3 Things You Need to Know to Groom Any Breed

May 28th, 2015 by Joelle

What Do You Do When You Have to Groom an Unfamiliar Breed?

A client calls stating they own a breed that you have never groomed before. You’ve seen it at dog shows but have never had an opportunity to groom one. Or maybe you’ve never even heard of or seen the breed before.

The conversation goes something like this:

“I have a Bedlington*. Do you know how to groom them correctly?”

 “Why yes, Mrs. Jones,” you say with confidence. “We certainly can make your Bedlington look like a Bedlington!”

You book the appointment for the following day, but once you get off the phone, panic sets in. You’ve never seen this type of dog cross your grooming table. You don’t have a clue as to 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 strengths you need to have in order to groom any dog breed.

  1. 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. A solid understanding of canine anatomy – If you understand that 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 are golden.

So what’s next? 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 will have a good idea of the size, temperament, structure, and coat type of this new dog. Most 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 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. As the saying goes, 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 key to finding good images. When you enter the words in the search bar, add words like this: 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.

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 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.

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 their dogs once they walk through your door. If the dog is in 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. But hopefully, the new client spurred you to learn few new things you can add to your knowledge toolbox even if you didn’t get to execute the trim!

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

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

 

*insert random breed here

6 Qualities Successful Pet Grooming Professionals Have in Common

May 21st, 2015 by Joelle

The path of every successful bather, groomer, or pet stylist is slightly different. However, there are common threads that tie the most successful pet professionals together.

Here are the six common qualities that set top performers apart.

1. They are positive.

A positive attitude helps you deal more easily with daily affairs. It brings brightness into your life, making it easier to avoid worries and negative thinking.When you’re positive, you have a clear, calm mind that is open to possibilities and see opportunities where others see nothing.

And as a bonus, if your attitude is strong enough, it becomes contagious. Contagious to clients. To co-workers. To pets. Everyone. It’s as if you radiate positive energy around you.

2. They are learners.

Wikipedia defines lifelong learning as, “The ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.”

It is the non-stop development of skills and knowledge of a pet professional, at any level. It occurs through experiences during a lifetime. These experiences could be formal (training, tutoring, mentorship, apprenticeship, etc.) or informal (experiences and situations).

Learning is the key to achieving a person’s full potential. Learning does not stop once you get out of school. Folks who continue to learn are able to transform their lives. They become more successful at home, more successful with their families, more successful at work, and more successful within their salons and work environments.

3. They are always moving.

Successful pet professionals are achievers. You aren’t going to see successful pet grooming teams dragging around the shop. Nope. They are buzzing with activity. They are constantly on task, on schedule, and looking for a way to shave moments off any task without sacrificing quality. Their hands and feet are never still.

They are constantly in motion. When I hear the term “occupational athletes,” I think of highly successful team members in any grooming department.

4. They are curious.

Curiosity might have killed the cat, but a new study by psychologists suggests that curiosity is very good for people. If you want a rewarding career – be curious.

Curiosity in your job can be a powerful tool. It does not matter which department you are in or if you wear all the hats in your business. If you can find different ways to stay hungry for knowledge and continue to be a lifelong learner, you will find your career to be much more rewarding.

The more curious you are, the more possibilities you will have throughout your lifetime.  Open your eyes and look around.

5. They are persistent.

Being persistent after it seems like everything has failed is one of the hardest things to do. You just want to give up. Give up on the dog. Give up on a technique. Give up on yourself.

When trying to be persistent, it is important that you have a goal in mind. Whether it’s getting that dog squeaky clean, the clipper work baby butt smooth, a velvet finish on a hand scissor dog, or just trying to add an extra dog to your roster on a consistent basis, don’t give up. Even if you don’t see immediate results, keep trying. Keep pushing yourself. Having an end result in mind will keep you motivated, which builds persistence.

6. They are passionate.  

If you want to be successful at your job and move up, you need to be passionate about your work. You need to be motivated and driven to be the best you can be. Passionate people love their work.

Passion, motivation, drive. Call it what you want. Bottom line: it’s that self-driven attitude towards your job and your work that can help lead you down the path to success.

 

Passion is an emotion that comes from within you. It’s your enthusiasm. Your motivation. Your drive.

I guarantee that others will be positively impacted by your personal passion towards pets. Passion does not go unnoticed. People will see how well you do your job and your attitude towards it. They will see when a task is hard and you don’t give in – when you apply yourself even more to overcome it. They will notice your drive and your motivation and consider how you would do in another position.

Becoming stagnant in a career is boring. The work gets sloppy. Customer service quality goes down. The wonderful part of being involved with the pet industry is that there is no limit to your personal growth. I love being surrounded by people that have these six qualities firmly developed in their lives. They are energizing and refreshing to be around. Their energy is contagious!

How many of these six traits to you have? How many do you feel you could improve on? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

 

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


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

May 14th, 2015 by Joelle

Discovering the Meaning Behind the Job Titles

Groomer.

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

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

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

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

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

Here are my definitions for each of those areas.

1. Bather, Assistant, or Bathing Technician

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

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

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

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

Earning Potential – Entry Level

2. Groomer, Pet Groomer, or Grooming Technician

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

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

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

Earning Potential – Mid-Range Level

3. Stylist or Pet Stylist

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

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

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

Earning Potential – Highest Level

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

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

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

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


8 Steps to Overcoming Professional Burnout

May 7th, 2015 by Joelle

Finding Passion in Your Work Again 

How in the world do dog groomers and pet stylists get burned out?

Come on… We get to play with sweet, charming little puppies all day – right?

What could be stressful about that? For most folks, grooming dogs all day is a “dream job.”

I’m here to tell you – it isn’t all fun and games with puppies. I still remember the day when I hit the burnout wall myself.

I had six mobile grooming vans out on the road as well as a salon. I had employees to manage. Budgets to make. Goals to set. Bills to pay. Marketing strategies to create. Accounting records to review. There always seemed to be an endless list of tasks that went along with running successful businesses. Plus, I was still grooming five days a week in my grooming van! I was running as hard as I could while burning the candle at both ends. It’s a typical recipe for disaster.

The moment that I hit that wall happened in June. We were booked out weeks in advance. Not a day passed without our dispatchers trying to squeeze in another dog. I was routinely grooming 10 to 12 hours a day plus doing all the other stuff too. On that fateful day I just lost it.

I had been on my way to my last client. I just totally broke down. I hadn’t even pulled into the client’s driveway yet. I was so overwhelmed. I was physically and mentally exhausted. I pulled over to the side of the road in the subdivision, unbuckled my seat belt, and walked over to my tub. I took a few deep breaths to get a hold of myself. I could do it. Just one more dog…

But then tears started to flow. I slowly slid down in front of my tub and just cried.

Have you ever had one of those days?

There are lots of ways to experience personal burnout.

So what is burnout?

Burnout is when you are at the point of physical and emotional exhaustion. It can occur when you experience long periods of stress in your job, when you are overworked in a physical or emotionally draining way for an extended period of time. You can also experience burnout when your efforts have failed to produce the results that you expected. If you are approaching a point of personal burnout, it’s time to reassess what you’re doing.

Understand what is creating the burnout.

This takes some soul-searching. Take the time to identify what activities that got you to this point. You need to get to the root of the problem. Once you have identified what is causing your distress, look for ways to lighten your load. You are going to need to remove, delegate, simplify, or find new meaning in those activities that are causing the stress.

Once you discover the underlying cause of your burnout, you can uncover ways to resolve it.

In the pet grooming world, there are some options:

  1. Reduce the number of pets you groom in a day. Many busy pet stylists have found that by simply raising their prices, they can reduce the workload without losing any revenue.
  2. Eliminate difficult clients. That might mean dogs or cats you don’t enjoy grooming due to size, haircut, or attitude.
  3. Delegate tasks. Focus on those skills that ONLY YOU can do for your business. Analyze any item that could be handed off to someone else – even if it’s only part-time to start. Accounting. Bathing. Grooming. Cleaning. Marketing. Sales tracking. Reception. Inventory. Errand running. You get the idea.
  4. Get out of your rut. Do whatever it takes to rekindle your grooming spirit. Learn new skills. Find a mentor you can learn from and who will help motivate you. Discover new, better, and more efficient ways to do your job. Read books and magazines to expand your horizons. Attending industry trade shows, joining an online job-related community, watching videos with inspirational industry leaders, or even hooking up with local groomers a couple of times a year can do wonders to ward off burnout.
  5. Set a realistic goal. The target could be related to reaching a sales goal. What about a customer satisfaction goal like improving client retention rates or rebooking appointments at checkout? Look at sprucing up and reorganizing your salon so it’s more pleasant and easier to work in. Maybe you want to be officially certified in some area that would lend credibility to what you do professionally. Enter a grooming competition – or work toward becoming a consistent winner in the contest area. All of these are super goals, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Finds goals that motivate YOU.
  6. Change up your own personal job description. When you’re wearing too many hats, simply stop. Change gears. Select another role in your own company if you can. Or maybe it’s time to totally step away altogether, seeking out another career or life choice.
  7. Take time for yourself – daily, weekly, monthly, annually. Take time away from constantly dealing with pets, your business, or the numerous other tasks that are always nipping at your heels. Taking time for yourself, even if it’s only a few minutes a day, will allow you the distance you need to relax. When was the last time you took a vacation? Come on… a real vacation?
  8. Learn to say “no.” It’s a powerful word. It’s a simple action that could save your sanity when pushed too hard. Learn to use it in a conscious and responsible way.

In order to avoid or reduce burnout, you need to think about what gives true meaning in your work – the why of what you do. This self-analysis will give you a deeper understanding of what you find most important. It will also allow you to uncover elements, if any, missing from your life or your work and make adjustments.

When I hit my own personal wall, I did much of the soul-searching listed above. I made many changes to positively affect my daily workload and my personal life. The changes I made allowed me to contribute in a much more rewarding way to my companies, the industry itself, to my life, and to my health.

Always remember, life is ever-changing. Just because you successfully avoided burnout at one point in your life, does not mean you will not encounter it again. However, if you’ve overcome it once, you know you’ll be successful at overcoming it again in the future.

Question: Have you ever faced burnout? If yes, what did you do to overcome it? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about your experience!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


How to Avoid Visions of the Hangman’s Tree – or – Cleaning Up Industry Jargon So Your Salon Makes A Positive Impression

April 30th, 2015 by Joelle

Every industry has its own set of technical terms. Those of us behind the grooming table are familiar with them, but have you stopped to think how our terminology sounds to customers? The words we use can paint a very negative picture to the client. Of course, we never intend it that way – we’re just using words and phrases that groomers have used for years.

In grooming salons around the world, we are dealing with a very precious commodity: the owner’s beloved pet. Most of these clients put their pets on the same pedestal as their children. We need to be extremely cautious of the types of technical jargon that we use within earshot of our clients. Or better yet, simply clean it up so it’s client friendly.

Today, I want to look at one of these commonly used terms. I’m going to give you a few ideas for optimistic alternatives to use. These alternatives will paint a much more polished – and professional – image in the clients mind.

The Grooming Noose.

Let’s face it. In order to groom a dog safely, we need control. One of the tools we routinely use in the grooming shop is a “grooming loop” or “noose.”

Correctly adjusted, a grooming loop will limit the amount of movement a dog can make on a tabletop, reducing the risks of accidentally falling or stepping off. If the dog were to try to bite or nip, the grooming loop can minimize the reach the dog has to your hands and face. By limiting their movement on the table, it makes our job easier while brushing, clipping, and scissoring, while again minimizing the risks to the pet.

Although this is a major safety item used in most salons, the term I hear routinely to describe this piece of equipment is the word, “noose.” Every time I hear it, the hackles on the back of MY neck stand up.

The word “noose” just conjures up all kinds of negative emotions with me. All I can think about are things associated with a hangman’s noose. Gallows. An eerie tree. Death. If your client hears this term used loosely in your grooming speech, my guess is they have the same type of thought process going on in their mind. The term “noose” does not create a warm, caring, and compassionate atmosphere in any grooming establishment.

The term needs a serious face lift! Focus on the positive aspects of what this piece of equipment does. Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Loop
  2. Safety lead
  3. Safety loop
  4. Pet seatbelt

Think about how your terms can negatively affect your clients. Most of the time, we are so busy just trying to stay ahead of the grooming game, we never stop to think how we sound to the client. We may love our four-footed customers, but it’s our two-legged clients we really need to win over – gaining their trust – and their business.

Take a moment to step back and listen to yourself. Do you need to clean up your shop language? Do you use the old fashion term “noose’ instead of one of the much more positive terms?

What term do you like to use in your business for this valuable piece of grooming equipment? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us what term you like to use!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


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

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For Training Options, click here

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Go to Our YouTube Channel

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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

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Client Check In Form

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Pre-Assessment Evaluation Form

 

 

 

 

 

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