The Atlanta Pet Fair was the kickoff for trade shows east of the Mississippi. To my husband Marc and myself, the Atlanta Pet Fair signals a month-long road trip in our motor coach.
I love this trip. As we drive from the frigid north country, we see spring explode as we drive south. Instead of seeing a season slowly wake up, we see it in full bloom in a matter of hours. I get so excited as I see the first daffodils, the first red buds blooming, and the leaves just giving a hint of green. By the time we hit Atlanta, spring is upon us. It’ll only be a matter of time before our kayaks will be in the water and our bikes hit the trails.
After the Atlanta Pet Fair, we schedule film shoots for Learn2GroomDogs.com. We enjoy filming Training Partners in their salons and many of live in the southern section of the United States. We’ve gotten very good at combining work and relaxing downtime for ourselves.
Normally our schedule is very rigid, but this year we cut ourselves some slack. Between the Atlanta Pet Fair and our first film shoot, we had a little bit of unscheduled time.
As we were just starting our trip, Delise of Bardel Bows contacted me. She and her husband Paul invited us to spend some time with them at their home, Pineola Farms. A few industry friends had shared with me how unique their home was. This southern plantation was established in 1865. In 1997 they bought the farm. Delise and Paul fell in love with the property’s rich history. They have taken it upon themselves to be the caretakers of this property while keeping the original family history firmly in place.
We have been acquaintances with Paul and Delise Knight for years but never really gotten to know them. At trade shows I’ve always been impressed with the volume of beautiful bows they had at their booth. They always seemed to be busy.
We left directly from the convention center after the Atlanta Pet Fair. The farm was less than two hours down the road.
I knew their barn had been used for special events and weddings for the previous 10 years. However, Bardel Bows had grown so quickly in the past few years they opted to stop doing events. Recently, they moved the bow company into the barn.
The barn was huge. It had a warm, friendly, and rustic elegance to it. The views from the lower level were amazing over the pecan orchard. Every bit of the space was functional. When I toured the work areas, I just smiled. It was more than just the gorgeous bows making me smile. It was their passion and attention to detail.
Success comes from sweating the details. Paul and Delise make a great team when it comes to details. Their personalities complement each other perfectly.
We were amazed at the level of professionalism and organization we saw at their headquarters. The VOLUME of bows and accessories – it blew my mind!! Every week Paul makes the rounds to their home based bow makers. He drops off supplies and picks up thousands of finished items.
Delise gave me a tour of the upper level of the barn. I was so honored. Not everyone gets to see this area. It’s very private and the creative nerve center of Bardel Bows. I could have stayed there for DAYS letting my own creative juices flow!
Delise and Paul have carved out a special niche in the grooming industry with their beautiful bows and accessories. However, their commitment to serve others goes way deeper than just running a successful bow business.
Mary Kay Ash said, “Give of yourself. Be of service to others. Only what you give can be multiplied back into your own life.”
We learned quickly that Paul and Delise live by this Mary Kay Ash quote. I think it’s a part of the warm southern culture. We saw and heard how they implement this thought every day in their lives, home, business, community, and how they interact with their employees and their customers.
Here is just one tiny example. They gave out over 600 cupcakes at the Atlanta Pet Fair to venders and clients simply to introduce a new line of bows. The new line was introduced in the early spring of 2018 and called the Cupcake Collection.
If you haven’t tried Bardel Bows to accessorize your grooms, I encourage you to give them a try. Their bows and accessories are fabulous. You can even find our older Maremma Sheepdog, Pearl modeling a large Fancy Spring Frill collar and a princess crown. Plus, I guarantee you’ll have a wonderful experience with their entire team!
What are your favorite grooming products? Let’s talk about it on our Facebook page with your Melissa Verplank family.
There are times in most professional groomers’ careers when customers mistakenly blame others for their pet issues. There are a wide range of possible scenarios that happen before or during the grooming process, including:
How do you proactively handle these situations and prevent having upset customers?
The best start to effective communication is to get your hands on the pet before it goes into the grooming process – preferably with the owner standing right there. You’re going to be looking for anything unusual that could possibly pose a problem after the grooming is finished.
Let all your senses come into play.
Give the dog a visual once over. Identify any potential problems. Confirm what you may see by sinking your hands into the coat all the way down to the skin. Is there anything unusual? Lumps? Bumps? Mats? Filthy coat? Grit next to the skin?
To be proactive, it’s important to identify potential issues before the grooming process even begins. With severely matted pets this is critical. Talk to the owner. Point out the issue and offer a solution if you can. Discuss the potential risks and the benefits you feel are in the best interest of the pet.
Identifying potential issues in the skin and coat prior to starting the grooming process is a great way to start educating customers. Many clients have no idea how to best deal with their pet’s coat, the health risks associated with the lack of regular grooming, temperament issues, or the aging process. Most want to do what is best for their pet if information is presented in a sincere and respectful manner.
Owners rarely understand how we do our job or how our clippers work. Telling a client is one thing. Having a fake fur chart of how long each blade or guard comb leaves the pet can be extremely beneficial. It’s a physical tool to help educate pet parents. It clarifies blade lengths and defines the term “short” in a way clients can comprehend.
Some salons display solid pelts taken off severely matted pets. These matted chunks of coat – or pelts – serve as a great education tool. It’s not just for severely matted pets. They offer an excellent communication tool to talk about coat length, brushing techniques, and things hidden in the coat like bubblegum or fishhooks.
Unfortunately, we all have a few clients who are just impossible to educate. Careful, I can see your eyes rolling…
Let’s face it. During check-in we can’t always spot every potential problem in the dog’s skin or coat. If it is going to change the price or the look of the haircut, stop and call the owner to discuss it. If it’s extremely matted and is going to cost more to do the groom – you want to get verification to either proceed with the dematting process or opt for a much shorter haircut.
Personally, I prefer to emphasize the risks and slightly over estimate the cost when I’m first talking to the owner. Thus, whatever I might find – or charge – is a welcome relief to the pet parent upon pick-up. If you do accidentally injure the dog or must charge extra, it does not come as a shock to the owner. In most cases, injury can be avoided, and the groom is less expensive than anticipated.
Whatever the case, it’s better to have too much communication then not enough.
Whatever you have found in the dog’s skin or coat, be truthful with the client.
If it’s something minor, take the time to point it out and clearly show it to the owner. Tell them what you have done to help minimize the issue. Make suggestions on what they should do at home. Maybe it’s just keeping an eye on the spot or using some pet soothing appointment. If the issue has the potential to be a long-term problem, tell them how you plan to deal with it in upcoming grooming appointments, so you don’t aggravate the problem in the future.
We literally go over pets from the tips of their noses to the tips of their tails. It’s amazing what we discover as professionals. We are not vets and should never diagnose our discoveries, but we are trained observers. Whenever you find something out of the ordinary, tell the owner.
If I were to find anything I would consider a medical issue, it would be best to tell the owner what I would do if it was MY dog. Sometimes it would just be keeping an eye on something until the next vet visit. On other occasions where I feel it is critical the pet receives medical attention, I would tell the owner (if it was my dog), I would go straight to the veterinarian. I’ve even had a few situations where I called the vet for the owner and they went directly from the grooming appointment to the veterinarian.
We are all working in the best interest of the pet. Honesty can go a long way, coupled with sincerity and compassion for both the pet and the owner.
If you overlooked something at check-in, but discover it after the owner has left, document it. Having proof about the condition when the owner returns helps prove it was a pre-existing issue. It helps establish your case that you did not cause the problem prior to the grooming.
There are many ways to document or provide proof of the pre-existing problem.
Almost everyone has a cell phone with a digital camera. Use it! A photo or a quick video does wonders to prove a point. It’s important to get that initial shot when you first discover a problem. It might be a scab or flea dirt and fleas crawling through the coat. It might be a toenail that has curled into the foot pad.
Here are a few of the items I have collected over the years. Most of the smaller items have been put into plastic baggies.
I’m sure you have an extensive list, as well.
If you don’t want to get blamed for something, be proactive. Honestly discuss what you have found with the pet owner. You are the professional observer and trained professional. As a professional groomer, our job is not only to make the dogs look and feel better, it’s also to educate their caretakers.
Always remember, put humanity before vanity and do what is in the best interest of the pet.
Have you ever been blamed for an injury you didn’t cause? How did you handle it? Let’s talk about it on our Facebook page with your Melissa Verplank family.
Excellent grooming starts always starts with a firm understating of canine anatomy. It is the FOUNDATION of all grooming.
The bones are there, too. Whether the dog is anatomically correct when compared to the breed standard is something else altogether. Understanding what a physically sound dog is will help you immensely. When you know the difference between good and bad structure, you’ll be able to hide many faults.
When we combine all the layers of the dog – the bones, muscles, the skin, and the fur – we will be able to mold and shape the coat to highlight the dog’s best features and downplay the others. If the bone structure is a little less than perfect, you can use the hair to camouflage those defects.
Before you begin grooming any dog, get your hands on them! Close your eyes. Feel the structure under the coat. Sink your fingers deep in the fur. Pay close attention to the muscle groups highlighted in color in these diagrams.
Before you start grooming any dog, you need to familiarize yourself with the breed and understand its essence.
The English Setter is a Sporting dog of great style. It should be physically fit and structurally sound to work long hours flushing game in the field. The general outline of the English Setter will be rectangular. The shoulder lay back and the angles of both the front and rear assemblies should allow for adequate reach and drive.
The coat is silky, flat, and should lay close to the body. English Setters have longer feathering on the ears, chest, abdomen, underside of thighs, back of all legs, and on the tail. The longer coat should not be so long as to hide the true lines of the dogs, movement, or the function of field hunting.
When it comes to grooming, let’s work around the dog using its anatomy as a reference.
When done “correctly,” Setters are hand stripped for a very natural look. However, in pet grooming circles, it is common to see the pattern clipper-cut or styled using a combination of clipping and stripping to save time. Regardless of the method you chose, the anatomy reference points – or landmarks – will remain the same.
Feel for the muscles at the sides of the neck to set the throat pattern line. A visual clue to this area is at the “frill” or cowlick line running down the sides of the neck. The throat area is directly below the jaw, inside the muscles running down the outside of the neck. The shape is generally a soft “U” shape. The lowest part of the “U” stops a few fingers above the prosternum bone.
Set well back and low, even with or below the level of the eye. All these areas are natural landmarks used as reference points on any breed. When you combine anatomy with the official breed standard for any purebred dog, you have knowledge. You can use this understanding to accentuate the proper structure of the English Setter.
Always remember, all transition lines should be invisible. Ideally, the English Setter should look totally natural when finished – as if the coat simply grew that way.
Combining the use of these anatomical landmarks and skillful technical skills, a talented pet stylist can easily create a symmetrical, stylish, and well-balanced trim on any dog – purebred or mixed breed.
What breeds are a struggle for you? Let’s talk about it on our Facebook page with your Melissa Verplank family.
“Give my dog a puppy cut.”
Ask 10 customers or groomers to describe this style and I bet you get 10 different answers. One one hand, it’s a great conversation starter! On the other, it’s a quick way to discover how easy it is to misunderstand one another.
The puppy cut is popular because it works well on a wide variety of pets. Almost any breed that grows longer coat can be done in this easy-to-care for style. Yet, the puppy cut is also the most misunderstood haircut in grooming salons around the country. Why? There are no clear directions of what this trim actually is or how it should be done. It’s left up to individual personal interpretation by owners, groomers, or talented pet stylists.
The puppy cut started as a trim style for young Poodles in the dog show world. Once the puppy is a year old, it is put into the elaborate adult haircut for the conformation ring. Today, the term “puppy cut” is used very loosely. It can apply to a wide variety of different breeds. It’s highly adaptable to any size of dog or coat type.
Many owners love this style of trim – and with good reason. It’s cute, easy to care for, and easy for customers to remember by name. In this trim, the dog does not drag in dirt and debris from outdoors. Their ears don’t drag in the food or water dish. The need for brushing between grooming appointments is minimized. On smaller pets, bathing between grooming appointments is a breeze. What’s not to love?
So what is it?
Essentially, the puppy cut is one length all over. The most common length is between 1-2 inches over the body, legs, tail, head, and ears. Typically, it’s done with a clipper fitted with a long guard comb over the blade. There should not be any clipper marks, uneven coat, or sharp edges left in the fur. Next to a powerful clipper, high quality blenders are your best friends when doing this trim. Everything is soft and plush, like a fluffy puppy.
This is where things get tricky. In some circles the puppy cut can also be known as a teddy bear trim, summer cut, or kennel cut. I’ve even seen some salons turn their version of the trim into their “signature haircut.” Generally, the only things that change between theses trims are the names and the length of coat.
It doesn’t stop there! Others associate the puppy cut with smooth-coated breeds like the Boxer, Pug, or Beagle. Basically, the idea is of a youthful, “puppyish” look. Hence the name.
With all these interpretations, it’s easy to envision things differently. While that’s not a bad thing, not being clear on what the final look will be can definitely affect the result and your relationship with the customer. If an owner is requesting this trim for the first time, be prepared to discuss the trim in detail. DO NOT ASSUME YOU ARE BOTH ON THE SAME PAGE! Communication is the key to a happy customer.
Getting a clear understanding starts with a conversation. Spend a few minutes with the client and the pet before the customer leaves your salon.
Look – Use those precious moments as your clients walks in to observe the pet. What do you see? These first impressions can be used to guide your conversation.
Lead – This is the time to ask for clarity. Ask leading questions about each area of the pet (body, head, ears, legs/feet, and tail):
Listen – Listen for details and clues. The customer may not know grooming terminology – that’s one reason they rely on you. Interpret their observations and preferences so you can create a clear mental picture of style options.
Now that you’re clear about what the customer wants, it’s time to put your talent and experience to work. A skilled pet professional will know how to make minor changes to the trim that will enhance the pet’s appeal. If the coat is too tangled to do the longer trim, you’ll be able to suggest alternatives that work best for his current condition. You can then discuss ways the customer can work on the coat at home to make it possible to have a longer, fluffier look as the pet grows out.
Educating clients on proper pet hygiene is a valuable service most salons offer for free to their clients. In order to keep the dog looking its best, you can offer suggestions for maintaining this haircut between grooming appointments. At home brushing and bathing can make a big difference in how they look and smell, too. You can also make suggestions on how often the trim should be done based on the pet’s lifestyle and coat texture. Always remember, your clients are the lifeblood of your business. Taking a little extra time up front for a warm and welcoming pet consultation will go a long way toward building a solid relationship with them.
Try these tips and see if it helps you get closer to your client’s idea of a puppy cut… the first time!
What’s YOUR idea of a puppy cut? Share some pictures on our Facebook page with your Melissa Verplank family.
I love it when I get questions from our Learn2Groomdogs.com members. Not long ago, Mishelle H. asked if I could do a blog about tuck-ups. She said, “I’m never satisfied with mine. Skirted breeds or not, just can’t seem to master them.”
It would seem to be a simple question, but there’s no one answer. There are variables depending on many things, including:
It’s the natural waistline.
The waistline is made up of the loin in the flank. It falls right behind the rib cage and before the rump. Depending on the dog’s build, some waistlines are well-established. Others are barely visible due to bone structure or being overweight.
Ideally, you want to see a bit of a waistline on most dogs. However, that waistline does not wrap all the way around the dog. It’s a pocket just below the loin in the flank area where the back leg joins the body. Depending on the dog’s conformation, this is a key balance point.
A knowledgeable pet stylist can enhance any dog’s physique by proper placement. Improper placement detracts from the overall balance of the haircut. Setting the tuck-up correctly brings harmony to the entire trim. If the pet has enough coat, a talented stylist can give the illusion of a well-defined waistline even if the physique is less than perfect. Incorrectly setting the tuck-up makes a dog look unbalanced and structurally unsound.
Here are three different ways to find the proper placement for the tuck-up on a dog. There is no hard-set rule as to what is right – or wrong. Choose one or incorporate all methods into your everyday grooming.
The highest point of the undercarriage making up the tuck-up falls just below the last rib. Put your hands on the dog. Feel for the ribs. Directly below the last two ribs is typically the highest point on the undercarriage line. This would be the point of tuck-up. Depending on which type of haircut you are working on and the physique of the dog, you might need to carve the area out slightly below the loin in behind the ribs to show off “well sprung ribs.” However, when you look at the dog from top, you will should not see an indentation near the loins on the topline.
Measure a dog into divided thirds. The measurements would be from the point of shoulder to the point of rump. The highest point on the undercarriage line forming your tuck-up will be at the 2/3 point. The rear assembly of the dog will make up the final 1/3. It could be a Poodle, a Setter, or a Terrier. It works on almost any breed carrying coat. When the tuck-up point is set at the 2/3 – 1/3 point, it will balance a dog, giving it a pleasing appearance.
Many professional pet stylists simply use the back leg to measure where the tuck-up should be set. They gently ask the dog to pick up its back leg, pushing it towards its body. The knee or stifle joint will hit right about where the tuck-up point should be set. If it does not touch directly, simply visualize a straight line from the stifle to the body near the last rib. This is your tuck-up area for that dog.
How do you scissor it in?
Are you dealing with a flowing undercarriage like many Sporting dogs or something that’s tightly tailored as with many of the Terriers? Maybe you’re dealing with breeds that are fully sculpted (such as the Bichon or the Poodle) or even many drop-coated breeds and pet trims.
With long flowing undercarriages, you simply find the highest point and start from there. Most of your active dogs are going to call for a deeper chest. The highest point of the tuck-up will be the shortest part of the drape. It will angle down towards the pastern joints and sweep up into the chest. From the tuck-up into the rear leg, the longer coat will drape accentuating the bend of the knee or stifle joint and sweep either into the foot or the hock joint, depending on the breed.
Many of the long-legged Terrier-type breeds, have just enough coat on their undercarriage to accentuate the depth of chest. The tuck-up point will accentuate a well-balanced dog of substantial build. This type of styling does not leave along drape of coat on the underside of the dog. There’s only enough coat to accentuate the depth of chest. The depth of chest is normally at the level of the elbow. There will be a slight incline from the point of tuck-up towards the elbow, showing off a deep-set chest. From the tuck-up towards the rear leg, the fringe of coat will connect the stifle joint to the body and the rib cage. If you were to back comb the blending line along the lower sides of the dog, it should transition smoothly from the shorter coat on the body. Depending on the dog’s conformation, some dogs will have slightly longer furnishings while other dogs will have almost none. However, almost all of them will have a slight amount of coat in the flank area connecting the tuck-up into the rear leg blending with the stifle.
On stylized longer trims where the dog has a fuller body and even more stylized legs, you will need to scissor in the tuck-up by hand. You can use straight shears, curved shears, chunkers, or thinners.
Lindsey Dicken has a technique that works well with any type of scissor. She calls at the “windshield washer technique.” Once you have established the tuck-up area, you need to carve in a waistline. This waistline will be a little pocket in the flank area only. It does not go into the loin or the back. The purpose of this point is to establish a balanced haircut with a well-bodied dog in physically good shape. The little curved space accentuates the spring of rib and gives the dog the little waistline. It also defines the rear assembly.
Lindsey’s technique is simple. You place the pivot point of the shear right at the tuck-up area. The screw of the shear will not move. It stays anchored. The tips of the shears sweep back and forth like a windshield wiper. It will create the slight divot of the waistline while blending the stifle smoothly into well-sprung ribs.
For those of you who are Learn2GroomDogs.com members, I have created four Spotlight Sessions featuring the techniques outlined in this blog. I’ve selected different breeds with four different Training Partners as they set in the tuck-ups.
If you’re not a member of Learn2GroomDogs.com, take advantage of coupon code tuckupblog and get 50% off our normal low price of $42 for a one-month subscription now until February 28, 2018. Each month you have unlimited access to over 600 educational grooming videos. Our training partners are some of the top pet stylists in the world – yet every one of them works on every day dogs, just like you, in their salons.
Did this help? What tricks do you use? Jump on our Facebook page and share your thoughts with your Melissa Verplank family.