I Want a Puppy Cut

"Give my dog a puppy cut."

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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!


Tips to Keep Your Appointment Book Full

When your appointment book is totally full, how does that make you feel? For most of us, it's a sense of security. It's a source of pride. It's a guarantee that you are satisfying your customers' needs. You are doing a good job.

But how do you feel when that appointment book has empty slots? Maybe you are just starting out on your own and have an open book. Maybe you are new to the salon and need to build a fresh clientele. Or maybe you have been at your salon for a while, yet you're just not getting traction with repeat customers.

Long-time pet stylists know this unspoken rule: a full appointment book offers job security.

So if your appointment book is lighter than what you would like, how are you going to fix it?

Here are a few ideas to help you boost your number of daily grooming appointments.

SERVICE MENU

If you went to a restaurant and the server did not hand you a menu, how would you know what to order? Pet grooming is very similar. Owners know they're coming to you to get their dog cleaned up, but they probably don't know all the services that you offer. Services that could help them keep their pet looking and feeling great.

A well-organized service menu makes it easy for the client to select a service. As a bonus, it also makes it very easy for you discuss optional services such as de-shedding treatments, shampoo upgrades, skin conditioning treatments, tooth brushing, nail filing, or other add-on services.

A service menu allows you to quickly summarize maintenance grooming services. Use it to highlight the benefits of regular professional grooming appointments. This is a great place to outline the suggested frequency of appointments. Depending on a number of factors, most pets benefit from being groomed every 3 to 6 weeks. Others may benefit from weekly or biweekly appointments. Having a comprehensive service menu makes it easy to rebook clients on a regular basis.

DEVELOP A RESCHEDULE FILE

Actively encouraging clients to reschedule on a regular basis ensures that a salon will have a steady stream of clients. Plus, the pets will be in the best possible condition.

Rebooking and rescheduling is all about helping your clients keep their pet looking and feeling its best. It's about helping them understand the hygienic needs of their dog or cat, such as why it's important to properly brush and bathe their pet between visits. Those are the goals. You are a problem solver. If they do not want to do the tasks necessary to maintain their pets at home, they will turn to you to do the job for them. Education is the key.

There are number of ways to rebook that next appointment:
• on the spot.
• reminder calls.
• wake-up calls.
• e-mail blasts.

Rebooking on the Spot

Offering to schedule an appointment at checkout is the best way to get a client to rebook. Develop a couple different scripts and use the one that best fits the needs of that client. For best results, use the tips below.

• Ask every time. Think of fast food chains. They ask you every time if you would like something else with your order - every time. When the client checks out, offer to rebook their next appointment to ensure their pet continues to look amazing.
• For the busy or in demand pet stylist, reschedule a number of appointments at once or book the entire year. This will guarantee the client will get the premiere dates they are looking for.
• In areas that are price sensitive, offer incentives. Maybe it's $5 off their next grooming if they book within six weeks or less. Or maybe you offer them free upsells like tooth brushing or a spa package upgrade.


Reminder Calls - If the Client Does Not Rebook on the Spot

Ask the client if they'd like a Reminder Call a week before "Buffy" would be due for his next appointment. This could be done via phone, e-mail, or text message.

Wake-Up Calls

Actively call clients that have not returned to the salon in 8-12 weeks.

E-mail Blasts

This is a great way to market to existing clients. If you are going into a slow day or week, offer an incentive to get clients in the door for those days.

IMPLEMENTATION

Rebooking is something you must do regularly - the same way - every time. Make it a habit to ask if they want to rebook at check-out. If they don't, make sure to call and remind them one week prior to the preferred grooming time for their pet and don't forget to do the Wake-Up calls once a month for any client you haven't seen in 8-12 weeks.
Referrals

People are physiologically wired to make referrals. Many businesses can grow and flourish just by tapping into this business building strategy.

Referrals come from a number of different sources:

• existing clients.
• other service providers.
• pet professionals.

Existing Clients

• Encourage them to pass out your business cards. Let them know you are looking for more great clients like them. Always keep a supply within easy reach and generously hand them out to clients.
• Use an incentive-based referral program. Offer a discount for first time clients PLUS give the same discount to the client that referred them. You give them even more reason to pass your name around - plus - it's a great way to thank them for the referral!
Other Service Providers
• hairdresser
• local pizza joint
• coffee shop
• anywhere people gather and talk
Leave a stack of Discount Incentive cards with the owner or someone who is happy to pass them out. Code the back so you know where they came from - that way you don't have to ask the customer when they turn them in. You do want to track where the cards are coming from so you can thank the service provider in an appropriate fashion.

Pet Professionals

• vets
• pet supply businesses
• rescue organizations
• trainers
• pet sitters

Leave them with a basic welcome package they can hand out to clients that would benefit from your service. Participate in and support their events. They are more like to refer and support you in return. Offer a thoughtful thank you gift to those that refer you on a regular basis. Food or flowers never go out of style but there are many options.


Top 10 Ways to Boost Clientele

Are you thinking of opening a new shop where there isn't a grooming salon or expanding into a new market area with your mobile unit? You are probably giddy with excitement over the prospect of all those new clients. Watching that superstore getting ready for its grand opening? You are probably worried that you'll lose clients. Are you fretting over how much to raise your prices? You are probably agonizing over how many clients will look for other options to get their dogs groomed. These are real worries.

Your current and prospective clients have four options.

1. Use your service
2. Use a competitors service
3. Do it themselves
4. Not do it at all

Sometimes the biggest challenge you have with building a clientele is not your competitors - it's your prospects.

So how do you win clients over? How do you encourage them to patronize YOUR place of business? Simple. Stand out in a positive way!

My Top Ten List ways to start winning clients today.

1. Build compassion and trust with pets and their owners
2. Look, speak, and act like a professional
3. Keep it clean and organized
4. Always do more for the client than they can do for themselves
5. Never stop learning and growing
6. Safety first!
7. Keep a comprehensive service menu with fair pricing (that does not mean cheap!)
8. Be consistent
9. Have a strong web and social media presence
10. Smile - it's the best sales tool you have (and it's even better when you make the client smile!)

Think about these items. How can you make them unique to YOU? Each one of us is an individual. We all have strengths and weakness. The key to success is to play upon your strengths.

When you are a solo stylist and own your own business, you have to be good at everything. Once you start to grow, that generally means hiring help. When you hire someone, don't look for a carbon copy of yourself. Instead, look for someone who can complement your personality and work ethic. They will play off your strengths and offset your weakness.

No matter how well you do your job, the client needs to perceive the value of the grooming they receive on their pet. It does not matter if YOU think you are giving great service - the client has to KNOW that.

They have to value that great service. If they don't - they will look elsewhere to get their needs met. And many times, that means you are competing with the prospect themselves.


Rating Dog Personalities

Tips to identify and schedule challenging pets.

You have a new client on the books. It's a Lhasa/Maltese mix - or in the new world of designer dogs, it's a "Lhatese." The client arrives precisely 15 minutes late. She's dressed to the nines and everything matches... even the dog.

The dog's name?

You guessed it - Precious.

You know you're in trouble.

If you're a one groomer salon, you can keep the personalities of all your canine clients in your head. You know any dog named Precious is far from... precious.

But what if you start expanding your salon? What if you bring on a new bather? Maybe you have an assistant handling your appointments? Or maybe you have an inexperienced groomer joining your team?

Wouldn't it be helpful to know the personality rating of the dogs scheduled for the day?

Here's a rating system that I've been using for years in my salons. It's been extremely helpful in many ways:
• It allows us to clearly evaluate the personalities of our canine clients.
• it opens up communication with our customers.
• it allows us to assign more challenging pets to the appropriate groomer.
• the groomer clearly knows s/he will need to be on high alert with certain pets.

This is how I rate dogs. Simply put, we rate them one through five. It's worked exceptionally well for years.

Our bathers, groomers, stylists, and students know what to expect from the pet. Even our clients know our rating system. It allows us to have an open conversation with them about their pet's attitude towards grooming. Many customers are even anxious to see the paperwork to see if there dog has progressed to a more positive level.

ONE - THE PERFECT ANGEL

This is the dog you love to see. It's 100% cooperative with the entire grooming process.

TWO - THE DANCER

This dog is not aggressive but it does not hold still. You're constantly working on a moving target.

THREE - EASILY IRRITATED

This dog will bite if you do something that it does not care for: trimming toenails, cleaning ears, dematting, high velocity drying. This dog might need to be muzzled for things they dislike. They generally respond well to an experienced pet professional.

FOUR - ANGRY

This is a dog that does not like the grooming process. You cannot trust them. Typically they can be done safely if handled by an experienced professional. That person needs to be confident when dealing with an aggressive dog. They need to be authoritative and respectful of the pet while balancing firm but gentle handling techniques. Most dogs that fall in this category require muzzling.

FIVE - UNSAFE

This is a dog whose eyes glow red or green, is extremely dangerous for most pet professionals to deal iwth safely. There is no question that give the opportunity, they will bite and/or attack. The dog or the groomer is at a very high risk of being injured. Personally, this is a dog I would fire. I woul refer to a facility that could provide a mild sedative under veterinary supervision in order to take the edge off the grooming process.

By using this rating system, we have a clear way to rate the personalities of all the pets that come through our grooming doors. Using the system also means I can communicate with my team, my teams can communicate with each other, and we can openly communicate with our customers.

This time-tested system has worked fabulously for my team. I hope it will work well for your team, too. Now, next time "Precious" comes striding through your door, you'll know what to do!

What do you do to help identify Precious in YOUR salon? Do you prefer not to have a system like this? Jump on our Facebook page and share with your Melissa Verplank grooming family.

Happy trimming, Melissa


My Golden Rule for All Clipper Work

Do you struggle to get the spindly legs smooth of that clipped #5 all trim? The body comes out nice and smooth - but the legs... ugh.

Getting smooth legs is always a pesky problem for new groomers. Maybe you've been grooming for a while, but still struggle with this area. You're not alone. Legs should only take you a few minutes to get smooth. If you're missing the mark, here's some help.

3 passes and you're done. Period.

Fast. Clean. Simple.Your end result should be super smooth. No rough spots. No sticky-outies.

Legs have their own sets of challenges. One of the largest issues is simply the shape. When you set a clipper blade on one of those spindly legs, the point of contact is minimal. Look at it on your own finger, simulating a leg. You're only making contact with one or two teeth. You're going to have to rapidly go over those legs several times if you have any hope of getting them smooth.

I have some ideas for how to get a nice finish on those legs in no time. It's easy when you understand the principles and the foundation skills of all good clipper work.

1. Don't skimp on the prep.

An excellent bath and a quick high velocity blow dry can make a world of difference in your finish - even on #10 or #7 all over trim. If they have six weeks or less of coat, get them into the tub right away. It won't take you any more time to bathe and blow them dry and you will get a superior finish.

If the dog has more than six weeks growth, quickly knock off the bulk of the coat. Don't worry about getting it smooth or neat at this point. Just remove the bulk of the coat as fast as you can. You don't need to be bathing and drying all of that extra hair. Once the bulk of the fur is removed, head to the bathtub. Follow up with a quick high velocity dry to get the coat to stand up and away from the dog's body.

If the dog will not tolerate a high velocity dryer, don't worry. Just make sure they are thoroughly towel-dried. Give the pooch a light mist with a coat amplifying product or hairspray. Use a soft slicker brush to back brush and work the product into the coat while it is still damp. Let them air dry in a comfortable environment until they are dry and ready for finish trimming. Keep in mind this is a very short haircut and fluff drying is not really necessary.

There is an order that you need to work over the legs to be efficient. Start from the top and work down to the toes.

2. Know your holds.

Whenever you are working on legs, always keep them as low to the table as possible. The higher you lift the leg, the more uncomfortable the pet is going to become. As they become uncomfortable - they struggle. They nip. They whine. They squeal.

You need to be absolutely clear on whether you're honestly hurting the pet or if they're just being difficult. If you do not lift the leg more than an inch or two off the table, more than likely, they are just being difficult. Proceed in a calm, cool, and collected manner.

To get the top of the legs, hold onto the toes. I place my finger into the crevices of the foot pad. Then I press down between the digits so only skin is trapped between my fingers. Then I have a good hold so that I can maneuver the leg low to the table but I can get clearance all the way around.

If you're holding them correctly, and they still struggle, simply maintain your hold. Anchor the heel of your hand on the table while you're still holding onto the toes. Let the pet lightly resist your hold. After a few tries, and you don't let go, most dogs stop pulling. You have gently and quietly taught them to hold still for the clipping procedure. Yeah! Minor victory for you! Be sure to give them praise when they do well and begin to respond positively.

For the toes, it's a little trickier. For the front legs grasp the top of the leg above the elbow joint, then gently squeeze with your thumb and first finger. This hold will also offer stability as your hands rest in the armpit area. As you squeeze you will notice the dog will literally point its paw. This will give you enough rigidity in the pastern joint to run the clipper smoothly over the foot area, getting a smooth cut.

On the back legs, you're going to slide your hand underneath the dog's thigh. Stretch your fingers so that they can sit just above the ischium joint (point of buttocks) and the stifle joint. With the leg slightly off the table top, squeeze gently. Just like on the front, the joint will become stiff and the dog will point its toe. This will give you the firmness you need to work the clipper over the foot area.

No matter what blade you use, it is important to maintain a consistent degree of tip to the clipper blade. This is also known as "keeping the blade up on it's cutting edge." Imagine a pencil being held right under the blade as you guide it down the leg. The closer the pencil is to the teeth, the higher the tip angle. The further back you keep the imaginary pencil, lesser of the degree of tip. Generally speaking, the closer the blade cuts, the higher you need to tip the blade for it to be effective.

3. Tip of the clipper.

Equally important is the amount of pressure placed on the blade. The perfect pressure is the weight of the clipper. Let gravity do the work. When you get in those awkward positions, you will need to simulate the same amount of pressure as your work on the sides and under the dog. Use your own arm to teach you how to gauge the pressure while maintaining consistent pressure as you would maneuver around the dog.

4. Don't forget to brush.

It's important to back brush. On the shorter trims, a softer brush is generally your best choice. Back brushing is done with the slicker brush while brushing the coat against the grain. The pressure on the brush should be very light. Use the entire pad of the brush, making gentle contact with the skin and coat. Keep the pressure soft on the brush so the skin is not scraped, causing a potential "brush burn." Back brush the entire leg once. Then make multiple clipper passes using effective techniques. Once the bulk of the coat is gone, repeat the process a second time to get a smoother finish. On the third back brush pass, there should only be high spots or uneven areas left to get with the clippers.

5. The final detail finish.

Once you have back brushed and clipped the legs three times there should be very little coat left, but there are always a few pesky strays that pop out.

This is the time to pull out a nice pair a blending shears. For this type of detail work, I prefer a finer toothed blender or thinning shear. I always opt for blenders over normal shears for safety reasons. I rarely opt for a smooth bladed shear. The risk of injury is just too great. A blending or a thinning shear is a much safer option to get those final stray hairs you just couldn't pick up with the clipper.

As a professional pet groomer or stylist, you always want the dog to look its best. Uneven haircuts do not reflect positively on a professional salon. You must be able to do a significantly better job than the dog's owners could do themselves.

Dealing with all four legs on small to medium-sized pets should not take more than 1 to 3 minutes per leg to complete the bulk of the clipper work. Never forget, as much as we love our jobs, time is money. You want to become as efficient as possible.

Pay attention to the details. There's a difference between a good #7 All and a bad #7 All. If you want your clients to return - you need to pay attention to the details. These low maintenance style trims are the bread-and-butter of many professional grooming salons. Getting those low maintenance haircuts super-smooth in the least amount of time possible is the key to a successful salon.


Are You Taking Care of Your Best Customers?

t’s hard to believe, but the major holidays are just around the corner. What does your appointment book look like? Are you booked out until after the holidays?

If you are, CONGRATULATIONS! Give yourself a huge pat on the back. Being proactive with your schedule feels great, doesn’t it?

If you’re still trying to fill holes in your schedule, there’s a question I’d like to ask.

Do you know who your most valuable clients are? Whether you are a solo flyer or work with a team, you can benefit from knowing what type of client brings in the most revenue.

When it comes to the busy holiday season, knowing how to prioritize appointments can be very helpful. As much as we would like to get to every client, there are only so many hours in a day. It can be hard to decide who gets appointments and who gets turned away.

This chart might help you determine who your most valuable clients are. Typically, it’s not the client paying the most money per groom.

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Look at the revenue generation on the one, two, and three-week clients. Even with heavily reduced grooming fees, it’s amazing how $20 can add up week after week!

I’m not saying this is what you should be charging for your dogs. I’m just giving you an example. You can see how the numbers works out. Test the numbers using your own pricing averages.

Quote In A CircleOne of my companies automatically gives a five-dollar discount for clients that book every 4 to 6 weeks. Once they get under three weeks, the discount is even bigger. This is great for keeping the books full – and the dogs stay in good condition all year long.

It’s pretty amazing once you see the math, right? Hopefully, it gives you clarity on who should get those premier appointments spots.

Let me ask you this: is it fair to either the client – or to you – to take an eight-week client over someone you see every four weeks? What about a four-week client over a weekly client? Ultimately, the choice is yours, but I know who I’d pick!

When booking appointments, start with the clients you see most often. Reward their loyalty with the best appointment slots.

Take care of your weekly and biweekly clients first. Then move into your three-week clients. If they don’t have appointments, reach out to them in whatever method works best for your business – call, text, or email. With any luck, the last two appointment days before the major holiday(s) will filled with your regulars. Those days will be a breeze for you.

Once those clients are taken care of, start booking your four-week clients and continue down the line. By the time you’re done, you’ll know you’ve taken care of your most valuable clients in a way that is both systematic and fair. If you still have slots available, go ahead and fill them in as the phone rings.

If you are using this system to book six month to a year out, make sure you communicate with your clients. They should know when you’re unavailable due to vacations, family obligations, educational events, or peak grooming times. Helpfully offer them alternatives so their pets stay in excellent condition. You may need to be more flexible on times or even offer to have a substitute stylist when you are not available.

 

The holidays are always a blur! If you’re overworked, underappreciated, and totally worn out for your close friends and family you won’t enjoy the holidays. You need to make the time for yourself and those you love. I can still hear the disappointment in my mother’s voice when I was so exhausted from grooming, I could not make it to our traditional Christmas Eve family gathering.

This prioritizing system helped immensely. Being a little more organized and proactive meant I could take care of my best clients and still have the energy to enjoy the holidays with my family.

Don’t limit yourself – you can use the system to fill your books all year round. Ultimately, it depends on how in demand you are and how busy your schedule is.

Whatever way you implement the system, it’s a great way to take care of your best customers. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you. Most importantly, you’ll both be taking the best care of the pets you love.

Happy trimming!

Melissa


Do You Deal with Challenging Dogs?

When I first started working with dogs, I worked with a groomer who didn't have a lot of patience with them. Dogs danced. They panted and drooled. They sat down - a lot. They growled, pulled, snapped, and bit. The groomer was constantly struggling. It did not take long before I began to think most dogs were naughty on the grooming table.

Eventually, the groomer moved on and I got a promotion. I went from being a kennel worker to grooming. It was not an advancement I was looking forward to.

I came from a horse background. The better I understood the behavior and psychology of horses, the stronger horsewoman I became. The horses I worked with became my partners. We were a team. When you're dealing with large animals, that's exactly what you want.

I quickly applied this concept to the dogs I was working with every day. Sure, I had to learn the haircuts. More importantly, I had to learn how to win their trust and cooperation. I needed to get inside the mind of a dog.

This idea was confirmed when I went to a large dog show in Chicago. I was working on learning how to identify breeds and learn their haircuts. There was a special bonus about attending the show. Barbara Woodhouse, a world-renowned UK dog trainer, was there. She was going to be working with some difficult dogs. It was one of her specialties.

I remember sitting in the audience looking down onto the floor of the auditorium. She was working with an Afghan Hound in full coat. She had a light show lead on the dog but the dog would not walk. It had to be carried to the center of the arena. When the dog was set down, it curled up in a small ball, trying to become invisible. It was clearly terrified.

Barbara Woodhouse approached the dog with confidence. She bent over the dog and soothed it with long methodical strokes to its head and ears while speaking in a very calming sing-song type voice. Even from a distance, I could see the dog starting to relax.

Within moments, she coaxed the dog into a standing position. However, it was evident the dog was still very scared.

Mrs. Woodhouse continued in her sing-song voice, explaining what she was doing while giving reassurance to the dog. She gently and methodically moved her hands over the dog's body. The Afghan was slowly starting to relax. It's topline leveled out. Its head started to come up. As she got towards the rear of the dog, she let her hand slide to the inside of the thigh and gently stroked the inside of the leg.

The dog gave a yawn and then a shake. She softly praised the behavior. The dog's tail came up as it looked to Mrs. Woodhouse for direction. With that, she asked the dog to move forward. It did. Within moments she had the dog fully gaiting on a show lead around the arena. It was amazing.

I will never forget how she was able to gently and confidently work the dog out of its fear in just minutes.

I thought to myself, if Barbara Woodhouse could have such a quick and positive effect on this dog, I needed to learn how to have the same effect.

When I first started grooming, many dogs coming into the salon lacked confidence. They were uncooperative. They struggled. I needed to win their trust. Watching Barbara Woodhouse taught me handling was a learnable skill I needed to master.

I became fascinated with dog behavior, psychology, canine body language, and natural dog training. I read training books by Barbara Woodhouse and Carol Lea Benjamin. I studied canine behavior and psychology. I spent hours watching dogs naturally interact with one another and with humans. I thoroughly enjoyed learning how to use Tellington TTouch® develop by Linda Tellington-Jones. TTouch influences animals in a way that develops trust, and helps forms a harmonious bond between the pet and the person. It can also have a positive effect toward changing unwanted behavior.

Before long, I had very few difficult dogs to work with. Dogs who had been challenging to handle were becoming calm and cooperative. As I gained more experience, it took only moments to gain the trust and respect of my four-legged clients.

Here are a 15 of my favorite handling thoughts and practices:


1. Dogs are hardwired to think like dogs.
2. Dogs live in the present.
3. Dog take their clues from their handler, so set limitations, rules, and boundaries immediately.
4. The canine species is a pack animal - dogs need to accept and respect us as the pack leader.
5. The word NO is one of the most overused words in the dog's home environment - use a different sound or word to indicate undesirable behavior.
6. Never work on a pet you feel is dangerous to itself or to you.
7. Always maintain the 3 C's: Calm - Cool - Collected.
8. Dogs are silent communicators and are highly responsive to your energy.
9. Never take an unfamiliar pet directly from the owner's arms.
10. Always maintain some form of physical control - properly adjusted leads or safety loops.
11. Be a life-long learner of canine psychology and body language.
12. Not all pets are candidates for all professional grooming settings.
13. Humanity always comes before vanity.
14. If the eyes glow red or green - don't groom the dog.
15. Your hands are your livelihood - always protect them.


Personal self-confidence stems from education and experience. Continue to learn new ways to communicate with the pets you handle. The more self-confidence you have, the more successfully you will work with animals.

Never put a dog in danger. Always use respectful but effective handling methods. Do not let your emotions get the best of you. Don't let frustration get in the way.

Always know how your equipment performs and what can happen if you do not use it properly. You need to establish yourself as a pack leader but never at the expense of the dog.

For most of us, grooming dogs is a dream come true. However, every job has its challenges, including grooming. Not every dog loves the grooming process. Most dogs, when skillfully handled with respect, can be groomed with minimal stress to both the pet and the groomer.
Pick trainers you admire and follow them. Study the natural body language of dogs. Learn as much as you can about canine behavior and psychology.

The better you can communicate with the pet you're working on, the less stressful your job is going to be. Most people who have been in the business for a long time have mastered the art of canine (and/or feline) communications. It doesn't matter whether they are working on a regular client or one they only see a few times a year. Rarely do they have difficult or naughty dogs on the grooming table.

It does not mean experienced groomers don't get challenging pets. They do. They just have the skills to handle that pet more effectively than someone with fewer handling skills. If they have a consistently full appointment book, they have the option to make choices in their clientele. Whether they continue to work with a difficult pet or refuse it in the future is totally theirs.

Experienced pet stylists set the rules, limitations, and boundaries automatically - many times without ever saying a word. Even if they do have issues, they know how to effectively deal with problem pets in a safe and gentle manner. Do you know their secrets?


Do You Struggle to Get Clients to Rebook?

Rebooking clients is one of the easiest ways for groomers and pet stylists to boost their income. Encouraging clients to rebook on the day of their service will help keep a steady stream of pets coming into your salon.

Clients that rebook before they leave return on a much more frequent basis than those who do not. Let's face it - life gets busy. Personally, if I did not rebook my own hair appointment before I left the beauty salon, I'd be there a lot less frequently than every five or six weeks! Our pet owning clients are no different.

Many groomers don't encourage their customers to rebook their pet's next grooming. They think the client will come back when they are ready. While that may be true, it's more likely the client will not return as often as they should.

As a professional, it is up to us to educate our clients how often they should return based on:

• hygienic needs of the pet

• coat condition

• trim style

• activity level

• level of home maintenance between appointments

Most pets that are considered a part of the family require regular grooming. These owners share their lives, their homes, and sometimes even their beds with their four-legged family member. These pets benefit from weekly or bi-weekly bathing. Ideally, pets that require haircuts should be trimmed every 4 to 6 weeks. How often you handle hand stripped pets will vary based on the coat type and the technique used to strip out the dead coat. These dogs will need to be groomed weekly to a couple of times a year.

Pet professionals who understand the impact of rebooking realize that is not just a courtesy, it's an important business building strategy. Educate your clients about the rebooking process. Encourage them to set aside time to keep their pet's coat in peak condition.

Here are 4 Tips to Ensure Your Clients are Rebooking with Every Visit

  1. Stress Maintaining a Schedule - As a professional pet stylist, it's your job to educate your client. You know what it takes to keep their pet's coat in peak condition. Find out how the client would ideally like their dog to look and learn their budget. Talk to them about how much at-home care they are willing to do between grooming appointments. Discuss the lifestyle of the pet. Once you know the answers to those questions, you can suggest the ideal number of weeks the pet should go between professional grooming appointments.
  2. Suggest Dates - Don't just ask the client if they would like to rebook their next appointment. Suggest an ideal appointment date when you should see them again and have your calendar ready to set that appointment. If the client is hesitant, politely informing him that the best spots are already being filled can often help him make the decision to arrange for the appointment before he loses out to someone else.
  3. Offer an Incentive to Rebook - Small incentives can be a great way to keep clients coming back. Offer a small discount if they book their next visit within six weeks or less. Or offer them a free service with their pre-booked appointment. If they rebook weekly, bi-weekly, or every third week - offer them a special discounted rate to maintain the frequency of their visits. Do the math - you'll probably be shocked at how steeply you can discount a weekly or bi-weekly client on their regular grooming price and still make more money on an annual basis.
  4. Train Your Staff - Rebooking is a courtesy to the client - and a benefit to you. Make sure your entire team understands the importance. The key to success is to ask EVERY client to rebook their next appointment before they leave.

Having an appointment book that is 50% to 70% pre-booked is like money in the bank. It's a security system that allows you to breathe easily. It ensures you will not lose clients or revenue from light client bookings. It is one of the easiest ways to guarantee your income and keep your pet clients looking and feeling their best.