There isn’t a pet stylist on the planet that hasn’t been asked to groom a dog or cat that has gone without a good brushing or seen soap and water in six months to a year. These scruffy friends include house pets and working dogs of every size and shape, some as large as a St. Bernard. This situation brings to mind two important issues. First, how do we convince owners to bring their dogs and cats for regular grooming sessions and second, what do we charge for these services? We all confront these dilemmas whether they are a house call, shop, home or mobile grooming request. Looking back, I’ve learned something that I would like to share with you.
When I went mobile in 2006, I tackled many of these OAY and TAY pets. I had to because when I started out, I didn’t have one customer. I started from scratch so I groomed everything that walked on four legs and was covered with hair. It didn’t matter what condition they were in. At the time, every one of those pets was important to me. I knew I could make them more comfortable by giving them a good bath and haircut and they helped my businesses grow. In spite of the positives, they were also a huge challenge and very time consuming because:
1. These dogs and cats did not know me. I did not know them. They had a limited grooming history. Just by virtue of being new, they took more time.
2. These pets were new to the grooming process and were not accustomed to being handled by a groomer. They were not familiar with the sounds of a dryer or the feel of the tools we use.
3. Many of these pets were not used to being in a grooming environment. This included being taken out of their comfort zone and being separated from their owner.
4. These dogs and cats were in tough shape. Many were matted and/or packed with hair. Some were extremely dirty and had fleas. I found lots of “surprises” under their coats.
5. These OAY and TAY are physically labor intensive. These are the dogs that can hurt your back and/or cause repetitive stress injuries.
6. Most of the time the owner has no idea of the true condition of his/her dog or cat and what needs to be done. Their needs must be assessed by the groomer and explained to the owner.
How do we discourage OAY and TAY grooming from happening again? This is a cycle that must be broken because it is not in the best interest of the pet’s basic care. The client needs to be educated starting on their very first visit. I have asked my customers, “How would you feel if you cleaned your ears, trimmed your nails and washed and brushed your own hair once or twice a year?” Most people don’t think of it that way. After all, it’s “just a dog (or cat)” But we know better! Simply humanizing a pet goes a long way and makes the point quite clear. Maintenance grooming is an important part of owning a pet. It follows next in line after food, water and lots of love.
What to charge in these situations is not tricky at all. When consulting with owners who inquire about my services, I explain that I have a minimum and charge hourly. I can provide an estimate of how long I think the dog or cat will take, but there are too many unknowns to give an exact number. We have no crystal ball or magic wand when grooming. You can always call and inform the owner of your progress mid-groom if you choose. That is up to you. Charging by the hour is fair to both you and the owner no matter what the situation.
When the owner comes to pick up their furry friend, there won’t be any surprises. Share with the owner exactly what you have done. Always have the pet’s best interest at heart. Encourage your customer to schedule another appointment and to keep it! Explain to them that if they bring the pet more often, the grooming experience will be less stressful for their furry friend and the cost lower because it will take less time.
I’ve always said that if the owner waits until they feel it is time to bring in their pet for grooming, it’s always too late! This couldn’t ring more true in the situation of the OAY or TAY pet. It’s all about hair, whether it grows on your head, your dog or cat. Hair needs to be brushed, combed, washed, dried, and trimmed. It all comes down to education. Explain to your customer why grooming should occur on a regular basis so we can break the cycle of OAY or TAY grooming.