceptional pet stylists don’t entertain frustration. They have the ability to see through the dirty, messy mound of fur. They see the potential of what could be. With their ever growing set of skills, they see beauty Blog quoteof what the finished product could be – not what is on the grooming table before the process begins (for more on this topic, read my blog, Begin with the End in Mind). They feel the creative challenge calling their name. The only question left in their minds is not IF they can do it – but HOW they will accomplish the task in a safe and comfortable manner for the pet.

Here are seven qualities I’ve seen in almost all high-quality pet stylists:

  • Appreciation of Knowledge

High-quality pet stylists know, the more you learn – the more you want to learn and the more you will earn. Building a strong foundation of knowledge insures that you will always do the best work possible. As your knowledge base improves, you will immediately be able to apply that knowledge to every pet you groom. Even if it’s a #7 shave off, a knowledgeable pet stylist will always try to improve the dog’s appeal. They draw upon a vast array of learning experiences to complete a task – and most of it is not learned in school!

  • Value High Quality Products & Tools

High-quality pet stylists know their products and tools will make or break them. If the shampoo does not leave the coat squeaky clean, you will never get a quality finish on the coat. Coats need to be dried with the correct type of dryer using the correct method for optimum coat preparation. It’s impossible to produce a velvet finish with dull blades or shears. It does not matter what product or tool we are discussing. High-quality pet stylists know they need to invest in the best. Period.

  • Firmly Understand Time is Money

High-quality pet stylists know time is money. There are always options for the pet based on the condition of the coat, the pet’s temperament, the amount of time you have on your schedule, and the amount of money the client is willing to spend. High-quality pet stylists instantly know how to weigh out the variables and select the best option.

  • Self Confidence

High-quality pet stylists are confident in their abilities. Yet, at the same token they are humble. Even though they’re highly confident they know there is still room for personal growth. They freely share their knowledge with others while they continue to build their skills to an even higher level.

  • Understand Canine and/or Feline Psychology

High-quality pet stylists are keen observers. They understand canine and feline body language. Animals are pretty transparent when it comes to their behavior. There are always clues to an animal’s behavior, even if it is subtle. A high-quality pet stylist will always try to gain the trust and understanding of the pet they are working on.

  • Compassion for the Pet

High-quality pet stylists are compassionate to the needs of the pet. They understand each pet is an individual. They all have different tolerances to standard grooming and practices. High-quality pet stylists will always live by the Golden Rule – maintaining a calm, cool, and collected composure at all times.

  • Always Push to Improve

High-quality pet stylists always push themselves to improve. Once they have mastered one technique, one skill, one breed, they always know there’s more to learn just around the corner. Learning and improving is a never ending journey.

Outstanding pet stylists are humble, talented, practical, and passionate – sincere with exceptional character. They go after the goal of being the best they can be and they don’t give up. For them, there is always room for improvement. They raise the bar for themselves and set new and better standards for our industry.

What skills would you like to hone to become the best you can possibly be?

Happy Trimming!

-Melissa


 
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