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.

 


The Secret to Handling Challenging Dogs

June 1st, 2017 by Joelle

Dollarphotoclub_57676672In my years of teaching new pet groomers, I’ve seen hundreds of dogs take advantage of a new students. Dogs pull, squirm, whine, snarl… and bite. I’ve seen many students frustrated to the point of tears.

Then a miracle happens.

An instructor will walk over to the pet and gently take over for the student. Suddenly, this challenging pet turns into a perfect angel. The students’ jaw drops. A moment in stunned silence passes before the student exclaims, “How did you do that?!” The answer is simple:

Energy.

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

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

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

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

So how do you gain the upper edge in this situation? Believe it or not, it all starts with your BREATHING.

I know it sounds far-fetched. How could something we do without conscious thought help in this situation?

To create a calm, cool, and collected energy, you need to be cool, calm, and collected. Deep breathing allows you body to channel that calm and focus. To make it happen, your breaths need to be deep and saturating. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Draw in the air and feel it fill your lungs. Now exhale slowly through your mouth. The most important part of deep breathing is to regulate your breaths. Three to four seconds in. Three to four seconds out.

Try it. You will feel the oxygen saturating your body. Tension begins to leave your shoulders. You will start to feel more relaxed almost immediately.

Screen-Shot-2015-11-05-at-4.08.52-PMDeep breathing can release stress and provide other noticeable health benefits. You will likely feel calmer after performing deep breathing exercises, and may trade feelings of anger or fear for a focused, relaxed state of mind. Most dogs will totally gravitate to this energy in a very positive way.

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

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

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

Whenever working with pets it is always critical to remember the 3 C’s. As a professional you must remain calm, cool, and collected in all circumstances. And don’t forget to BREATHE.

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

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

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

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

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat did you think about these ideas? What do you do that works great for you? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.


How to Get the Most from a Hands-On Grooming Clinic

March 9th, 2017 by Joelle

Feline Grooming Demo #2Attending a hands-on clinic is still one of the best ways to learn. These events often feature stylists that have proven their skill level around the globe. Despite their busy workshop travel schedules, celebrity pet stylists can still be found at their grooming tables every day, just like you, grooming regular clients.

Have you ever had the opportunity to train with a celebrity pet stylist? It’s a great way to improve your skills and get super energized!

Many top professional pet stylists love to help the next generation of groomers. Some of these teaching opportunities may be demonstrations or lectures. Others might be workshops where you supply the dog or cat (as well as the grooming tools) and have the opportunity to be personally coached as you work.

So, how do you get the most out of one of these coaching sessions?

1. Make sure your core/foundation skills are strong.

 Core or foundation skills include:

Proper coat preparation
  •  bathing
  • drying
  • nails trimmed
  • ears cleaned
  • 100% tangle free coat
knowledge of basic anatomy
basic (and correct) usage of tools: brushes, combs, clippers, scissors, carding tools, and stripping knives

2. Make sure to bring a quality practice pet. 

If you do not come to the session with an adequate pet to work on, you only hurt yourself.

  • select a dog or cat with enough coat to demonstrate your skills
  • the pet must have an appropriate temperament
  • the pet should be a good representative of the breed

There are a wide variety of very accomplished pet stylists. Many specialize in a certain breed, grooming technique, or topic.  The better prepared you are to participate in the hands-on workshop, the more you’re going to get out of it. Step into the session with a very open mind.

If you are young and fresh to the industry, the information shared in these clinics can be almost overwhelming. Be the driest sponge that you can be – soak up every bit of knowledge that you can.

As your knowledge and skills develop, the clinics won’t be intimidating. They will become a great tweaking session for your skills. They will keep you abreast of advanced grooming skills and trends. 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. If you aren’t able to attend a hands-on training session, there are other ways to learn from the experts. Be part of the audience at a trade show or pet grooming competition. Watch 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, keep at it. You can learn a lot from observing their well-developed skills. Learning new skills, tips, and tricks make grooming pets all that more fun!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S. Did I miss any tricks? Tell me what works for you.  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 

clinicSpend the day with Melissa

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!


Are You a Dog Grooming Success?

September 1st, 2016 by Joelle

rrimageDog groomers love to do a good job. We like the way it feels to excel and to please other people. For some, this is how they measure success.  For others, this is a starting point.  Do you want to know the steps and work it takes to go from good to great?

What are your goals? Do you admire today’s top competitive pet stylists? Maybe you have your sights on certification. Do you have a dream of someday becoming a certified master groomer or pet stylist? Maybe you hope to become a member of GroomTeam USA or represent your country in world team competition?

Maybe your dog grooming aspirations have nothing to do with competitive styling. Maybe your goal is winning the trust and respect of pet owners, turning them into regular clients.

They’re all worthy goals – and guess what? It’s not as hard as you think. There is no complicated recipe. But there is a secret.

Focus on the fundamentals.

Success is all about the fundamentals. The fundamentals are the little things. The ordinary things. And often, they are the tedious things. But to be the best you must master them. You must become a master of those ordinary, everyday tasks. With every act of greatness, whether in sports, business, the arts, or in pet grooming, the best of the best achieve extraordinary feats by doing ordinary things with amazing consistency, commitment, and focus.

c00aa89c0f35c77225dcdc099b7a0f84What are the fundamentals in dog grooming?

It means perfecting the core skills: bathing, drying, brushing, fluffing, and dematting. It’s also clipping, scissoring, as well as understanding basic structure and anatomy. It means having solid and safe handling skills.

As a professional dog groomer and stylist, we get to practice these skills all the time. In fact, many of us practice them every single day. World-class pet stylists don’t master their craft by working every day on perfect dogs with fabulous coats in perfect condition. For many of them, the only time they work on a “perfect dog” is in the ring – and under the pressure of competition. Even then, there is no such thing as a perfect dog. Every dog has its flaws – even the perfect ones.

Top stylists know it takes years of practice with everyday pets to master the fundamentals. Winning doesn’t just happen on the day of the competition. Winning is a result of dedication and hard work. The trophy is a product of training, study, and sacrifice. You cannot earn a high grade in certification testing on testing day, alone. Winning or earning high grades on your practical skills tests starts in every bathtub and on every grooming table, every day. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Typically, it takes years of uncountable numbers of hours of dedication to the craft.

Practice, in itself, is not enough. In order to truly succeed you need to follow this rule: Perfect Practice Makes Perfect. If you are not practicing dog grooming fundamentals correctly, you’re wasting your time. Clients will not return if your work is sub-par. Awards will not be given. High test scores will be out of reach.

514_400x400_NoPeelWith so many variables with dog grooming, where do you start? What coaching or training technique should you trust? How do you learn the RIGHT skills?

Start at the ground floor and learn from the masters. The information is out there. You will find it in:

  • magazines
  • books
  • clinics
  • workshops
  • seminars
  • schools
  • trade shows
  • conformation dog shows
  • obedience classes
  • grooming competitions
  • videos
  • blogs

Research online. Talk to vendors and manufacturers. Work with a mentor, a coach, a consultant. Look. Listen. Learn.  But don’t blindly trust everything you find – check references whenever possible. Today, there is a lot of information out there – unfortunately not all of it is good information! Talk to the experts to make sure the material you are learning is correct and safe.

As you learn, take it one small step at a time. Dissect every step. Break it down. For every technique there are micro steps to learn to perfect any skill. Study those micro steps.

stairsStart at the very beginning just like with a long flight of stairs. You start at the bottom, taking one step at a time. Mastering dog grooming fundamentals is a lot like a staircase. Jumping ahead or skipping steps will not get you ahead any faster. In fact, missing steps is way more detrimental to a career than staying on course dealing with each step moving up the flight of stairs.

With every step along the way, you are creating a knowledge base. It will continue to grow with your career. It is paramount for any pet professional to have fabulous pet handling skills to build trust with our furry clients while keeping them safe. Another area that is critical to any successful pet groomer or stylist is learning the finer details of structure and anatomy.

The key is to focus on improving each day, taking the necessary steps. If you incrementally improve each day, each week, each month, each quarter – by the end of the year you will see remarkable results and growth. Over time, by committing to this process, the best develop their skills and enhance their performance as they strive for excellence and achieving perfect execution.

If you want to be at the very top of your game, to become one of the best professional pet groomers/stylists in your town, in your state, in your country, you need to practice perfect fundamentals. Every. Single. Day. You don’t need to have perfect pets to make this happen. Grooming everyday pets offers an abundant opportunity to practice the fundamentals.

Your success doesn’t necessarily mean winning the award or scoring a high grade. Sometimes success means having a full appointment book with happy customers. That’s what truly makes a successful grooming business.

What steps do YOU take? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa


Do I Really Need to Learn Anything Else?

August 25th, 2016 by Joelle

(Welcome to my blog!  This week, my marketing expert, Joelle Asmondy, will be filling in for me.  Joelle is a whiz with marketing and is a firm believer in education.  Enjoy!)

handI was at one of our industry’s amazing trade shows recently and had a brief but memorable exchange with a lady that walked past our booth. I wished her a good morning and without turning her head, she glanced at the table in front of me and the many books we had on display. Never breaking stride, she dismissed me with a quick,
“I’ve been in this business for 28 years – I’m good.”

“How wonderful that she has been in business that long!” I thought. “AND that she still comes to trade shows! She must really love the work she does!” I was so impressed that for a second I didn’t realize the subtext of our “conversation.”

“I don’t need to learn anything else.”

Wait – what?!

It was such a quick encounter, but I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve replayed it over and over in my head. This morning I finally realized why this struck such a chord with me.

ramirez-bored-yawnWhen I was working my way through college, I worked for several months in a plastics assembly plant. The work wasn’t hard and I actually enjoyed working with my hands, but I could see the lifeless glaze in the eyes of my co-workers who had been at the job for years – and would probably never leave. They had done the same tasks at the same stations for years. There was no challenge in it for them anymore. They would fall into trance-like states while working. This was not the same look I got when I lost myself in a painting I was working on, when time fell away and I lost track of my surroundings until I came up for air. This was different. For them, everything was the same, with nothing to stimulate or relieve the mindless repetition until lunch time. There was no joy and no pride in what they were doing. It was just a job – something to be done for a paycheck.

Dog grooming, like anything else, has routines. It’s how we maintain consistency, quality, and safety. However, I just can’t imagine being satisfied with doing things the same way, every day, for the rest of my life. After all, technology changes. Breed standards evolve. Styles change. People certainly change. How can anyone in an industry as rich and diverse as ours possibly think that there is nothing more to learn, nothing to be gained by looking at something anew?

“I’m good.”learning-priorities-Development

Anyone in sales or who works a trade show will tell you that you have to accept hearing, “no” more than you hear, “yes.” Was this person just telling me that she didn’t want to spend her money with us? Possibly. Maybe she had other priorities – shampoo, sharpening, new shears – that needed the cash in her wallet. I respect that. The difference is the deferral she gave. It wasn’t, “I already have that,” or “No thanks,” or even, “Leave me alone.” I have a very strong feeling that, had I offered the books for free, I would still have been met with, “I’m good.”

“I’ve been in this business for 28 years….”

I love it when people stop by to tell us how long they’ve been grooming – and that they still love learning new things. I love it because I know they’re happier in their lives. There’s something about trying new things and embracing change that stimulates us and makes us thrive, not just live. Think about the last time you experimented with a new technique. Maybe you tried Asian Fusion for the first time and your customer LOVED it? Maybe you learned a different scissoring method that saved time and effort which enabled you to groom another dog each day – or to go home a little earlier? Maybe you tried a new shampoo that reduced the amount of time you had to spend brushing a tangled pet and your arms weren’t so tired every night?

13178553_10154208688333593_7385084264050383064_nWhatever it was, it happened because you were open to learning something new. Does that mean you HAVE to go out and buy our books? Of course not (although we wouldn’t mind!). Don’t automatically short-change yourself because you’ve been at it for years. There is always something new to be learned and so much more to life than just slogging through the days.

Successful people know that learning is the key to their success. If you settle back and decide that you’ve learnt everything you need to know about running a business, about succeeding in your career or about managing and motivating your team … you’ll lose out to competitors who have a passion for learning.”

So true.

It may not be easy or convenient to learn new things. It takes time to adapt to new things until the change feels natural – but isn’t it worth it? Best friends were strangers at first. Think of all the movies you might have missed, the books you’d never read, and the amazing food you’d never have experienced if you’d never tried anything new. I try new things every day and I can honestly say that because of it…

“I’m good.”

Make it a great week!

~ Joelle Asmondy

Are YOU still learning?  What inspires you to keep educating yourself?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

3 Books to Help Build an Amazing Grooming Career

June 9th, 2016 by Joelle

The choice to groom my first dog wasn’t mine. I had been working as kennel help and would occasionally help the groomer when my tasks were done. Nothing major, just bathing a few dogs, trimming some toenails, maybe brushing out some mats. I might even dry a few dogs by hand.

One day all that changed.

I still remember that call from my boss. She phoned me at home one night to tell me the full-time groomer we’d had was no longer with the salon. In an instant, my job changed from kennel help to groomer.

My first day on the job, I had six dogs on my roster – and no clue how to groom them. At the time there was nothing like Notes From the Grooming Table or even The Theory of 5 to guide me down this new path. Being young and fearless has its advantages – and yes, I got through my first day at my new job.

I won’t say that during those first few months I did beautiful work. Far from it. But there was something about it I liked. I was working with animals. Being creative. Having a skill that needed to be mastered. I found it all rewarding and challenging at the same time. The more I learned about dogs – and grooming them – the more I wanted to understand how to do it well.

Wanting to learn more brought me to voluntary certification testing. I studied breed standards and terminology. I learned about structure and movement. I worked hard to achieve competition level pet styling. As I became more knowledgeable, my skill level at the grooming table improved immensely.

In some ways, educating myself was like learning a foreign language. I bought my first AKC Complete Dog Book in 1979. It was the yellow one. Since then I have owned every version put out by the AKC including their latest edition (which is amazing by the way!).

I still remember that first yellow book. I soaked up the words but was clueless as to how to apply what I was reading. The terms and concepts were abstract in so many ways. I kept my trusty highlighter in my hand – but I really didn’t even know what I was highlighting. I tried to imagine what the words meant, but I couldn’t form a picture in my mind. I just didn’t know.

To complicate things even further, I started attending clinics. Advanced clinics. The demonstrators were talking about structure…movement… angles. I was totally lost. All this information was over my head. But I never gave up. As baffled as I was, I was still fascinated. I wanted to figure it out.

Every time I ran across a mysterious word in the AKC Complete Dog Book, I looked it up in the glossary. (Keep in mind this is long before the age of the internet and Google searches!) The more I learned – the more I wanted to learn. I started hunting for books that would help me understand how a dog was put together and why.

The next book I discovered was Canine Terminology, by Harold R. Spira. It was a gold mine! It was a visual dictionary of terms. All those things I struggled to imagine on my own, I could now see. How did those terms play out? What was a deep set eye? What was considered high ears? What were parallel planes? What was the difference between a cat foot and a hare foot? Any term that I found in the breed standards, I could almost always find a thorough explanation for in Canine Terminology.

I was feeling pretty confident as my knowledge grew. I could now envision what a dog that was standing still should look like based on the written standard. Yet, I still didn’t understand the “whys” of what I was doing. And I was certainly still clueless when it came to movement. All that talk about angles in the front and rear assemblies – what? How does that work? But more importantly why does it work – and when a dog is not built correctly, how does it affect the dog?

That’s when I discovered K9 Structure & Terminology, by Edward M. Gilbert, Jr. and Thelma R. Brown. It was like a light bulb going off in my head. I still didn’t totally understand the angles but I could visually see how the angles would work together when it came to effective movement. What I really loved about this book was the authors’ use of wild animals as examples. They talked about how the animals were structurally designed to survive – and thrive – in their environments.

The domesticated dog is a man-made creature. Breeds were originally bred and developed to assist man to do thousands of jobs. Almost all purebred dogs have some working trait in their backgrounds. How they are structurally put together allowed them to work efficiently – or not – for the job they were designed to do. Man stole those ideas by studying wild animals. With controlled breeding, man was able to create dogs designed to excel in areas wherever they needed help. The domesticated dog was there, working right beside man, to survive and thrive.

Today, many of those working roles are no longer required due to advancement in the industrial age and technology. Many breeds have been lost – while other ancient breeds still exist in small pockets around the globe. By the same token, new breeds are being developed in the domestic dog to meet the changing needs of mankind.

In the 12 years since I wrote Notes From the Grooming Table, there have been over 50 new breeds introduced to the American Kennel Club (that’s why I wrote the new Second Edition). When we travel outside the US, there are many breeds that we have never heard of – or seen – yet they are ancient breeds to their countries. Most of these breeds have specific roles and duties. The structure of the dog determines whether they are efficient in their roles – or not.

As professional all-breed pet groomers and stylists, it is critical that we understand the finer attributes of what makes up a purebred dog. The better we understand what the breed was developed for, how it was used, and what the ideal specimen should look like, the better we become with our craft. Plus, this knowledge allows us to interact and better understand our pet clients every day.

Regardless of how you get your training – through a formal training program, an apprenticeship program, or even if you are self-taught – never stop learning.

Knowledge builds confidence. The more confident you have, the more proficient you will be with every dog that crosses your table. Understanding allows you to take advantage of opportunities when they land at your feet. Education, knowledge, and the desire to grow are the tools you need to reach your maximum potential.

What books or learning tools have helped you succeed? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us what works best for you!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa


The Pet Grooming Field – Do You Know Where Do You Fit?

May 26th, 2016 by Joelle

Discovering the Meaning Behind the Job Titles

Groomer.

I have always struggled with this word. Stop and think about it. Is it really the best definition for the wide variety of skills necessary to do our job? Personally, I think the term “Groomer” is too broad a term to use within our field.

Think about how the medical profession is organized… when you need a routine annual medical exam, do you book an appointment with a Podiatrist? No. You’d get an appointment at your regular clinic, where they deal primarily with routine and preventive health care. Depending on your condition, you might get an appointment with a nurse practitioner who is qualified to treat a certain spectrum of illnesses. For situations requiring more formal training and experience, you’d see your family doctor. If a health disorder required attention from an expert in a particular field of study, you would seek the help of a specialist.

Another point to ponder… how do you think their pay scale is structured? I would bet the medical specialist takes home a much larger paycheck than the nurse practitioner or even the family physician.

Let’s flip this over to what we do. Bottom line – we’re pet specialists with three distinct skill levels:

  1. Bather, Assistant, or Bathing Technician
  2. Groomer, Pet Groomer, or Grooming Technician
  3. Stylist or Pet Stylist

Here are my definitions for each of those areas.

1. Bather, Assistant, or Bathing Technician

These folks have a basic knowledge base of core grooming skills. In some cases, the Bather’s duties may cross over into other job descriptions. In many smaller salons, the Bather might act more as a personal assistant to the Groomer or Stylist. A Bather’s duties might include any task that could be easily delegated by the Groomer or Stylist so they can focus on getting dogs completed in a timely manner.

Bathers, Assistants, and Bathing Technicians should have a basic understanding of:<

  • Selection and Care of Equipment
  • Canine Psychology and Temperament
  • Safety and Sanitation
  • Anatomy
  • Pet Handling
  • Breed Identification
  • Skin and Coat Conditions
  • First Aid and CPR
  • Parasites and Their Control
  • Diseases and Preventive Vaccination
  • Nutrition
  • Common Illnesses and Skin Disorders
  • Common Grooming Products
  • Equipment Handling
  • Coat Pre-Assessment and Pre-Work
  • Bathing and Drying Skills
  • Brushing and Combing Skills
  • Mat Anatomy and Safe Removal
  • Equipment Handling
  • Nail and Feet Trimming
  • Ear Cleansing
  • Tooth Care
  • Anal Gland Expression (Optional)

Although the Bather role in a busy salon is typically considered an entry level position, in reality it’s one of the most important roles of a successful salon. If a dog is not washed perfectly and dried properly, quality work can never be achieved. No matter how talented the Groomer or Stylist is when it comes to trimming and styling pets, they will never be able to do a good job on a dirty or incorrectly dried pet. Period.

Earning Potential – Entry Level

2. Groomer, Pet Groomer, or Grooming Technician

A Groomer deals with basic grooming needs. They can get dogs clean, dried properly, and thoroughly brushed out. They can do everything the Bather does but they kick it up a few notches. Groomers can complete challenging bath and brush pets with ease. Plus, they can trim pets safely and efficiently with clippers. Groomers are comfortable with a variety of clippers and blade choices. They can handle a wide range of coat types on both bath and brush style pets as well as simple, low maintenance haircuts. They have basic knowledge of how to work with scissors and blenders, getting adequate results for non-discriminating clients.

Pet Groomers should have advanced knowledge and understanding of the previously mentioned areas and be able to work with greater speed and efficiency without sacrificing quality and safety.

The Groomer in almost any salon is the workhorse. They focus on non-nonsense, low maintenance trim styles. Their concentration is on getting the dog thoroughly brushed out, mat free, and super tidy. Trim work focuses more on the neat and clean aspect of grooming than creating highly stylized haircuts. Advanced training and continued education in this area can vastly improve grooming speed, quality, and enjoyment of the job.

Earning Potential – Mid-Range Level

3. Stylist or Pet Stylist

A Pet Stylist molds and shapes the coat in a manner that accentuates the features of the pet. They have a firm understanding of anatomy, breed profiles, as well as structure and movement. They have a firm comprehension of technical skills. An accomplished Pet Stylist can apply those skills in an artistic manner. Their personal tools are of the highest caliber, allowing them to create remarkable trims in a very short amount of time. A seasoned Stylist will often also specialize in particular breeds, grooming techniques, or personality types.

Pet Stylists should have expert knowledge and understanding of the previously mentioned areas, be able to work with greater speed and efficiency without sacrificing quality and safety, and have expert control of clippers, shears, combs, brushes, blades, and stripping knives.

Serious Pet Stylists are generally highly motivated. They advance their careers through continued education. It’s common for an aspiring Pet Stylist to seek out many forms of advanced learning. Many of them turn it into a personal goal or an enjoyable outlet. Conformation dog shows, grooming trade shows and competitions, certification testing, books and magazines, videos, clinics, workshops, private coaching and training, and canine trials are just a few areas the motivated Stylist can use to ramp up skill levels.

Earning Potential – Highest Level

The term “Groomer” is just not descriptive enough. It just doesn’t cover it all – especially if you wear multiple hats in your salon like Receptionist, Accountant, and Cleaning Crew. When a business starts to grow, layers of expertise will develop within your team.

Just like in the medical profession, the more you learn, the more you earn. The stronger your knowledge base and the more proficient you are, the more money you’re going to make. And knowledge has a wonderful side effect – confidence. Why not take steps toward building your skills and confidence every day?

Using a generic term like “Groomer” just doesn’t work for me. I bet it doesn’t work for you, either. Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us what woks best for you!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa


Dealing with Trouble Areas in Fur

March 26th, 2015 by Joelle

SONY DSCMats.

Tangles.

Knots.

Call them what you like. That woven mess of dirt and hair can often determine what kind of a 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.

4 Types of Mats

1.) Lack of Maintenance: The owner brushes between grooming but it is not as effective or as often as it should be. Dirt, static, and moisture are usually the culprits. More frequent bathing and brushing to remove dense undercoat is needed in these cases. The mats produced from poor maintenance are generally smaller and can be removed with the proper knowledge, tools, and products.

2.) Neglect: These tangles are tough. Typically, these mats result of longer-term neglect and are very tight and difficult to remove. Many times, the dog’s coat is in extremely overall poor shape and is very dirty. They can be a hiding place for pests like fleas and ticks and may lead to skin damage or injury.

3.) Friction: Friction mats are caused when two areas rub together. It could be from a collar, dog sweater, or from a body part (like behind the ears or under the front legs) – but is not limited to those areas. Depending on the activity level of the dog, friction mats could be found up and down the legs, on long ears, or the tail. These are the areas that come in contact with other areas like tall grasses or even the ground.

4.) Compression: This type of tangle is generally found on the rear of the dog. It is caused from sitting or lying down. Dogs that shed heavily will have dead coat packed into the guard coat, and if not removed, will clump and mat as moisture and compression do their work. Just like people, dogs tend to be left or right-sided. The compression type density will be worse on one side more than the other.

Here is the best way to deal any type of tangle…

Find them before the client leaves!

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 on the dog – not just your eyes! 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. 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 in truth – they’ve 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.

quoteRemember, 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 with your client before s/he 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.

But 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 (see examples from the Paragon School of Pet Grooming below). It also offers you an opportunity to offer beneficial special products or services to the pet or its owner.

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.

~Happy trimming,

Melissa

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