Dealing with Trouble Areas in Fur

Mats.

Tangles.

Knots.

Call them what you like. That woven mess of dirt and hair can often determine what kind of trim can be done on a pet. They are the best friend – and the worst enemy – of the professional pet groomer.

The key to dealing with these trouble areas is knowing how to identify them and deal with them effectively.

4 Types of Mats

Lack of Maintenance:

These mats are the results of dirt, static, and moisture. The owner brushes between grooming appointments but these sessions are not as effective or as frequent as they should be. More frequent bathing and brushing to remove dense undercoat is needed in these cases. The mats produced from poor maintenance are generally smaller and can be removed with the proper knowledge, tools, and products.

Neglect:

These tangles are tough. Typically, these mats are the result of longer-term neglect and are very tight and difficult to remove. The dog’s coat is often in extremely overall poor shape and is very dirty. They can be a hiding place for pests like fleas and ticks and may lead to skin damage or injury.

Friction:

Friction mats are caused when two areas rub together. It could be from a collar, dog sweater, or from a body part (like behind the ears or under the front legs) – but is not limited to those areas. Depending on the activity level of the dog, friction mats could be found up and down the legs, on long ears, or the tail. These are the areas that come in contact with other areas like tall grasses or even the ground.

Compression:

This type of tangle is generally found on the rear of the dog. It is caused from sitting or lying down. Dogs that shed heavily will have dead coat packed into the guard coat, and if not removed, will clump and mat as moisture and compression do their work. Just like people, dogs tend to be left or right-sided. The compression type density will be worse on one side more than the other.


Here’s your secret strategy for dealing with tangles: find them before the client leaves!

That means at check-in. This is not just a time to be catching up with your client. Use this time to diagnose problem areas with their pet’s coat. Get your hands – not just your eyes – on the dog. The eyes can be deceiving. The owner doesn’t even have to be aware of what you’re doing.

I disguise my hands-on inspection as a meet-and-greet to the pet. It warms up both the pet and the client. But more importantly, it gives me valuable information that I can use to communicate effectively with a customer about the type of trim we can do, the cost, and the amount of time it will take.

Sink your hands deep into the coat. Keep moving. Feel under the ears, in the armpits – get to those friction and compressed areas so there are no surprises once you get the dog in the tub. Do you know what you’re feeling for? You’re trying to find patches of density/inconsistent density in the fur. You should be able to come into contact with the skin. Often, your client will insist that the dog is completely brushed out when they’ve really just been brushing out the tops of matted areas. This is where your comb comes in handy for a demonstration. Sink the comb through the coat. If you feel resistance, that’s your matted area.

Remember, the groom starts as soon as the client walks in the door, not when the dog is on your table. You should start assessing the dog visually as soon as the pet walks in and continue your examination until you are satisfied that you have found everything you need to discuss before your client leaves. Having to make repeated phone calls because you didn’t take the time to properly check over a pet will annoy your client – and will waste much of your own precious time.

Don’t stop there. You should always have a comb within reach. Clients may not always understand what a mat is, but it’s hard to deny a comb stuck firmly in the middle of tangled fur. It’s also a great way to open the discussion about the necessities of combing, as well as brushing, to maintain proper coat condition.

If there are problems or issues, I want to deal with them immediately before the client leaves. In the service-based business, education is the key. Most of the time, this means educating the client as to what is proper maintenance for their pet. Guide their hands to the problem areas. Have them feel for themselves what to watch for, so that when they’re brushing their pet at home they are better able to identify mats and how to deal with them. Many first time pet owners have really no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into when it comes to proper pet maintenance. They may love the idea of having a Golden Doodle, but have no idea that they should be groomed more than twice a year.

This is the perfect time to do that. With new clients, I would talk to them about trim options based on the condition of their pet. If their pet is in extremely difficult condition, I would talk to them about the risk factors the pet is going to experience due to its condition. Explain the potential risks that could occur during dematting. And always have the owner sign a pet release form. It also offers you an opportunity to offer beneficial special products or services.

By using your training, experience, and professional intuition, you can educate your client and make a real difference in the lives of the pets entrusted to your care.

Happy trimming!


Three Options for Clients with Matted Dogs

How many times a week do you deal with a matted dog? If you are like many of us, it’s more than once. For some, it might even be a daily occurrence.

There are immediate questions that need answers:

How do you talk with the pet parent?
How do you tell them they are not taking care of their pet properly?
What are the consequences of their neglect?
What can you do for them today?
What can you do for them in the future?
As a professional pet groomer, we always need to remember – humanity before vanity.

Can you demat a badly tangled coat?

Probably.

Should you?

Not necessarily.

Once in a great while, a client will have a legitimate reason why their dog is in poor condition. Occasionally, I will demat a dog if I sense it’s a one-time occurrence. I know the tricks to get a dog detangled relatively quickly. I have the skill, products, and tools to do it safely and humanely. However, there are two main reasons why I won’t always do it.

The dog has a low pain tolerance.
The client will not appreciate the work.
Here’s a perfect example. Years ago, I had a Bichon owner who always brought her dog in matted. This Bichon had a dense, curly coat. She was a regular six-week client. The owner was always immaculately presented when she dropped her dog off – the clothing, the hair, the makeup, the shoes, the jewelry, and nails. You get the idea. Oh, and she drove a Cadillac.

This was a woman who was used to getting her way. Her dog was always on the edge of whether we could brush it out or not. She never brushed the dog at home between groomings. The dog was a great advanced student dog. He was quite tolerant of the brushing process making him a super lesson dog.

One week she missed her six-week scheduled appointment. When she showed up two weeks later, the dog was trashed – matted all the way to the skin.

Crest. Head. Legs.

We told her we were going to have to start over. We would need to shave her Bichon down to the skin. He would be naked. It was the only humane option.

She was horrified. She couldn’t be seen with a naked dog! There must be some way to save the coat.

There was. She could get the dog combed out HERSELF and bring it back. But we were going to have to be able to sink the comb in all the way to the skin and pull it easily through the coat.

We gave her a thorough lesson. We even sent her home with the proper tools. We told her to come back when she felt her Bichon was totally combed out. Then, and only then, would we would give him his longer, fuller Bichon haircut.

She went home determined that she would be able to get him detangled. A few days later she returned. When we did the comb test, do you think he passed?

Not a chance. She watched the comb clearly get hung up in the coat on the first pass.

We told her to take the dog home and continue working on him.

Long story short, she returned six more times before she finally gave up. We shaved the dog with a #7F blade. We were able to leave a little tiny bit of extra coat on his head and a tiny bit of fluff on his tail. Everything else was naked.

When her sweet Bichon finally grew out about 12 weeks later, we set her up on a two-week maintenance schedule. She never missed another appointment. She learned her lesson.

Here are the three options for clients who bring you a matted dog.

The pet parent needs to learn how to brush.
The pet parent needs to learn to like it short.
The pet parent needs to book more frequent appointments.
When faced with a matted dog, how do you have a conversation with the owner?

The conversation needs to be sincere. It needs to focus on what is in the best interest for the pet. You need to be sympathetic to the reasons why the dog got in this condition.

(Stop rolling your eyes… I can see you.)

When you speak with an owner, they need to understand there’s only so much we as groomers can do. The last thing we want to do is hurt, injure, or bring discomfort to their pet.

b5205d66495a007babfa874878a04a88--haircuts-for-boys-layered-haircutsDogs have the mentality of a two-year-old child. If their two-year-old child, grandchild, niece, or nephew came to them with their hair matted all over their head, would they ask the child to tolerate having it combed out? If the tangles were tight and right next to the scalp, making every stroke of a comb or brush painful, they would most likely trim the matted hair out. Have you ever tried to remove gum or candy stuck in a child’s hair? Imagine the same impossible tangle right next to the scalp, covering the entire head. Trimming off that hair would be the most humane thing to do, even if the end result is not the haircut you would typically prefer.

It’s similar with a dog, only with the dog, the hair isn’t just on their head. It’s all over their entire body. You might be able to salvage a very small section but it’s not fair to ask the dog to submit to a lengthy dematting process. Most dogs do not have the pain tolerance or patience to sit through it. It could take hours to thoroughly brush and comb a dog out. Plus, there is a high risk of injury to their skin. And to top it off, asking a dog to sit through an extensive dematting process could be traumatic. It could scar them for the rest of their grooming life.

Even if a dog does have the tolerance for it, the cost will be extensive. Tell them what your hourly rate is. Estimate how long the dematting process would be. On a small dog, it might be about two to three hours (and yes, I would estimate on the high side), plus the regular grooming time.

If my hourly rate was $60 an hour, the customer would be looking at an extra $90-$120 for the dematting, alone. Money talks, so most of the time you can stop there.

If you sense the client is willing to pay your dematting rates, move into your next talking point: what’s in the best interest of the pet.

While it’s good to know they would be willing to spend the extra money to have the dog combed out, it’s also important to see if the dog will even tolerate it. At this point put the dog on the counter or grooming table. Grab your combination comb, sink the wide toothed end down to the skin – and give a firm tug. Gauge the reaction of the dog. Most of the time they will flip around with extreme displeasure. It’s visually clear to the pet parent their fur baby is being hurt. That’s exactly the reaction you want.

Most pet parents cannot stand seeing their dog in pain. If they understand this condition is painful to the dog they can often be trained not to allow their pet to become matted again.

The reaction of the pet, how deep the pet parent’s pockets are, and whether you feel the owner can be rehabilitated into a well-trained client will determine where your conversation will go next.

Most of the time, you’ll want to go with the humane route – and that means a full shave off. I might – or might not – try to salvage a small amount of coat on the head and tail, if possible. Mentally prepare the owner for what the dog will look like after the grooming process. Remember to emphasize that this is the only option for their pet.

Once you settle on what you are going to do that day, talk about future haircuts and how to maintain the dog so it never gets in this condition again.

Remind them of their three options.

Learn to brush
Learn to like it short
Book more frequent visits

Talk to them about their lifestyle and how their pet plays a role.

Ask if they are willing to find the time to properly brush and comb their dog between professional groomings. If they are, give them a thorough demonstration on proper brushing and combing techniques for their pet’s coat type. We always keep the necessary tools on hand in our retail area. Make sure your clients leave with the proper equipment to maintain their pets at home. Having a handout outlining proper line brushing techniques is also extremely helpful.

If they don’t have the time or the desire to brush their pet at home between groomings, talk about booking more frequent appointments and setting them up on an economical maintenance schedule. The maintenance schedule could be weekly or biweekly.

If the dog is just too far gone, if the client is a repeat offender, or you just don’t have time to deal with a matted dog – skip to the chase. I would simply tell them, no – I will not comb their dog out. There are no other options other than to shave the coat off.

Talk to them about rebooking their next appointment in 6-8 weeks. By about 12-14 weeks they should be grown in enough to be able to get the trim of their choice if they want to maintain a fuller look. They might also opt for a simpler trim style that is short – one length all over. Their choice will be based on how they want to care for their fur baby.

Regardless of whether you are doing a brush out on a matted dog or simply shaving the matted coat off, I encourage having owner sign a matted pet release form. This form opens the door to talk about the dangers involved with matted coats. It’s a simple fact: if the dog is extremely matted, there is going to be a higher risk of injury to the pet. If you talk about it prior to the grooming and the dog does get injured in any way, most of the responsibility has been lifted from your shoulders. However, that doesn’t give you the excuse to be careless. The last thing any of us want to do is injure a pet. However, when they are severely matted, the risk of them being hurt is always present.

Remember these key points:

It is always important to do what is in the best interest of the dog.

There is a limit to what you can do.

There’s a limit to what the dog can tolerate.

You are a professional pet groomer – not a magician.

There are limits on what you can – and should – do for the animal. Be honest. Be sincere. Keeping the pet foremost in your mind when coming up with a solution will always play in your favor. Even if the client is upset, stick to your guns. It’s the client’s fault the dog is matted, not yours.

Mentally prepare your client the worst-case scenario: a totally naked dog. Over-estimate the amount of time it’s going to take. Over-estimate the amount of money it’s going to cost. Over-estimate the risks involved with dealing with a severely matted pet. If you do that, anything beyond naked or less expensive or even a mild nick is going to be seen in a positive light by the client.

Happy trimming!

 


5 Easy Ways to Give Yourself a Raise

Let's face it, many salon owners aren't charging as much as they feel they should. Local competition and price-sensitive clients are two strong reasons why. In some cases, grooming rates are already as high as considered possible without losing customers.

In most service-based businesses, payroll is the highest expense. A typical grooming business pays out more than 50% to 60% in payroll, alone. When salons are paying out those percentages, raises are rare.

We've talked to lots of groomers. It's no surprise that one of the main complaints with their jobs is not making enough money. It's not all about the money but having fair compensation for the work we do is not unreasonable!

When people come to me and ask how they can earn more, I always remind them that time is money - regardless of how you are paid. The faster you can get through a pet safely, the more money you will ultimately make.

5 Easy Ways to Give Yourself a Raise

Use Guard Combs

Guard combs are one of the easiest ways to speed up your grooming. They allow you to set consistent length over the dog quickly. With the variety of lengths, it's easy to customize the haircut just by switching out the guard comb. When working with guard combs you don't need the time it takes to get a beautiful scissor finish. This is a much safer option that also minimizes the stress large amounts of hand scissoring can cause.

Invest in Chunkers

This scissor style is taking the industry by storm. Chunkers are oversized thinning shears or blending shears with wider teeth. In some cases, they can be used for the entire groom. Chunkers give a beautiful natural finish in no time.

Some stylists choose to use them in conjunction with scissor or guard comb work. When used in this manner, they dust the top of the coat, removing any imperfections swiftly. There are plenty of styles to choose from with a wide price point based on the quality of the shear. Talk to other pet stylists before you invest in a pair. Find out which chunkers are their favorites and then try them out before you buy them.

Add Accessories

Pet parents are spending more on their dogs. Many clients love a little bling - and it doesn't always have to be shiny! It's easy to upsell special accessories:
• special bows
• bandannas
• feather extensions
• nail wraps
• temporary color
• pup tattoos
• jeweled neckwear
• bow ties and ties
• temporary body bling
• feather eyelashes

There is no limit to the creativity you can have - as long as it is safe for the pet. It's a fun way to add a little extra revenue and get people talking!

Up-Grade Specialized Shampoos or Services

Every salon has its favorite economical go-to shampoo. But what if your clients had a choice? For some clients, nothing is too good for their pets. Many spa lines of pet shampoo do a fabulous job getting the dog clean and smelling fabulous. There are many specialty shampoos that treat special skin and coat conditions. Most of the time they cost a little bit more than your everyday shampoo. There's no reason to charge the same. Some specialty shampoos need to sit on the pet a little bit longer to be effective (if it takes extra time it should also add a little more cost). Consider these liquid tool gold mines:

• blueberry facials
• anti-itch shampoos
• odor neutralizing treatments
• skin and coat remoisturizing treatments
• deshedding shampoos

Try a paw-i-cure instead of just trimming the nails. This type of service is a package deal. It includes:

• filing nails with a Dremel to get them smooth and short
• trimming the coat between the pads
• sometimes a skin soothing ointment is even included for rough foot pads.
Many of these upsells don't take any more time to do yet add more income to you or the business.

Stay Focused

Don't get distracted. Most small to medium-sized basic grooms should take about an hour to do. If someone else is bathing for you, the finish trimming should only take between 20 to 30 minutes for the same sized basic groom. Minimize the idle chitchat with your coworkers. Put your cell phone on silent and deal with it when YOU have time. Keep your station highly organized. Create a routine for everything you do from start to finish. The more dogs crossing your table translates into more money going into your pocket. Sometimes it's in the form of a paycheck, sometimes it's in the form of tips.


It doesn't matter if you are commission or hourly. The efforts you put out will create faster grooms, higher-quality trims, delighted customers, and repeat business. Applying these five tips can help you groom dogs better in less time while providing great service for your customers - while adding cash to your pocket!


Bardel Bows - Success Comes from Sweating the Details

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.

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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.

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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.

Here are a few of the items setting Bardel Bows apart.

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• Bardel Bows have been designed by a groomer - for groomers.
• Delise owned a grooming salon in Georgia for years.
• Bardel Bows has been producing high quality, hand-tied dog bows for the pet grooming industry since 1989.
• All their bows are produced in Georgia by professional bow makers using the highest quality materials available.
• All their bows are handmade using long-lasting and sturdy latex bands.
• The unique design of Bardel Bows makes application a snap.
• Bardel Bows stocks hundreds of different grooming bows making up collections for every season.

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 vendors 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.

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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!


Salvage Work: Tips for Make a Tough Job Easier!

Spring is here - and not a moment too soon! Many of us will be seeing a lot of pets that are ready for a great makeover in the coming weeks.

As many of you know, I'm a big dog person. Working on these large furry dogs that have a huge shedding problem is one of my favorite things to do in a grooming salon. Over the years I've gotten really quick with the process and rarely cringe, no matter what the size of the dog, nor the condition.

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, but it also takes longer to do. 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 enjoyable.

If there are large chunks that water cannot penetrate, go ahead and break up the tangle using the tool that is safe for the pet. Don't worry about removing it completely, just break it apart so the water and shampoo can do their 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. Make sure you have plenty of towels handy!

My favorite trick when working with this type of job is to bring my high velocity dryer right into the bathing area. With the dog fully lathered, blow the shampoo right off the pet while it is tethered in the tub. The slippery soap will allow the dirt, loose coat, and tangles slide out. The clumps will be trapped in the shampoo and 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 to the drying table. Once you have blown out the pet, follow up with the rinsing process. Repeat this process as many times as necessary to get the dog "squeaky clean."

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

Rule #2: Be Methodical and Thorough

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

Rule #3: ENJOY!

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

What are your favorite tools and shampoos to use for those tough jobs? What secret tricks did we miss? Let's talk.


Happy trimming, Melissa


Proactively Dealing with Skin and Coat Issues

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:

During bathing, a scab falls away from an older injury, making it look like a fresh wound.

Removing tight mats from the leather results in an ear hematoma.

A dog arrives for his appointment with fleas or ticks. However, the client refuses to believe their pet had them prior to stepping into your salon.

After trimming a pet with super sensitive skin, an area becomes inflamed once it gets home.

How do you proactively handle these situations and prevent having upset customers?

Three ways.

Communication
Honesty
Proof

Communication

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.
What does the skin and coat look like?
What does the skin and coat feel like?
What does the skin and coat smell like?

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.

Honesty

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.

Proof

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.

fleas (preferably dead)
ticks (preferably dead)
maggots
hotspots
scabs and pus
bubblegum
rubber bands
fishhooks
burrs
matts
pelts
pine sap
grossly overgrown toenails
excessive blown or dead coat

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.

Happy trimming,

Melissa


How to Use Anatomy to Groom the English Setter

Excellent grooming starts always starts with a firm understating of canine anatomy. It is the FOUNDATION of all grooming.

Basic pattern lines are set based on the muscle and bone structure. Depending on how physically active a dog is, the muscle structure may be very prominent. It could be lurking under a layer of fat. It may also be poorly developed due to age or lack of physical activity. Nonetheless, those muscles are there. They will help you set symmetrical and correct pattern lines.

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.

The Essence of the Breed

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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.

Landmarks for Grooming & Styling

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.

Setting the Throat

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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.

Body

The jacket coat on the bulk of the body is shorter and lays flat on dog. Follow the natural lay of the coat when working this area.

Shoulder

Use the turn of the muscle at the shoulder to set the jacket pattern on the body.

Elbow

The turn of the shoulder will also tell you the location of the elbow. This is the general location of where to start the pattern on the body, sweeping back and upwards towards the flank of the dog.

Spring of Rib

The turn of the ribs will help set the pattern line separating the dog's body jacket which consists of much shorter coat, blending invisibly into the longer feathering found on the lower portion of the dog's body.

Undercarriage

The undercarriage line creates a focal point for balance of the overall dog. The highest point of the graceful sweep will be directly under the last few ribs.


Flank

Moving into the flank area, the thigh muscle should be exposed to help accentuate a physically fit and muscular dog.

Tail

For balance, the tail should reach to the hock and be a triangular flag. There is a slight gap of fur on the underside of the tail at the base. This slight space separates the longer rear furnishings with the feathering on the tail.

Topline

The top line maybe level or slightly sloping from the withers to the tail.

Neck

The long graceful neck is well muscled and slightly arched.

Head

The lines of the skull are parallel with a well definite stop.

Ears

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.

Happy trimming,

Melissa


I Want a Puppy Cut

"Give my dog a puppy cut."

Puppy cut 3



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?

Puppy cut 1


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.

Getting the conversation right starts with the 3 L's:

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):
• How do you want your pet to look? Smooth and sleek or fluffy and plush?
• What is the pet's lifestyle? Is he the life of the party or a designated lap dog?
• How long should be coat be? Remember, "short" means something different to everyone. Be specific to be sure.
• How should the head look? The head and face are a big part of the dog's personality. Getting this part right is very important to your customer.

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.

Puppy cut 2


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!


How to Set a Tuck-Up

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:
• the type of dog you are working on
• the type of haircut
• the type of coat
• the technique you choose to use to establish the tuck-up area


What is the tuck-up area on a dog?

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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.


How do you find the tuck-up?

Mellisa-blog-tuck2

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 Last Rib Method

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.

• The Rule of Thirds

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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.

• Use the Stifle to Find the Tuck-up Point
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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.

You've found the tuck-up - now what?

How do you scissor it in?

It depends.

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.

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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.

  1. Setting the Tuck-Up While Shaping the Rib Cage Area on a Kerry Blue Terrier with Cheryl Purcell
    2. Setting the Underline Area on a Show Styled Bichon with Lindsey Dicken
    3. The 1/3 - 2/3 Balance Rule: Setting the Tuck-up and Undercarriage on an English Setter with Irina "Pina" Pinkusevich
    4. Establishing the Tuck-Up & Setting the Undercarriage on a Pet Schnauzer with Kathy Rose

Learn more at www.learn2groomdogs.com.


Dealing with Trouble Areas in Fur

Mats Tangles Knots

Call them what you like. That woven mess of dirt and hair can often determine what kind of trim can be done on a pet. They are the best friend – and the worst enemy – of the professional pet groomer.

The key to dealing with these trouble areas is knowing how to identify them and deal with them effectively.

4 Types of Mats

Lack of Maintenance: These mats are the results of dirt, static, and moisture. The owner brushes between grooming appointments but these sessions are not as effective or as frequent as they should be. More frequent bathing and brushing to remove dense undercoat is needed in these cases. The mats produced from poor maintenance are generally smaller and can be removed with the proper knowledge, tools, and products.

Neglect: These tangles are tough. Typically, these mats are the result of longer-term neglect and are very tight and difficult to remove. The dog’s coat is often in extremely overall poor shape and is very dirty. They can be a hiding place for pests like fleas and ticks and may lead to skin damage or injury.

Friction: Friction mats are caused when two areas rub together. It could be from a collar, dog sweater, or from a body part (like behind the ears or under the front legs) – but is not limited to those areas. Depending on the activity level of the dog, friction mats could be found up and down the legs, on long ears, or the tail. These are the areas that come in contact with other areas like tall grasses or even the ground.

Compression: This type of tangle is generally found on the rear of the dog. It is caused from sitting or lying down. Dogs that shed heavily will have dead coat packed into the guard coat, and if not removed, will clump and mat as moisture and compression do their work. Just like people, dogs tend to be left or right-sided. The compression type density will be worse on one side more than the other.

Here’s your secret strategy for dealing with tangles: find them before the client leaves!

That means at check-in. This is not just a time to be catching up with your client. Use this time to diagnose problem areas with their pet’s coat. Get your hands – not just your eyes – on the dog. The eyes can be deceiving. The owner doesn’t even have to be aware of what you’re doing. I disguise my hands-on inspection as a meet-and-greet to the pet. It warms up both the pet and the client. But more importantly, it gives me valuable information that I can use to communicate effectively with a customer about the type of trim we can do, the cost, and the amount of time it will take. Sink your hands deep into the coat.

Keep moving. Feel under the ears, in the armpits – get to those friction and compressed areas so there are no surprises once you get the dog in the tub. Do you know what you’re feeling for? You’re trying to find patches of density/inconsistent density in the fur. You should be able to come into contact with the skin. Often, your client will insist that the dog is completely brushed out when they’ve really just been brushing out the tops of matted areas. This is where your comb comes in handy for a demonstration.

Sink the comb through the coat. If you feel resistance, that’s your matted area. Remember, the groom starts as soon as the client walks in the door, not when the dog is on your table. You should start assessing the dog visually as soon as the pet walks in and continue your examination until you are satisfied that you have found everything you need to discuss before your client leaves. Having to make repeated phone calls because you didn’t take the time to properly check over a pet will annoy your client – and will waste much of your own precious time.

Don’t stop there. You should always have a comb within reach. Clients may not always understand what a mat is, but it’s hard to deny a comb stuck firmly in the middle of tangled fur. It’s also a great way to open the discussion about the necessities of combing, as well as brushing, to maintain proper coat condition. If there are problems or issues, I want to deal with them immediately before the client leaves.

In the service-based business, education is the key. Most of the time, this means educating the client as to what is proper maintenance for their pet. Guide their hands to the problem areas. Have them feel for themselves what to watch for, so that when they’re brushing their pet at home they are better able to identify mats and how to deal with them. Many first time pet owners have really no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into when it comes to proper pet maintenance. They may love the idea of having a Golden Doodle, but have no idea that they should be groomed more than twice a year. This is the perfect time to do that.

With new clients, I would talk to them about trim options based on the condition of their pet. If their pet is in extremely difficult condition, I would talk to them about the risk factors the pet is going to experience due to its condition.

Explain the potential risks that could occur during dematting. And always have the owner sign a pet release form. It also offers you an opportunity to offer beneficial special products or services. By using your training, experience, and professional intuition, you can educate your client and make a real difference in the lives of the pets entrusted to your care.

Happy trimming!