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.

Bardel1


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.

Bardel2

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.

Bardel3

• 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.

Bardel4

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

Setter1

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

Setter2

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?

Mellisa-blog-tuck1

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

Mellisa-blog-tuck3

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
Mellisa-blog-tuck4
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.

Mellisa-blog-tuck5

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