Call them what you like. That woven mess of dirt and hair can often determine what kind of trim can be done on a pet. They are the best friend – and the worst enemy – of the professional pet groomer.
The key to dealing with these trouble areas is knowing how to identify them and deal with them effectively.
That means at check-in. This is not just a time to be catching up with your client. Use this time to diagnose problem areas with their pet’s coat. Get your hands – not just your eyes – on the dog. The eyes can be deceiving. The owner doesn’t even have to be aware of what you’re doing.
I disguise my hands-on inspection as a meet-and-greet to the pet. It warms up both the pet and the client. But more importantly, it gives me valuable information that I can use to communicate effectively with a customer about the type of trim we can do, the cost, and the amount of time it will take.
Sink your hands deep into the coat. Keep moving. Feel under the ears, in the armpits – get to those friction and compressed areas so there are no surprises once you get the dog in the tub. Do you know what you’re feeling for? You’re trying to find patches of density/inconsistent density in the fur. You should be able to come into contact with the skin. Often, your client will insist that the dog is completely brushed out when they’ve really just been brushing out the tops of matted areas. This is where your comb comes in handy for a demonstration. Sink the comb through the coat. If you feel resistance, that’s your matted area.
Remember, the groom starts as soon as the client walks in the door, not when the dog is on your table. You should start assessing the dog visually as soon as the pet walks in and continue your examination until you are satisfied that you have found everything you need to discuss before your client leaves. Having to make repeated phone calls because you didn’t take the time to properly check over a pet will annoy your client – and will waste much of your own precious time.
Don’t stop there. You should always have a comb within reach. Clients may not always understand what a mat is, but it’s hard to deny a comb stuck firmly in the middle of tangled fur. It’s also a great way to open the discussion about the necessities of combing, as well as brushing, to maintain proper coat condition.
If there are problems or issues, I want to deal with them immediately before the client leaves. In the service-based business, education is the key. Most of the time, this means educating the client as to what is proper maintenance for their pet. Guide their hands to the problem areas. Have them feel for themselves what to watch for, so that when they’re brushing their pet at home they are better able to identify mats and how to deal with them. Many first time pet owners have really no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into when it comes to proper pet maintenance. They may love the idea of having a Golden Doodle, but have no idea that they should be groomed more than twice a year.
This is the perfect time to do that. With new clients, I would talk to them about trim options based on the condition of their pet. If their pet is in extremely difficult condition, I would talk to them about the risk factors the pet is going to experience due to its condition. Explain the potential risks that could occur during dematting. And always have the owner sign a pet release form. It also offers you an opportunity to offer beneficial special products or services.
By using your training, experience, and professional intuition, you can educate your client and make a real difference in the lives of the pets entrusted to your care.
What is your favorite dematting tool? When it comes to dematting, are you reluctant to charge fairly for your time? Jump on our Facebook page and share your thoughts with your Melissa Verplank family.
When your appointment book is totally full, how does that make you feel? For most of us, it’s a sense of security. It’s a source of pride. It’s a guarantee that you are satisfying your customers’ needs. You are doing a good job.
But how do you feel when that appointment book has empty slots? Maybe you are just starting out on your own and have an open book. Maybe you are new to the salon and need to build a fresh clientele. Or maybe you have been at your salon for a while, yet you’re just not getting traction with repeat customers.
Long-time pet stylists know this unspoken rule: a full appointment book offers job security.
So if your appointment book is lighter than what you would like, how are you going to fix it?
Here are a few ideas to help you boost your number of daily grooming appointments.
If you went to a restaurant and the server did not hand you a menu, how would you know what to order? Pet grooming is very similar. Owners know they’re coming to you to get their dog cleaned up, but they probably don’t know all the services that you offer. Services that could help them keep their pet looking and feeling great.
A well-organized service menu makes it easy for the client to select a service. As a bonus, it also makes it very easy for you discuss optional services such as de-shedding treatments, shampoo upgrades, skin conditioning treatments, tooth brushing, nail filing, or other add-on services.
A service menu allows you to quickly summarize maintenance grooming services. Use it to highlight the benefits of regular professional grooming appointments. This is a great place to outline the suggested frequency of appointments. Depending on a number of factors, most pets benefit from being groomed every 3 to 6 weeks. Others may benefit from weekly or biweekly appointments. Having a comprehensive service menu makes it easy to rebook clients on a regular basis.
Actively encouraging clients to reschedule on a regular basis ensures that a salon will have a steady stream of clients. Plus, the pets will be in the best possible condition.<
Rebooking and rescheduling is all about helping your clients keep their pet looking and feeling its best. It’s about helping them understand the hygienic needs of their dog or cat, such as why it’s important to properly brush and bathe their pet between visits. Those are the goals. You are a problem solver. If they do not want to do the tasks necessary to maintain their pets at home, they will turn to you to do the job for them. Education is the key.
There are number of ways to rebook that next appointment:
Offering to schedule an appointment at checkout is the best way to get a client to rebook. Develop a couple different scripts and use the one that best fits the needs of that client. For best results, use the tips below.
Ask the client if they’d like a Reminder Call a week before “Buffy” would be due for his next appointment. This could be done via phone, e-mail, or text message.
Actively call clients that have not returned to the salon in 8-12 weeks.
This is a great way to market to existing clients. If you are going into a slow day or week, offer an incentive to get clients in the door for those days.
Rebooking is something you must do regularly – the same way – every time. Make it a habit to ask if they want to rebook at check-out. If they don’t, make sure to call and remind them one week prior to the preferred grooming time for their pet and don’t forget to do the Wake-Up calls once a month for any client you haven’t seen in 8-12 weeks.
People are physiologically wired to make referrals. Many businesses can grow and flourish just by tapping into this business building strategy.
Referrals come from a number of different sources:
Leave a stack of Discount Incentive cards with the owner or someone who is happy to pass them out. Code the back so you know where they came from – that way you don’t have to ask the customer when they turn them in. You do want to track where the cards are coming from so you can thank the service provider in an appropriate fashion.
Leave them with a basic welcome package they can hand out to clients that would benefit from your service. Participate in and support their events. They are more like to refer and support you in return. Offer a thoughtful thank you gift to those that refer you on a regular basis. Food or flowers never go out of style but there are many options.
What did we miss? What works best – or turns customers off? Jump on our Facebook page and share with your Melissa Verplank family.
Do you struggle to get the spindly legs smooth of that clipped #5 all trim? The body comes out nice and smooth – but the legs… ugh.
Getting smooth legs is always a pesky problem for new groomers. Maybe you’ve been grooming for a while, but still struggle with this area. You’re not alone. Legs should only take you a few minutes to get smooth. If you’re missing the mark, here’s some help.
Your end result should be super smooth. No rough spots. No sticky-outies.
Fast. Clean. Simple.
Legs have their own sets of challenges. One of the largest issues is simply the shape. When you set a clipper blade on one of those spindly legs, the point of contact is minimal. Look at it on your own finger, simulating a leg. You’re only making contact with one or two teeth. You’re going to have to rapidly go over those legs several times if you have any hope of getting them smooth.
I have some ideas for how to get a nice finish on those legs in no time. It’s easy when you understand the principles and the foundation skills of all good clipper work.
An excellent bath and a quick high velocity blow dry can make a world of difference in your finish – even on #10 or #7 all over trim. If they have six weeks or less of coat, get them into the tub right away. It won’t take you any more time to bathe and blow them dry and you will get a superior finish.
If the dog has more than six weeks growth, quickly knock off the bulk of the coat. Don’t worry about getting it smooth or neat at this point. Just remove the bulk of the coat as fast as you can. You don’t need to be bathing and drying all of that extra hair. Once the bulk of the fur is removed, head to the bathtub. Follow up with a quick high velocity dry to get the coat to stand up and away from the dog’s body.
If the dog will not tolerate a high velocity dryer, don’t worry. Just make sure they are thoroughly towel-dried. Give the pooch a light mist with a coat amplifying product or hairspray. Use a soft slicker brush to back brush and work the product into the coat while it is still damp. Let them air dry in a comfortable environment until they are dry and ready for finish trimming. Keep in mind this is a very short haircut and fluff drying is not really necessary.
There is an order that you need to work over the legs to be efficient. Start from the top and work down to the toes.
Whenever you are working on legs, always keep them as low to the table as possible. The higher you lift the leg, the more uncomfortable the pet is going to become. As they become uncomfortable – they struggle. They nip. They whine. They squeal.
You need to be absolutely clear on whether you’re honestly hurting the pet or if they’re just being difficult. If you do not lift the leg more than an inch or two off the table, more than likely, they are just being difficult. Proceed in a calm, cool, and collected manner.
To get the top of the legs, hold onto the toes. I place my finger into the crevices of the foot pad. Then I press down between the digits so only skin is trapped between my fingers. Then I have a good hold so that I can maneuver the leg low to the table but I can get clearance all the way around.
If you’re holding them correctly, and they still struggle, simply maintain your hold. Anchor the heel of your hand on the table while you’re still holding onto the toes. Let the pet lightly resist your hold. After a few tries, and you don’t let go, most dogs stop pulling. You have gently and quietly taught them to hold still for the clipping procedure. Yeah! Minor victory for you! Be sure to give them praise when they do well and begin to respond positively.
For the toes, it’s a little trickier. For the front legs grasp the top of the leg above the elbow joint, then gently squeeze with your thumb and first finger. This hold will also offer stability as your hands rest in the armpit area. As you squeeze you will notice the dog will literally point its paw. This will give you enough rigidity in the pastern joint to run the clipper smoothly over the foot area, getting a smooth cut.
On the back legs, you’re going to slide your hand underneath the dog’s thigh. Stretch your fingers so that they can sit just above the ischium joint (point of buttocks) and the stifle joint. With the leg slightly off the table top, squeeze gently. Just like on the front, the joint will become stiff and the dog will point its toe. This will give you the firmness you need to work the clipper over the foot area.
No matter what blade you use, it is important to maintain a consistent degree of tip to the clipper blade. This is also known as “keeping the blade up on it’s cutting edge.” Imagine a pencil being held right under the blade as you guide it down the leg. The closer the pencil is to the teeth, the higher the tip angle. The further back you keep the imaginary pencil, lesser of the degree of tip. Generally speaking, the closer the blade cuts, the higher you need to tip the blade for it to be effective.
Equally important is the amount of pressure placed on the blade. The perfect pressure is the weight of the clipper. Let gravity do the work. When you get in those awkward positions, you will need to simulate the same amount of pressure as your work on the sides and under the dog. Use your own arm to teach you how to gauge the pressure while maintaining consistent pressure as you would maneuver around the dog.
It’s important to back brush. On the shorter trims, a softer brush is generally your best choice. Back brushing is done with the slicker brush while brushing the coat against the grain. The pressure on the brush should be very light. Use the entire pad of the brush, making gentle contact with the skin and coat. Keep the pressure soft on the brush so the skin is not scraped, causing a potential “brush burn.” Back brush the entire leg once. Then make multiple clipper passes using effective techniques. Once the bulk of the coat is gone, repeat the process a second time to get a smoother finish. On the third back brush pass, there should only be high spots or uneven areas left to get with the clippers.
Once you have back brushed and clipped the legs three times there should be very little coat left, but there are always a few pesky strays that pop out.
This is the time to pull out a nice pair a blending shears. For this type of detail work, I prefer a finer toothed blender or thinning shear. I always opt for blenders over normal shears for safety reasons. I rarely opt for a smooth bladed shear. The risk of injury is just too great. A blending or a thinning shear is a much safer option to get those final stray hairs you just couldn’t pick up with the clipper.
As a professional pet groomer or stylist, you always want the dog to look its best. Uneven haircuts do not reflect positively on a professional salon. You must be able to do a significantly better job than the dog’s owners could do themselves.
Dealing with all four legs on small to medium-sized pets should not take more than 1 to 3 minutes per leg to complete the bulk of the clipper work. Never forget, as much as we love our jobs, time is money. You want to become as efficient as possible.
Pay attention to the details. There’s a difference between a good #7 All and a bad #7 All. If you want your clients to return – you need to pay attention to the details. These low maintenance style trims are the bread-and-butter of many professional grooming salons. Getting those low maintenance haircuts super-smooth in the least amount of time possible is the key to a successful salon
What is your secret to getting legs smooth? What frustrates you? Jump on our Facebook page and share with your Melissa Verplank family.
We work with pets because we are passionate about them. It’s simple: we love what we do. Yet it’s important to remember that every dog is an individual. Not only do they look different, they all have different physical and emotional characteristics. Different personalities.
Some dogs receive clear directions from their owners. They have rules and boundaries at home. This makes them very easy to work with in a professional setting. Other pets will not be well-mannered in a professional setting. The personality quirks we all experience working with pets will vary from dog to dog.
Based on your level of pet interaction experience, you should be able to work through many of these personality quirks. Your commands to the pet need to be clear, concise, and consistent.
Dogs are primarily non-verbal communicators. However, they do have a very clear language of their own. It is up to us to interpret that language. The good news? Dogs are very clear in the messages that they give us.
I firmly believe that 98% of all dog bites are preventable. If you have read the pet correctly, getting bitten is highly avoidable. At times, you will need to take appropriate precautions to protect yourself. You need to gain control of the situation in a manner that is safe and respectful of the pet. It’s important to your career not to become injured. Remember, your hands are your livelihood.
Whenever working with pets, it is always critical to remember the 3 C’s. As a professional you must remain:
…at all times – in all circumstances.
There are many different types of dogs. Many will require special handling techniques. Plenty of groomers or stylists are good with all personalities. Others have honed their skills. They specialize in working with dogs with special needs such as puppies, geriatric dogs, or aggressive dogs.
Here is a collection of basic dog postures we see every day. Every position indicates a different attitude. This is by no means everything you will need to know about “reading” dogs. If you are working professionally with them, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
You will need to gather loads of information about canine communication. By doing this, you’ll learn to work in harmony with dogs. When that happens, you’ll instantly feel the rewards. You’ll quickly learn how to respond to them in a non-verbal way.
By being knowledgeable in canine body language, you’ll keep both you and the pet safe at all times. The more time you spend studying dogs and working firsthand with them, the more proficient your skills will become.
Our number one responsibility to the pet and its owner is to always treat the pet with the utmost respect using humane handling practices.
There are basic body positions that you need to recognize immediately when observing a pet. The eight basic positions have been illustrated for you below. Spend some time observing dogs so that you can instantly recognize these eight positions.
These 3 indicate dogs that are safe to approach in a calm, gentle manner. These dogs are generally easy to work with and respond well to basic commands. Normally, an enthusiastic dog will need a little firmer command while a submissive dog will respond better to gentler techniques.
These positions indicate you need to approach with caution. Based on how you interact with them, they may feel comfortable and slip into a nonthreatening language. If they do that, it indicates they are safe to approach.
If they feel threatened in any way, they can easily slip into the flight or fight mode. This is their natural defense. If you have them tethered with a lead and not under control, this flip of personality could easily manifest into a very difficult situation. This is a pet that could attack, bite, urinate, defecate, or release its anal glands.
Working with pets is a highly rewarding career option. However, if you don’t truly understand canine body language, passion can quickly turn into frustration. Use your passion early in your career to learn everything you can about their body language. It’s an invaluable skill to have.
What body language signs do YOU watch for? Jump on our Facebook page and share with your Melissa Verplank family.