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August 10th, 2017 by Joelle

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An Easy Way to Create a Poodle Beveled Cuff

July 27th, 2017 by Joelle

As with all grooming techniques, there are many ways to get the job done.

When I was a contest groomer, I always did my Poodle cuffs by hand. I would brush the coat down then give it a quick fluff with my comb. Once it was fluffed, I’d glide a long straight shear in and set the lower edge. Then I’d re-fluff and grab my long curved shears to round and bevel the edges. It was time-consuming.

Done well, the beveled cuffs came out gorgeous. Done poorly, they were a sloppy mess. I had four chances to be perfect with my cuffs – or four chances to really mess up.

For pet dogs, I quickly taught myself another method. It was quick. Fool-proof. And it worked well on most of my shorter stylized pet trims.

On most of my pet trims, I cheated off excess leg hair by skimming it with a guard comb. Not only was it fast – it helped me set the length, too. Once I had the legs roughed in, I would brush the leg coat over the clipped foot with a firm slicker brush. I would slide my hand down the leg with my thumb and first finger resting just below the clipper line on the Poodle foot. My fingers would be my guide as I slid in a small pair of detailing scissors (I choose small shears for the safety of my own fingers!). I would scissor all the way around the cuff line, removing the longer hair.

When I released the coat… voila! A perfect cuff for an active pet. I could adjust the fullness of the beveled cuff by adjusting my scissored line somewhere between the lines of the knuckles of the foot and just below the clipped line on the foot. The lower I was on the foot with my cuff line, the fuller the bevel.

Once my cuff was set, I would neaten and finish the entire leg with shears, smoothing out my guard comb work.

I used this method for years. I even started to incorporate it into my more polished work in the contest ring. It worked well there, too – especially if I used it as a double-check after I did my cuffs with longer shears.

In the past few years, I’ve seen extremely talented stylists start using another method to get perfect cuffs every time. They use a #30 or #40 blade on their clippers! Who knew?

So how do you do it?

It’s very similar to my old method, but instead of shears, pet stylists reach for their cordless 5 in 1 style clipper. They set the blade at the shorter levels, basically the length of a #30 or #40 blade.

Hold the foot off the table at a comfortable level for the pet. With a firm slicker brush, brush all the hair down around the foot. Once the coat is brushed into place, slide your hand down the pet’s leg, thumb and forefinger closest to the foot.

Stop and hold the foot with your fingers coming to rest right at the clipped cuff line. While maintaining your hold on the foot, gently trim at right angles around the cuff with the #30 or #40 blade. Simply touch the coat at the edge line you want to set.

The fullness of the leg coat will determine where you place the line. For fuller legs, use the top of the crease marks on the toes. If the leg coat is shorter, move the line closer to the clipped cuff line.

When you release the coat, the fur will be nicely beveled. The line should be crisp and free of all stray hairs. As with the hand-scissored cuff, check the work from all angles to make sure the cuffs are level from side to side and front to back. Don’t forget to look from table level when inspecting your cuffs for perfection.

It may take a few tries to perfect this technique, but once you do, creating flawless cuffs every time becomes simple. With a well-prepped dog, this technique is fun, fast, and super safe.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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


What Is the Difference Between Rakes and Undercoat Rakes?

June 22nd, 2017 by Joelle
Illustration 1

Illustration 1

These tools can be confusing. When you read their descriptions in catalogs, they’re so similar…

They do the same thing, don’t they?

No, they don’t. Let me explain.

Both remove undercoat on thick coated dogs. It’s the METHOD of removal that varies. One pulls out dead and shedding coat without cutting the fur. The other has sharp, curved teeth which remove the undercoat but will also cut the coat. One is used primarily on dry coats, both before and after the bath. The other is effective prior to shampooing, during the bathing process, and after the dog is clean and dried.

Illustration 2

Illustration 2

The difference isn’t so much in the names. The names are interchanged all the time. To keep them straight in my own mind, I call them different things. It’s particularly beneficial when giving directions to others to utilize different names.

Rakes

Rakes are designed to pull out dead coat and shedding fur with ease. Typically they are a T-shape (see Illustration 1) with rounded pins on the head of the T. On some heads, the top bar is long, up to 6 inches across. On other designs, the head may be only a couple of inches wide. The length and shape of the teeth will vary, too. On some rakes (see Illustration 2), the teeth are short and shaped almost in a tiny cone-type fashion. With others, the teeth are long, sinking deeply into heavy, long coats. On almost all models, the handle comes directly out from the cross bar head with all the teeth.

This type of rake is designed to remove dead coat while not damaging the healthy coat. You work the tool in the natural direction of the coat growth. Care must be used not to sink the comb too far into a dense coat repeatedly with too much pressure. Tugging too firmly on a thick or tangled coat will be uncomfortable for the dog and difficult for the groomer. Repeatedly digging in too deeply could injure the skin, as well.

Illustration 3

Illustration 3

Used correctly, rakes can be highly efficient for removing dead coat or “lint” from rustic-coated breeds. They are used primarily on double-coated, heavy-coated, or rustic-coated dogs.

Undercoat Rakes

Undercoat rakes have many small, sharp, curved blades set close together that remove undercoat. They are available in a variety of tooth widths, making this tool suitable for a wide range of breeds. On shedding breeds, they can remove dead, fuzzy undercoat in minutes, yet leave the top coat shiny and healthy. On harsh-coated dogs, they mimic the hand-stripped look quickly and easily.

Undercoat rakes can be used on a wet or a dry coat. Pull the rake in the direction of the coat growth.Always start with a wider toothed rake to start (see Illustration 3). Work down to narrower teeth as the tool pulls through easily, removing less and less coat.

Undercoat rakes normally work better when used prior to bathing or in the tub on a wet coat.

Illustration 4

Illustration 4

Use caution when working with this tool. On some coat types, especially heavy-coated dogs, they will cut the top coat while removing the undercoat. While the blades are curved (see Illustration 4), you still need to be careful how much pressure you put on the tool as you drag it through the coat so you do not injure the skin. Use caution when working around areas where the skin is thin like in the hock area, ear junctions, flank, and armpits.

Undercoat rakes work well on many coat types including double coated breeds, heavy coats, and rustic coat types. The work exceptionally well on any breed that is hand-stripped like many of the Sporting or Terrier breeds. Just be sure to monitor your progress as you work this tool over the dog.

Here is a cool trick I have seen used with undercoat rakes. This trick minimizes cutting the coat while pulling out dead coat, particularly once the coat is clean and dry. Simply take a thick rubber band and wrap it around the hooks of the blade (see Illustration 5). The rubber protects the coat from excessive cutting while the rubber helps grip the dead coat, allowing to be pulled out almost effortlessly.

Illustration 5

Illustration 5

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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


The Art of Giving Great Service – The Zingerman Way

May 25th, 2017 by Joelle

bookAbout 6 years ago I read a great book while sailing on my dad’s boat. It was Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 1: Building a Great Business.  At one point, my dad picked up the book. He read a few paragraphs I had highlighted when I went below. When I returned a few minutes later, he said, “Good book. They know what they are talking about.” Wow. Coming from my dad, that meant a lot.

Zingerman’s is an institution in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hailed by Inc. Magazine as The coolest small company in America,” the original business was founded in 1982 with Zingerman’s Delicatessen. Since then, Zingerman’s has expanded to 11 food-related business, 724 staff members, and sales of over $62 million.

Service is a cornerstone of Zingerman’s success. Zingerman’s has earned its reputation for great service by intentionally creating a culture that nurtures amazing service. They teach every one of their team members system “recipes” which are at the heart of their extraordinary service.

I was so impressed with the book, I ordered copies for all my team leaders!

At Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, we really rolled up our sleeves. We took the summer to read the entire book together. Once a week we met to review, strategize, and implement what we learned from the pages.

When we started Zingerman’s training in 2011, we were earning about $655,000 in annual gross sales between overnight lodging, daycare, and grooming. Last year we grossed just short of $2.25 million. And the real kicker – we spent virtually nothing on advertising! Our growth has been fueled by stellar customer service from an amazing team of enthusiastic, pet-loving staff.

I know the Zingerman’s training isn’t totally responsible for the growth. However, I’d like to think it helped us formulate a positive culture for our Whiskers team.

Recently, we learned ZingTrain was coming to Grand Rapids for a half day of service training. We could not sign up fast enough. We had 13 team members there from all facets of my companies taking up two corporate tables. We all walked away pumped up and energized! Some of what we learned was a refresher for some of us – for others is was all new. Plus, it was refreshing to learn new service ideas the Zingerman team had formulated since we read the book. The concepts are all easy to implement, too.

I’d like to share a few of those with you.

zingermanZingerman’s 3 Steps to Great Service

#1. Figure out what the customer wants.

  • Ask questions. Listen to what they really want. Give choices. Repeat questions back to the customer for clarity and understanding.
  • 10/4 Rule. When you get within 10 feet of either a customer or a coworker– make eye contact and smile. Once you get within 4 feet of a customer or coworker, verbally exchange a positive comment. (I’m not talking about those that you work with side-by-side all day long – however a room full of smiles and positive interaction is energizing).
  • Spend as much time as necessary to positively impact the customer. For repeat customers, it might be a quick exchange. For new customers, it’s going to take longer to help build a relationship, form a bond, and build trust.

#2. Get it – or do it – for them…

  • Let people know realistic deadlines, cost estimates, and realistic outcomes. Be specific. Under promise and over deliver.
  • Always say please and thank you. Avoid industry jargon.
  • You want the customer to leave feeling like the interaction with you was the best part of their day.

#3. Go the extra mile.

  • Do something the client didn’t ask for and didn’t expect. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It doesn’t have to be costly. Even simple things can delight and pleasantly surprise your customers.

Within this framework, employees use their own best judgment about how to serve each individual customer.

If you’ve never heard of Zingerman’s or ZingTrain, I encourage you to look it up. If you want to dig in deep, grab the book and apply its principles. If you need a quick pick me up, participate in one of the mini sessions like we did today. Their systems approach is applicable to businesses of varying industries, organizational structure, and size. They are committed to helping others succeed.

You can learn more about their training programs at www.zingtrain.com. You can get the book at the best price by ordering directly from Zingerman’s www.zingtrain.com/building-a-great-business

My entire team left energized and ready to implement many ideas immediately. We were all impacted by the training we received. Hats off to the Zingerman team of Elnian Gilbert and Tabatha Mason and to the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring the program!

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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


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!

 


Hiring for the Spring Rush

April 27th, 2017 by Joelle

Now HiringDo you experience seasonal climate changes? If you are in the northern hemisphere, I bet you are already feeling the warm weather grooming rush. One week you are slow, then suddenly the sun comes out. The temperature begins to rise. Instantly, your phone starts to ring off the hook.

Let me ask you this.

  • Are you staffed to handle the load?
  • Are you going to be working 12 hour days, six days a week and still not get caught up?
  • Are you booked out solid for 4 weeks or more?
  • Are clients and potential customers getting frustrated or even angry because you can’t book them as quickly as they’d like?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you’re not alone. When the spring rush hits, groomers are in short supply everywhere!

Finding qualified help is the #1 problem for most business owners.

How often have you advertised for a new bather or groomer and have been able to fill the job immediately? Hardly ever, right? Even after you’ve filled the position, how often has that person been able to perform that job without any guidance or direction from you?

If yours is like most grooming salons, it’s next to impossible to hire the ready-made job applicant. It’s rare to find a person who will be everything you need, right away. Even if you do find great candidates, it’s still going to take work to bring them up to speed. To bring them in line with the way YOU do things in your business. To teach them your culture.

Finding the right people to build your team is always the most challenging part of running any business.

Training is at the heart of all great employees. Unfortunately, training takes time and effort. Both of those equate to money out the door. One of the most frustrating things for any business is to go through the training process only to have the new hire leave shortly after training has been completed. However, if you’re going to run a business that has any growth, you’re going to need to hire help.

How do you find great job candidates who will stay with you? I’m not just talking bathers, groomers, and stylists. I’m talking about anybody that would add value to your business and your team.

I wish there was a simple and clear-cut answer to this very old problem. There’s not.

The best way to get started down the hiring path is finding job candidates with potential. Here are a few things I always think about when looking at prospective job candidates.

featured-classifiedWhere to Find Them

You are going to need somebody who understands that working with dogs takes WORK. A lot of work. I look for proof that they are willing to work. Willing to commit. I scan their resume for clues.

Rural Background

I have found that some of our best employees and students come from a more rural background. Being brought up on a farm always teaches valuable work ethics.  Many times, they will have 4H in their background. Being active with horses or dogs is also a positive attribute. So is someone coming from a veterinarian clinic, animal rescue, or any professional pet-related background.

Students and Recent Graduates

Look at attendance records and GPA, not just a certificate or diploma. Check their extracurricular activities. Was s/he in band, sports, or Student Council? These things will indicate how disciplined and focused a job candidate will be. It will also tell you if that person has worked as part of a team.

Previous Job Experience

Check prior work history. Does the candidate have the experience or skills to do the job? Do they have any previous professional experience working with animals?

Here’s a list of traits that make a great new hire. Look for these behaviors during the interview and during their initial trial period.

  • They listen with intent.
  • They are confident but not arrogant.
  • They have the ability to express themselves.
  • They ask questions.
  • They are motivated to improve their current skill levels
  • The understand directions.
  • They have the ability to focus.
  • They have organizational skills.
  • They have the ability to prioritize tasks.
  • They are willing to try something new.
  • They are open and receptive to constructive criticism.

Here are a few tips when it comes to evaluating a new candidate.

  • Ask for references and call them.
  • Treat everyone with respect.
  • Look for attitude – hire based on potential.
  • Learn to trust your gut.
  • Look for a warm smile.

Once you have a new team member, it’s up to you to provide the training that will guide them. Every salon is slightly different. You want your new hire to succeed. That means you are going to have to put in some effort. They need to be clear on your rules and expectations. Ideally, these rules and expectations will be printed in an employee manual – even if it’s only a few pages!

Observe how they work. Even with the most basic tasks like answering phones or washing dogs, many new hires need to be gently coached. Even if their skill level is weak, if they have the right attitude, you will be able to train them quickly. But you must understand where they are in their current level of training. And the only way to learn that is by having them demonstrate their work.

Books and videos can be extremely helpful to the training process, as well. But don’t just assume they are reading and watching the material – and understanding it. You will still need to observe them carefully for the first few weeks, making sure the information in the books and videos is being correctly implemented.

I learned a long time ago that I prefer to cultivate my own team from scratch. That way they learned our culture. Our expectations. They came without a lot of baggage we need to change. If I was fair with them, in return, they were fair with me, staying with my team for years.

Not everybody will stick with you, long-term. That’s all right. It’s part of the hiring process. Part of running a business. You learn to work with it. Always keep your eyes open for great candidates to join your team. Once you know what to look for, the hiring process becomes a bit easier.

Learn2GroomDogs.com members – check out these links for more information:

What to look for in New Hires / How to Keep New Employees – with Melissa Verplank and Judy Hudson

Slope Side Chats: What Do You Look for In a New Hire? – with Melissa Verplank, Kathy Rose, and Teri DiMarino

Not a subscriber, yet?  Click here to join Learn2GroomDogs.com and get more amazing video lessons like the two mentioned here.

 

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What are the Benefits of Certification Testing?

April 20th, 2017 by Joelle

booksProfessional certification can be found in almost every industry in the United States. Professions such as auto repair, nursing, and technology – to name a few – all have voluntary or mandatory certification organizations.

The pet grooming certification testing is the process of publicly proving you know what you’re doing.

Period.

The certification process includes education and experience as well as written and practical testing. Successful completion of each phase demonstrates a level of mastery in the grooming profession.

Is the process of passing the certification testing easy? No. It’s challenging and time-consuming. It can be stressful and frustrating.

But why shouldn’t this be the case? If you want to demonstrate mastery of your craft, shouldn’t the process be rigorous? Shouldn’t it mean something? Shouldn’t it be a true reflection of the skill and artistry of your craft?

If certification were easy, if the standards were simpler, it would devalue the accomplishment of being a Certified Master. As you pass each section it’s validation that you are an expert at your craft. It’s inspiring. It’s exciting. It’s rewarding.

So why should you do it – other than to get the certificate to hang on the wall?

I can tell you why I did it. You might be able to identify with some of my struggles and why I chose this path so early in my career.

I started grooming in the late 70’s. It was not necessarily my career choice. However, I was working at a kennel and when the groomer was fired I went from being kennel help to groomer, overnight. I had no formal training. All I had was a book and a patient boss. She helped me the best she could. On my first day I had six dogs to get through – not an easy way to get started! My early work was LESS than dazzling!

There were no certification organizations when I first started grooming. However, the kennel I worked at was progressive. We got the industry newsletters and magazines that were available at the time. I started seeing articles about this new group that would become the first voluntary pet grooming certification testing organization.

A few years went by and my skills improved – slightly. I started going to conformation dog shows. I learned about grooming competitions. The voluntary certification testing organization was picking up speed, too.

About that same time, I got married and moved. I started my first grooming business, Four Paws Mobile Grooming. Keep in mind that this is back in the early 80’s. No one had heard of mobile grooming back then. My company took off like wildfire. I was only 22 years old. In less than a year, I added a second truck and hired my first employee. Less than a year after that I added two vans at once and hired more groomers.  Within five years, I had six vans on the road and a team of groomers working for me.

There Are Benefits Beyond the Certificate Hanging on the Wall

Being young and having to hire experienced groomers was very challenging. I quickly realized I needed to have an edge. I needed to have the knowledge and the skills to gain the respect I needed to be their leader. I needed some way to learn advanced quality pet grooming techniques. I needed verification I knew what I was doing. I needed confidence. I wasn’t going to succeed in any of that if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone and push my educational resources.

Did I want to take the time it was going to take to learn everything I needed to pass these tests? Heck no.

I wasn’t the best student in school. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to this process – especially taking those tests! But I was determined to gain the respect of my staff. I knew putting in the time and effort to earn my Certified Master Groomer status was what I needed to do.

Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed the process once I got started. I loved the learning aspect. I marked up my books. Pages were highlighted. Notes were written in the margins. I had sticky notes everywhere helping me identify key areas. I was passionate about being the best I could be. I could instantly transfer and apply what I was learning to my daily grooming appointments.

In the end, going through the certification process served myself and my team well. Certification quickly helped me turn my new business into a thriving company. I could network with other pet professionals who mirrored my beliefs and ethics. Become a Certified Master Groomer was the foundation work I needed to start building a career that always pushed me to new heights.

Here are seven reasons I would encourage you to become a Certified Master Groomer.

  • Certification is a valuable tool for learning. Today there are multiple certification organizations for both dog and cat grooming. Each organization focuses on a slightly different level of knowledge and skill sets. All of them will raise your knowledge and skill set to new levels.
  • Becoming certified raises the standards of our profession. Becoming a professional pet groomer is easy. There is no licensing and no mandatory accreditation. However, that does not mean the industry does not maintain quality standards. The certification organizations are raising our professional standards in the areas of knowledge, techniques, skills, and abilities.
  • Networking with like-minded professionals. You will meet pet professionals who value education, skill building, and personal growth. I found mentors and business acquaintances I could lean on and bounce ideas around. These were people who would support me and push me to become better. I’m honored to say that some of those folks became friends – and we’re still friends over 30 years later! I bet you’ll make lifelong friends, too, if you take the journey.
  • Employment opportunities. Voluntary certification will improve your chances of moving ahead in your job. Becoming a Certified Master Groomer instantly validates your skill set. Some employers prefer to hire people who are or are in the process of going through the certification process. Others will only hire job candidates who are already certified. Being certified may also be used to determine promotions within a team of stylists.
  • Higher price tags for your services. Being certified verifies you possess a higher skill set than most pet grooming professionals. Having a higher skill set translates into being able to charge more for your grooming services.
  • Gain respect. Becoming certified instantly gains you respect from your clients, your peers, your staff – and ultimately yourself. Many clients are becoming savvier as to what makes a quality pet stylist. They are seeking them out. Many even drive great distances to get to a certified pet stylist. Being well-educated leaves you with a feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment.
  • Confidence builder. One of the greatest benefits of certification testing is the self-confidence it gives you. I love this quote by Arthur Ashe. He said, “One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” Going through the certification process is the preparation you need to build a thriving career as a professional pet groomer and stylist.

There are currently four well-established organizations offering voluntary certification testing for professional pet groomers. There are new organizations popping up, as well. Do your research on new organization as they become available for testing. Weigh out for yourself whether you should invest your time and energy into their testing programs.

The established organizations who garner respect in the industry are:

  1. National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA)
  2. International Professional Groomers Inc. (IPG)
  3. International Society of Canine Cosmetologists (ISCC)
  4. National Cat Groomers Institute of America, Inc. (NCGIA)

When it comes to books and learning, I can never get enough. Once you start down the path of certification testing, you may find that it opens doors to continued education. I know it did for me. I’ve always said one of the most exciting aspects of our industry is that you can never know it all. There is always something new to learn and to improve.

Successfully completing the certification process is just one of the stepping-stones to improving your knowledge base, your skill set, and your career. It’s not about having the certificate hanging on the wall (although that’s nice), it’s more about what it can do for your emotional strength and well-being. The benefits can be immense, outweighing any obstacle getting in your way.

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteP.S. What do you think? Do you think groomers should be certified?  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us what you think.


The Importance of Downtime

February 9th, 2017 by Joelle

HAMMOCKIn many of my business lectures, I ask my audience how many of them take regular vacations. I’m always shocked when I see how many pet professionals don’t schedule vacations or downtime for themselves.

Did you know roughly half of all Americans don’t take annual vacations? And if they do take vacations, it’s common that they stay connected to work or even bring work along with them! Are you guilty of either of these situations? I have always scheduled downtime for myself. However, I admit I am guilty of being connected to work wherever I am – even when on vacation.

Scheduling time off for yourself is important to your overall physical and mental health. There are many positive effects to your well-being.

Here’s a short list of positive attributes to scheduling down time for yourself.

  • increased productivity
  • open to new ideas and viewpoints
  • increased creativity
  • lower stress levels
  • higher energy
  • improved moods
  • positive relationships with family and friends

I learned early in my career the importance of scheduling time off for myself. I have always been an over-achiever, taxing my system both mentally and physically on a regular basis. Yet, I always maintain an intense pace. Why? I know the importance of unplugging.

The key is getting it SCHEDULED.  What gets scheduled – gets done. That’s true for everything, including down time!

The key is getting it SCHEDULED.  What gets scheduled – gets done. That’s true for everything, including down time!

Schedule time to disconnect. Schedule time to unplug. Schedule time to breathe. Schedule time to just enjoy life.

Here is a collection of ways to unplug. Use it to get your ideas flowing on how YOU can find time to decompress from an abundant (and sometimes insanely busy) life.

  • Daily Down Time – Do something every day you enjoy. Maybe it’s spending quality time with your family or friends. Cooking. Exercise. Sports. Reading. Doing something creative. Just take the time to enjoy the simple things life offers.
  • ab3ca0e2f7a04a4ad659c82ea2485e0eFull Days – Book a day just to do something fun and special. You might opt to include only yourself. Or plan an activity with friends. Or with family. Many times, special days don’t require money but they do require time and planning.
  • Weekend Jaunts – When is the last time you booked a weekend excursion? Everyone has different tastes. Some enjoy the solitude of the woods, water, or slopes. Others get a charge out of dog show weekends. Others gravitate to the city. There are literally thousands of things you could do on a weekend, creating special memories for a lifetime.
  • Staycations or Holistay – If your life is supercharged or you don’t have the financial resources for a full-fledged vacation, staying home could be the best answer. What is a staycation or a holistay? It’s when you stay home and participate in leisure activities within driving distance. You sleep in their own bed at night. You might make day trips to local tourist sites, swimming locations, or participate in fun activities such as horseback riding, kayaking, wine tasting, hiking, or visiting museums. Most of the time it involves dining out more frequently than usual or participating in carefree dinner menus.
  • Vacations – Think big. Have fun. Head to the islands. The slopes. Experience a cruise. Explore areas you have never been. Participate in activities that are new to you. Every city, state, and country has a wide range of activities. The only thing holding you back is your imagination and possibly your pocketbook.
businessman in field with blue sky sitting an office chair

businessman in field with blue sky sitting an office chair

A word of caution. When planning any type of downtime – is make sure it stays downtime. Don’t over schedule too many activities. If you do, you will just jump from one frenzied lifestyle into another. You won’t relax and rejuvenate.

Vacations and down time reduce stress and improve health. Time away makes you an effective, productive, and happier worker. You’ll be refreshed and ready to tackle whatever life tosses your way. Take the time to get down time into your calendar.  You deserve it!

~Happy trimming,

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteP.S. How do you unplug?  If you don’t – or can’t – tell us why.  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 

 

clinicSpend the day with Melissa

Melissa Verplank will be in Lutz, Florida 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!


Making a Choice

January 12th, 2017 by Joelle

revbookOne of my favorite holiday tasks is selecting a motivational book to give to many of my business associates. I look forward to it every year. As the months pass, I listen to what people around me are saying. What are their frustrations? What is impacting them? What do they lose sleep over? Every year it’s a little different.

This year, the common thread was choices. Little choices. Big choices. Time-consuming choices. Life-changing choices. Scary choices. Every time I turned around it seemed like someone was struggling with this issue – including myself!

As I was scanning the titles, a few stood out. I ordered three different samples. When they arrived on my doorstep back in November, it didn’t take long to realize which book to select this year: One Choice by Mac Anderson from Simple Truths. The subtitle really resonated with me…

You’re always one choice away from changing your life.”

Does it ring true with you, as well?

Every day we have choices. Each one of those choices impacts our lives. Is it going to be positive or negative?

The scary choices are the hardest. Fear can totally immobilize you.

During my career, I’ve had many difficult choices – some of them very scary. Some of my choices would not only impact me – but my team members as well.

I remember one such circumstance. It was terrifying…

In a relatively short period, we had grown the business tremendously. It was exciting. It was exhilarating. We were teaching 20 to 30 students at a time and grooming well over 80 dogs every day. Our sales catapulted to over a million dollars. We were on top of the world.

And then with one phone call – it came to a screeching halt.

I remember the fear. I was absolutely paralyzed by it. I had put most of my eggs into one large corporate training account basket. We were a year into a seven-year contract. But there was a loophole in the contract and they decided to go in a different direction. We would no longer be providing training services for them.

What was I going to do? What choices could I make? How could I save the business? What was I going to tell my team? How would we handle the clients?

Fear gripped me like never before. I couldn’t move. I could not make a decision. I remember being totally overcome with fear – and tears. I was on the verge of losing most things I had worked hard to create. My business. My team. My home.

Luckily, my core team stayed close. They picked me up, helping me regain the courage to make a choice. To make a plan.

Over the next six months I had many choices to make. Many were not choices I wanted but they had to be made. Ultimately, we arrived back to the million-dollar point in sales in less than four years.

Opportunities presented themselves with every choice I made. Many of those choices changed the direction of my life and my businesses. At the time, I had one business. Today I have six with many divisions within each of them.

Today, your life is directed by the choices you’ve made. Are you happy with those choices or would you like your life to go on a slightly different path? You alone can set a different course if you have the courage to do so. It starts with one choice to make a difference. Making one choice will lead to opportunities to make more choices.

  • Are you happy with your health? If not, make one choice to improve it.
  • Is your career going in the direction you dreamed about? If it’s not, make one choice to improve it.
  • Is your personal relationship fulfilling? If it’s not, make one choice to improve it.
  • How do you interact with your family? Is it supportive, warm, and loving? If it’s not, make one choice to improve it.
  • Do you have a positive outlook with your attitude towards life? If not, make one choice to improve it.
  • Are you reaching your business goals in a manner that is rewarding? If not, make one choice to improve it.

Ultimately, you control your life by the choices you make. Growth will only happen when you stretch beyond your comfort zone and make choices.

When selecting my motivational holiday books, sometimes they are as much for myself as the recipient. This was one of those years!

As I head into 2017, I’m excited about the choices I have before me. Many of them deal with my companies. Others deal with my personal health. Both my companies and my personal health could certainly use some improvement.  The choice is mine to change it. To improve it. To improve them.

What choices are you contemplating to make a positive change your life?  Don’t over think it – just do it. The choice is yours.

~Melissa

P.S. Have you made a choice that made a difference in your life?  Go to our Facebook page and share your story.


How to Avoid Clipper Irritation

November 17th, 2016 by Joelle

rr-main-imageClipper irritation is also commonly known as clipper sensitivity and clipper burn – but what is it?

Clipper irritation is an irritation to the top layer of skin. While it’s not necessarily a severe injury that can occur during pet grooming, it will be itchy and uncomfortable to the pet. This discomfort causes the dog to scratch and/or lick the area. The skin gets moist.  If left unchecked or untreated, the scratching and licking can cause an open wound very quickly.

Unfortunately, clipper irritation is not always detectable right after it happens. This means that unknown to both the groomer and the pet owner, the dog may be going home with skin irritation. The condition goes unnoticed until the pet begins to aggravate the area. In its early stages, the skin might moisten or turn a light pink. Other times, the signs may not be visible, but the dog can certainly feel the discomfort.

Depending on the severity of the irritation, the skin might be light pink, or in severe cases, bright red or even bloody. The skin tingles uncomfortably. The natural reaction is that a dog will lick and scratch at the site. The sharp edges of recently clipped toenails can make matters worse – and if the pet starts scratching at his face, you can have a real problem on your hands. A mild case of clipper irritation can instantly turn into a severe one with a couple bats of the back foot with freshly trimmed toenails.

Clipper irritation is one of the more common injuries in grooming salons. It doesn’t just happen to inexperienced or new groomers. I’ve seen it in the competition ring and Grooming Certifiers have reported it at certification test sites.

From a business standpoint, what happens when a pet has been affected by clipper irritation? Simple. Owners will not return to your place of business if it becomes a common problem.

I was just reviewing a Learn2GroomDogs.com video. Well into the video, the Training Partner changed clippers and started clipping a Poodle’s face. She did not tell the audience what blade she was using but I could tell it was closer than the one she had used previously. I was guessing it was #10 or #15 blade length. Weeks after filming was completed, I shot off an email asking the Training Partner what blade length she had chosen to use. I wanted to have our video editor type it on the screen for our members because I knew it was going to be a question. I wanted to make sure I had the correct length.

I was shocked when she replied it was about a #30 blade length.

In my experience, the shorter the blade length, the greater the risk for injury. For most pet dogs, a #10 or #15 blade is considered a safe length to start with if it is used correctly. Some stylists can go shorter and not have any issues. On pets that are extremely sensitive, even longer blades such as a #9 or a #7F are safer alternatives.

How do you decide what blade to use? It all depends upon two things:

  • the dog’s skin
  • how the groomer runs their clippers

For over 15 years, I’ve watched this very talented Training Partner groom dogs. I have NEVER seen any clipper related issues with her work. She almost always uses a #30 blade on all her close work. So how can she get away with using a clipper on a #30 blade setting safely while others could not?

It forced me to think a little deeper – deeper than I go into in my book, Notes From the Grooming Table. In the book, I talk primarily about five key elements.

  1. holding the clipper
  2. keeping your hand supple
  3. the amount of pressure applied
  4. cleanliness of the coat
  5. clipper tip

Those five areas cover the basics of running a clipper effectively. However, there’s a little bit more to know if you want to consistently avoid any type of skin irritation, sensitivity, or clipper burn. To do that, we need to focus on how much pressure is being applied, the sensitivity of the pet’s skin, and the heat of the blade.

Applied Pressure

grc-detaching-bladeProper pressure is the most critical component of clipping for both quality and safety. Press too lightly, and you won’t get the area clipped smoothly. Press too hard, and you’re sure to cause skin irritation. So, what is the proper balance between the two?

That depends.

On slightly longer blades, a tiny bit more pressure can be applied without incident than on super close blades. It will take you a few more passes to get a smooth, even cut. But for the inexperienced or new groomer that is still learning, a #10 blade is a good moderate blade to begin with.

As clipper technique improves, some stylists move to a shorter blade. Why? It offers a slightly cleaner look and takes a little less time. With super close cutting blades, such as #30 or #40, you can go even faster.

Be warned – if you opt to go with a very short blade, you need to be extremely careful. Your clipper technique must be absolutely spot on. Many experienced stylists with fabulous clipper technique can use #30 or even #40 blade lengths to quickly and easily get the quality of trimming they are looking for without sacrificing the well-being of the pet.

Choosing a blade length for close clipper work is not something to take lightly. You need to identify how proficient you are with your clipper technique. You can then choose the best option that does not jeopardize the safety of the pet. The last thing any of us want is to cause discomfort or injury to a pet.

Skin Sensitivity

Just like people, every dog is a little bit different. A person with a very fair complexion will typically have more sensitive skin. Folks with a deeper skin tone have less delicate skin. Puppies and younger dogs have more delicate skin than adult dogs. Smaller dogs are more sensitive than larger dogs. Fine coated pets are prone to more issues with clipping than heavier coated pets.

If a dog has dark pigment around its eyes and nose area, chances are the skin is a little bit tougher than those with light pigment. It’s very common on dogs with light pigment around their eyes and pink or light brown noses to have hypersensitive skin. Sometimes coat color and density levels will come into play, as well. Thicker coated pets are typically much less sensitive than those with baby fine fur. Also, small, light-colored dogs (white, buff, apricot, red – even some chocolate) can be more prone to sensitivity.

The skin can be conditioned. This is a common practice with dogs who are destined for the show ring. This is a critical step, especially with dogs that have close clipper work done on a routine basis. Prospective show dogs are started out with close clipper work at a very young age. It is repeated on a regular basis each month during the early stages of the grooming process. Not only does a condition the skin, it also teaches the puppy to enjoy the entire grooming process.

With pet dogs that have not gone through this conditioning process, we need to be more careful. With all dogs, the shorter the blade length, the more cautious you need to be. With supersensitive skin types, you need to be even more diligent about gentle and proper clipper technique.

i-do-not-want-to-breast-feed-bottle-feeding-your-baby_4Heat of the Blade

With most metal clipper blades, the longer and faster they run, the warmer they get. Each clipper will be a little different. To be safe, you need to regularly check how warm the blade is getting once they have started running.

To check the heat of a blade, simply touch it to your forearm as though you were testing the formula in a baby’s bottle. You can also touch it to your cheek. Either way, if it is heating up too quickly or is uncomfortable to the touch, ice the blade down with a blade coolant or switch out to a fresh, cool blade.

What to Do If You Suspect Clipper Irritation

Whenever a dog is suspected to be prone to clipper irritation, clipper sensitivity, or clipper burn, I encourage stylists to be proactive in heading it off. Remember, in many cases, you will NOT know if a pet has been affected by it until AFTER they leave the salon. There are many different things you can do but these are the top four in my book.

  1. Choose a blade length that matches the skin sensitivity level of the pet. Longer blades are best for dogs with a greater chance of sensitivity. Minimize how many times your clippers go over one area on the dog.
  2. Always utilize gentle, soft, and supple clipping techniques in sensitive areas such as the head, between the pads, the groin, or under the tail. Test your technique by running the clipper down your forearm, simulating the same tip and pressure you would apply on the dog when running the clipper. Is your technique comfortable to you?
  3. Apply a non-greasy skin soothing ointment or spray after clipping potentially sensitive areas. There are many available designed for pets. Personally, I recommend Skin Works by Coat Handler.
  4. If you even remotely suspect clipper irritation might be a problem, talk to your client BEFORE they leave the salon. Communicate with them about what to look for, and what they can do about it if it becomes a problem at home.
  5. Send the client home with some of your favorite product. Treatments can be packaged in small self-sealing plastic bags or soak a few cotton balls in a liquid relief product. Once they are premoistened, tuck them into a self-sealing plastic bag. Instruct the client on how to utilize the product if they notice the dog starting to rub or itch the affected area.
If you even remotely suspect clipper irritation might be a problem, talk to your client BEFORE they leave the salon. Communicate with them about what to look for, and what they can do about it if it becomes a problem at home.

When I was working with a new client, my initial blade of choice was always a #10 blade for close clipper work. I feel it is a moderate length blade that is relatively safe. In my new client consultations, I discuss this if we are dealing with any breed requiring close clipping, especially in the head area. Depending on how their pet reacted to this moderate length blade, we could make adjustments in future appointments if they had any issues or concerns.

How do you decide which blade you should use? Always err on the side of caution. I would rather sacrifice a little bit of quality by going with the slightly longer blade then dealing with clipper irritation.

Remember, you can always go shorter down the road as your techniques improve and you learn how to work with different skin types. Your primary concern should always be the safety and health of your pet clients.

Happy trimming,

~Melissa

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