When Should You Just Say No?

July 30th, 2015 by Joelle

Agressive dogrrGroomers. Pet stylists. We’re in the service industry. We want to help people and their pets. That’s the role of our business. When we do it well, we make people happy.

What if you can’t make them happy? What if you can’t groom the dog safely? What if the dog is highly aggressive? What if it has a serious medical condition? Should you still do it?

If you have been in business for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve run into this scenario. Even seasoned professionals struggle with this dilemma at times. Should you groom the pet or turn the client away?

The easy answer is to refuse to groom the pet. However, there are many variables. If you feel the situation presents a high risk of danger for the pet or you – simply say no. Do not groom the pet. That’s your right as a business person or a conscientious employee.

Let me explain.

First and foremost, you must put the safety of the pet and yourself in the forefront. Once you have that clearly established in your mind, then you can start analyze the situation.

  • What is the situation that is raising the red flags in your mind?
  • What are your qualifications when it comes to handling a difficult grooming situation?
  • Is this a new client – or a long-standing client?
  • Can the pet be done safely with an assistant?
  • Will the pet cooperate if the owner stayed on premise or assisted the grooming process?

When I think about the above questions, I always play out the worst case scenario. The last thing that I ever want to have to tell an owner is that their pet was injured while in my care. Or that we had to take him to the vet for treatment. Worse yet – that their dog died during the grooming process.

Let’s face it. There are a host of things that could go wrong in any grooming salon even under the best of circumstances. We are working with live animals. Sharp instruments. High tables. Bathtubs. Dryers. Abrasive brushes. Stacked kennels. Slippery floors. The list of dangers working in every grooming salon is massive. Even in the best run salons.

On most days, an experienced trained bather, groomer, or pet stylist takes all these dangers in stride. We know how to avoid accidental injuries to our four-footed clients.

So what do you do when that internal gut instinct kicks in?

You are standing there, looking at a dog (or cat) and listening to a client talk about their precious fur child. Deep down – some type of internal fear grips you. You just have a bad feeling about this particular groom. You know the old saying, “trust your gut instinct?” Well folks, that natural instinct it working in full force. Listen to it.

It’s okay to say “no” to a grooming client. It’s never worth grooming a dog you honestly feel over your level of experience. If it’s more than you can handle – you have a potentially dangerous situation. The pet and you are the ones at risk. Not the owner. I don’t know a pet care specialist alive that ever wants to intentionally harm a pet. As a pet professional, the last thing we ever want to do is hurt an animal.

Yet, if something goes wrong with the groom on that day, whose fault will it be? Yours.

Weigh out the risks. Whenever you need to decline service to a client, it’s an uncomfortable situation. But the alternative is much – much worse. Telling an owner their pet has been seriously hurt or died in your salon it the most difficult task you will have to address. You want to avoid that at all cost – even if it makes the client angry or upset.

If it’s a new client, it’s much easier. There isn’t that emotional tie that comes with repeat or long time clients. It’s much easier to refuse to groom a dog that is too big or too aggressive for you to handle.

It’s the long time clients that are tough. The longer they have been a regular client, the harder it is. If a pet has physical ailments – those are the tough ones. This is when you need to weigh out the risks and look for alternatives to your standard grooming practices. The health and wellness of the pet has to be a top priority.

Here are the questions you need to ask.

  • Could the pet be done safely with an assistant?
  • Would the dog benefit from the owner staying with the dog during the grooming process?
  • Would a different time of day work better for the pet? Maybe a time when you can focus solely on the pet without distraction.
  • If your salon is busy, would a solo stylist or mobile stylist be a better option?
  • Would it be in the best interest of the dog to get the grooming done without stopping? Or break the grooming into sections, letting the dog rest between sessions? That might be over the course of the day or even over several days.

Years of experience has taught me there is not a straightforward answer. Whenever you need to decline services to a client, it’s an uncomfortable situation.

However, if you decline service, do it from the angle of care and compassion for the pet. Be prepared to offer alternatives to the client, even if that means you simply tell them “no,” you cannot groom their dog. List all the reasons WHY you cannot and will not groom their pet. Do it with the confidence of a professional.

In the end, as difficult as it is to say “NO” to clients, you will sleep a lot better at night when you do. Trust me on this one.

I know this has happened to many of you.  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about the time you experienced this in your salon.

Happy trimming,

~Melissa

I Want a “Puppy Cut”

July 23rd, 2015 by Joelle

Don’t you love it when an owner walks into a salon and ask for this trim by name? They actually think this is a universal standard trim that all groomers and pet stylists should know how to do. When we start asking them questions, they get all huffy, thinking we don’t know how to do our jobs. Frustrating!! You and I know there isn’t a consistent right way to do a “puppy cut.” There are many – many variations!

The puppy cut is one of the most popular haircuts. It works well on a wide variety of pets. From Shih Tzus to Doodles. From Pomeranians to Bichons. Almost any breed that grows longer coat can be done in this easy-to-care for style.

Yet, the puppy cut is also the most misunderstood haircut in grooming salons around the country. Why? There are no clear directions of what this trim actually is or how it should be done. It’s left up to individual personal interpretation by owners, groomers, or talented pet stylists.

The puppy cut started out as a trim style for Poodles. The puppy cut is a specific trim used on young Poodles in the dog show world. Once the puppy turns a year-old, they are put into the elaborate adult haircut for the conformation ring.

Today, the term “puppy cut” is used very loosely. It can apply to a wide variety of different breeds. It’s highly adaptable to any size of dog. Coats can be curly, wavy, or straight. Almost any purebred or mixed breed that grows hair looks appealing in a “puppy cut.”

quote 2 Many owners love this style of trim. It can be very cute. It’s easy to care for. It’s highly versatile. That’s a win-win-win for any busy family! The dog does not drag in dirt and debris from outdoors. Their ears do not drag in the food or water dish. The need for brushing between grooming appointments is minimized. And on smaller pets, bathing between grooming appointments is a breeze. When done well, it can be extremely attractive, to boot.

So what is it?

Essentially, the puppy cut is one length all over. The most common length is between 1-2 inches over the body, legs, tail, head, and ears. Typically, it’s done with a clipper fitted with a long guard comb over the blade. There should not be any clipper marks, uneven coat, or sharp edges left in the fur. Next to a powerful clipper, high quality blenders are your best friends when doing this trim. Everything is soft and plush, like a fluffy puppy.

The term “puppy cut” can be tricky. In some circles the puppy cut can also be known as the “teddy bear trim”, “summer cut”, or “kennel cut.” I’ve even seen some salons turn their version of the trim into their “signature haircut.” So the puppy cut becomes “The Posh Pet Special” (brilliant marketing by the way!) Generally, the only things that change between theses trims are the names and the length of coat.

It’s important to keep this in mind, too: one person’s interpretation of a puppy cut might be that of a smooth-coated puppy. Think Boxer, Pug, or Beagle. Another person’s interpretation would be that of a fluffier breed like a Shih Tzu, Bichon, or Poodle. There’s also a big difference between a four-week old puppy and a ten-week old puppy in terms of coat growth.

With all these interpretations, there is a wide variance of what each individual dog will look like and what each owner expects their dog to look like. If an owner is requesting this trim for the first time, be prepared to discuss the trim in detail with the owner. DO NOT ASSUME YOU ARE BOTH ON THE SAME PAGE! Communication is the key to a happy customer.

Here is a great tip to remember when talking with clients: whoever is asking the questions controls the conversation. As groomers and pet stylists, we are problem solvers. Uncover the problems in five simple steps.

  1. Observe the pet as the client walks through the door. Let common sense guide your line of questions.
  2. Find the problem. Ask basic questions like, “Were you thinking of a short and smooth style or something a bit fluffier?” Letting the client talk will help uncover problem areas.
  3. Gather clues from what the client tells you and what you observe.
  4. Offer limited choices as you help the client solve the problem.
  5. Guide the questions in five areas of the pet: overall body – head – ears – legs/feet – tail.

Here is a list of talking points when a new client request a “puppy cut.”

  • In general, what is the look they are hoping for? Something smooth and sleek so it’s easy to care for? Or something that makes the dog look slightly fluffy, plush, and super cute?
  • What is the lifestyle of the dog? Active? Sedentary? City dweller? Enjoys outdoor activities?
  • What is the texture and coat density of the dog? Fine, thin coats will looks shorter than dense coated dogs even with the same length clipper blade.
  • How much length do they want left on the body? What about on the legs? Feet?
  • What type of head style would they prefer?
  • Depending on the pet’s ear set, ear styles can change dramatically (dropped ear or pricked and pointed). How do they want them styled? Long? Short? In-between?
  • Do they want a long coat left on the tail or trimmed down to match the body? Or something in-between?

It’s important to have a thorough conversation with the owner when considering this haircut. There are so many variances with a puppy cut. Simply having the client state they want one is not specific enough.

Advise the client about trim options that would work best for their dog. Based on the condition of the coat and your pet’s body structure, you will be able to offer some valuable suggestions. A skilled pet professional will know how to make minor changes to the trim enhancing the pet’s appeal. Maybe the pet’s coat is too tangled to do the longer trim today. You’ll be able to suggest alternatives on how to modify a trim that works best as you discuss options for future trims.

Educating clients on proper pet hygiene is a valuable service most salon offer for free to their clients. In order to keep the dog looking its best, you can advise the client on how to best maintain this haircut between grooming appointments. At home brushing and bathing can make a big difference in how they look and smell, too. You can also make suggestions on how often the trim should be done based on the pet’s life style and coat texture. Maybe you suggest they get a full haircut every 4-6 weeks. Or maybe a maintenance program would be better suited for the client when you see them for weekly or bi weekly appointments.

Always remember, your clients are the lifeblood of your business. Taking a little extra time up front for a warm and welcoming pet consultation will go a long way toward building a solid relationship with them.

There is a good reason why the “puppy cut” is one of the most popular trims in grooming salons around the country. There are many – many variations!

What is YOUR first thought when you hear this term? How do you address this issue?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!
Happy trimming,

~Melissa

P.S. You can make this and ALL grooming conversations easier and more successful.

This is a great tool tool for getting the conversation started in a way that is easy for you to explain and for the client to understand. The photos and drawings make it even simpler! Try it the next time you talk to your guests. Even better? Use this as a teaching/training tool for your staff so you are all consistent in the ways you speak to your clients. Once everyone on your team knows how to discuss the essential parts of the pet, they’ll sound more knowledgeable, your clients will feel more comfortable, and you’ll waste less time (and possibly profits) correcting “guess work!”

Overspending Your Time Budget

July 16th, 2015 by Joelle

Time-Is-Money-740rrIt’s interesting that some people who are so disciplined and focused regarding their financial budget, think nothing of overspending their time budget.

Let me explain what I mean. There are only so many hours in a day, a set number of days in a week, and a measurable number of days in a year. Those hours and minutes never change. These blocks of time shape our lives. They frame when we work, when we sleep, when we eat, and when we play. Yet, many people treat these blocks like hands full of cash just waiting to be spent. They forget that time is finite and has limits.

Many of us know, whether we create definite schedules or just have a rough idea, how our days, weeks, and months will be shaped. Others schedule their whole lives down to the last detail. I’ll bet you know:

  • what time you’ll get up each day.
  • what days you’ll work.
  • when you’ll leave work and go home.
  • what time you hope to go to bed.
  • your plans for the weekend.
  • when you’d like to take a vacation.

Given those facts, you also know:

  • roughly how many hours you’ll work this week.
  • how many hours of sleep you’ll get tonight.
  • how much time you have left to sleep if you wake up in the middle of the night.

Our lives are all about time. We think about it constantly, whether we realize it or not. Tapping your foot because someone is late? You’re thinking about time. Honking your horn because the car in front of you didn’t go when the light changed? You’re thinking about time. How many times did you glance at your watch, clock, or phone today? It’s all about time.

So now that you realize you’re thinking about it, let’s talk about spending it. Time is like money – when you have it, life seems more in control. So why do so many of us spend time like it’s a limitless resource?

Time is the same for all of us. We all have the same amount of time in our “wallets.” We all have the same numbers of seconds, minutes, hours, and days. Yet, I see people who overspend their time budgets everywhere I go.

Have you ever thought about what mismanaged time is doing to you and those around you? Let’s start with your health. Are you eating right or just grazing on whatever you can find? Are you sleeping well or enough? Is your body reacting to the stress with pain, skin issues, or illness? What about your relationships with others? Are your irritable, impatient, and withdrawn? Are you missing out on family events? How much time do you get to spend with your friends? For that matter, when did you last take any time for yourself?

If the answers to those questions are negative ones, it’s time to make some changes before you lose your mental and physical health, relationships, or job. There are ways to stop that flood of overspending, but like anything else, you have to be honest with yourself and assert some discipline.

Know your limits

You need to eat and sleep. To nurture your relationships, you need to set time aside for those you love. You need to pick your kids up from school. You need to set time to take care of yourself. That means you need a reasonable schedule and you need to stick to it. That doesn’t mean you have to be inflexible, but if you’re in time trouble, you need to be as ruthless with your time spending as you would your cash if you were deep in debt. You need to retrain yourself and that means that at first, there is no bending of the rules you set for yourself. Eventually, with practice, you may be able to lighten up on the reins, but until then, stick to the plan. How will you know when you’ve achieved the proper balance? Simple. Ask your doctor, family, and co-workers. When they give you the thumbs up, you can ease up a bit.

Create an emergency fund

Setting a schedule or framework builds in the gift of time. When you set time goals and stick to them, you suddenly have time available at the end of your day. No, that doesn’t mean you can start spending it like a $10.00 bill you discovered in your jacket pocket. That time is emergency money, like a credit card that you use only for dire straits. Use that time to get other scheduled tasks done ahead of schedule, so if something urgent comes up (and it will), like a family emergency – you can handle it with limited effect to those who are depending on you.

Become a master of efficiency

Doing things the same old way has gotten you into this mess. Are you using your time properly? Just because it’s the “way you’ve always done it” doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Finding better ways to do tasks reduces their power over you. Sometimes you do a task the most efficient way, but at the wrong time of day, and it eats up valuable minutes.

Do you always put that phone call off because you’re uncomfortable? Do it first and get it out of the way so you don’t spend the rest of your day dreading it. Some tasks can be made easier with technology. Look for better ways to do things and you’ll be surprised how those moments, like pennies, begin to add up.

Eliminate procrastination from your vocabulary

Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “I can’t wait to procrastina…” I love that joke, but it’s also so true. Think of all the time we waste by putting things off. We waste time just thinking of ways to avoid a task. We waste even more by trying to think up ways to justify it to ourselves. Some things are just always going to test your nerve, your resolve, or your patience. Just do them and get them over with, then move on to the good stuff as a reward.

Accept that sometimes the answer is, “No.”

I remember asking my mom for something when I was little. I can’t remember what it was, or even why I wanted it (which shows how important it was, right?). What I do remember is what she told me when I asked why I couldn’t have it. She simply (and not unkindly) said, “Honey, sometimes the answer is ‘no.’”

It was an important lesson then and it still matters now. Sometime you have to say “no.” When you make a promise you can’t keep, it’s more than an inconvenience – it’s a breach of trust. Keep it up and your word is worthless. Be realistic with your expectations and abilities. Know when to say that more time or help is needed – or even the reality that you can’t do it. Give the other person a chance to pursue other options. They won’t look down upon you for being honest – they’ll be glad you didn’t leave them high and dry when you couldn’t keep your promise.

Know when to ask for help

This goes hand in hand with the previous point. Maybe you can’t do a task alone, but with the right help…? You still have worth and value even if you need assistance. Knowing that you need help lets others know that you understand the problem and have a plan.

Asking for help can actually save time. Two people carrying in all those grocery bags will get the job done a lot quicker, right? Just because you can do something alone doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

Be present

Being present means you are paying attention to the task at hand, not the next thing you’re worrying about. With proper planning, you will be able to compartmentalize tasks a little easier. That means that you can get things done in the time allotted. Being present also means understanding that loved ones need you just as much as those tasks you are trying to get done. When you can’t remember the last time you tucked your child in at night or thought to give your spouse a kiss goodnight, things need to change.

Respect boundaries

This is a big one. Know your limits AND those of others. Do you have deadlines? Meet them especially if you’re part of a chain of events. If you’re late, they will be, too. If they can’t make up the time downstream, the end result will be late. People who plan can often help those who don’t, but they won’t for long.

Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on theirs

If you overspent your time, it creates a ripple effect on others involved. If you created an emergency because of poor planning and execution, don’t always expect others to bail you out. Mutual respect breeds trust and a solid team. When we all work together, everyone wins.

Time can be a beautiful thing. When you have it, you can appreciate the loveliness of the world around you. You can enjoy time spent with others. You can actually be present with those who matter most. When you are a slave to time because you failed to control your misspending of this finite resource, you create a prison for yourself. Luckily, there is a key… YOU!

Do you sometimes struggle with time management?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Guest blogger

~Joelle Asmondy


Correcting Behavior During Grooming – Learn the 4 Keys to Successful Pet Handling

July 9th, 2015 by Joelle

blog image12If you are a long time pet professional, you’ve probably mastered today’s topic. If you are fresh to the industry, you are probably struggling with it. How do you handle the dog that does not want to cooperate with the grooming procedure?

You’ve heard me say this about dogs before – but let’s do a quick review.

  • They are hard-wired to think like a dog.
  • They are a predatory pack animal.
  • They are silent communicators.
  • They read body language.
  • They respond to energy.
The most over used word in a dog’s vocabulary is “no.” It’s a common enough word, but it means nothing to them. Why? They hear it all the time. How often is that word spoken every day? Pet owners are constantly “crying wolf” around the dog.

It’s typical. Dog owners overuse the “no” word, yet never back it up. They don’t project the energy necessary to stop the behavior. Thus, they do not convey a strong pack leader presence. The issue they are trying to correct continues unchecked. Many dogs are not trained to understand basic rules and boundaries within their own family pack.

Dogs that are unruly, wiggly, or mildly aggressive on your grooming table have not had consistent training at home. You see it in your shops, salons, and mobile units don’t you?

It’s painful to watch someone who does not understand how to project authority work with these dogs. They think they can win the dog over by using high-pitched baby talk. First, they coo to the dog. Next, they try to reason with it. Not only are THEY getting more and more frustrated… so is the dog. Plus, any staff members within earshot of this ineffective banter are about to lose their minds!

The dog continues to be unruly… wiggly… mildly aggressive. The groomers’ frustration builds. Next, you hear:

“No!”

“Stop it”

“Quit it!”

“No!   NO!!  NO!!!”

As they spew out the words, their breathing is becoming short and rapid. Their energy is weak. They are losing control of the dog. Someone is going to get hurt – either the dog or the groomer.

So how do you stop this acceleration of bad behavior?  

#1. Stop using the word “NO.”

#2. Remember the 3 C’s – stay Calm, Cool, and Collected.

#3. Correct undesirable behaviors before they manifest into an action from the dog.

#4. Be consistent, consistent, consistent.

First, you need to have the proper equipment. Always have control over the dog with a kennel lead or grooming safety loop. The leads and loops need to be adjusted high on the neck, right behind the ears.

On leash, keep mild tension on the lead. Not so much that you are choking the dog, but enough so that you can control the pet. Once you know the pet, you will probably be able to relax the lead tension if they are mild-mannered and well-behaved. Adjust the tension of the grooming loop so that there is a very slight amount of slack when the dog is standing comfortably.

Here’s a trick for working with new dogs that I learned ages ago. I teach them what MY sound is for correcting an undesirable action. I use a sound – not an actual word. It comes from low in my gut, coming out sounding more like sharp grunt. While I use the sound, my breathing is deep and slow. My eyes are steady on the dog. I’m giving the dog eye contact that means business (women, you know what I’m talking about! We all have ‘the look.”). I gently, but firmly, redirect the dog as I wish them to behave.

As soon as the dog cooperates, I soften my eyes and my hands. I might give a calm, single word of praise combined with a gentle, reassuring stroke.

The SECOND the dog makes a move to repeat the undesirable action, I repeat the correction. I am consistent in the training. I never step out of the 3 C’s mental zone: Calm, Cool, and Collected

My 10 Rules When It Comes to Dealing with Challenging Pets

  1. Never work on a pet that you feel is dangerous to itself or to you.
  2. Always maintain the 3 C’s: Calm, Cool, and Collected.
  3. Remember that dogs are silent communicators that respond to energy.
  4. Never take an unfamiliar pet from the owner’s arms.
  5. Always maintain some form of physical control.
  6. Become a lifelong learner of canine psychology and body language.
  7. Remember that not all pets are candidates for all professional grooming settings.
  8. If the eyes glow red or green – DO NOT GROOM THE DOG.
  9. Humanity always comes before vanity.
  10. Your hands are your livelihood – always protect them.

We will constantly be faced with less than cooperative pets in our careers. It is always better for you to win the trust and cooperation of a pet for the grooming process. Most of the time, this translates into becoming a highly effective dog trainer.

Dogs are hardwired to think like dogs. We love them, even treat them like children, but we need to remember that they are not humans. They are dogs. The more experience you can have handling dogs, combined with actively studying their language, their psychology, the more effective you will become.

Remember these four important rules. Do not use the word “no.” Always abide by the Three C’s: Calm, Cool, and Collected. Correct undesirable actions before they become an issue. Finally, be super consistent in everything you do with a dog.

What techniques do you use to redirect challenging behaviors?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


The Top Pet Handling Secrets for Aspiring Pet Professionals – Learn the Main Techniques Used to Win the Trust and Cooperation of a Pet

July 2nd, 2015 by Joelle

imagerrIn my years of teaching beginners, I’ve seen hundreds of dogs take advantage of a new students. Dogs pull. They squirm. They whine. They snarl. They nip. They bite. I’ve seen many students frustrated to the point of tears.

Then a miracle happens.

An instructor walks over to the pet and gently takes over for the student. The dog instantly turns into a perfect angel. The students’ jaw drops. A moment passes before the student exclaims, “How did that happen?!?” The answer is simple.

Energy.

Dogs have keen senses that pick up on our energy and our confidence. Dogs have an uncanny ability to read body energy. They read us clearly even when we don’t think we are connecting to them. In the example above, the dog picked up on the instructor’s energy without a word having to be said.

Dogs are primarily nonverbal communicators. They have a language of their own. They are very clear in the messages that they give us. It is up to us to be able to interpret that language.

The #1 rule when working with pets is to remember the three C’s. As a professional you must remain: Calm, Cool, and Collected. In ALL circumstances. The second you step out of this energy mode, the dog pet will know it instantly.

Dogs are hardwired to think like dogs. They need a pack leader. If you do not exude the three C’s, dog language translates that to mean, “poor leader.” They will not follow you. They will not cooperate with you.

So how do you gain the upper edge on the situation? Simple. It all starts with your BREATHING.

I know it sounds far-fetched. It’s so elementary. We do it every day. We don’t even think about it. Breathing.

However, when you need to create a calm, cool, and collected energy, your breaths need to be deep and saturating. Simply breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Draw in the air and feel it fill your lungs. Now exhale slowly through your mouth. The most important part of deep breathing is to regulate your breaths. Three to four seconds in. Three to four seconds out.

Try it. You can feel the oxygen saturating your body.

Deep breathing can release stress and provide other noticeable health benefits. You will likely feel calmer after performing deep breathing exercises, and may trade feelings of anger or fear for a focused, relaxed state of mind. Most dogs will totally gravitate to this energy in a very positive way.

I firmly believe that 98% of all dog bites are preventable by reading the animal correctly and taking the appropriate precautions to protect yourself while gaining humane control over the pet. Your hands are your livelihood. You must take utmost care not to let your hands become injured.

Every pet is an individual with different physical and emotional characteristics. Some dogs receive clear directions and boundaries at home, making them very easy to work on in a professional setting. Other pets will not have the skills necessary to be well-mannered candidates in a professional grooming setting.

The personality quirks that you’ll experience while working professionally with pets will range from dogs that are perfect angels, to dogs that are mildly annoying, to dogs that could be potentially dangerous to work on for both the handler and to the pet itself.

Whenever working with pets it is always critical to remember the 3 Cs. As a professional you must remain calm, cool, and collected in all circumstances. And BREATHE.

Whenever you have a dog on a table or in your grooming facility, you must use humane, respectful, and consistent training messages. The more you can learn about dog psychology and combine it with actual experience, winning the control and the respect over the dogs will become second nature.

Always remember that dogs are primarily silent communicators. Excessive talking or giving of commands is not necessary to effectively communicate with them. Much of your control can come from maintaining the Three C’s – Always remain Calm, Cool, and Collected while working with any animal.

Any time you feel you are losing control of the three C’s, it’s time to step away from the grooming table and take a break. Breathe. Only when you can totally regain your composure is it time to step back and begin your work again.

There are many videos on Pet Handling in the Learn2GroomDogs library. Also my blog on Rating Dog Personalities is very helpful when determining how to rate personality and behavior in dogs.

What techniques do you use to stay calm, cool, and collected?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


8 Ways to Understand Your Boss

June 25th, 2015 by Joelle

I love hearing success stories. I especially love it when they are grooming salon success stories!

Over the years I have met thousands of groomers. Some are solo stylists. Others have small teams that make their businesses flourish. Others have large teams or are part of a larger corporation. Not all are business owners or managers. Many groomers and stylists I meet are simply a part of a very successful team – and love their jobs.Almost every one of them, no matter where they started, started with a dream:

  • A dream of grooming pets professionally.
  • A dream of finding a rewarding career.
  • A dream of starting a business.
  • A dream of growing that business.

Nothing makes me happier than hearing about a grooming business that is knocking it out of the park. They have a handle on their work load… their finances… their management skills. Their grooming skills just keep getting better with time. They have strong customer service skills. If they face a challenge – they tackle it – and fix it or improve it.

I can guarantee every successful grooming business owner fully understands this quote:

This statement could not be more true. Your true boss is not yourself. It’s not your manager. It’s not the person who signs your paycheck. None of them created the funds fueling payroll.

Customers do.

A grooming business provides something of value to the customer in exchange for payment. If you don’t provide the type of grooming the customer expects, they will go somewhere else – plain and simple.

Principles to Learn

Your customers are the most important aspect of developing grooming business.

  • Customers = job security
  • Customers = income
  • Customers = advancement
  • Customers = continuing education
  • Customers = opportunities
    • The customer ultimately determines whether or not you have a job.
    • Many people think the company is the source of their job security. They are wrong. It’s based on whether customers keep coming back. Repeat customers create job security.
    • Customers provide the money that you receive on a regular basis.
    • Building strong relationships with customers is the fastest path for career advancement.
    • Customers provide an opportunity for you to grow your grooming skills every time you groom and style their pet.

Here are 8 things you can do right now to build a positive relationship.

Impress your “boss customers” when they walk through the door with their beloved pooches.

  1. Smile. Smile. Smile.
  2. Call your customers by name – and know their pet’s names, too. People love to feel known and welcome. Use their names – don’t be shy!
  3. Recognize repeat customers and their pets instantly. The best way to do this is to keep accurate DETAILED customer service records. Having the client’s essential information in one place makes client management easy. Creating a trim history record of each haircut is particularly helpful. This history allows you to easily refer back to it during future appointments.
  4. Go out of your way to address the needs of your customers and their pets. Customer education is at the heart of this. Talk to them. Teach them. Provide handouts or visuals to hone your message.
  5. Try to impress your customer, like you were angling for a raise from your boss. Never skimp on quality grooming. Always do something a little above and beyond what they expect – but make sure it’s something they will appreciate.
  6. Think about your paycheck every time you talk with a customer.
  7. Be reliable. Keeping your promises builds integrity, trust, and customer loyalty.
  8. Always look for ways to advance and boost your skills. The best groomers and stylists are always looking for ways to improve their performances. Always look for ways to enhance your service edge.

Think about it. If we dealt with all customers like they were “the boss,” I bet customers would be treated very differently.

This is a key concept highly successful grooming establishments understand. The customer controls our paychecks.

Not yourself.

Not your manager.

Not the salon owner.

Sam Walton was right. The customer IS the boss. They can fire anybody – at any time – simply by spending their money elsewhere.

Every successful grooming establishment I know applies this principle to every customer interaction they have. Do you?

Do you treat your customers like they are “your boss?” What do you do to cement that relationship?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


How to Use Anatomy to Groom the English Setter

June 18th, 2015 by Joelle

Anatomy is the Foundation of All Grooming 

You’ve heard me say this before:

All dogs – whether a Yorkshire Terrier, a Great Dane, a Bulldog, or a Dachshund – possess identical bone and muscle structure. Fundamentally, they all are the same.

Excellent grooming starts always starts with a firm understating of canine anatomy. It is the FOUNDATION of all grooming.

Basic pattern lines are set based on the muscle and bone structure.

Depending on how physically active a dog is, the muscle structure may be very prominent. It could be lurking under a layer of fat. It may also be poorly developed due to age or lack of physical activity.

Nonetheless, those muscles are there. They will help you set symmetrical and correct pattern lines.

The bones are there, too. Whether the dog is anatomically correct when compared to the breed standard is something else altogether when we are dealing with pet dogs. Understanding what a physically sound dog is will help you immensely. When you know the difference between good and bad structure, you’ll be able to hide many faults.

When we combine all the layers of the dog – the bones, muscles, the skin and the fur – we will be able to mold and shape the coat to highlight the dog’s best features and downplay the others. If the bone structure is a little less than perfect, you can use the hair to camouflage those defects.

Before you begin grooming any dog, get your hands on them! Close your eyes. Feel the structure under the coat. Sink your fingers deep in the fur. Pay close attention to the muscle groups highlighted in color in these diagrams.

The Essence of the Breed

Before you start grooming any dog, you need to familiarize yourself with the breed and understand its essence.

The English Setter is a Sporting dog of great style. It should be physically fit and structurally sound to work long hours in the field flushing game. The general outline of the English Setter will be rectangular. The shoulder lay back and the angles of both the front and rear assemblies should allow for adequate reach and drive.

The coat is silky, flat, and should lay close to the body. English Setters have longer feathering on the ears, chest, abdomen, underside of thighs, back of all legs, and on the tail. The longer coat should not be so long as to hide the true lines of the dogs, movement, or the function of field hunting.

Landmarks for Grooming & Styling

When it comes to grooming, let’s work around the dog using its anatomy as a reference.

When done “correctly,” Setters are hand stripped for a very natural look. However, in pet grooming circles, it is common to see the pattern clipper-cut or styled using a combination of clipping and stripping to save time. Regardless of the method you chose, the anatomy reference points – or landmarks – will remain the same.

Setting the Throat: Feel for the muscles at the sides of the neck to set the throat pattern line. A visual clue to this area is at the “frill” or cowlick line running down the sides of the neck. The throat area is directly below the jaw, inside the muscles running down the outside of the neck. The shape is generally a soft “U” shape. The lowest part of the “U” stops a few fingers above the prosternum bone.

Body: The jacket coat on the bulk of the body is shorter and lays flat on dog. Follow the natural lay of the coat when working this area.

Shoulder: Use the turn of the muscle at the shoulder to set the jacket pattern on the body.

Elbow: The turn of the shoulder will also tell you the location of the elbow. This is the general location of where to start the pattern on the body, sweeping back and upwards towards the flank of the dog.

Spring of Rib: The turn of the ribs will help set the pattern line separating the dog’s body jacket which consists of much shorter coat, blending invisibly into the longer feathering found on the lower portion of the dog’s body.

Undercarriage: The undercarriage line creates a focal point for balance of the overall dog. The highest point of the graceful sweep will be directly under the last few ribs.

Flank: Moving into the flank area, the thigh muscle should be exposed to help accentuate a physically fit and muscular dog.

Tail: For balance, the tail should reach to the hock and be a triangular flag. There is a slight gap of fur on the underside of the tail at the base. This slight space separates the longer rear furnishings with the feathering on the tail.

Topline: The top line maybe level or slightly sloping from the withers to the tail.

Neck: The long graceful neck is well muscled and slightly arched.

Head: The lines of the skull are parallel with a well definite stop.

Ears: Set well back and low, even with or below the level of the eye.

All these areas are natural landmarks used as reference points on any breed. When you combine anatomy with the official breed standard for any purebred dog, you have knowledge. You can use this understanding to accentuate the proper structure of the English Setter.

Always remember, all transition lines should be invisible. Ideally, the English Setter should look totally natural when finished – as if the coat simply grew that way.

Combining the use of these anatomical landmarks and skillful technical skills, a talented pet stylist can easily create a symmetrical, stylish, and well-balanced trim on any dog – purebred or mixed breed.

Have you ever had to rely on your knowledge of canine anatomy to help out in a pinch? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


How to Avoid Living Hand-to-Mouth

June 11th, 2015 by Joelle

Getting your financial life in order allows you to enjoy today

I still remember this point in my life well. I absolutely loved grooming dogs, but I was barely getting by. I had no savings account. I had only one credit card with a very small limit. I worried every time I wrote a check – would it bounce? I could not afford health insurance. The only vehicle I could afford was my mobile grooming van. I drove it everywhere.

If I had a financial hiccup, anywhere, I was in deep trouble. The thought of a retirement account or an emergency fund never crossed my mind. I learned very early in my career what it was like to have the phone or electricity shut off… the payroll to bounce… or my credit card declined. Yes, I have experienced all of those. I’m not proud of it – but I did learn from it.

Sound familiar? I know many groomers and stylists who struggle with this scenario. I don’t envy you. I’ve been down that path, too. Luckily, those days are long gone for me but the lessons are etched in my soul.

Here’s some things that I did early in my career to beat that problem.

Alignment

The first thing you need to do is take a look at where you are currently sitting, financially. How much money do you bring in your household annually? Are you the sole income earner or do you have a dual income stream? You don’t have to be exact, but get close. If you have multiple income streams, how much do you need to produce to make your household budget work?

Before you start fixing a problem – you need to thoroughly understand what your current situation is. This background work will help you create a plan to get over this hump.

Next, you need to figure out how much money you need to run your life. How much money would it take for you to feel comfortable and not strapped week by week? Obviously, it’s going to be more than you’re making right now – otherwise you wouldn’t feel stressed over money. How big is the gap? Don’t get freaked out. What you’re doing right now is collecting data.

The final step is a reality check. You need to discover the difference between what you currently are making and what you would like to make to be comfortable. It might look something like this:

That’s a real do-able number.

However, if you’re “comfortable income desire” was closer to $70,000, yet you currently only generate $32,000 in revenue, that would be a more challenging nut to crack. Creating an extra $8,000 in extra income a year can be attained on a groomer’s income. Finding $38,000 is a bit more difficult – but it can be done if you are willing to make big changes in your life. (But that’s another blog.)

There are only so many hours in a day. Only so many days in a week. Unless you more than double your current pricing structure or number of dogs you groom, making it happen will be impossible. That’s not to say it can’t be done. It can. However, you will have to make some major changes in how you generate money.

If you work with your hands to make a living, you will always be limited in your earning potential. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, lawn service, or pet groomer. You will hit an earning cap at some point. What level that is will depend on a number of things; the quality of work being produced, amount of time it takes to complete each groom, the price per pet and the commission level.

Reality check time. If you had grandiose ideas that you could simply groom dogs and earn a six-figure income, that’s not very realistic. Make sure what you want to earn and what you can earn are in alignment.

Set Goals

finger-keyboard.jpg Grab a calculator, a sheet paper, and a pencil. It’s time to set some goals and do some simple math. This is a game I started playing very early in my career to hit my personal goals.

Let’s say you worked 50 weeks a year. (You did take a vacation, right?)

Let’s use that $40,000 figure as your ideal earning potential. You work at 50% commission rate. So, if you want to make $40,000 annually, you need to generate $80,000 in sales. Divide $80,000 by 50. That equals $1600 which is the amount you need to generate each week. Break it down one more step by dividing $1600 by the number of days you work each week. Let’s say that number is five days. Each day you need to generate $320 in sales. If your average price per dog is $45, you need to groom a little over seven dogs a day.

$40,000 x 2 (50%) = $80,000.

$80,000 / 50 (weeks) = $1,600

$1,600 / 5 (days per week) = $320

$320 / $45 (average price per dog) = 7.1

By breaking this down into a daily goal of $320 in sales, you know exactly what you have to do every day to achieve the annual income you desire.

You’ll find yourself adding up your potential sales for the day before you even start. That’s the key to making this work. If you know early in the morning that your schedule is too light, you will look for ways to increase your revenue for that day. You’ll look for added services that you can up charge for or you may even take another appointment. If you had not set that goal as you went into your day, you wouldn’t have a target to shoot for.

Discipline and Focus

Discipline and focus is a two-part equation. The dual areas are monetary inflow and outflow. Raise the amount of money you bring in every week. Minimize what you spend every week. You need to set a budget for yourself and stick to it. Stay within your means. Just because you have a credit card does NOT mean you should use it!

Raising your income level is going to take plenty of discipline and focus. There will be times when it will not be easy. If it was easy, you wouldn’t be struggling.

There are many programs out there that can help you. Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman are two popular financial educators. Try a simple Google search about financial planning. You will find plenty of options. Use them!!

In order to reduce your financial stress, you need to have a financial plan. For most people, the financial crunch didn’t happen overnight. You’re not going to get out of that crunch overnight, either. Be patient with yourself. Be disciplined. Be focused. You can fix this problem.

Visualization

2Want a great aid to help you hit your goal? Create a visual reminder. This is a proven method that works in many scenarios. Top athletes have used this technique for years. High achievers create entire dream boards of their goals. One of my favorite books and films on this topic is called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.

It’s simple. What you see and think about – you remember. But here’s the deal. You need to see and think about it A LOT. You want to be constantly reminded of your goal.

For a financial goal, I would select something about the size of the business card. You can get as creative as you like. Make up 10 to 20 of them. Once you have a slew of them made, start distributing them where they will be a constant reminder.

  • Post them on the mirror in your bathroom.
  • Tuck them in your wallet with your money.
  • Put them on your bedside stand.
  • Stick one on the refrigerator.
  • Place them at your grooming station.
  • Put them in pockets.
  • Attach them to your appointment book.
  • Tape them to the dash of your car.

Keep them highly visible and in front of you as a constant reminder. It’s amazing how well this works.

Sure, you can get by living hand to mouth, but it’s not fun.

The worry.

The stress.

It’s just not worth it.

Life is so much more enjoyable when you are confident about your financial future – whether it is tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, ten years down the road, or into retirement.

You don’t have to have a six figure income to be happy and secure. However, you do need to live within your means AND have a savings plan in place. Once you get your financial life in order, the more you will enjoy today.

How has living hand to mouth affected your life? Have you taken steps to overcome it? How has your life changed? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


4 Reasons Why You Need the Updated AKC Complete Dog Book

June 4th, 2015 by Joelle

Have you seen the new American Kennel Club Complete Dog Book? It’s mammoth! When I grabbed mine, I questioned if I needed a roller cart just to carry it. (Just kidding… but the thought crossed my mind!)

I have been purchasing AKC Complete Dog Books since I first started my career almost 35 years ago. With each edition, the number of pages has increased. Breeds have been added. The covers have been yellow, red, greimageen, and blue. Other than that, few major modifications had been made within the pages of the book.

That’s all changed.

The new AKC Book has been fully reformatted and published in full color! Even the hard cover of the book has a stunning image of a dog on it!

This latest edition features:

  • Official standards for every AKC-recognized breed
  • All the newest breeds accepted into the AKC
  • Seven varieties : Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding Groups – plus the Miscellaneous Class
  • Freshly written breed histories
  • Breed overviews created by the parent club of each breed
  • Over 800 color photos showcasing young and mature dogs (good photos too!)
  • The year the breed was recognized by the AKC
  • Name and website of every AKC recognized parent club
  • Enlightening personality traits and maintenance of each breed
  • Overview of the American Kennel Club itself
  • Images and descriptions of canine anatomy
  • Glossary of canine terminology
  • Information that potential dog owners need to know when selecting a quality puppy
  • The Sport of Dogs: an outline of sports, competitions, and events held for the purebred dog

It’s been almost nine years since the last edition was published and quite a bit has happened during that time. There have been approximately 50 new breeds recognized. A few of the standards have been modified. Plus, the AKC has a number of new events and programs that are spotlighted in this new addition.

Weighing in at over 5 pounds, the 912-pages are filled with profiles of all 200 AKC breeds, which boast four or more pages on each. After years of seeing only black and white images, it’s refreshing to see each breed showcased in color. Even though the book is huge, the layout of the breed groups is well done and easy to digest.

Content from previous editions has been removed. I miss the information that was in the previous book(s) on what constitutes a healthy dog, basic nutrition, common illnesses, and simple first aid – but there are plenty of books about that – and this one is hefty enough already!

So, as a pet groomer/stylist – why do you need this massive book taking up space on your bookshelf?

1) Breed Identification

To me, being a “professional” means you are can identify your subject matter. Breed Identification is an elementary skill we all need when it comes to professional pet grooming. If you can’t instantly visualize a breed of dog as you speak to a prospective client on the phone, you can’t even begin to address their needs or questions about the services you can offer to groom their pet.

2) Terminology

Every field has its own language. It’s the parlance of the industry. You need to learn it. Embrace it. Use it. It’s just like learning any new language. If you immerse yourself in the culture and apply yourself, you will learn it out of necessity. Learning the language of dogdom is critical to your success in any aspect of working professionally with dogs.

3) Comprehension of the Breed Standard

Every purebred breed has a written ideal standard. It describes what the “perfect” specimen would look like – if it existed. You need to be able to read that standard and understand it. That takes work. It takes study. But if you can’t understand what makes up the “ideal” breed, you will never be able to do justice to any purebred dog and make it fit the breed profile.

4) Knowledge of Your Subject Matter

Every breed was developed for a purpose. They all have individual personality traits. They all have unique physical characteristics that set them apart from other breeds. In the world of the purebred dogs, there is a bounty of information. The more you know about a breed’s history, what its original function was, and what it is like to live with a particular breed, the stronger your professional presence will become.

For those of us “in dogs” this is definitely a book to add to your professional reference collection.

It has been a long time since the last edition. With the AKC approving new breeds at a breakneck pace, it is nice to have an up-to-date (at least for the moment) reference. The AKC Complete Dog Book is the foundation of all great pet groomers and stylists. In comprehensive grooming schools around the country, it is the groundwork for the curriculum. It is at the root of every grooming competition. It is the foundation of every voluntary grooming certification program.

If you take your career seriously, and I hope you do, this is a professional reference guide you cannot be without. If you have an old edition of the AKC Complete Dog Book – fabulous. However, I encourage you to invest in yourself by getting the latest copy of this amazing reference manual.

How often do you refer to the AKC book? Do you use it at all? Why or why not? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

 

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


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

 
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