Anatomy is the Foundation of All Grooming
You’ve heard me say this before:
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.
Creating teamwork within a grooming department is a challenge. Getting ANY group of people to work in harmony with one another is no easy task.
Teamwork requires four things:
Teamwork helps achieve goals. It also creates an enjoyable, rewarding place to work.
Over the years, I have had varied levels of success with fostering teamwork. I’ve had times when the entire organization was working together as a single unit. We were energized and excited. We met objectives. We knocked goals out of the park. Life was good.
I have also had times when there was very little teamwork. Frustration and negativity took over. Meeting objectives was almost impossible. Goals went out the window. More than once I questioned if the company would survive or if it was worth the effort to keep it going.
Here’s what I’ve discovered.
Building teamwork requires strong leadership that explains WHY the work is being done. Every activity is begun knowing exactly what the end will be. Systems must be made that ensure the activity is done the same way, every time.
For a business to thrive, everybody needs to work together. Whether your team is made up of just two or fifty people, everybody needs to be accountable for results. Those results are tied to the goals and objectives of the business. Everybody needs to understand what role(s) they play in the success of the company.
Years ago, I learned about a formula in Keeping Employees Accountable for Results by Brian Cole Miller. It’s called the SIMPLE approach to accountability.
S = Set expectations
I = Invite commitment
M = Measure progress
P = Provide feedback
L = Link to consequences
E = Evaluate effectiveness
S = Set Expectations
I = Invite Commitment
M = Measure Progress
P = Provide Feedback
L = Link to Consequences
E = Evaluate Effectiveness
For goals to be meaningful and useful, they must be tied to larger organizational ambitions. In other words, you need to identify the “big picture” and work backward to set smaller milestones that will lead you there.
Staff members need to understand the roles they play in business. If they don’t, they are likely to feel disenchanted, lost, or hopeless. Team members at every level should be able to communicate exactly how their efforts feed into the larger business objectives – WHY the business exists, at all.
Teamwork is not just about how effective and efficient a group is, it’s also about the relationships in that group. Always remember, it takes work to create and maintain a positive relationship. Building a healthy marriage, raising a family, training a dog, winning at soccer, and growing a business all require time and effort.
Remember, anytime you’re dealing with more than one person, teamwork is needed. Successful teamwork requires clear communication, leadership, and accountability. Always begin with the end in mind. Once you know why you do what you do – everything else falls into place much easier.
P.S. How do you develop teamwork at your salon? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.
Melissa Verplank will be in the Tampa, Florida area on Sunday, March 19, 2017 for an all day seminar. Melissa will present four of her most popular lectures that are sure to help you and your business!
In many of my business lectures, I ask my audience how many of them take regular vacations. I’m always shocked when I see how many pet professionals don’t schedule vacations or downtime for themselves.
Did you know roughly half of all Americans don’t take annual vacations? And if they do take vacations, it’s common that they stay connected to work or even bring work along with them! Are you guilty of either of these situations? I have always scheduled downtime for myself. However, I admit I am guilty of being connected to work wherever I am – even when on vacation.
Scheduling time off for yourself is important to your overall physical and mental health. There are many positive effects to your well-being.
I learned early in my career the importance of scheduling time off for myself. I have always been an over-achiever, taxing my system both mentally and physically on a regular basis. Yet, I always maintain an intense pace. Why? I know the importance of unplugging.
The key is getting it SCHEDULED. What gets scheduled – gets done. That’s true for everything, including down time!
Schedule time to disconnect. Schedule time to unplug. Schedule time to breathe. Schedule time to just enjoy life.
A word of caution. When planning any type of downtime – is make sure it stays downtime. Don’t over schedule too many activities. If you do, you will just jump from one frenzied lifestyle into another. You won’t relax and rejuvenate.
Vacations and down time reduce stress and improve health. Time away makes you an effective, productive, and happier worker. You’ll be refreshed and ready to tackle whatever life tosses your way. Take the time to get down time into your calendar. You deserve it!
P.S. How do you unplug? If you don’t – or can’t – tell us why. Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.
I love setting goals. For me, goal setting leads to exciting challenges, personal development, and rewarding achievements. That is the fun part. Unfortunately, there is another side of the goal setting coin:
What is a setback?
A setback is typically an event that hinders your forward progress. Maybe you had a staff member quit without notice. You lost a large account. A pet was injured in your care. Some type of government regulation has forced you to proceed differently. I have personally experienced every one of these setbacks – and then some!
Everyone responds to setbacks differently. If you are the leader, it’s easy to lead a team of people when everything is going well. A true test of leadership will be challenged when things are not going as well. Of course, setbacks pop up at the least opportune times. It’s the nature of the beast. If you are a business owner, this will happen on a regular basis to you and your team.
Over the years I have had my fair share of setbacks and adversity. Sometimes they were small. Sometimes they were massive. Sometimes even I did not believe we could overcome them.
As I work through each setback, I go through a series of emotions. It always starts out with disbelief. Anger. Despair. As I come to terms with the setback, the next stage of emotional triggers take place. Acceptance. Hope. Planning. And finally, a new positive path to follow.
I will not lie to you – it is not easy to deal with setbacks. They are emotionally draining, frustrating, and taxing. It is not uncommon to feel fear, experience doubt, or to feel hopeless. Here’s the good news: there are specific skills, mindsets, and actions that can help you turn a setback into success.
Facing setbacks can be a leadership building experience. Each time we have to deal with difficulties, we gain new knowledge and new skills to deal with a situation on a personal and professional level. Being tested in this manner is how inexperienced leaders become great leaders. It’s always an opportunity to realize leadership potential in yourself or your team.
Here are the steps that I follow whenever I am faced with a setback. I wish I could say I have only had to use these 8 tactics a few times. However, as a longtime business owner, I have gotten pretty experienced in using these skills to get through many challenging situations.
As business owners or team leaders, we have special responsibilities especially during difficult times. People will look to us to see how they should react to the situation. To find out what they should do. They’ll expect us to have some ideas and guide them through what might be a very frightening period.
If you have the ability to approach setbacks as opportunities for growth, you can stabilize your organization as well as moving forward. Even if you make mistakes, the experience can lead to a greater understanding of your situation and your work. It can advance your team or business to a new level. Remember, setbacks are a fabulous learning tool when handled effectively. It is important as you work through the solutions to always keep the big picture in mind and never give up.
Setbacks are generally a one-time occurrence. They may be serious, but they are not ongoing. When dealing with setbacks, keep an open mind. Know what your options are and act swiftly. If you stay focused, stay calm, and deliver your message with clarity, you can turn almost any setback – no matter how difficult – into a success.
We know setbacks happen to everyone. Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us what happened and how you conquered YOUR setback!
Jennifer Hecker, CMG
Suesan Watson, NCMG
Melissa Verplank, CMG
This time of year I always get excited. The 141st Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is just around the corner! For almost as long as I can remember, I have firmly planted myself in front of the TV for two nights. I would watch the show in its entirety. Why?
Because, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is the “Superbowl” of the dog world. It is the best way to stay up to date with the latest trends and styles. I would throw a Westminster party. I loved inviting my entire grooming team over to be glued to the TV for two nights as the show aired. For days after the show, we would talk about the newest breeds that had been accepted by the AKC. The unique haircuts we saw. The latest style trends on established breeds.
The show was important for me. I was actively competing in the pet grooming contest arena. In the old days, we would record the show on VCR tapes. I can’t tell you how many times I would review those tapes before I stepped into the contest arena. Today, you can stream videos to any device or save it on DVR systems. By watching some the most spectacular dogs in the country compete at this level, I was able to get a clear image etched in my mind before I stepped into the ring at a grooming competition. Visualization is a key to success.
Secondly, I used the Westminster Dog Show as a way to help keep my grooming staff up-to-date with the latest styling trends. Once I opened The Paragon School of Pet Grooming, we continued to use the show as a key learning tool for students. The annual dog show was instrumental for students learning breed identification and trim styles.
Tune in this year and enjoy the 2017 show. The Westminster Dog Show airs Monday, February 13 LIVE ON Nat Geo WILD from 8-11 p.m. and Tuesday, February 14 is LIVE ON Nat Geo WILD from 8-11 p.m. For streaming videos of each individual breed class, click here.
P.S. Do you watch? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell me your thoughts about how to use this show or other resources to inspire yourself and your team.