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Ten-Year Anniversary of Notes From the Grooming Table – Time for an Update!

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Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday Lisa and I were buried within the creation of Notes From The Grooming Table. Notes was designed to be a reference guide for the professional pet groomer.  With every breed, I identified the “correct” grooming method for the AKC confirmation show ring. However, in the book, I gave basic pet grooming directions and how to maintain the integrity of the breed using pet grooming techniques with clipper’s and scissors.

In total, Notes From the Grooming Table took over three years to write. At the time there were 150 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club. Those were the dogs that we included with Notes. When we first started working on Notes, we had no idea the global appeal this book would have on our industry. We sell almost as many books abroad as we do here in the United States.

Since Notes was first published in 2004, the AKC has accepted almost 50 new breeds in just 10 years. A number of those breeds come in multiple sizes and a variety of coat textures. 10 years ago, the Miscellaneous Group was so small, we didn’t even opt to include in the book. Today there 15 breeds in the miscellaneous category of the AKC! We have opted to add them to the updated version of Notes From the Grooming Table.

Ten years ago, the Internet wasn’t even close to what it is today. The amount of research Lisa (my illustrator for Notes) and I had to do with individual breeds was mind-boggling.  Finding reference material about each dog required book after book — magazine after magazine — and many dog shows. Today, research is much easier via the Internet. But as you know, not everything on the Internet is totally accurate. It still requires an awful lot of reviewing, sorting and double checking before I feel the information is accurate.

 I don’t want to think about how many drawings and sketches Lisa created to make Notes come alive. When she felt she was close on the drawing, she would bring it to me for review. I know she hated this, but it worked. I’d pick up my scissors, tape, a red pen and my trusty AKC book.  I’d read the standard, measure the dog out and then start cutting the dog into what look like puzzle pieces. Lisa watch from the sidelines horrified. I cut it apart, re-measure it, change body shapes and tape it back together. I’d hand her back her draft drawing and tell her, “Do it this way.” And she always did very willingly – although I’m sure there were times she was cursing me under her breath!

When I first wrote Notes from the Grooming Table, certain tools didn’t exist. They weren’t even an idea yet. Or if they did exist, there have been huge advancements with the piece of equipment. The tools that are high on my radar list are the extensive variety of attach-on guard combs. Wow. Those have come a long way! Battery operated detailed trimmers are another piece of equipment no groomer should be without. Another tool that has gained wide acceptance are the large blending shears. When Notes hit the press, I’d never even seen this item!

Back in 2004, we never anticipated we would have a global market. We never address the different styling techniques and trends depending on what continent you’re grooming salon is located. And not only are the styling trends different, in some countries we are starting to see docked or undocked tails along with cropped or uncropped ears. These variances are sometimes personal preference or laws from the individual countries. Whether the dog has a tail or not is going to dictate how that tail is going to be handled in the grooming salon. Same thing goes for ears on many breeds.

Ten years ago, the art of hand stripping was just starting to take root in the professional pet grooming salons. Today, we see more and more pet stylists applying hand stripping techniques to pet dogs than we’ve ever seen before.

What’s up with all the hairless breeds? We’re going need to put an entire section and how to care for dogs that don’t have any coat to protect their skin. They certainly have different needs than the coated varieties!

How many of you realize what kind of deadline we were under to get Notes published for the first time in 2004? We had done a large PR bit announcing the release at a major tradeshow. Of course, our timing wasn’t going quite as planned with the final printing. There were issues. Lots of issues.

In order to get this book on the press in time to make our debut trade show, we only had 24 hours to proof the entire book. I opted to keep the first run of Notes From the Grooming Table a small run. Good move on my part. It was riddled with typos. If you are one of the early purchasers of Notes, check it out. It’s pretty funny because some of the typos are absolutely blatant. (Like the color of the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier.)

Luckily, many of you were gracious enough to simply point out our typos. For the first few years, we continued to keep our print runs small. Every time we went back to press, we would fix a couple more typos. One of the typos I can’t believe has totally slid under the radar for all ten years has been the spelling of the breed Schipperke. It’s still wrong today. Whoops. Go ahead – grab your book and check it out – I’ll wait. Needless to say, that will be fixed in our revision of Notes From the Grooming Table!

For our tenth year anniversary, we are working on revising Notes From the Grooming Table. Lisa and I are excited to be able work on this project again. For the first time in years, I am literally going through Notes From the Grooming Table page by page. I have a highlighter, a colored pen and lots of sticky notes. It’s hard to believe there so many new breeds to address. We’re enjoying updating the styling trends that have changed slightly on established breeds. It’s fun being able to share with you so many new tools that make grooming dogs so much easier.

This is turning into a major undertaking. However, with this revision of Notes From the Grooming Table, we want to take our time. There will always be opinions on what is right or wrong with all aspects of the style and trends of professional dog grooming. We want to make sure we give you lots of options to create a dog that is well groomed – even if you have never physically groomed that breed before. Armed with Notes From the Grooming Table, you will have the most current and up-to-date pet styling book available anywhere in the world. Look for the revised edition of Notes coming out late in 2014.

Happy Trimming!


Are You Front Page News Worthy?

Blog ImageIf your local newspaper were to drop by, un-announced, to do a feature story about you and your business — would you be proud? What about your local TV station? Would you be delighted of the impression you will make on the community as your photos were splashed across the front page? What about being seen by thousands watching the local news?

If the answer is no, take the steps necessary to create that positive, professional image that will make a lasting impression on all of your clients, every day.

For new clients walking through your door, they’re going to make a lasting impression in their minds about you in less than 30 seconds. In those 30 seconds you have the opportunity to make a positive impression with three of the five human senses; smell, hearing and sight.

In over 30 years of business, trust me – this scenario has played out many times with my multiple business. If there is a slow news day, nothing can fill the space better than pets! Luckily for me, I have lived by this credo for years. We are always ready to be front page news. In all my companies, cleanliness and professional appearance have always been a top priority.

Daily maintenance is critical on an ongoing basis. However, many professional grooming salons experience a slowdown right after the holiday season. Your appointment book is light. The phone is not ringing. You’re wondering what you can do with yourself. I’ve got the answer for you. Push up your sleeves and get ready to apply the elbow grease.

This is the perfect time of year to do all those pesky little tasks you’ve been procrastinating on. It doesn’t matter whether you are a stationary salon or a mobile grooming unit — most of these items apply to both.

  •  deep clean all areas of the salon (we’re talking on your hands and knees using a scrub brush type cleaning!)
  •  apply a fresh coat of paint
  • organize your reception area
  • clean out your computer files
  • clean the lint traps of your dryer(s)
  • organize your supply cabinet
  • sort out your tool kit
  •  revamp your print marketing materials
  • clean and perform maintenance on all of your grooming equipment
  • refresh your website and Facebook pages
  • rearrange your retail area (if you have one)
  •  change the art in your salon if you have room
  •  install clocks in every room
  • oil and service your grooming tables
  •  order new smocks and/or grooming attire
  • pamper yourself with a personal makeover for fresh look

Many of the above tasks would create an immediate positive impression to your clients. Even if the client doesn’t immediately sense the impact of one of the listed items, it doesn’t mean it won’t affect them. It will affect you in a positive way. That positive energy will transfer to your customers.

The next time your local news company calls for an interview, you’re going to have the confidence to greet them at the door even if you only have a few moments noticed before they arrive. When your photo is splashed across the front page or you are splashed across the TV screen, you’re going to be proud of what you see — and your clients and prospective clients will be impressed.

There is no amount of marketing dollars that can buy free publicity. Are you ready to be front page news?

Happy Trimming!


Grooming Speed Trick = Wrap-A-Pet

Blog PicThis is the best speed trick around for a professional grooming salon. Wrap-a dog. Women have been doing it for years.

If you’re gal and have had long hair at any point in your life, you know what I’m talking about.

You shower. You wash your hair. You step out of the shower and towel off. But before you do anything else from that point forward, you flip your head over and wrap your hair tightly in a towel. As you stand up, you flip the twisted towel toward your back. You are now sporting a turban style head wrap. You go about your routine letting the towel absorb the moisture in your long hair. Depending on the thickness of your hair, you might leave the turban in place anywhere from 5-20 minutes. By the time you’re ready to dry and style your hair, the towel has done its job. It has removed a large portion of the moisture from your hair. You‘ve greatly reduce the amount of time it will take to dry your hair simply by letting the towel do the work.

A pet grooming salon is no different. Using this trick can shave off loads of time over the course of an entire day. Even if you’re just doing six dogs, and you could save 5 to 10 minutes per pet in the drying process — you are saving anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes of time. Time is money, so it really starts to add up fast with each pet! Times that by multiple stylists and the savings really start to pile on.

There are other problems that come with not using a towel efficiently prior to starting the drying process with any type of dryer.

  •   The bathing area of any professional pet grooming salon is always humid. If you opt to high velocity the dog prior to utilizing a towel to remove the moisture, you’re putting all that extra moisture into an already humid environment. The more humid the environment, the harder it is to ultimately get the dog dry.
  •  In a highly humid area, it will be almost impossible get a beautiful fluff dry finish on any dog.
  •  Moisture will be going all over the walls and floor. Not only does this create a mess, it also creates slick floors which are dangerous.
  •  If you are in an environment where there is another bather working alongside you, you were getting their pet wet from the spray coming from the dog you are working on. (tisk-tisk!)
  • It takes longer to dry a dripping pet straight from the tub – the longer the pet is on the table, the harder the grooming process could be for many pets – especially older ones carrying a lot of coat.

This method of drying works well for any pet stylist or groomer. I started applying this method when I was mobile – doing one dog at a time. Even then it saved me time. I would finish the bath, towel dry the dog well and then wrap it tightly in a towel and let it sit for a few minutes. I would write out my receipt. Clean up my van. Make bows. Answer messages. Even having the pet sit for just 5 minutes was a huge time saver. I would save at least 5 minutes in the drying process and save myself 5 minutes doing all those other things. Total time saving per pet: 10 minutes.

When I moved to a high volume salon, the same trick saved us boat loads of time. We would have 30-40 pet per session. (We offered half day grooming for most of our clients. Thus we had two shifts of pets; morning and afternoon.) In a high volume salon, we affectionately called the term of wrapping dogs as “wrap n stack ‘em.” We would bath all the pets, and then start putting them in our bank of kennels in the drying room. It became a very fun game.

At the foundation of every high quality groom, is the bathing and drying process. To ensure the maximum quality of groom on the finished pet, it is critical the dog is ‘squeaky clean’ and 100% dried using the optimum drying method for the coat type prior to it going on to the finished grooming process.

Here are the basic guidelines for the game. Every game (day) will be a bit different based on the type of pets you have coming in. My personal goal when I move to the high velocity drying process is to have now moisture coming off the dog. Not always possible but that’s my goal.
Basic Rules for “Wrap n Stack ‘Em”

  • 6 week or less; pets go directly to the tub. No pre-clipping or brushing needed.
  • The largest and thickest coats hit the tub first – smallest and lightest coats last. Tub priority will be totally based on the size and coat density of the pets being bathed during that session.
  • Towel-dry the pet by hand first. Then wrap in a fresh, dry towel. Secure the towel with clips. (office style large bull dogs clips work great)
  • Small dogs can normally be wrapped in a single towel. Larger dogs need to be wrapped in two towels plus have one to sit on.
  • Place the pet in a secure area where they cannot move around too much as they are wrapped tightly in a towel. (kennel or wall tether)
  • Bath all the dogs first while the others sit wrapped in towels.
  • Once all pets are bathed, and then move to the drying process. Reverse your bathing order. Start with the smallest and lightest coated dog. Unwrap the pet and start the high velocity drying process.
  • If the pet has sat for too long, they will be 100% dry before you get to them. You will need to re-wet the dog and start the wrapping process over. (typically this can happen on small, light coated pets)
  • If the dog needs hand fluff drying with a heat dryer – do not move to that process until the pet is about 90% dry with the high velocity dryer.
  • Dry each dog fully once you start the drying process so it’s ready to move on to the finished grooming procedure.
  • Once the dog is dry, place dog in a non-humid environment to ensure the coat does not curl up or get moist from the humid air.

Here are the steps to wrapping a small dog:

#1. Use a large dry towel. Drape center of the towel over the dog’s back.

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#2. Draw one end of the towel hide the belly of the pet, the other end draw it across the chest.

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#3. Pull the towel snuggly around the pet’s belly and chest.

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#4. Secure both ends of the two close to the withers of the pet with some type of clip.

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#5. Let the dog sit for a short amount of time to let the towel absorb the bulk of the moisture from the coat.

Note: On larger dogs, use the same concept on the front part of the dog. Use a second large towel for the rear. Wrap it much the same. However, when wrapping the rear, do it close to the spot you are going to secure them while waiting for the high velocity drying process. Wrap the rear and then encourage them to sit. Once the dog sits, they will naturally pull the towel snuggly around their rear end.

There is nothing more gratifying than seeing the bathing and drying process whirr along at a smooth, consistent and highly efficient pace. It doesn’t matter if you are a solo stylist or part of a larger team in a salon setting. It’s all about working smarter – not harder.

High quality bathing and drying is at the heart of every successful grooming business. Every grooming shop is slightly different, work out a system that you can employ the wrap-a-dog drying method and I guarantee you save yourself time while enhancing your bottom line.

Happy Trimming!


Melissa’s Top 4 Tips for Getting Through Your Holidays with Ease

flowerIf you live in the United States, you have just gone through the first phase of the grooming marathon for the holiday season: Thanksgiving.

How did it go? Smooth as silk? Or would you like to make improvements as you move into Phase 2 – Christmas and Hanukkah?

Most of us are involved with the pet industry are here because the passion. We simply love working with the pets. However, even the most passionate groomer can feel the pressures of the holidays.

If you are one of those professionals who felt the pressures of the Thanksgiving crunch, take heart. It’s time to review what you did right and focus on the areas that could use some improvement. For many of us, that’s time management in the grooming salon.

Here are My Top 4 Tips for Getting Through Your Day with Ease

  • Mental Control

Stay focused. Pay close attention to what you are doing at all times. You’re working with live animals and sharp instruments. Chatter between your coworkers and pets breaks your focus. You lose time and you make mistakes when you don’t stay focused on the pet.

Always practice the three C’s; stay calm, stay cool, and stay collected. When you’re working with a pet, you want to be friendly but aloof. You want to correct any undesirable action before it becomes a major problem. Frustration and anger have no place in a professional salon setting. If you feel yourself getting frustrated, take a break. Breathe. Step back to the grooming table when you have regained your composure.

Work methodically with all pets. Don’t get flustered. Set an even and steady pace when it comes to handling, bathing, drying, brushing, clipping, and scissoring. Set time goals for every step of the grooming process and strive to achieve them.

  • Invest in Yourself and Your Equipment

What is the condition of your equipment? Are you working with top-quality equipment?

It’s amazing how much time you can save when your equipment is in top condition. Or when you splurge on that new pair of blenders that cut like butter. Or you have a high velocity dryer that has plenty of punch. Oh, and when all of your shears and blades have sharp edges on them, right? There’s nothing more frustrating than working with dull and ineffective equipment when crunch time is on. And right now you’re in crunch time.

  • Organization in the Salon

Do you have a smooth process for client check-in and checkout? If you’re computerized, is it easy to pull up client records in a flash? If you’re still working with a card file, are all the records pulled for the pets that are scheduled for that day?

Most stylists in a salon setting find working a minimum of three or four-hour blocks of time can be highly advantageous to time management. The more you stop to check in or check out clients, the more you lose your focus on the pet that is on the table. By working in blocks of time, you can check multiple pets in and out in tight time windows.

Do you have a method to track all the collars and leads that accompany the pets? This is no time to be looking for that lost collar or lead! Do you have a bright assortment of pre-made bows? Do you have festive bandannas cut and ready to go on the dog?

  • Mental & Nutritional Stamina

When the rush is on, you need to be at your peak — mentally, physically, and nutritionally.

You’re not going to be at your peak if you’re not getting enough sleep. I know, I know – with all the demands between work, family, and holiday festivities, slumber can be hard to come by. Normally, a professional groomer is so physically exhausted that when your head does hit the pillow — sleep comes easily. Just make sure you’re getting enough hours each night so you can perform at high levels the next day.

With the holidays upon us, most salons find themselves overrun with holiday treats from their clients. Be careful with this one. Personally, I learned the hard way you are not going to feel your best if you consume those goodies all day long!

I learned in my early 20’s to pack healthy food options to keep me nourished all day long. I was mobile, so in between every client my reward was to eat. If I had healthy options at my fingertips, it was easy to keep my energy level in high gear. In a salon setting, this might be a little bit more challenging. Still, eating healthy on a regular basis is the best way to keep you both mentally and physically fit.

Pack a nutritional lunch plus snacks. Or do a potluck with your staff. We’ve done this for years at the Paragon School of Pet Grooming with great success. The rule is: healthy, quick food options, only. No sweets. No desserts. Our clients do a great job with that. The potluck is set up so everybody can grab a bite in between dogs quickly and easily.

If you’re not a cook – have a stack of local takeout menus available. If they deliver – BONUS!

The holidays are a great time to really test your skills. You’ll find out quickly just how successful you are. If you have a full book and are struggling to fit just one more pet into each day, you know you have arrived. Be thankful for creating a service that your customers desire. If you take care of them well — they’ll take care of you. That’s what successful customer service is all about!

Happy trimming and happy Thanksgiving!


If you need a brush up on any time management lessons, here are a few titles from that could help you.


Video Title
Building a Grooming Code – the Card Game (Melissa Verplank)

Preparing for the Holiday Rush (Melissa Verplank)

Speed & Efficiency — Monster Sized Dog in 76 Minutes (Lisa Leady)

Speed & Efficiency — Daisy Dog in Less Than 45 Minutes (Suesan Watson)

Speed & Efficiency – Shih Tzu in 45 Minutes (Suesan Watson)

Anything from the ‘queen’ of Gettin’ er Done (Judy Hudson)

Melissa’s Best Time Saving Tips (Melissa Verplank)

Tails from Holidays Past (Suesan Watson, Lisa Leady, Marc Lafleur, Melissa Verplank)

What I Know for Sure – this one will just make you feel good! – (Judy Hudson)


Corrective Grooming

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Photo: Award winning pet stylist and Training Partner, Irina “Pina” Pinkusevich, is a true master of corrective grooming tactics as she turns a Poodle into a Bedlington Terrier.

Corrective grooming is an art. It’s the art of accentuating the positive aspects of the pet while minimizing their faults. In order to be effective at corrective grooming, it’s important to understand canine anatomy, structure and movement plus correct breed profiles. Having an eye for balance, style and proportion is also critical.

Not all dogs or trims are candidates for corrective grooming. You must have an owner who is willing to leave some coat on a dog in order to hide its defects or accentuate the positive aspects of the pet. If a client opts for a short, low maintenance trim — you’ll not be able to apply corrective grooming tactics. However, if the client is willing to let you leave the pet in a slightly longer trim, there is much that you can do to accentuate the physique of a dog.

Corrective grooming is all about the illusion of creating a dog of perfect proportion and body structure to fit the correct breed profile of that dog. Once the stylist understands how to read and interpret a breed standard, they have a blueprint of what the pet should look like – if it was perfect. Many breed standards will actually outline the correct size, length, and proportions of the pet’s individual body parts in relationship to each other.

Once you can interpret the breed standard it’s just a matter of connecting the dots. Stealthy trimming can accentuate the key points of the pet while detracting from their faults. A talented professional pet stylist is actually an artist – a sculptor of fur.

Understanding how to do this will change the classification between a “groomer” and a “stylist”. A groomer only cleans the pet. They remove the coat with no focus on styling the fur. A pet stylist, on the other hand, is well versed in breed profile trimming. They have outstanding technical skills clipping and scissoring. They have a solid understanding correct structure and movement. When trimming the pet, they adjust the amount of fur left on the dog to highlight their best features while minimizing their weak points.

Many professionals are happy with just being a competent groomer. However, what really creates a salon that is in high demand? Have at least one talented pet stylist in your grooming department. An experienced, and correctly trained, pet stylist can easily go on to upper levels of the grooming world. Many are Certified Master Stylists under the voluntary certification testing organizations in the United States. Others go on to be successful in the AKC confirmation ring or the pet grooming contest arena. Some high achievers can be found in all areas; certified stylists, exhibit dogs on the conformation world plus show off their styling skills in the competitive grooming ring.

Here is a list of the typical areas we can influence with every day pets. Armed with a solid understanding of the canine species, a talented pet stylist can hide common defects while emphasizing the best features of the animal. The more you know about proper canine anatomy, structure and movement and breed profiles, the easier it will be to apply corrective grooming applications. It is also critical you have excellent technical techniques along with an eye for balance, style, and proportion.

• square or rectangular body shape
• topline
• undercarriage
• tail set
• neck length
• head

Bone & Body Structure
• front and rear legs
• front and rear assembly
• feet
• skull shape
• jaw length
• ears set
• tail set
• eyes
• neck

• texture
• color
• density

Happy Grooming!


Lighting the Fire of Passion?

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I don’t know about you – but I was a crummy student in school. How I ever got through high school, I’ll never know. Anything but basic math was a total mystery to me. Comprehending a foreign language? Forget it. And science? Ha. I spent my time doodling images of horses.

But get me outside the classroom and I excelled. I could never get enough of anything that had four legs and fur. Ship me to the barn for days on end and I was a very happy girl. Send me to a horse show and things were even better – I enjoyed improving my skills. I loved the arts and photography. I loved the outdoors. I loved creating things in the kitchen. Business intrigued me. Hard work never bothered me.

I had passion, it just wasn’t for academics. Typical classroom learning bored me- I just couldn’t understand why I needed to learn things I would never use in my life. However, one of my high school counselors always believed in me. It didn’t matter what my GPA was. She knew I had passion. She said “If you can do something you love, you are going to be really good at it.”

Luckily I found my calling even before graduation from high school. However, I didn’t know it at the time. I had landed a job at a kennel. I scooped a lot of poop and was thrilled. A few years into the job, the groomer was released. I had a new job at the kennel. I was the groomer – and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

My new job fulfilled my passion on many fronts. And the more I did it, the better I got. The more I learned – the more I wanted to know. My passion had been ignited. Success was at my fingertips.

Over the years, I’ve learned you don’t have to be the best student to excel or to succeed. Anyone can excel if you have passion.

Everyone has unique natural talents. But at times, you must step up to the mirror and ask yourself a very important question. Are you doing everything you can do to become everything you can be? If you become passionate about reaching your full potential, you can’t help but stay motivated.

Key to any success is passion. Maybe it’s with your career. Maybe it’s with your family. Or your health. Or a charity. Nothing can be successful without passion.

What I have learned over the years, success is more about passion than talent or having a great GPA; it’s more about reaching YOUR potential than being gifted.

So where is your true passion? More importantly, have you lit the match to set it on fire yet?

Happy Trimming!


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