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.

 


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

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat did you think?  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us your story!


Spotlight Session for May 30, 2017

May 28th, 2017 by Joelle

Shredding Shedding Problems

May 18th, 2017 by Joelle

????????This is the time of year the big shedding breeds come in. They’re often the ones that haven’t been groomed in FOREVER. You know the ones – Goldens…arctic-type breeds…Saint Bernards. They have that coat that totally trashes your salon – and maybe even you. There are tricks to getting this type of job done without too much agony.  For anyone who’s missed this blog in the past – it’s a perfect time to revisit my blog on salvage work.

As many of you know, I’m a big dog person.  Working on these large furry dogs is one of my favorite things to do in a grooming salon.  Call me crazy – but I just love the transformation in this type of job.  Over the years, the process rarely makes me cringe, no matter the size or condition of the dog – I see it as a fun challenge!

My #1 rule: Never work on a dirty dog. If water can penetrate the coat, let your products do the job.

Working on a dirty dog is not only unpleasant, it also takes longer to do.  Plus, there will be a lot of coat damage and breakage.  A dirty coat is dry and brittle. The dirt and dander trapped within the fur makes it more difficult to brush out. Working on a clean coat will be easier for both you and the pet – and much more pleasant.

If there are large chunks that water cannot penetrate, go ahead and break up the tangle using the tool safe for the pet.  Don’t worry about removing the tangle completely, just break it apart so the water and shampoo can do its job.

Prepare your bathing area.  If the dog is exceptionally dirty, use a shampoo especially designed for dirty dogs.  Using a follow-up treatment of a skin and coat conditioner after bathing twice (or maybe three times in some areas) will assist with the brush out and dead coat removal during the drying process.  Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need to aid in getting the dog clean like rubber curries or scrub brushes.  And make sure you have plenty of towels handy.  To see my video lesson on salvage work at Learn2GroomDogs.com, click here.

SONY DSCMy favorite trick when working with this type of job is to bring my high velocity dryer right into the bathing area (bring your eye and ear protection, too!).  With the dog fully lathered, blow the shampoo right off the pet while it is tethered in the tub.  The slippery soap will allow the dirt, loose coat, and tangles slide out. It’s the same principle as applying soap to get a tight ring off your finger. It speeds up the entire process when it comes to mats, tangles, and shedding coat if you get the product right down to the skin.

As you work the high velocity dryer over the soapy dog, the loose coat and shampoo will stick to the back wall of the tub, minimizing the mess.

Not all the shedding coat or mats will be removed – but a lot will – making your job easier once you transfer the pet to the drying table.

Once you have blown out the pet, follow-up with the rinsing process.  Repeat this process as many times as necessary to get the dog “squeaky clean.”

Once the pet is clean and thoroughly rinsed, apply a skin and coat conditioning treatment before heading to the drying table.  Read your directions: some conditioning treatments need to be rinsed out while others do not. Your high velocity dryer and a heavy slicker brush will be your best friends during the drying process.

Rule # 2: Be Methodical and Thorough on the Drying Table

First, blow out as much moisture and loose coat at possible with the air flow.  Use the highest power setting the pet is comfortable with and a condenser cone.  Once you have “pushed” as much water and loose fur from the pet, remove the condenser cone. Bring the air flow close to the pet’s skin.  “Boost” any loose coat out of the dog by lightly patting the area with a slicker brush right where the air is striking the skin.

Continue to work over the dog in a methodical manner until your brush glides through the coat easily and no more loose coat is trapped in the brush. Double check your work with both your hands and a wide tooth comb.

hand-with-thumb-upRule #3: Be Proud of Your Work!

When the dog is complete, it should smell clean and fresh.  The coat should be glossy and float freely as the dog moves.  There should be an irresistible desire to reach down and bury your hands in a freshly groomed pet.

To me, this is one of the most gratifying types of grooming jobs we do. It’s relatively easy but it does require knowledge and skill to be thorough and efficient. Oh, and the right tools including one – or maybe even two – powerful velocity dryers!

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat are your tricks for deshedding the big jobs? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it. Post your pictures of those messy salvage jobs for a chance to win a free monthly subscription to Learn2GroomDogs.com!

 


How to Scissor a Leg in Under 2 Minutes

May 4th, 2017 by Joelle

autopilot-buttonGrooming systems allow us to go on autopilot. When we’re on autopilot, we can focus on the thing that matters the most – pets!

Think about the things you do every day. I’m sure you use systems all the time. I know I do.

I have a system for making coffee. I have a system for doing my makeup. I have a routine I follow when I exercise. I have a system when I get into the car to go somewhere. I have a routine I follow every night before I go to bed.

I bet you have a lot of routines, too.

When I follow my systems and routines, I don’t have the think about what I’m doing – I just do it. The beauty about routines is they become automated – and efficient.

How does it feel when you don’t follow your routine? What happens when you get interrupted? Do you lose your place? Do you have to stop and think about where you left off? Do you feel lost? What happens to your time?

I know when I’m interrupted, I lose my place. I get off track. I lose precious time. If it continues to happen, I get frustrated.

My guess is you’re just as busy as I am. We have places to go and things to do. Wasting time drives me nuts. How about you?

So, how do you apply this concept to dog grooming? Each phase of the grooming process can be broken down, systematically. For now, let’s talk about a routine for scissoring a leg in less than two minutes.

Now, I’m not talking about an 80-pound Doodle. I’m not talking about a dog you haven’t seen for months. I’m not talking about a dog that comes in matted to the hilt. I’m talking about average, everyday regular clients. Small and medium sized pets that have a bit of style to the haircut.

To become highly efficient with scissoring legs, there’s a secret. It’s all in the set up BEFORE you pick up your shears.

Let’s break this down.

Let’s say you have a Shih Tzu that comes in every six weeks. It’s heavy coated and gets a medium guard comb on the body with fuller legs and a round head style. When it’s done, it’s so cute it looks like it should be a stuffed animal. The entire trim, prep, bath, fluff dry, and haircut should take 60 minutes or less.

First things first. The set up before you pick up your shears is critical. You’ll give yourself a huge head start if you do a few things beforehand.

All equipment needs to be sharp. Your blades need to be able to glide through the coat like a hot knife through butter. Your shears need to cut effortlessly with precision. Your thinners should run smoothly, without catching. Your Greyhound comb as well as your favorite slicker brush should be within easy reach.

side viewHere’s my basic grooming routine on all my six-week or less clients who get a fuller styled leg trim.

  1. trim nails and clean ears
  2. bath
  3. towel dry
  4. hi-velocity fluff drying
  5. double-check coat for any mats or tangles prior to beginning the haircut
  6. trim the pads and round the feet at the same time with a #40 blade*
  7. Sani-work with a #10 (eyes, tummy, and under tail)
  8. guard comb work on the body*
  9. scissor the legs
  10. style the head
  11. style the ears
  12. style the tail
  13. apply bows and cologne based on client preference

I rarely break from this routine. This system allows me to go on to autopilot and focus on the pet and the quality of my work.

Notice the two stars in that list of 13 steps (6 and 8). Those are key areas when setting in the haircut to get legs done in less than two minutes. Those are your “cheat” areas.

What do I mean by “cheat”? Use your clippers. The clipper will remove the bulk of the hair. Any time you can remove excess coat with a clipper, you’re ahead of the game. It minimizes how much you must think about what you are doing while reducing the risk to the dog. #10’s, #40’s or guard combs rarely nick the body of the dog. Scissors? That’s another story. If you’re working with a quality pair of shears, they’re razor-sharp. It only takes one miscalculated move – one tug from the dog – and you have a potential injury that might require stitches. That’s not something any of us want.

Here is my step-by-step guide for this style of haircut focusing on the steps.

(Note: I always work around the dog in the circle.)

 Body:

  1. I brush downward over the leg and the foot with a slicker brush. With my less dominant hand, I slide my hand down the leg, with my finger and thumb closest to the table. When I get close to the foot, I gently ask the dog to lift its foot. I lightly clip the pads with a #40 blade (a #30 blade will work, too).
  2. Once the pads are clipped, I let my hand slide over the foot with my fingers wrapping around the edge of the dog’s foot. Any coat hanging over the edge of the foot, I quickly remove with my #40 blade. I repeat this process on all four feet.
  3. Once the pads and feet are trimmed, I turn my attention to the guard comb work on the body. In the pattern transition areas, I let my guard comb skim off the longer hair on the thighs, rump, and the shoulders. I’m thinking about parallel lines.
  4. When I stand back and look, I want the lines to drop from the widest points on the shoulders and hips to the table. Since the feet have already been trimmed, once you blend the coat at the transition areas, there’s very little left to hand scissor. Normally it’s just an area between 2-3 inches wide.
  5. Once my clipper work is done on the body and I have smoothly transitioned the short coat into the longer fur on the legs – I’m ready to pick up my shears.

Legs:

Front view(In this scenario, I’m starting with the front leg and moving to a rear leg but you can use whatever order works best for you – or the dog. As I work around the dog, I complete each leg before moving to the next one.)

  1. I start with the front legs. I fluff the coat up, gently holding the dog’s foot in my fingers then give the leg a little bit of a shake. The leg is positioned as close to the table top as I can while still elevating it slightly. With straight shears, I box the outside and inside leg lines. (Creating a box is much easier than trying to create a cylinder when setting in the lines.)
  2. Next, I let the dog stand naturally in a square position. I trim a straight line from the elbow to the table with the dog standing squarely. While the dog is standing, I eyeball the front of the front leg making a mental note how much coat needs to come off to create a straight line.
  3. I recomb the entire leg, give it a little shake, and begin my final scissoring. With the dog standing, remove the corners and any longer hair falling over the boxed-in area, creating a nice straight cylinder. I then pick up the foot and detail the cylinder shape.
  4. I quickly give the leg another comb-up and do the final detailing with my thinning shears. I remove any of the high spots or rough patches.
  5. As I get close to finishing shaping the leg, I slide my fingers in around the top of the elbow, and give a gentle squeeze. This hold stabilizes the dog and naturally makes them point their toes so I can focus on the foot. I give the foot a quick fluff with my comb. Picking up my thinners, I remove any rough edges falling outside of the nice rounded foot blending into the sidelines on the leg. I never cut on the underside of the foot from this position.
  6. I put the foot down and let the dog stand naturally. I double-check my work between the large pad of the foot and the stopper pad. I re-trim that area if it needs it.
  7. To double-check the pad area, I brush the coat down and trim any stray hairs with small detail shears – always working around the outside area of the foot pad.
  8. I double-check all my work before I move on to the rear leg.

Back viewThe rear leg will be the same (with a few variances) to help establish the angles of the rear assembly. When doing the guard comb work, I sweep the clipper over the hip and rump area and feather off towards the stifle. This helps establish the angulation on the rear leg.

  1. On the rear legs, I fluff the coat up. Gently holding the dog’s foot in my fingers, I give the leg a little bit of a shake. With the dog standing squarely, I scissor the outside of the leg in a straight, parallel line to the table.
  2. Next, while standing directly behind the dog, I scissor a straight parallel line on the inside of the leg.
  3. I re-fluff the leg and let the dog stand naturally. I scissor in the front of the rear leg, accentuating the curved angle from the stifle to the hock and then straight down to the rounded foot. I will often switch to curved shears for this section.
  4. Finally, I fluff the rear portion of the leg. Using curved shears, I scissor in the angles over the rump and down the rear section of the back leg, accentuating the angulation.
  5. I quickly give the leg another comb-up and remove any of the high spots or rough patches with thinners.
  6. I slide my hand around the thigh, lifting the foot slightly off the table, focusing now on the foot. I give it a quick fluff with my comb and pick up my thinners to remove any rough edges falling outside the lines of the nice rounded foot. I blend the foot into the sidelines on the leg. I set the leg down and double-check the hock.
  7. I fluff the leg one more time and do one of two things:
    1. Lift the dog so it is standing on its hind legs. With the dog lifted in this manner, I get a clear view of the inside of the rear legs. I look for rough spots needing to be smoothed out – or –
    2. Gently pick up the one of the rear legs. Lift it only as high as the dog is comfortable (most of the time allowing the dog to bring its leg into its body a bit). I double-check the inside of the rear leg and smooth out any rough spots with thinners.
  8. To double-check the pad area, I brush the coat down and trim any stray hairs with small detail shears, always working around the outside area of the foot pad.
  9. I double-check all my work before I move on to the next leg.

Have you ever timed yourself? If you haven’t, I encourage you to do so. You can’t improve what you don’t track. It’s important to know how long each step of the grooming process takes you. If you are not being able to get legs scissored on a relatively simple trim quickly, I encourage you to grab a timer or watch the clock. Play the time game with yourself. It’s fun. If you work on the system, you will be able to complete a leg in under two minutes.

When grooming pets, I love to automate what I do. It allows me to give the client a consistent haircut every time. It allows me to be efficient. It allows me to minimize the amount of time I spend on each task. I love how having systems in place allows me the freedom to focus on what is important – the pet.

Being efficient allows you to do more pets per day while enjoying your job. It doesn’t mean that you’re working harder, it just means you’re being productive. Think about all the things you do where you have a system or a routine in place. Thorough systems and routines allow you to get through the process effortlessly. And who doesn’t like that?

Creating routines and systems will also increase your revenue generation. I have yet to find anybody who does not appreciate being able to earn more money without having to work harder for it.

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteJump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us your tricks and tips for scissoring legs and saving time.

 


7 Speedy Grooming Tips for a Happier Pet

March 16th, 2017 by Joelle

headerSpeedy pet grooming is one of many ways we show compassion for the animals in our care. Grooming efficiently doesn’t mean you care less about their needs. You can groom a pet quickly while still being gentle, respectful, and without sacrificing quality and thoroughness.

I understand this not only as a groomer, but from personal experience with my own fur family. I have Maremma Sheepdogs, two of which are over 10 years old. They are heavy, double-coated, large dogs. At one time, they had the physical strength to endure longer grooming sessions. However, as they’ve aged, grooming has become more uncomfortable to tolerate.

It’s important to get them in and out of the grooming salon as quickly as possible. Anything over an hour and a half fatigues them. They have some difficulty standing on the grooming table. The risk of injury is much higher simply because they are not as steady, strong, or sturdy as they once were. When they come home, both sleep for hours without getting up. As beautiful as they are, I know they are physically and mentally exhausted from the grooming process.

Most pets benefit from minimizing the amount of time they spend in the grooming process.

  • Young dogs do not have the attention span to deal with prolonged grooming sessions when they are first being introduced to the process.
  • Many pets are “home bodies” that don’t deal well with situations outside of their home life. The sooner you can get them back to their owners and into their home, the more comfortable they are.
  • Prolonging the grooming process on difficult or aggressive dogs typically aggravates the situation. Handling them in a gentle, respectful manner in the least amount of time is beneficial for both them and the groomer.
  • Senior dogs may not have the patience nor the physical ability to tolerate longer grooming sessions. Speeding up the process and/or giving them rest breaks as they get fatigued between active grooming procedures will make them more comfortable.

Regardless of whether it is a full brush-out or a haircut these are my time goals for pets being groomed every 4-6 weeks:

Most small to medium-size dogs – about an hour.

Larger, furrier dogs – approximately 90 minutes.

quoteOf course, large dogs with excessive hair that are in poor condition or are not groomed on a regular basis are going to take longer. Short haired, light coated, smaller dogs, or pets with simple haircuts may take less time.

How do you speed up the process without sacrificing the pet’s well-being?

  1. Equipment – Working with high-quality equipment facilitates speed, effectiveness, and quality of the final grooming product. Continually upgrade your tools and equipment. Do not hesitate to replace tired or worn out items. The investment will have a positive impact on the well-being of your pet clients (as well as your bottom line).
  2. Supplies – Keep your tools organized and within arm’s reach. Having your supplies nearby also means fewer wasted footsteps each day. Saving steps = saving time.
  3. Handling – Pets are highly capable of reading energy – yours and the salon’s. Dogs are silent communicators. Minimize unnecessary talk and movements towards the pet. The more you can remain calm, cool, and collected, the more enjoyable the entire grooming session will be – regardless of the temperament of the pet.
  4. Focus – While working on any pet, staying fully focused enables you to complete the grooming process in the least amount of time possible. If chatting and music are distractions, eliminating them will allow you to focus more closely on what really matters – the pet.
  5. Comfort and Safety – Comfort and safety applies to both the pet and the handler. Adjustable tables and grooming arms need to be sturdy. A well-positioned safety loop keeps the dog tethered to the table or in the bathtub comfortably while restricting unnecessary movement. Utilizing a Groomers Helper acts like a second set of hands for pets who are overly active on the grooming table. Using an anti-fatigue type matt on the tabletop offers security and comfort to the pet, especially those that are larger or older. If a muzzle is necessary to prevent a dog from biting, make sure it is comfortable for the pet. If a pet is sensitive to the noise of a dryer or the sounds of an active salon, a Happy Hoodie can reduce their anxiety.
  6. Knowledge – The more educated you are about the entire grooming process, the more confidence you will have. The more confident you are, the more quickly you can make a dog feel at ease. Being self-assured allows you to get through the entire grooming process quickly.
  7. Bows and Bandannas – These items can easily be premade prior to the completion of the grooming. Having them ready and waiting means your pet doesn’t have to.

Being efficient with the entire grooming process is not just about getting more dogs done in a day. It’s about being compassionate towards the pet. It’s about being effective, knowledgeable and skillful with your grooming techniques. It’s about knowing how to produce amazing work in the least amount of time. It’s about being gentle and respectful to the pet regardless of their size, condition, or temperament.

We are here to help pets and their owners. We work as a team, looking out for the pet’s overall health and well-being. To me, that’s the most rewarding part of being a professional pet groomer/stylist. Being able to get a dog or cat back to its owner in the least amount of time is just one way of keeping pets healthy and happy.

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!


How to be an Indispensable Groomer’s Assistant

July 21st, 2016 by Joelle

Wallpapersxl Dog The Wet Hq For 695583 1366x768It always shocks me when a competitor or a workshop participant presents me with a DIRTY DOG for evaluation. A dirty dog?! No joke – it happens all the time.

Nails are not trimmed correctly.Coats are not dried properly or completely.

…or worse yet, there are still mats and tangles left in the coat.

It’s not good grooming but I see all the time. Not only in the ring or at hands-on events, but in salons, too.

To me, bathing and drying are the most critical parts of any groom. One bather can make or break your entire grooming department.

Here are 7 skills I look for in an indispensable groomers’ assistant (AKA the bather!) All 7 of these skills must be MASTERED if you want to be highly valued in your grooming salon, if you want to move ahead in your career, or before you can gather loads of glowing clients.

1Be able to identify popular breeds

Anybody working professionally with pets needs to be able to identify the top 15 or 20 breeds that regularly come into your salon. It’s the fastest way for groomers to be able to communicate to one another.

2Be able to handle pets safely and compassionately

How many times have you heard others (or maybe even yourself) say, “This dog is driving me nuts!” Impatient treatment of a pet is never acceptable. If you lose control, you can bet that you won’t have clients for long. Being able to understand canine body language is job requirement #1. If you are going to win the pet’s trust and cooperation, you must be able to speak its language. It will keep you and the pet safe. It will also make the entire experience much more enjoyable for all parties.

3Understand the many different coat types found on individual pets

Each coat type has special needs that need to be addressed in the bathing and drying process to get the best results. A Beagle has different bathing and drying needs than a Standard Poodle. The same holds true with a coat on a Golden Retriever or an Airedale Terrier. A talented bather will instantly be able to identify dogs that possess simple coats or dogs that are going to be time-consuming and a challenge.

4Bathe the dogs until their coats squeak

If they don’t squeak, they are not clean.

Period.

This is the foundation of every fabulous grooming job. I cannot stress its importance enough. There are many products on the market to help achieve superior results in only one or two baths. Even if you use the best shampoos on the market, the dog will not get squeaky clean unless they are rinsed thoroughly. Rinse until the water runs clear and you hear the “squeak” when you push the water through the coat. And not just the easy to see or reach parts. Get soap and water to the undercarriage, under the ears, and the special parts. If the whole dog isn’t clean – it’s still dirty. Nothing wastes time or money more than having to re-bathe a dog because you didn’t do the job right the first time. There’s an old saying: if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? Get it right the first time.

5Dry the coat to perfection

Most of the time, this will mean utilizing a form of active drying. There are several drying methods and combinations to choose from, based on the coat type, trim, and the pets’ tolerance. Incorrect techniques or careless attention to drying will waste more time than almost anything else in the grooming process. In most cases, high velocity and stretch (or fluff) drying techniques will need to be used to get superior results. Oh, and the pet needs to be bone dry too!

6Learn efficient and SAFE brushing techniques

Systematic brushing is the only way to effectively work through a coat and get right down to the skin. Selecting the correct tool for the coat type will be important. Knowing how to hold the tool along and how much pressure to exert is also important. Not enough pressure and you will not be efficient. Too much pressure and you’re going to make the pet uncomfortable and could cause injury. The key is to work methodically and gently over the entire dog – right down to the skin until a wide tooth comb can easily be pulled through the fur.

7Nails, ears, and glands

Trimming nails and cleaning ears is just an automatic process when it comes to grooming pets. If it is not done – or not done well – it’s considered sloppy. Clients don’t want to spend their hard-earned money on sloppy work. Stylists executing haircuts should not have to go back and double-check this type of preliminary pre-work. Some salons routinely check and/or express anal glands. Whatever your salon option is, you should follow their guidelines.

Being a bather – or being a groomers’ assistant – can be extremely rewarding. However, it does carry a lot of responsibility. Many of these skills are considered the foundation of all grooming.

Remember: every owner faces a choice when it comes to grooming. They can come to you, do the job themselves, not have the pet groomed all… or go down the road to someone else. Make sure they make the right choice by sticking with you.

What do you look for in a great groomer assistant? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa


Production Bathing & Drying

July 7th, 2016 by Joelle

production-blogPet bathing and drying seems to be a huge time challenge for many professionals. Many of you are all overflowing with pets to bathe during the summer season. I thought this would be a great time to review my time-tested “game.” I loved to play this game whether it was with 8 or 80 dogs a day! I’ve done it both ways and every number in-between over the years.

If you are one of those high volume shops doing 40 – 70 or more pets per day…  that’s a lot of toenail trimming no matter how you look at it!! How can you get more done in less time while not letting the quality of the work suffer? Here’s my method –  it’s a fast paced game with lots of variables to mix it up every day. After all, whoever thought pet grooming was going to be a boring job?

It’s not a mystery but it is like cooking a meal. The larger and more extravagant the meal (with multiple dishes being served), the more complicated the timing and the choices get to be. With a few dogs, it’s pretty simple – the choices are limited. Add more dogs and the variables increase.  Move to a full-blown shop pushing through 50+ dogs and you have something like a full force, successful restaurant that is managed by an experienced head chef.  OK, so how do you manage your bathing and drying roster so all the pets are done to the highest degree of quality and proficiency, just like getting multiple dishes to the table all done to perfection and hot?

The Three Basic Rules & Guidelines to Follow

1Review all the dogs on your roster for that day or session. This game works best when you have multiple pets arriving at one time so you can stagger them according to coat type, size, and degree of difficulty.

2Do your largest and furriest dog first. Something that can be bathed and then lightly high velocity dried to lift and separate the fur. By spending a few minutes with the high velocity dryer on each pet, it allows a clear view of any special needs of that animal while enhancing airflow to the coat once it is placed in an inactive drying situation. Bathe and set up the coat on all the bath and brush pets first, starting with the largest and most time-consuming dogs, working down the line of difficulty to the least difficult of the bath and brush pets. Once all the bath and brush pets are bathed, then proceed with dogs that need active drying to yield the best results

3Your goal on all trim dogs is not only to get the pet clean, but the coat needs to be tangle free and as straight as possible for the finished trim. After all the B&B pets are bathed, start washing your trim dogs. Start with the pet that has the heaviest and straightest coat – something that can sit for a few minutes while you bathe your other haircut pets without risking the coat drying before you get to an active drying method. Let the pet sit in a warm place wrapped in a towel. Proceed washing the next pet based on size, coat density and curl factor – less curl hits the tub before a curly coat – curly coats such as Bichons or Poodles go to the tub last. Once all the trim pets are bathed, start drying. The first pet up on the drying table should be the one that has the curliest, but lightest coat since that coat type will dry the quickest. If the coat dries before an active form of drying can take place while the coat is still damp, it will be impossible to remove the curl unless you re-wet the pet. Once the curliest coats have been fluffed dried so they are absolutely straight, move to the next kinkiest or wavy coat type – also weigh in the coat density factor. A lighter or shorter coat will need to go before a heavier or longer coats. A typical example would be that you have two dogs of equal size and similar haircuts like a 1 guard on the body and a fuller leg style. One dog is a Lhasa and the other is a Maltese/Shih Tzu mix. Normally the Maltese cross would have a lighter density of coat than the Lhasa, thus the Maltese mix gets dried before the Lhasa. Continue this process moving from the curliest coats down the line. The key is to get to a coat before it is dry so the heat of the dryer can straighten the fur out. Remember, the goal is always to have a straight, fluffy, mat free coat to finish. Curls and kinks in the fur make it impossible to execute a trim that is smooth and sleek. If a coat gets too dry, it must be re-wetted and the drying process started over.

????????There are many variations to how this game gets played out to be effective. It is what makes a day interesting to a professional pet stylist. The better you get at this game, the faster you will be able to get through multiple pets without sacrificing quality. Think about what we do in the terms of food. An average home cook should be able to get 2-3 dishes on the table at the same time. A first-class home cook should be able to handle a meal with 4-5 dishes and at least 6 people. Seasoned home entertainers can handle an elaborate holiday meal for 20 with ease. A professional chef will master an entire shift serving over a 100 meals and all their side dishes with it all arriving to the table hot and beautifully prepared.

How far can you push yourself – before you get lost in the order of bathing pets? Test yourself and see how you do. It’s a fun game that can be challenging yet really invigorating. The more dogs, the more fun, and reward when it goes smoothly!

What are your best methods? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa


3 Things You Need to Know to Groom Any Breed (What You Need to Do If a New Breed of Dog Lands on Your Grooming Table)

February 23rd, 2016 by Joelle

It’s a day like any other when you get a phone call from a client:

“I have a (insert breed here). Do you know how to groom them correctly?”

Um…

You’ve never groomed this breed before. In fact, the closest you’ve come to one is seeing it at a dog show. Maybe you’ve never even heard or seen the breed before.

“Why yes, Mrs. Jones, we certainly can make your Bedlington look like a Bedlington!” you say confidently as you book the appointment for the following day.

You hang up the phone and reality sets in. You’ve never seen this type of dog cross your grooming table. You don’t have a clue how to actually groom it correctly. What do you do?

The first thing I would tell you is – don’t panic!

Here are three core strategies you need to groom any breed of dog.
 

  1. Have strong technical skills. If your clipping, guard comb work, scissoring, blending, and basic hand stripping skills are good, you should be able handle this without much of a problem.
  2. Have a solid understanding of canine anatomy. If you understand how bones and muscles create a sound dog, it becomes even easier.
  3. Know how to translate a breed standard. If you can interpret the written breed standard into a visual, you’re golden.

So what is your next step? How are you going to be confident when that client walks in the door tomorrow?

Your next step is to look up the breed in reference books. If you have an American Kennel Club (AKC) Complete Dog Book (or a similar book from your country), start there. This will give you the official breed standard. Review the breed profile. Read about the history of the dog to gather clues about the dog. After a quick scan, you I have a good idea of the size, temperament, and structure of this new dog. Most books will also have photos that accompany each breed. If you don’t have an official breed standard book handy, you can always look it up online.

Once you have become familiar with the breed itself, take a look at your grooming books. Review the instructions. Compare the instructions to what you have read and saw in the breed standard.

The Internet is an invaluable research tool. Use it wisely. Most breeds will have a parent club that hosts an official site for the breed. Spend a few minutes reviewing images of top winning dogs in their galleries. With a little luck, you may even find grooming directions or links to grooming directions from dedicated breeders.

As groomers and stylists, we are a visual bunch. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is so true for us. I love to do Google image searches of breeds I’m not familiar with. Here’s a tip to finding good images. When you enter terms in the search bar, add keywords like: AKC Champion Bedlington Terrier or UKC Champion Fresian Water Dog. There is a big difference if you type into your search engine, “images of Miniature Schnauzers” verses “images of AKC Champion Miniature Schnauzers.” You will pull up a WIDE assortment of images. Some will be great. Others not so great. Some will be worthless. And others will be totally off the mark. You need to have enough knowledge to filter through the images, finding the best images to suit your needs.

Use a little caution when looking up information online. Always remember – not everything posted on the internet is correct or presents the best image of a breed. Make sure you use all your resources to gather the most accurate information possible.
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Watching videos on the breed in question is also a great option. Again, a word of caution – not every “how to video” on the internet will be beneficial. Today, anyone can post a video online. Unfortunately, there is a lot of poor quality grooming being featured – especially if it is free. Go to trusted sources like Learn2GroomDogs.com that are truly qualified to demonstrate how to groom a particular breed.

Yes, you need to do a little research. Will it require a little effort? Yep.

However, if you have those three nuggets of knowledge, you will have the foundation skills to groom any breed.

  1. strong technical skills
  2. solid comprehension of canine anatomy
  3. ability to interpret the breed standard

With those 3 skills, you can groom any breed of dog that comes your way.

If you are a newer stylist or just don’t have the time to do all the research, there is a shortcut. Notes From the Grooming Table will allow you to fast track your knowledge. Simply grab the book and turn to the breed you have a question about. We are just about to release the fully updated Second Edition of Notes From the Grooming Table. Keep your eyes open for how to get this revised edition – announcements on how to get yours will be available soon.

As pet groomers and stylists, we get to see plenty of dogs. It’s rare and exciting to get a breed you are not familiar with. Most of us pros enjoy the challenge of learning about a new breed. Figuring out what we will need to do to make the dog look like it should – or could – look like if the owners allow you to groom it correctly.

I know, I know… many owners just want the hair shaved off once they walk through your door. Or the dog is in such poor condition, the only humane option is to shave the coat off and start over. That’s always a disappointment once you’ve put in effort to educate yourself. Hopefully, the new client motivated you to learn few new things you can add to your knowledge toolbox even if you didn’t get to execute the trim!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Did these tricks help? Go online and tell us what you think on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


Salvage work

March 12th, 2015 by Joelle

Spring is edging closer – and not a moment too soon! Many of us will be seeing a lot of pets that are ready for a great makeover in the coming weeks. With that in mind, I thought it was the perfect time to revisit my blog on salvage work.

As many of you know, I’m a big dog person. Working on these large furry dogs that have a huge shedding problem is one of my favorite things to do in a grooming salon. I know, I know, call me crazy – but I just love seeing the transformation in this type of job. Over the years I’ve gotten really quick with the process and rarely ­­­cringe, no matter what the size of the dog, nor the condition – I see it as a fun challenge!
My #1 rule is: Never work on a dirty dog. If water can penetrate the coat, let your products do the job.

Working on a dirty dog is not only unpleasant, but it also takes longer to do.  Plus, there will be a lot of coat damage and breakage.  A dirty coat is dry and brittle. The dirt and dander trapped within the fur makes it more difficult to brush out. Working on a clean coat will be easier for both you and the pet – and much more pleasant.

If there are large chunks that water cannot penetrate, go ahead and break up the tangle using the tool that is safe for the pet.  Don’t worry about removing it completely, just break it apart so the water and shampoo can do its job.

indexPrepare your bathing area.  If the dog is exceptionally dirty, use the shampoo especially designed for dirty dogs.  Using a follow-up treatment of a skin and coat conditioner after bathing twice (or maybe three times in some areas) will assist with the brush out and dead coat removal during the drying process.  Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need to aid in getting the dog clean like rubber curries or scrub brushes.  And make sure you have plenty of towels handy.

My favorite trick when working with this type of job is to bring my high velocity dryer right into the bathing area.  With the dog fully lathered, blow the shampoo right off the pets while they are tethered in the tub.  The slippery soap will allow the dirt, loose coat, and tangles slide out, being trapped in the shampoo and sticking to the back wall of the tub, minimizing the mess.  Not all the shedding coat or mats will be removed but a lot will, making your job easier once you transfer to the drying table.  Once you have blown out the pet, follow up with the rinsing process.  Repeat this process as many times as necessary to get the dog “squeaky clean.”

Once the pet is clean and thoroughly rinsed, apply a skin and coat conditioning treatment before heading to the drying table.  Read your directions: some conditioning treatments need to be rinsed out while others do not.  Your high velocity dryer and a heavy slicker brush will be your best friends during the drying process.

Rule # 2: Be Methodical and Thorough

First, blow out as much moisture and loose coat at possible with the air flow.  Use the highest power setting the pet is comfortable with, and a condenser cone.  Once you have pushed as much water and loose fur from the pet, remove the condenser cone, and bring the air flow close to the pet’s skin.  “Boost” any loose coat out of the dog by lightly patting the area where the air is striking the skin with a slicker brush.

Continue to work over the dog in a methodical manner until your brush glides through the coat easily and no more loose coat is trapped in the brush.

Rule #3 – ENJOY!

When the dog is complete, it should smell clean and fresh.  The coat should be glossy and float freely as the dog moves.  There should be an irresistible desire to reach down and bury your hands in a freshly groomed pet.

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa

 


 
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