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

February 11th, 2016 by Joelle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Number 1: The ⅔ to ⅓ Rule

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

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

Dang!

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


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

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

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

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

What??!

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

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

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

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

Really?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

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


Maintain a Steady Pace

February 4th, 2016 by Joelle

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

How do they do it?

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

Do you?

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

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

The five types of grooming jobs

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

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

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

Always follow the order.

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

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

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

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

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


How to Brighten a Dogs Coat Using a Staple Pantry Item

January 28th, 2016 by Joelle

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

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

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

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

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

The criteria was:

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

That’s it.

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

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

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

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

What?

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

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

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

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

I was astounded.

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

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


Making the Most of a Seminar

January 21st, 2016 by Joelle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

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


What Is the Difference Between Rakes and Undercoat Rakes?

January 14th, 2016 by Joelle
Illustration 1

Illustration 1

These tools can be confusing. When you read their descriptions in catalogs, they’re so similar…

They do the same thing, don’t they?

No, they don’t. Let me explain.

Both remove undercoat on thick coated dogs. It’s the METHOD of removal that varies. One pulls out dead and shedding coat without cutting the fur. The other has sharp, curved teeth which remove the undercoat but will also cut the coat. One is used primarily on dry coats, both before and after the bath. The other is effective prior to shampooing, during the bathing process, and after the dog is clean and dried.

Illustration 2

Illustration 2

The difference isn’t so much in the names. The names are interchanged all the time. To keep them straight in my own mind, I call them different things. It’s particularly beneficial when giving directions to others to utilize different names.

Rakes

Rakes are designed to pull out dead coat and shedding fur with ease. Typically they are a T-shape (see Illustration 1) with rounded pins on the head of the T. On some heads, the top bar is long, up to 6 inches across. On other designs, the head may be only a couple of inches wide. The length and shape of the teeth will vary, too. On some rakes (see Illustration 2), the teeth are short and shaped almost in a tiny cone-type fashion. With others, the teeth are long, sinking deeply into heavy, long coats. On almost all models, the handle comes directly out from the cross bar head with all the teeth.

This type of rake is designed to remove dead coat while not damaging the healthy coat. You work the tool in the natural direction of the coat growth. Care must be used not to sink the comb too far into a dense coat repeatedly with too much pressure. Tugging too firmly on a thick or tangled coat will be uncomfortable for the dog and difficult for the groomer. Repeatedly digging in too deeply could injure the skin, as well.

Illustration 3

Illustration 3

Used correctly, rakes can be highly efficient for removing dead coat or “lint” from rustic-coated breeds. They are used primarily on double-coated, heavy-coated, or rustic-coated dogs.

Undercoat Rakes

Undercoat rakes have many small, sharp, curved blades set close together that remove undercoat. They are available in a variety of tooth widths, making this tool suitable for a wide range of breeds. On shedding breeds, they can remove dead, fuzzy undercoat in minutes, yet leave the top coat shiny and healthy. On harsh-coated dogs, they mimic the hand-stripped look quickly and easily.

Undercoat rakes can be used on a wet or a dry coat. Pull the rake in the direction of the coat growth.Always start with a wider toothed rake to start (see Illustration 3). Work down to narrower teeth as the tool pulls through easily, removing less and less coat.

Undercoat rakes normally work better when used prior to bathing or in the tub on a wet coat.

Use caution when working with this tool. On some coat types, especially heavy-coated dogs, they will cut the top coat while removing the undercoat. While the blades are curved (see Illustration 4), you still need to be careful how much pressure you put on the tool as you drag it through the coat so you do not injure the skin. Use caution when working around areas where the skin is thin like in the hock area, ear junctions, flank, and armpits.

Illustration 4

Illustration 4

Undercoat rakes work well on many coat types including double coated breeds, heavy coats, and rustic coat types. The work exceptionally well on any breed that is hand-stripped like many of the Sporting or Terrier breeds. Just be sure to monitor your progress as you work this tool over the dog.

Here is a cool trick I have seen used with undercoat rakes. This trick minimizes cutting the coat while pulling out dead coat, particularly once the coat is clean and dry. Simply take a thick rubber band and wrap it around the hooks of the blade (see Illustration 5). The rubber protects the coat from excessive cutting while the rubber helps grip the dead coat, allowing to be pulled out almost effortlessly.

Happy trimming,

-Melissa

Illustration 5

Illustration 5

P.S.

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


An Easy Way to Create a Poodle Beveled Cuff

January 7th, 2016 by Joelle

As with all grooming techniques, there are many ways to get the job done.

When I was a contest groomer, I always did my Poodle cuffs by hand. I would brush the coat down then give it a quick fluff with my comb. Once it was fluffed, I’d glide a long straight shear in and set the lower edge. Then I’d re-fluff and grab my long curved shears to round and bevel the edges. It was time-consuming.

Done well, the beveled cuffs came out gorgeous. Done poorly, they were a sloppy mess. I had four chances to be perfect with my cuffs – or four chances to really mess up.

For pet dogs, I quickly taught myself another method. It was quick. Fool-proof. And it worked well on most of my shorter stylized pet trims.

On most of my pet trims, I cheated off excess leg hair by skimming it with a guard comb. Not only was it fast – it helped me set the length, too. Once I had the legs roughed in, I would brush the leg coat over the clipped foot with a firm slicker brush. I would slide my hand down the leg with my thumb and first finger resting just below the clipper line on the Poodle foot. My fingers would be my guide as I slid in a small pair of detailing scissors (I choose small shears for the safety of my own fingers!). I would scissor all the way around the cuff line, removing the longer hair.

When I released the coat… voila! A perfect cuff for an active pet. I could adjust the fullness of the beveled cuff by adjusting my scissored line somewhere between the lines of the knuckles of the foot and just below the clipped line on the foot. The lower I was on the foot with my cuff line, the fuller the bevel.

Once my cuff was set, I would neaten and finish the entire leg with shears, smoothing out my guard comb work.

I used this method for years. I even started to incorporate it into my more polished work in the contest ring. It worked well there, too – especially if I used it as a double-check after I did my cuffs with longer shears.

In the past few years, I’ve seen extremely talented stylists start using another method to get perfect cuffs every time. They use a #30 or #40 blade on their clippers! Who knew?

So how do you do it?

It’s very similar to my old method, but instead of shears, pet stylists reach for their cordless 5 in 1 style clipper. They set the blade at the shorter levels, basically the length of a #30 or #40 blade.

Hold the foot off the table at a comfortable level for the pet. With a firm slicker brush, brush all the hair down around the foot. Once the coat is brushed into place, slide your hand down the pet’s leg, thumb and forefinger closest to the foot.

Stop and hold the foot with your fingers coming to rest right at the clipped cuff line. While maintaining your hold on the foot, gently trim at right angles around the cuff with the #30 or #40 blade. Simply touch the coat at the edge line you want to set.

The fullness of the leg coat will determine where you place the line. For fuller legs, use the top of the crease marks on the toes. If the leg coat is shorter, move the line closer to the clipped cuff line.

When you release the coat, the fur will be nicely beveled. The line should be crisp and free of all stray hairs. As with the hand-scissored cuff, check the work from all angles to make sure the cuffs are level from side to side and front to back. Don’t forget to look from table level when inspecting your cuffs for perfection.

It may take a few tries to perfect this technique, but once you do, creating flawless cuffs every time becomes simple. With a well-prepped dog, this technique is fun, fast, and super safe.

Happy trimming,

-Melissa

P.S.

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


‘Twas the Week Before Christmas

December 17th, 2015 by Joelle

Welcome to my blog!  For the next few weeks, my marketing expert, Joelle Asmondy, will be filling in for me while I work on a large project.  Joelle is a whiz with marketing.  I can’t wait to see which helpful tidbits she shares with you!  Enjoy!


It’s the week before Christmas and everyone rushes
from Bichons to Shih Tzu’s with clippers and brushes.

Tis our busiest season and everyone knows it.
We’re stressed and we’re tired – though nobody shows it!

The shop is set up to be warm and inviting
and we’re all so grateful that no dogs are biting!

With bathers in aprons and stylists in smocks,
our team is assembled and watching the clocks

when out in the lobby arose such a clatter
we ran to the front to see what was the matter.

With leashes in hand, we kenneled pups safely,
(We never take chances with anyone’s safety!)

Our beautiful lobby, once tidy and neat
was now complete chaos with guests on their feet.

The source of the barking and noise was no grander
than just a big dog with delusions of grandeur.

A big ol’ sweet mixed breed so lively and quick,
we knew in a moment he must be “Saint Nick.”

“Saint Nick” is just “Nicky” but everyone knows
the kind of behavior he typically shows:

“Down Nicky! Don’t eat that! Get back here! Stop hissin’!
Don’t do that! Stop barking! Why won’t you please listen?!”

From the top of her lungs her owner did shout,
“Now stop it at once or I’ll take you back out!!”

With legs like a hurricane Nicky did fly
to each couch, chair, and person who stood closely by.

He tangled up leashes, to laptops he flew.

He knocked them aside – stepped on their dogs, too!

And then when we thought he was settling down,
he jumped, and he barked, and spread drool all around.

We all scrambled to help and use calming voices
before customers wished they had made different choices.

Saint Nicky was filthy, from his head to his toes
and his hair was all matted (you know how it goes).

A shoe lace of slobber completed the mess
and where it would land was anyone’s guess.

His eyes – how they twinkled! His dog tags, how clinky!
His coat – how atrociously pelted and stinky!

His sweet little mouth was drawn up in a grin.
We wondered just what in the heck he’d rolled in!

His stump of a tail knocked bystanders down
as he turned, and he dashed, and he slobbered around.

He shredded a jacket with teeth like a knife –
it’s clear he was having the time of his life.

Nick’s owner was clearly in over her head –
her own hair in tangles, her face turning red.

(She’d given no training and took no advice
And now this poor woman was paying the price.)

We got Nicky settled and gave him a bath
and cleaned up the messes he left in his path.

At the end of it all, he shone like a champ.
(We did the best possible – he was still slightly damp.)

He ran to his master, who gave us a smile.
We knew she would need to rest up for a while.

But we heard her say exclaim she drove out of sight –
I’m so sorry ’bout that! Please have a good night!”

Make it a great day!

~Joelle Asmondy

P.S.

How are you getting through the holidays?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page  and tell us.


Surviving the Holiday Rush

December 10th, 2015 by Joelle

After working professional in the pet grooming industry over 35 years, the only time I worry about dealing with clients is the Christmas holiday season.

christmas-dog-wallpaperThe two weeks preceding the actual day can be a chaotic mess.  With Christmas shopping, decorating, baking, family gatherings, holiday socials to attend, and every regular client you have wanting to be booked as close to Christmas as possible . . . phew!  December can be an exhausting month!

But, wait – t doesn’t have to be!  Christmas organizing all year round will let you create that picture perfect holiday without nearly the stress.

Getting Organized & Ready

The Salon

  1. Is it clean – really clean? Floors, walls, kennels?
  2. Is the lighting up to snuff?
  3. Are your laundry machines working properly?
  4. Are the tubs draining?
  5. What are the conditions of your pet dryers?
  6. Are your blowing fuses on a regular basis in one outlet?
  7. Does your computer need to be de-bugged for a glitch free running machine?
  8. Do you have a stock pile of all the office supplies you’ll need?
  9. Are your blades shears all sharp and ready to go?
  10. Are your clippers operating smoothly?
  11. What is your stock level of all your dispensable products? Shampoos, conditioners, cologne, flea foggers, cotton balls, ear cleaner, etc.
  12. Are there plenty of towels on the shelves?

The Holiday Image

  1. Are your holiday decorations fresh and up-to date for your salon?  Keep it simple and easy… pick a simple theme and work with it.
  2. Do you have your client’s gifts ready to go so they can easily be passed out when the client is having their pet groomed?  Remember, expense isn’t the key, packaging is. Pay attention to the details.
  3. Have fun with festive accessories.  Head gear, costume jewelry – anything that can bring a smile to someone else is a good thing.
  4. Are all your holiday bows special and pre-tied?  Are bandanas ready to be attached to the pet?
  5. Do you have red and green nail polish that is actually usable?  What about other colors?
  6. Do you have plenty of air freshener to lend a sparkle to the air without being overly powering?
  7. Music is everywhere – is your holiday collection handy or is there an ‘all Christmas’ station you can tune into?
  8. Have you brought extra clothing or makeup to freshen up after work before heading out?
  9. If you’re worried that you’ll be slow after the holiday season, do you have any grooming promotions for January and February that you can be handing out now?
$$ Saving Tip: Buy all your holiday items the day after the holiday to save up to 50% the retail price;
fabric for bandanas, decorations, Christmas cards…

Getting Through the Dogs

  1. What are the pros and cons of working extra hours?
  2. Should you take on new clients?
  3. Make sure all your regular clients have their holiday appointments BEFORE taking on new clients or ‘non- regulars.’
  4. Hiring extra help – is there something you can easily delegate with some basic training that would free you up to deal with clients?  Cleaning? Answering the phone?  Taking out the trash?
  5. Have you worked out a system to maximize the types of pets you take per stylist?
  6. Work out a drop-off and pick-up schedule that allows you to stay focused on grooming pets.
  7. Stay calm, cool, and collected no matter what happens during the course of the day.
  8. Set realistic time goals that push you, but stay on target.  Use an egg timer if necessary or place a clock where you can’t miss it – no matter what.
  9. Use every speed trick in the book from prepping – to bathing – to drying – to trimming.
  10. When clients pick up their pet, are you offering a promotion to assist in re-booking 6 weeks down the road when it can traditionally be really slow?

Organization on a Personal Level

  1. Do you have a master list of all the things you need to do for the holidays?  Is it broken down into smaller do-able chunks?  What about a master gift list that’s simply updated year to year?  Master Christmas card list?  Weekly meal planner? Regular shopping tick-sheet list?  For great inspiration go to www.organizedchristmas.com
  2. Are you are a store, catalog, or Internet shopper?  Are you prepared to have ALL your holiday gift shopping done by December 15?  What about the wrapping?
  3. As time gets closer, demands get greater and healthy meals go by the wayside…  If you are in a city, do you have a full selection of menus at your fingertips?  Who has great take-out that you quickly sweep in and grab on the way home or while you are at the shop?  If you are a country dweller, is your freezer packed with great frozen meals that only require reheating whether homemade or store-bought.
  4. Does a messy house stress you out?  Before is gets really busy, clean and organize the house or hire someone to help you… (or if you have kids, enlist their help.)  Also think about having carpets cleaned, windows washed, or dropping you heaping laundry off at a laundromat, letting them do it for you.
  5. Do you need a masseuse or chiropractor to help you stay loose and limber ? If you do, book your appointment early.

After the Holiday?

  1. Take the week off! Trust me – your clients don’t need you for the week between Christmas and New Year’s!  Take that time and spend it on yourself and your loved ones!  You’ve earned it.

With a little bit of pre-planning, you’ll be breezing through the holiday.  It’s so much more enjoyable for everyone to be in a festive spirit instead of being the Grinch.  Put some effort into setting yourself up to enjoy the best of the season – it makes the time fly by.  And you might even get a few moments to relish this time of year!

Always remember, to be successful – to thrive – you need to put forth effort today so that your future will be bright.

Happy trimming !

~Melissa


What Does Your Future Look Like?

December 3rd, 2015 by Joelle

“The success you have tomorrow is predicated on the work you do today.”
~ Darren Hardy

I saw this quote recently and it really got me thinking.

Are you struggling or thriving? Whatever it is, it stems from things you did yesterday. Last week. Last month. Last year.

Everything you do is a set-up for the future. Your health. Your relationships. Your job. Your business. This single thought is essential to everything we do.

Do you:

  • Sit on your duff and eat crappy food? You will suffer physically down the road – maybe not tomorrow but it will catch up to you.
  • Fail to put positive energy into your relationships with people or pets? You’ll end up with uncontrollable children, empty friendships, and untrained pets.
  • Give your job less than 100%? There is a good chance you could be replaced by someone who will make the commitment to putting in the effort.
  • Pay poor attention to satisfying your clients? Clients will not return, and you won’t have a business to support you, your family, or your staff.

What you do today totally impacts your future.

So how does this play out in the grooming world? What can you do today to ensure you will thrive tomorrow?
 
Here are 5 areas that can really influence your overall success.

The Amount of Knowledge You Apply

The more you know about your field, the more confident you will be. That confidence transfers in many ways to grooming table. Plus, it will play through in a positive way to your clients. You will be able to communicate effectively with them. You’ll instantly know how to groom any breed of dog, in any condition, with any temperament. The more knowledge you have, the easier – and more enjoyable – your job will become every day.

What are 3 things you can you do today to help your future?

  • Study official breed standards
  • Watch videos by top pet stylists
  • Read books on canine anatomy and structure

The Quality of Your Work

High-quality work always brings customers back. It creates client loyalty and positive relationships. For most clients, their pets are much like their children. They love them and want to be proud of them. If you want to win the hearts – and the pocketbooks – of your clients, make sure the work at the other end of the leash is top-notch.

What are 3 things you can you do today to help your future?

  • Make sure your dogs are SQUEAKY clean
  • Focus on getting the perfect drying technique mastered for each coat type
  • Go over your work one more time – look for rough or uneven spots

Winning at Customer Service

As a professional pet groomer or stylist, you are a problem solver. Clients bring you their pets with a host of problems. Most are overgrown, dirty, or shedding. You need to uncover what their underlying needs are and present solutions to solve the problem. As you’re solving the issue, do it in a way that creates a memorable experience for the customer. It’s important to do more than just meet their expectations and satisfy their needs. Do it in a way that excites and delights them every step of the way. A smile will go a long way but there is much more to the customer service game. You need to look at every interaction with the client and figure out how to make it extremely positive.

What are just 3 things you can you do today to help your future?

  • Take the time to listen to your client and offer viable, attractive solutions to their pet care needs
  • Make it a goal to earn a smile from every client
  • Always be honest and upfront with all clients

Presenting Consistent Marketing

Effective marketing creates a desirable experience that connects with prospective customers and clients. To take it even further, it’s about creating clients who want to share their experience with others. Marketing is more than just your business card or a paid ad. It’s about how your phones are answered. It’s interaction with clients and their pets. It’s the impression you, your staff, and your salon make when your client walks through your door. It’s the images and messages you post on social media. It’s your printed material. Your advertisements. Everything you do to entice pet owners to use your service.

What are just 3 things you can you do today to help your future?

  • Take the time to groom yourself – always present a pulled together, neat, clean, and polished image
  • Smile when you answer the phone – it transmits instantly to the other end of the line
  • Make sure your salon is fresh smelling and appealing

Being Financially Savvy

No one starts a grooming business to give away their services or lose money. That’s not what going into business is all about. Whether you are a solo stylist, an employee, or a business owner, you need to pay attention to your money. Ideally, you need to charge enough for your services so that you can pay yourself a fair wage, pay all of your bills, pay your staff (if you have them), pay your taxes, and still have a little left over for emergencies. If you don’t pay attention to the details of how money flows into your business and how it goes out, you could get into trouble quickly. You have a responsibility to yourself and to your team to be financially knowledgeable.

What are just 3 things you can you do today to help your future?

  • Set a budget for yourself or your salon and then track your progress regularly
  • Create a daily sales goal
  • Keep accurate financial records with the aid of a computer, bookkeeper, or accountant

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless actions you can focus on today to positively impact your future. Hopefully the ideas in these sections will get your juices flowing. There is always SOMETHING you can do today to improve your tomorrow!

Everybody wants to be successful. The bottom line is that success is hard work. You have to put in the effort. You have to put in the time. You have to pay attention to the details. Sure, today might be difficult, but think about the long-term benefits? Will your efforts today help you tomorrow? What about next week? Next month? Or even next year? There are many areas you can focus on to improve tomorrow.

Always remember, to be successful – to thrive – you need to put forth effort today so that your future will be bright.

Happy trimming !

~Melissa


Learning to See Like an Artist

November 26th, 2015 by Joelle

Welcome to my blog!  For the next few weeks, my marketing expert, Joelle Asmondy, will be filling in for me while I work on a large project.  Joelle is a whiz with marketing.  I can’t wait to see which helpful tidbits she shares with you!  Enjoy!

If you ask people in our industry if they think grooming and styling pets is an art form or a skilled trade, most would say that it’s a little of both. I agree. When you watch members of GroomTeam USA at work, their efforts are definitely works of art. Skills like theirs take years to develop. Today, I want to talk about one aspect of that development: learning to see like an artist.

I’ve had the benefit of seeing hundreds of people learn to become pet groomers during my years at The Paragon School of Pet Grooming. I also have a Bachelor’s Degree in Art, which means I’ve taken a lot of classes to develop a range of skills that are similar to what we teach our students. Just like being a good groomer means more than loving to work with pets, learning to become an artist takes more than loving to paint or draw. It requires control and the ability to see things that others do not.

“Seeing” like an artist, or “developing your eye,” takes time and patience. Essentially what you are doing is training yourself to see:

  • what is there
  • what isn’t there
  • what things look like now
  • what the finished product should look like
  • spatial alignment
  • balance
  • proportion
  • perspective

Learning how to see these things takes practice. Here are a few tips to help get you there.

Have a Plan

Melissa Verplank has mentioned this concept when she says that you should “begin with the end in mind.” It involves imagination on your part and the ability to see into the future – in this case, a beautifully groomed pet.

When I’m about to start a drawing or painting, it begins with a blank canvas or sheet of paper. With a sculpture, it begins with a lump of clay or stone. Before I even get started, I’ve already spent time thinking about what I want to do. In my head, I’ve already figured out what I want the finished product to look like. I know what tools or colors I will use, and what it will look like each step of the way. I know the process I will follow and how involved it will be. I might have a series of detailed sketches to help keep me on course. Above all, I spend time before I ever touch pencil to paper just looking at the blank page and seeing what I will create on it. The pet is your canvas. Before picking up your clippers, take a minute to really look at what you’re working with so you know where you’re going.

LOOK – See the Shapes in the Clouds

So I’m staring at the page… what am I looking at? What am I looking for? When I’m staring at that blank sheet of paper, I’m seeing what I will put there. As I stare into that whiteness, I’m watching the colors and lines take shape in my mind and align themselves on the page. It’s like my mind has produced a transparency of the finished product and has mentally created an overlay onto the page. All I have to do is put the marks on the paper. If I’m sculpting, I’m staring at the lump of rock and seeing the shape of what I want to create in the stone. All I have to do is remove all the stuff around it and let it out.

When grooming, first look at the pet before you. From your training, attending conformational dog shows, your AKC Complete Dog Book, and maybe your copy of Notes From the Grooming Table, you know what the dog should look like when it’s done. Learn to see the shape of the perfectly groomed pet through the overgrown coat, like transparent layers stacked one on top of the other. When you can see that perfectly groomed “after” image clearly in your mind, you can begin the process of “erasing” anything extra that blocks that view.

Be able to picture your finished product – after all, if you don’t know where the finish line is, how will you know you’ve completed the race?

Know Your Landmarks and Learn the Art of Navigation

Trim styles are all about anatomy. Groomers need to know their breed standards and to know them they need to understand anatomy. If you’re a visual learner, get out your reference material and study the images until you can see them on any dog that walks into your salon. If you’re a tactile student and learn by doing, get those books out and learn to find reference points on dogs through your sense of touch. Feel where the point of rump is, the point of shoulder, and the barrel of the chest. If you can’t see them, learn your anatomy reference points by touch. Then learn to do both. Developing your knowledge base creates reliable instincts and reflexes.

Learn how to Measure Balance and Proportions Visually

Have you even been on a diet? Have you ever measured out quantities of food? Were you surprised by how much or how little a cup of anything was? With practice, you could eyeball a quarter cup of yogurt or 4 ounces of chicken pretty accurately, right? Didn’t it speed up the process?

The same thing is true when it comes to visual measurements. With practice, you get better and more efficient. I learned it in art school by using a pencil or my thumb, but groomers can use a trusty comb to do this trick.

The Eye Exam

Imagine yourself grooming a dog. You know that the right side has to match the left. Standing directly in front of the dog, imagine a straight line dividing the pet in half. Compare each side to the other, using specific points of reference as a guide. Look for landmarks on the pet’s head, body, and legs that require symmetry. Stepping back and looking from side to side will help. If you know things are off, but can’t figure out why, hold up your comb and cover up one side, then the other. It’s kind of like an eye exam where you read the chart first with your right eye, then your left. Think of it like a game of, “Spot the Differences.” Make it fun so it becomes less frustrating.

Thumbs Up

Have you ever wondered why artists extend their thumbs, or hold up a pencil or brush and stare at it at arm’s length? What they’re doing is making visual measurements and that thumb or brush is the ruler.

For this one, you’re still standing back and facing the pet head-on and imagining that line dividing the pet in equal halves. Are your ears the same length? Hold your comb even with the bottoms of the ears and perpendicular to the floor. You’ll be able to see which one is longer and be able to even them out.

Take a Step Back

Step back from the dog so you can see the entire animal. As artists, one of the worst habits we fall into is spending too much time working in one specific area. We have good reasons for it – we want it to be perfect. The problem is that while you’ve been tinkering away and nitpicking at that one foot, you’ve lost all sense of perspective and balance with the rest of the body. Now, you’ve got one foot smaller than the rest, so you have to tighten up the other three. You do that, then realize that the legs are now off, so you tighten them up, too. Suddenly, you see that by shortening the legs, the body is out of whack, and you’ve lost control. Losing control = losing time. By zooming in, you’ve created more work for yourself and lost time. That’s not a winning combination.

So what happened? Well, you basically made a rookie carpenter’s mistake. When you shorten up one table leg without doing proper measurements, the table wobbles. Standing too close or failing to look at the whole dog regularly results in perspective-based mistakes. Standing back allows you to see things more clearly.

Developing your artistic eye is not only helpful – it’s practical. By training your eyes to see what you need them to see, you’ll save time, become more efficient, and achieve a more balanced trim. You’ll gain confidence in your abilities and your customers will see the difference. Understanding these visual measurement tricks and putting them into practice is one small step toward becoming the groomer you know you can be. It’s worth the time to learn to see like an artist and unleash your own potential.

Did this help?  Tell us how you unleash YOUR inner artist on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.

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Make it a great day!

~Joelle Asmondy


 
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