Making the Most of a Seminar

September 14th, 2017 by Joelle

seminarWhen 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!

I’ll be at the Groom Expo September 14-17, 2017.  If you’d like to download the handout for my lecture, Ruff Times in Your Salon? The 4-Rs for a Full Appointment Book, click here.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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How Do You Remove Track Lines from a Coat?

August 31st, 2017 by Joelle

I still remember how frustrated I got when I first started grooming.

eraserI was the assistant, doing mostly bathing and drying for the groomer. One day, she was overbooked and was falling deeply behind schedule. She had a basic “all trim” on a larger dog that she hadn’t even started yet. Out of desperation she asked if I would remove some of the coat before the bath.

I thought to myself, “Sure, why not? How hard could it really be?” I picked up the A2 clipper as the groomer handed me the appropriate head. I twisted it on and set to work.

What a mess. The dog wasn’t hurt but my work was awful. The dog was full of uneven coat and lots of tracking.

The groomer had always made it look so easy. Coat seemed to melt off like a hot knife through butter. Her clipper work was always smooth and even. No track marks. No sticky-outies.

This was not nearly as easy as I thought!

However, I stuck with it.

Quote In A CircleThe groomer coached me as I struggled with the second side. It turned out somewhat better but was far from perfect. Today, I would not consider my work that day as acceptable – not even as pre-work before the bath. It was that bad! Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about all the tracking. It was just the rough cut before the bath. Once the dog was clean and blown dry, the groomer finished it in no time.

Fast forward 10 years. I had mastered the clippers and figured out how to eliminate tracking in the coat. On rare occasions, I still had problems. By that time, I was in my own mobile grooming van and running my own business. One of my clients was a buff American Cocker whose owners wanted clipper cut.

Most of you who have been groomers for any amount of time know some buff-colored Cockers track terribly when clipper cutting. This dog was no exception.

It didn’t matter what blade I chose.

Tracks.

It didn’t matter how powerful the clipper was.

Tracks.

It didn’t matter what time of year it was.

TRACKS.

The. Coat. ALWAYS. Tracked.

On one appointment, I basically threw my hands up. I could not get the tracking out of the coat. I had used all the tricks I knew to no avail. As I sat there contemplating how to remove the lines, I had an idea. What would happen if I reversed a blade over this coat? Hmmm. At that point, I figured I didn’t have much to lose.

I tried out the technique on an obscure spot on the dog’s body. I reversed a #7F blade then stepped back to check my work. I realized it was going to be way too short. I bumped up to a longer #4F blade. When I tried again – it was perfect. It was the length of a #7 blade. And even better, it was baby butt smooth. Eureka!

Over the years, I’d figured out how to get all coat types super smooth, but this Cocker type coat had always given me trouble. Once I mastered that coat type, coat tracking was a thing of the past for me.

So how do you get coat super smooth without any tracks?

There is not one simple answer but there are lots of techniques and trouble-shooting options. Here are a few tricks that I discovered with years of practice.

Page 479 Ways to Eliminate Track Marks

  • You need super sharp blades. The sharper the blade, the faster and smoother the cut.
  • Get a powerful set of clippers. They don’t necessarily have to be large and clunky. They do need to have enough power, speed, and torque to glide effortlessly through a thick coat.
  • Use consistent speed when clipping through the coat. As you guide the clippers through the coat, you need to run the clipper consistently over the pet’s body.
  • Card thick and dense coats before AND after. Dead undercoat clogs clipper blades. Removing as much dead undercoat prior to clipping and then again after the clipping will greatly reduce lines.
  • Always follow the lay of the coat either clipping with the grain or against the coat growth. Cross coat cutting typically creates track lines. Focus on working with the natural lay of the coat.
  • Reverse blade clipping. When the coat growth pattern is distinctive, reverse clipping can be beneficial to remove or eliminate clipper tracks. Instead of working with the coat growth, work directly against it. Reverse clipping cuts the coat closer than working with the grain. Always bump the blade up two lengths longer – a #4F cuts the length of a #7F with the grain.
  • Maintain a consistent degree of tip on the blade as you clip. Every clipper blade works most efficiently when the heel of the blade is tipped up slightly. The shorter the clipping action, the higher the degree of tip.
  • Keep consistent pressure against the skin as you clip. Typically, the weight of the clipper is the correct pressure to apply. Keep a supple wrist as you guide the clipper over the pet’s body.
  • Fine detailed thinners work as erasers on stubborn lines. When all else fails, you can buffer clipper lines with thinning shears, knocking off just the high points of the tracks.

Every coat type is a little bit different. Some coats barely track at all. Others are almost impossible to get smooth. Learning how to minimize tracking takes time and practice. Mastering a smooth clipper cut in the least amount of time takes focus and attention to details.

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to mastering clean perfect clipper work. Groomers who have mastered a track free simple “All Trim,” on a regular small to medium-sized can groom a pet in one hour or less.

If you struggle with this problem, my book, Notes from the Grooming Table, has a very detailed section about clipper work in the front of the book. My Learn2GroomDogs.com streaming video platform also has some great videos about efficient clipper work in the Core Video Category. Make sure to check out those two educational resources. If you work with a team of stylists, someone within your group might be able to coach and mentor you. You can also look for local clinics or workshops where you can work with a seasoned professional.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat are the tricks you’ve used to eliminate tracking? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 


5 Steps to Mastering Any Skill

August 24th, 2017 by Joelle

Mastering SkillsLearning to master skills helps us get ahead in our work and lives. To do this you need to have a deep understanding of the skill you are trying to perfect. You also need the dedication to put in the needed time and deliberate practice.

“Deliberate practice,” was introduced by researcher, Anders Ericsson who studied this concept for over 30 years. His research shows HOW you practice matters much more than HOW MUCH you practice.

Deliberate practice isn’t running a few miles each day, strumming a guitar for 20 minutes each morning, or grooming a few dogs each day. Deliberate practice is much more purposeful and focused. It might take you five to ten years of deliberate practice to truly master a skill.

To improve anything, you must push beyond your comfort zone. This process can be very difficult. Letting go of what is safe and learning to get comfortable with the unknown is hard for most of us. For some, it is impossible. But when you put sincere effort toward improving a weakness, you will grow.

To become great, experts focus on improving their weaknesses. Practicing on easy things never leads to improvement. Working hard just to work will exhaust you. Working purposefully towards improving is the secret to success.

It doesn’t matter whether you are trying to master a specific breed profile, specialize in a grooming technique, increase your speed, or skillfully run your business. To master any task, you need to focus and practice in a purposeful way.

Here are five ideas to help you stay focused on a skill you want to master.

  1. Deliberate practice has one objective: to improve performance. According to Ericsson, “People who play tennis once a week for years don’t get any better if they do the same thing each time. Deliberate practice is about changing your performance, setting new goals and straining yourself to reach a bit higher each time.”
  2. Perfect practice makes perfect. Repetition matters. Do it repeatedly. Football legends don’t practice their specialty briefly at the end of their practice sessions. They repeat the fundamentals of their specialty hundreds of times each week.
  3. Get consistent feedback. You must monitor your progress so you can adjust. Without feedback, you won’t know how to improve. Seek out a mentor or a coach in the area you would like to master. Asked them for consistent criticism and advice.
  4. Identify your weakest area. Focus on improving your weakest skill. Then move on. Don’t beat yourself up.
  5. Be prepared. The process is going to be challenging. It will physically and mentally exhaust you. Mastery takes commitment, focus, and extreme effort.

IMG_20150430_073120When I began a career with dogs, it didn’t take long before I knew I wanted to perfect my skills. I wanted to master pet grooming. I found mentors and coaches who could give me feedback. I read books. I studied images – photos of my own work as well as champions. I intently watched master pet stylists at work. I attended clinics and workshops. I tested my skills in the certification and competition rings. I always asked for feedback and focused on improving my work. I practiced. And practiced. And practiced.

Today, I work with a business coach. Almost every week we have a 90-minute conference call. We focus on our weakest link and ways to improve it. The following week, we review what worked and what didn’t work – then move on to the next weak item on the agenda. Having a coach keeps me accountable, focused, and on track.

Remember – start small. Self-improvement can feel overwhelming. You can’t take on everything. If you do, you’ll feel defeated and never succeed at any of it. Instead, choose one or two skills to focus on at a time. Break down the skill into manageable chunks. Set goals. Get feedback and track your progress.

Along the learning journey, stop to reflect. When you want to move from good… to great… to mastery, you need to stop and spend time reflecting on what you’re doing. If you don’t, the new skill won’t stick. Talk to your mentor, coach, or someone you respect as you go. Talking about your progress assists in getting valuable feedback. It keeps you accountable and it cements the changes.

Be patient with yourself. You are not going to reach perfection right away. Mastery requires perfecting many smaller skills and then putting them all together. It could take months to perfect a single new sub-skill. It will take years to truly master a particular technique or specialize in a field.

You can use these techniques on anything you want to improve or master. Many of us can do something well. True mastery takes it to a much deeper level.

Do you have what it takes to become a master?

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat are the things you’re working to perfect every day? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 


What’s the Hardest Part of Running a Business?

August 3rd, 2017 by Joelle

06-27

In my experience, the hardest part of running a business is STAFF!

Hands down the most challenging part of running a business is staffing it. Managing staff. Keeping staff. Paying staff. Keeping them accountable. Keeping them productive. Keeping them happy.

And the real biggie – training them.

So let’s tackle the training challenge first. It’s far easier to hire basic labor than filling a position that requires skill. At our kennel, the Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, we have an endless supply of dog enthusiasts that want to work in the kennel. With multiple colleges within our community, the labor force is easy to come by. After all, everybody wants to play with puppies!

But what about those jobs that require skilled labor? People like receptionists, bathers, managers, and trainers.

One of the largest reasons I started the Paragon School of Pet Grooming was because I could not find qualified groomers to operate my fleet of mobile grooming vans. They just weren’t available. I still shudder when I think about it. There were times that I would have a van down for 6 to 12 months at a time before I could find somebody that could do the job. Not a very efficient way to run a business.

Working every day in a mobile grooming salon does not lend itself well to a training environment. It can work if you just have to add polish to a skilled professional. But to take them from scratch? Nope. It doesn’t work. You just can’t afford the time it takes to train a new groomer – especially if you rely on YOUR productivity to pay the bills. Starting a person from scratch to become a competent groomer in a mobile just does not work!

To get a groomer that can work independently – with safety and quality – will take months, not weeks, to train. After all, this is not a skill that you can quickly show somebody how to do. Grooming is not a simple task. It requires significant training.

I’ve heard some businesses offer two-week training programs for new hires. Then they turn them loose to groom “professionally.” Some circles might consider this enough, but for quality and safety, you need more.

Did you know the average person needs to see or hear something 3 to 7 times before it actually sinks in? And that’s for an average learner. Sure, star performers might pick it up after the first or second try – but those people are few and far between. Most of us fall in the average category. We have to see or do the same task repeatedly before we do it correctly.

TrainingI’ve been in the pet care industry for over 30 years – primarily in the grooming aspect of the industry. Finding qualified groomers remains the number one problem in our field.

Finding talented grooming help was close to impossible was when I first stepped up to the grooming table in 1979 – and it remains the same problem today. I have chosen to focus on this critical problem. I own multiple companies in the pet industry. On the educational side, my companies aid in training and personal development for those stepping into the field for the first time as well as for aspiring pet groomers and stylists.

It has always been extremely easy to enter the field of pet grooming. There are very few regulations of any sort. Anybody can start bathing and cutting hair off a dog or cat, and call themselves a professional pet groomer. Those of us that have spent years perfecting our craft know it takes time and dedication to become confident and competent in all breed grooming. It takes years of practice and study.

Some of the ways that I have found to become a real professional include:

  • Studying the AKC Complete Dog Book or your national all breed book
  • Reading books produced by breed and/or industry specialists
  • Attending workshops and clinics hosted by industry leaders
  • Attending a grooming school – many have multiple programs from which to choose
  • Taking an online course from a reputable institution
  • Attending continued education training at qualified grooming schools
  • Watching videos produced by leading pet professionals

Even graduates coming out of quality grooming schools are not truly proficient. If they have graduated with above average GPA’s, they have given themselves a great foundation. It is the starting point of their career – but they are far from being a polished professional. They still need guidance. They still need coaching. They still need mentoring. They still need to study. And most of all – they need to practice A LOT!

featured-classified-300x232So let’s get back to that hiring challenge. If you’re faced with having to hire a groomer, know what to look for. One thing I recommend is Attitude. Attitude. Attitude. I always look for somebody who’s got a positive, upbeat attitude. Someone who is receptive to new information. They need to be moldable. Adaptable. And they cannot be afraid of hard work. I hire on potential, not necessarily experience.

Once you have someone with a great attitude, helping them be best they can be is fun – and it can be very gratifying. Use the resources available to help them self-direct their own learning.  It will take time, dedication, and patience before you see your new hire flourish but you can lighten your training load by taking advantage of many educational resources currently available. You might learn a thing or two yourself.

It amazes me that our industry has not advanced more in this area. Sure, there are more grooming schools than ever was before. Yes, there are certification organizations out there – but they’re still voluntary. Licensing, in some states is starting to catch on. However, we’re still a long way from having even a basic comprehensive licensing program in place for pet groomers and salon owners. The road before us is wide open with possibilities.

Will you help us blaze the trail?

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat are the biggest training issues you see every day? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 


An Easy Way to Create a Poodle Beveled Cuff

July 27th, 2017 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

MVpaw_no_Inner_white Did you try it? How did it work for you? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us what works for you!


3 Options for Clients with Matted Dogs

July 19th, 2017 by Joelle

How many times a week do you deal with a matted dog? If you are like many of us, it’s more than once. For some, it might even be a daily occurrence.

There are immediate questions that needs answers:

  • How do you talk with the pet parent?
  • How do you tell them they are not taking care of their pet properly?
  • What are the consequences of their neglect?
  • What can you do for them today?
  • What can you do for them in the future?

As a professional pet groomer, we always need to remember – humanity before vanity.

Can you demat a badly tangled coat?

Probably.

Should you?

Not necessarily.

Once in a great while, a client will have a legitimate reason why their dog is in poor condition. Occasionally, I will demat a dog if I sense it’s a one-time occurrence. I know the tricks to get a dog detangled relatively quickly. I have the skill, products, and tools to do it safely and humanely. However, there are two main reasons why I won’t always do it.

  1. The dog has a low pain tolerance.
  2. The client will not appreciate the work.

Here’s a perfect example. Years ago, I had a Bichon owner who always brought her dog in matted. This Bichon had a dense, curly coat. She was a regular six-week client. The owner was always immaculately presented when she dropped her dog off – the clothing, the hair, the makeup, the shoes, the jewelry, and nails. You get the idea. Oh, and she drove a Cadillac.

This was a woman who was used to getting her way. Her dog was always on the edge of whether we could brush it out or not. She never brushed the dog at home between groomings. The dog was a great advanced student dog. He was quite tolerant of the brushing process making him a super lesson dog.

One week she missed her six-week scheduled appointment. When she showed up two weeks later, the dog was trashed – matted all the way to the skin.

Crest. Head. Legs.

We told her we were going to have to start over. We would need to shave her Bichon down to the skin. He would be naked. It was the only humane option.

She was horrified. She couldn’t be seen with a naked dog! There must be some way to save the coat.

There was. She could get the dog combed out HERSELF and bring it back. But we were going to have to be able to sink the comb in all the way to the skin and pull it easily through the coat.

We gave her a thorough lesson. We even sent her home with the proper tools. We told her to come back when she felt her Bichon was totally combed out. Then, and only then, would we would give him his longer, fuller Bichon haircut.

She went home determined that she would be able to get him detangled. A few days later she returned. When we did the comb test, do you think he passed?

Not a chance. She watched the comb clearly get hung up in the coat on the first pass.

We told her to take the dog home and continue working on him.

Long story short, she returned six more times before she finally gave up. We shaved the dog with a #7F blade. We were able to leave a little tiny bit of extra coat on his head and a tiny bit of fluff on his tail. Everything else was naked.

When her sweet Bichon finally grew out about 12 weeks later, we set her up on a two-week maintenance schedule. She never missed another appointment. She learned her lesson.

Here are the three options for clients who bring you a matted dog.

  1. The pet parent needs to learn how to brush.
  2. The pet parent needs to learn to like it short.
  3. The pet parent needs to book more frequent appointments.

When faced with a matted dog, how do you have a conversation with the owner?

The conversation needs to be sincere. It needs to focus on what is in the best interest for the pet. You need to be sympathetic to the reasons why the dog got in this condition.

(Stop rolling your eyes… I can see you.)

When you speak with an owner, they need to understand there’s only so much we as groomers can do. The last thing we want to do is hurt, injure, or bring discomfort to their pet.

b5205d66495a007babfa874878a04a88--haircuts-for-boys-layered-haircutsDogs have the mentality of a two-year-old child. If their two-year-old child, grandchild, niece, or nephew came to them with their hair matted all over their head, would they ask the child to tolerate having it combed out? If the tangles were tight and right next to the scalp, making every stroke of a comb or brush painful, they would most likely trim the matted hair out. Have you ever tried to remove gum or candy stuck in a child’s hair? Imagine the same impossible tangle right next to the scalp, covering the entire head. Trimming off that hair would be the most humane thing to do, even if the end result is not the haircut you would typically prefer.

It’s similar with a dog, only with the dog, the hair isn’t just on their head. It’s all over their entire body. You might be able to salvage a very small section but it’s not fair to ask the dog to submit to a lengthy dematting process. Most dogs do not have the pain tolerance or patience to sit through it. It could take hours to thoroughly brush and comb a dog out. Plus, there is a high risk of injury to their skin. And to top it off, asking a dog to sit through an extensive dematting process could be traumatic. It could scar them for the rest of their grooming life.

Even if a dog does have the tolerance for it, the cost will be extensive. Tell them what your hourly rate is. Estimate how long the dematting process would be. On a small dog, it might be about two to three hours (and yes, I would estimate on the high side), plus the regular grooming time.

If my hourly rate was $60 an hour, the customer would be looking at an extra $90-$120 for the dematting, alone. Money talks, so most of the time you can stop there.

If you sense the client is willing to pay your dematting rates, move into your next talking point: what’s in the best interest of the pet.

While it’s good to know they would be willing to spend the extra money to have the dog combed out, it’s also important to see if the dog will even tolerate it. At this point put the dog on the counter or grooming table. Grab your combination comb, sink the wide toothed end down to the skin – and give a firm tug. Gauge the reaction of the dog. Most of the time they will flip around with extreme displeasure. It’s visually clear to the pet parent their fur baby is being hurt. That’s exactly the reaction you want.

Most pet parents cannot stand seeing their dog in pain. If they understand this condition is painful to the dog they can often be trained not to allow their pet to become matted again.

The reaction of the pet, how deep the pet parent’s pockets are, and whether you feel the owner can be rehabilitated into a well-trained client will determine where your conversation will go next.

Most of the time, you’ll want to go with the humane route – and that means a full shave off. I might – or might not – try to salvage a small amount of coat on the head and tail, if possible. Mentally prepare the owner for what the dog will look like after the grooming process. Remember to emphasize that this is the only option for their pet.

Once you settle on what you are going to do that day, talk about future haircuts and how to maintain the dog so it never gets in this condition again.

matted dog 2Remind them of their three options.

  1. Learn to brush
  2. Learn to like it short
  3. Book more frequent visits

Talk to them about their lifestyle and how their pet plays a role.

Ask if they are willing to find the time to properly brush and comb their dog between professional groomings. If they are, give them a thorough demonstration on proper brushing and combing techniques for their pet’s coat type. We always keep the necessary tools on hand in our retail area. Make sure your clients leave with the proper equipment to maintain their pets at home. Having a handout outlining proper line brushing techniques is also extremely helpful.

If they don’t have the time or the desire to brush their pet at home between groomings, talk about booking more frequent appointments and setting them up on an economical maintenance schedule. The maintenance schedule could be weekly or biweekly.

If the dog is just too far gone, if the client is a repeat offender, or you just don’t have time to deal with a matted dog – skip to the chase. I would simply tell them, no – I will not comb their dog out. There are no other options other than to shave the coat off.

Talk to them about rebooking their next appointment in 6-8 weeks. By about 12-14 weeks they should be grown in enough to be able to get the trim of their choice if they want to maintain a fuller look. They might also opt for a simpler trim style that is short – one length all over. Their choice will be based on how they want to care for their fur baby.

Regardless of whether you are doing a brush out on a matted dog or simply shaving the matted coat off, I encourage having owner sign a matted pet release form. This form opens the door to talk about the dangers involved with matted coats. It’s a simple fact: if the dog is extremely matted, there is going to be a higher risk of injury to the pet. If you talk about it prior to the grooming and the dog does get injured in any way, most of the responsibility has been lifted from your shoulders. However, that doesn’t give you the excuse to be careless. The last thing any of us want to do is injure a pet. However, when they are severely matted, the risk of them being hurt is always present.

Remember these key points:

  • It is always important to do what is in the best interest of the dog.
  • There is a limit to what you can do.
  • There’s a limit to what the dog can tolerate.
  • You are a professional pet groomer – not a magician.

There are limits on what you can – and should – do for the animal. Be honest. Be sincere. Keeping the pet foremost in your mind when coming up with a solution will always play in your favor. Even if the client is upset, stick to your guns. It’s the client’s fault the dog is matted, not yours.

Mentally prepare your client the worst-case scenario: a totally naked dog. Over-estimate the amount of time it’s going to take. Over-estimate the amount of money it’s going to cost. Over-estimate the risks involved with dealing with a severely matted pet. If you do that, anything beyond naked or less expensive or even a mild nick is going to be seen in a positive light by the client.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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How to Handle Tardy and No-Show Clients

July 13th, 2017 by Joelle

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy rule for solving the problems of tardy or no-show clients. The good news is that you have lots of options to help deal with it. Depending on how busy you are, cancellations can either be a blessing or a curse. In either case, if you have a client who is chronically dismissive or disrespectful of your time, you need to be proactive and correct the problem.

Our kennel, Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, experienced 68 reservation cancellations over the 4th of July holiday. During the summer months, Whiskers runs at over 100% occupancy rate with its 180 rooms. During peak holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Spring Break, Whiskers charges a $50 deposit for all reservations. This deposit is nonrefundable if the cancellation takes place two weeks prior to their check-in date. In the past, the deposit has not been charged for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day. That will be changing.

For years we’ve tracked grooming appointment cancellations at The Paragon School of Pet Grooming.  Despite our continual efforts to knock the rate down, its remains a persistent 10%.

In the pet grooming industry, time is money. Clients who are chronically tardy or don’t show up for their appointments create havoc for both your schedule and your pocketbook.

It’s frustrating.

It’s disrespectful.

It’s rude.

(However, if you are overbooked, it can also be a blessing.)

There is no perfect solution for this problem. Everyone has a slightly different take on this situation. Some salons run on a very tight schedule while others are more relaxed. And let’s face it, there are times when the client has a legitimate excuse. So, what do you do?

late8 Ways to deal with Tardy and No-show Clients.

  1. Call or text to confirm the day ahead. Sometimes clients just need is a gentle reminder to avoid a scheduling conflict.
  2. Breathe. For some pet stylists, having a cancellation is not a big deal. It doesn’t happen that often. The clients are well-trained and respectful of their appointments and time. In some cases, it might even be a relief.
  3. Overbook. Service businesses do this all the time to ensure they are full. The key here is to have a variety of pets on the books. If there are a few easy jobs sprinkled between the more difficult ones, you will get through your day, even if your cancellation rate is below the 10% mark.
  4. If they are 10 or 15 minutes late – call them. If they can make it into the salon within a few minutes, keep the appointment. It’s easier than trying to refill it – unless you don’t want to! If you opt not to honor their appointment, rebook them for another time. Don’t wait 30 or more minutes and then explode when they walk in the door expecting to keep their appointment. It’s better to make the call right away and know what your next step should be. This method offers you more control over the situation. With some clients, you need to personally point out why it’s important for you and/or your team to have set appointment times. This can be done in a friendly – yet firm – professional manner. This tactic also works well with non-chronic cancellations.
  5. Have a 3 Strike Rule. Some people are just forgetful. Others are just plain disrespectful. Others are downright rude. If the client will not respect your time, you don’t have to continue to put up with it. Occasionally, there are solid reasons why someone misses an appointment. Life happens. The 3 Strike Rule covers clients who are chronically late or don’t show up for their appointments. If you’re going to set up a 3 Strike Rule, what are the consequences? Do you refuse to groom the dog in the future? Charge a cancellation fee? Do you have a client prepay a nonrefundable amount for the scheduled next appointment? If you make a rule, there must be consequences. Make a policy, then consistently stick with it.
  6. If the client cancels, fails to show up, or is tardy beyond being able to groom them at their appointed time, reschedule them. Don’t do them a favor by squeezing them in the next day or two. Push them out at least two weeks. I’ve known many stylists that are so busy they have NO flexibility left in their schedules. If a client misses today’s appointment they can’t get another one until their next pre-scheduled appointment. This works exceptionally well for stylists that are booked out weeks, months, or even a year in advance. It can be a hard lesson for the client but it is generally very effective. Rarely do they miss another appointment.
  7. For clients who are chronically tardy or don’t show up, charge a late or no-show fee. You won’t always get it, but if they book another appointment, you can tack it on to their next grooming fee. You could also consider raising their base price to include an inconvenience fee.
  8. If you have a client who simply cannot adhere to a schedule or does not respect your time, have them prepay prior to their grooming appointment. This should be a nonrefundable amount. After all, your time is valuable and it’s worth money. If they cancel, you can’t get your time back nor the money you would have earned if they had kept their appointment.

late-payment-excusesAre there exceptions to your rules? Absolutely.

If you don’t already track how many cancellations you have each day and each week – start tracking it. Find out what your cancellation average is per day. Once you know the number, you can be proactive in correcting the problem.

Another way to look at it is from a dollar standpoint. At Paragon, our average cancellation rate is 10%. If you apply the 10% rate to your situation and you do 20 dogs a day at $50, that starts to add up! That translates into losing two dogs or $100 every day! Times that by five days a week and you’re at $500 of lost revenue. To me, it’s worth taking the time to simply call and remind people of their upcoming appointment the day before!

We are in the business of building positive relationships with our customers, both the two-legged and four-legged variety. Your personality and the type of relationship with your clients dictates how firmly you adhere to the demands on your time. Remember, these customers not only affect you and your time, they ultimately affect your schedule and your other clients. You need to be warm, caring, and maintain your professionalism.

Just because you are warm and caring does not mean you can’t set rules and boundaries. Remember, you can still provide great customer service and have a mutually respectful relationship that benefits both you and your client.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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Cache’s Pâté Meat Balls

June 29th, 2017 by Joelle

CacheHow to Get a Dog to Eat When Her Appetite Wanes

Last week was a week none of us want to deal with. We had to make the difficult decision to bid farewell to one of our beloved Maremma Sheepdogs. Most of us who have had multiple dogs have a few “heart dogs.” Cache was one of mine.

Maremmas are livestock guardian dogs. Their natural instincts allow them to take responsibility, making their own decisions in the absence of their owners. This means they are very independent thinkers. They decide for themselves how best to deal with prospective invaders (people or varmints) or potentially dangerous situations. Typically, the breed is not well suited as a typical household pet. They need space and a job to do.

Cache’s personality was true to her breed. However, we heavily socialize all our Maremmas. When we are in public, ours are soft, gentle, and friendly. On our own property, their natural instincts come out loud and clear. Cache was serious about protecting her turf, the animals she was raised with, and guarding us. She always made me feel comfortable and safe. She was with me most of the time, whether it be at work or at home.

Last year a nasty growth had to be removed from her third eyelid. The vet felt he got good margins and she healed up in no time. Seven months later, the growth was back. This time, when we had it removed we sent it in to be tested along with full blood work.

Unfortunately, we learned she had a very aggressive form of cancer that takes over the entire system in a short amount of time. The best thing we could do was keep her comfortable and enjoy the limited time we had left with her.

The first few weeks she was pretty good, but then her appetite started to fade along with her weight. Within a month we had to entice her to eat. We added eggs to her kibble. When she started turning her nose up at that, we added ground meat. Before long she was eating around every kernel of kibble, eating only the meat. Even though we fed her twice a day, she was not consuming enough calories to maintain any weight. We increased the ground meat. As we increased the straight protein, her system had a hard time digesting it. We found ourselves having to do regular spot bathing to clean up her hind end.

At the end of May, Judy Hudson and Sue Zecco arrived for National Dog Groomers Association of America Certification Testing at the Paragon School of Pet Grooming. They came in a few days early just to hang at our farm, ride horses, cook healthy meals, and drink a little wine.

Judy watched me as I tried unsuccessfully to entice Cache to eat. By this time, I was making small raw meatballs for Cache. I would mix it with a little bit of her kibble and feed her by hand. I could always get her to take the meatballs but I could not get her to eat any of her kibble.

Ms. Hudson is a natural problem solver. Judy has been around my dogs quite a bit. Even though Cache’s mind was still sharp, Judy knew she was going downhill quickly. She needed to eat something more than just a small about of raw meat.

PATEThat’s when she asked, “Would Cache eat meatballs if you mixed other things with it?”

She suggested utilizing a food processor and creating custom meatballs more suitable for Cache’s digestive system. Judy proposed we soak a small amount of kibble in hot water until it was soft, then add some cooked rice, a little bit of bacon grease, and some raw meat. If we needed more moisture we could add some bone broth. Sort of like a pâté. Brilliant!

We quickly pulled out the food processor and got to work. We ground everything up until it was the consistency of cookie dough. Once it was mixed well, we tested it. I rolled out five ping-pong ball-sized meatballs and offered them to Cache. After a couple sniffs, she tried the first one. She did not hesitate on the second, third, fourth, or even fifth meatball!

I was thrilled! But as happy as I was that she was eating, I had a huge fear looming in the back of my mind.

The following week I left for Australia for a 10-day speaking engagement. I was terrified Cache would not hang on until I returned home. I knew if we could get her to eat, there was a good chance she would make it until I got home.

My husband Marc had been gone during Judy and Sue’s visit. When he got home, I showed him how to mix up these enticing pâté meatballs.

Cache rode to the airport with us as I left for Australia. I told Marc he needed to send pictures of Cache every day. He did. Lots of the photos were of her enjoying her meals. Sitting on the couch. Getting belly rubs. Laying comfortably in her bed – many times totally upside down.

rollingWhen I returned home, Cache was in the car when Marc picked me up. I wanted to cry. My girl had waited for me.

Her mind remained sharp. She was alert. She was responsive. She seemed comfortable if she was lying down. Unfortunately, her legs were giving out. Before I left, she was just very stiff. When I got home, she was severely lame on three legs.

I was able to spend 5 more days with her before she told me it was time. Her legs refused to work any longer. Even when she could no longer walk, she still looked forward to her meatballs.

We bid good-bye to my sweet girl on June 22, 2017. Cache had just turned 11 years old.

I wonder if it was the pâté meatballs or the fact we were feeding her by hand that had made her eat so well. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that she ate up to the very end.

I want to share the recipe with you. At some point, you may have a dog that loses its appetite. Maybe this recipe will help you get a beloved pet through a difficult situation.

I used a full-size food processor. I would mix up a batch to last for three or four feedings. Cache normally weighed about 85 to 90 pounds. When she was sick, she dropped to about 65 pounds. We fed her twice a day, 5-7 meatballs with each feeding.

Cache’s Pate Meatballs

Equal amounts of:

  • moistened dry kibble
  • cooked rice
  • cooked or raw ground meat
  • 1 or 2 hotdogs
  • small amount of avocado oil, olive oil, or bacon grease
  • enough bone broth or meat stock to form a dense dough-like consistency

ROLLEDPlace moistened kibble, cooked rice, ground meat, and hotdogs into the food processor. Grind until mixed. Add oil or bacon grease. Grind until incorporated. Add enough bone broth or meat stock to form a dough-like consistency.

Place mixture in a sealed container and store in refrigerator until ready to form pâté meatballs. If cold, heat for 30 seconds in the microwave to soften the pâté slightly. Roll out enough meatballs for a single meal in a size suitable for the dog.

Place in a bowl, on a plate, or hand feed.

Cache was a special dog to me. She was way more than just a dog or a pet. She truly was a fur child in my eyes. One of my heart dogs. I’m so grateful for my time with her. I have beautiful memories of my girl.

This recipe worked wonders for Cache.  If you are struggling to get a dog to eat, maybe this meatball pâté will work wonders for your dog, too.

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteTry out the recipe and tell us if it helped your pet, too. Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and share recipes that you love for your dogs!


What Is the Difference Between Rakes and Undercoat Rakes?

June 22nd, 2017 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.

Illustration 4

Illustration 4

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.

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.

Illustration 5

Illustration 5

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhich raking tools do you prefer? Why do you like some more than others? What would you recommend to a newer groomer?  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us!


When Should You Just Say No?

June 15th, 2017 by Joelle

Agressive dogrrPet groomers and stylists are in the service industry. Our role is to help people and their pets. When we do it well, we make people happy.

What if you can’t make them happy because you can’t groom the dog safely due to its aggression or health? Should you still groom the pet?

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 for the pet or you – simply say no. That’s your right as a business person or a conscientious employee.

You must put the safety of the pet and yourself first.

Once you have that clearly established in your mind you can start analyze the situation.

  • What 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 or a long-standing client?
  • Can the pet be groomed safely with the help of an assistant?
  • Will the pet cooperate if the owner stays or assists in the grooming process?

When I think about these questions, I always mentally play out the worst case scenario. The last thing that I ever want is to have to tell an owner 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.

The list of dangers working in every grooming salon is massive. We are working with:

  • live animals
  • sharp instruments
  • tall tables
  • bathtubs
  • dryers
  • abrasive brushes
  • stacked kennels
  • slippery floors

On most days, an experienced 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 is 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 is beyond 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 single pet care specialist that ever wants to intentionally harm a pet.

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 costs – 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, it’s tougher. 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? Maybe it’s best to 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.
  • Would it be in the best interest of the dog to be groomed at a vet clinic where medical attention could be rapidly administered, if needed?

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

However, if you decline services, do so out 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. Be ready to refer them to someone better suited to handle their pet. 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.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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