How Many Dogs Should You Groom a Day?

I often say there are shades of gray in pet grooming.

How many dogs a day you should groom is one of the BIG gray areas! The number will be different for everybody. Some people feel overwhelmed grooming even three dogs in a full day. Other people can do 16 while barely breaking a sweat.

Here are just a handful of the scenarios affecting the number of dogs that might be groomed in a day.

• Level of grooming experience
• Work space setup
• Equipment
• Salon location
• Salon type
• Size of salon/mobile setup
• Working solo or with assistance
• Pet size
• Type of grooms - low maintenance, bath and brush, show trim styles
• Personal motivation
• Your personality
• Financial need

I'm sure you could add a few more to this list!

Typically, when someone first graduates from grooming school or is new to the industry, productivity is not high on their skill list. Rather, their focus is on thoroughness, quality, and safety.

New groomers will improve their speed as they develop skills and confidence. They need experience. They need coaching. They need guidance to create an effective grooming system. The system allows thoroughness while enhancing the quality of their work and the pace in which they do it.

If you're a seasoned pet stylist, you've learned many of the tricks that allow you to be efficient. You've learned how to quickly assess a pet and easily determine its grooming needs. You are thorough. You work safely. You have a strong base of repeat customers.

Over the years I've seen beginners struggle to get through three dogs. I've seen highly efficient, seasoned stylists get through 16 or more dogs in the single day and still have the time and energy to have a little "me time" that evening. Where do you fall on the scale? Where would you like to be?

Being able to work quickly and skillfully can also be impacted by the layout of your work space. Are you set up for maximum efficiency? A bad layout will add unnecessary footsteps to your day and waste your time and energy.

Your equipment, tools, and products will also help or hurt you. Many products will enhance your speed and the quality of your final product. Do you have access to high-quality, time-saving, products and tools? When used correctly, they are well worth the investment and can help you groom more pets efficiently.

If you are a solo stylist either in your own salon or mobile setting, 6 to 8 dogs will likely be your maximum. In addition to grooming pets, independent business owners have a wide range of duties and responsibilities. They are the receptionist, the bookkeeper, the marketer, the janitor, and the record keeper - along with every other task it takes to run a successful business. If you are a mobile stylist, you also have driving and van maintenance added to your list of responsibilities.

Efficiency comes into play when pet grooming establishments start building a team. You cannot build a successful business or team with inefficient team members. Inefficient teams will not be able to groom as many pets as their efficient counterparts.

Financial need affects dog numbers. To get a decent paycheck, everyone needs to pull their weight. If you are hired onto a team or work with an assistant, you will have quotas to meet. Some quotas are determined by dog numbers. Other businesses use financial sales volume. Both help determine how many dogs are groomed each day.

Typically, once you start working with others, dog volume increases. In most salons, a team of people working together will be expected to do a minimum of eight dogs a day or more. When you're working within a team, everybody has a specialty. Each person can focus on what they do best, whether it's customer service, bathing and drying, or pet trimming and styling. If you have an assistant doing the bathing and drying for you, the number of pets might jump from 6-8 to 12-14. Let's face it - bathing and drying dogs takes time! If a shop has a good bather/prepper, you can easily groom more pets in a day.

The type of trim combined with the sizes of dogs being done will make a huge difference in how many pets can be done each day. A #7F All on a six-week regular Shih Tzu is much different from a longer guard comb trim with stylized scissored legs. What happens if you increase the size of the dog? Larger dogs simply take much more time. To me, a Doodle is the equivalent of two or three smaller dogs, depending on the type of haircut it is getting.

For many pet professionals, WHY you groom pets will also influence how many dogs you groom in a day. One of the amazing things about our industry is we all love dogs. There are those who really enjoy taking their time with the grooming process and will groom fewer pets. There are those who will try to help as many pets as they can in a single day. Others enjoy the creativity. Some enjoy the flexibility the career offers while others are motivated by the career opportunities. There are also groomers that simply enjoy earning a living by doing something they love.

How many dogs should you groom each day? There are lots of gray areas so there is no right answer. Whatever your motivation, no matter how many dogs you groom each day, the most important thing should always be the health and safety of the pets entrusted to you.


Making the Most of a Seminar

When you attend trade shows and clinics, preparing in advance can help you make the most of this experience. Seminars are a great way to improve your skills and recharge your batteries. Meeting your mentors and soaking up their knowledge is a fantastic opportunity, and if you can see and hear them in action, it maximizes the experience. When you know what you need and what you hope to get out of the session, you can better prepare yourself to squeeze out as much as you can from your time together.

1. Step into the session with a very open mind.

If you are young and fresh to the industry, the amount of information that you get can be intimidating. Listen, take notes, and soak up every bit of knowledge that you can. Sometimes that may mean suspending what you know in order to make room for something new. Trying new techniques or ideas can be uncomfortable just because you've never tried it before. Keeping an open mind enables you to break from your routine to get different results. With time and practice, the awkwardness goes away and you become more efficient. Remember: having more tools, techniques, and knowledge allows you to have multiple approaches to a problem.

2. Make efficient use of the time available.

Many trainers at these sessions have limited time. They are often rushing from one obligation to another - judging competitions, speaking in seminars, or providing hands-on clinics. If they can, many will take the time to answer your questions. If you know what you need to ask, it helps you make the best use of the brief time you may have together. Be prepared - write down your questions in advance so you don't forget something important or stumble over your words. Being ready to participate in the learning experience helps you make the best use of the session - and the presenter will respect you for it.

3. Don't be nervous - plan ahead.

With so much to see and do at trade shows, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Break out the catalog and study the floor plan before you arrive. Map out your plan of attack to make sure you get to everything you need to see. Some shows have free apps you can download to help make the most out of your experience. Know the schedule of events so you don't miss that speaker you've been hoping to see. Sometimes it's good to go to shows like this with a friend - divide and conquer, then compare notes later.

As your knowledge and skills advance, the clinics won't be as daunting. They will become a great way for you to fine-tune your skills. You can begin to network and exchange thoughts with others in the industry who can provide insight when you need it. Plus, these types of functions are a great way to invigorate your career.

These principles remain valid for many forms of advanced learning in the pet grooming industry. Maybe you don't have the opportunity to do a hands-on training session. There is a wealth of information to learn from these all-star pet stylists. You might be in the audience at a trade show, pet grooming competition or watching a grooming video lesson featuring one of these top stylists. The better you can execute the core skills with your everyday grooming, the easier it will be to successfully transfer their lessons to your own grooming table.

If you are not as accomplished as these award-winning and highly successful pet groomers are - take note. You can learn a lot from their well-developed skills. Learning new skills, tips, and tricks make grooming pets all that more fun!


Five Steps to Mastering Any Skill

Learning to master skills helps us get ahead in our work and lives. To do this you need to have a deep understanding of the skill you are trying to perfect. You also need the dedication to put in the needed time and deliberate practice.

"Deliberate practice," was introduced by researcher, Anders Ericsson who studied this concept for over 30 years. His research shows HOW you practice matters much more than HOW MUCH you practice.

Deliberate practice isn't running a few miles each day, strumming a guitar for 20 minutes each morning, or grooming a few dogs each day.

Deliberate practice is much more purposeful and focused. It might take you five to ten years of deliberate practice to truly master a skill.

To improve anything, you must push beyond your comfort zone. This process can be very difficult. Letting go of what is safe and learning to get comfortable with the unknown is hard for most of us. For some, it is impossible. But when you put sincere effort toward improving a weakness, you will grow.

To become great, experts focus on improving their weaknesses. Practicing on easy things never leads to improvement. Working hard just to work will exhaust you. Working purposefully towards improving is the secret to success.

It doesn't matter whether you are trying to master a specific breed profile, specialize in a grooming technique, increase your speed, or skillfully run your business. To master any task, you need to focus and practice in a purposeful way.
Here are five ideas to help you stay focused on a skill you want to master.

1. Deliberate practice has one objective: to improve performance. According to Ericsson, "People who play tennis once a week for years don't get any better if they do the same thing each time. Deliberate practice is about changing your performance, setting new goals and straining yourself to reach a bit higher each time."

2. Perfect practice makes perfect. Repetition matters. Do it repeatedly. Football legends don't practice their specialty briefly at the end of their practice sessions. They repeat the fundamentals of their specialty hundreds of times each week.

3. Get consistent feedback. You must monitor your progress so you can adjust. Without feedback, you won't know how to improve. Seek out a mentor or a coach in the area you would like to master. Asked them for consistent criticism and advice.

4. Identify your weakest area. Focus on improving your weakest skill. Then move on. Don't beat yourself up.

5. Be prepared. The process is going to be challenging. It will physically and mentally exhaust you. Mastery takes commitment, focus, and extreme effort.

When I began a career with dogs, it didn't take long before I knew I wanted to perfect my skills. I wanted to master pet grooming. I found mentors and coaches who could give me feedback. I read books. I studied images - photos of my own work as well as champions. I intently watched master pet stylists at work. I attended clinics and workshops. I tested my skills in the certification and competition rings. I always asked for feedback and focused on improving my work. I practiced. And practiced. And practiced.

Today, I work with a business coach. Almost every week we have a 90-minute conference call. We focus on our weakest link and ways to improve it. The following week, we review what worked and what didn't work - then move on to the next weak item on the agenda. Having a coach keeps me accountable, focused, and on track.

Remember - start small. Self-improvement can feel overwhelming. You can't take on everything. If you do, you'll feel defeated and never succeed at any of it. Instead, choose one or two skills to focus on at a time. Break down the skill into manageable chunks. Set goals. Get feedback and track your progress.

Along the learning journey, stop to reflect. When you want to move from good... to great... to mastery, you need to stop and spend time reflecting on what you're doing. If you don't, the new skill won't stick. Talk to your mentor, coach, or someone you respect as you go. Talking about your progress assists in getting valuable feedback. It keeps you accountable and it cements the changes.

Be patient with yourself. You are not going to reach perfection right away. Mastery requires perfecting many smaller skills and then putting them all together. It could take months to perfect a single new sub-skill. It will take years to truly master a particular technique or specialize in a field.

You can use these techniques on anything you want to improve or master. Many of us can do something well. True mastery takes it to a much deeper level.

Do you have what it takes to become a master?


How to Handle Tardy and No-Show Clients

Unfortunately, there isn't an easy rule for solving the problems of tardy or no-show clients. The good news is that you have lots of options to help deal with it. Depending on how busy you are, cancellations can either be a blessing or a curse. In either case, if you have a client who is chronically dismissive or disrespectful of your time, you need to be proactive and correct the problem.

Our kennel, Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, experienced 68 reservation cancellations over the 4th of July holiday. During the summer months, Whiskers runs at over 100% occupancy rate with its 180 rooms. During peak holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and Spring Break, Whiskers charges a $50 deposit for all reservations. This deposit is nonrefundable if the cancellation takes place two weeks prior to their check-in date. In the past, the deposit has not been charged for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day. That will be changing.

For years we've tracked grooming appointment cancellations at The Paragon School of Pet Grooming. Despite our continual efforts to knock the rate down, its remains a persistent 10%.

In the pet grooming industry, time is money. Clients who are chronically tardy or don't show up for their appointments create havoc for both your schedule and your pocketbook.

It's frustrating.

It's disrespectful.

It's rude.

(However, if you are overbooked, it can also be a blessing.)

There is no perfect solution for this problem. Everyone has a slightly different take on this situation. Some salons run on a very tight schedule while others are more relaxed. And let's face it, there are times when the client has a legitimate excuse. So, what do you do?

8 Ways to deal with Tardy and No-show Clients.

  1. Call or text to confirm the day ahead. Sometimes clients just need is a gentle reminder to avoid a scheduling conflict.
  2. Breathe. For some pet stylists, having a cancellation is not a big deal. It doesn't happen that often. The clients are well-trained and respectful of their appointments and time. In some cases, it might even be a relief.
  3. Overbook. Service businesses do this all the time to ensure they are full. The key here is to have a variety of pets on the books. If there are a few easy jobs sprinkled between the more difficult ones, you will get through your day, even if your cancellation rate is below the 10% mark.
  4. If they are 10 or 15 minutes late - call them. If they can make it into the salon within a few minutes, keep the appointment. It's easier than trying to refill it - unless you don't want to! If you opt not to honor their appointment, rebook them for another time. Don't wait 30 or more minutes and then explode when they walk in the door expecting to keep their appointment. It's better to make the call right away and know what your next step should be. This method offers you more control over the situation. With some clients, you need to personally point out why it's important for you and/or your team to have set appointment times. This can be done in a friendly - yet firm - professional manner. This tactic also works well with non-chronic cancellations.
  5. Have a 3 Strike Rule. Some people are just forgetful. Others are just plain disrespectful. Others are downright rude. If the client will not respect your time, you don't have to continue to put up with it. Occasionally, there are solid reasons why someone misses an appointment. Life happens. The 3 Strike Rule covers clients who are chronically late or don't show up for their appointments. If you're going to set up a 3 Strike Rule, what are the consequences? Do you refuse to groom the dog in the future? Charge a cancellation fee? Do you have a client prepay a nonrefundable amount for the scheduled next appointment? If you make a rule, there must be consequences. Make a policy, then consistently stick with it.
  6. If the client cancels, fails to show up, or is tardy beyond being able to groom them at their appointed time, reschedule them. Don't do them a favor by squeezing them in the next day or two. Push them out at least two weeks. I've known many stylists that are so busy they have NO flexibility left in their schedules. If a client misses today's appointment they can't get another one until their next pre-scheduled appointment. This works exceptionally well for stylists that are booked out weeks, months, or even a year in advance. It can be a hard lesson for the client but it is generally very effective. Rarely do they miss another appointment.
  7. For clients who are chronically tardy or don't show up, charge a late or no-show fee. You won't always get it, but if they book another appointment, you can tack it on to their next grooming fee. You could also consider raising their base price to include an inconvenience fee.
  8. If you have a client who simply cannot adhere to a schedule or does not respect your time, have them prepay prior to their grooming appointment. This should be a nonrefundable amount. After all, your time is valuable and it's worth money. If they cancel, you can't get your time back nor the money you would have earned if they had kept their appointment.

Are there exceptions to your rules? Absolutely.

If you don't already track how many cancellations you have each day and each week - start tracking it. Find out what your cancellation average is per day. Once you know the number, you can be proactive in correcting the problem.
Another way to look at it is from a dollar standpoint. At Paragon, our average cancellation rate is 10%. If you apply the 10% rate to your situation and you do 20 dogs a day at $50, that starts to add up! That translates into losing two dogs or $100 every day! Times that by five days a week and you're at $500 of lost revenue. To me, it's worth taking the time to simply call and remind people of their upcoming appointment the day before!

We are in the business of building positive relationships with our customers, both the two-legged and four-legged variety. Your personality and the type of relationship with your clients dictates how firmly you adhere to the demands on your time. Remember, these customers not only affect you and your time, they ultimately affect your schedule and your other clients. You need to be warm, caring, and maintain your professionalism.

Just because you are warm and caring does not mean you can't set rules and boundaries. Remember, you can still provide great customer service and have a mutually respectful relationship that benefits both you and your client.


How to Get Your Clipper Work Smooth Like a Summer Hay Field

It's been over 35 years since that first time. I still remember standing in awe, watching a talented pet groomer give a dog a haircut. She handled her clippers with ease. The long fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and gorgeous. And she was fast - super fast. She made the whole process seems so simple.

The first time I tried, I quickly discovered it was not simple. Those initial attempts were pretty pathetic. Saying my first efforts were rough and choppy would be polite. There were long tufts hanging out everywhere. I was frustrated beyond belief. I was determined to master the skill. After all, the groomer I had been watching proved it could be done. It was simple - I just had to focus and figure it out.

Fast forward a few years of practice and a couple hundred dogs later, and I could make any dog look amazing. When I did a simple haircut on a pet, the fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and appealing. I could finish dogs in no time. I'd gotten very efficient with my clippers. It took years of hard work. There were years of standing on my feet until they throbbed, working until my hands and shoulders ached. However, my pain can be your gain. Here are a few tips to enhance your speed when it comes to simple, low maintenance haircuts:

• Use the most powerful clipper you can afford and are comfortable holding. Duel speeds or variable speed clippers are great options.
• Work with the natural lay of the coat. You can work with or against the grain. If you reverse clip, the end result will leave that fur approximately two blade lengths shorter than working with the natural lay of the coat.
• For a large majority of low maintenance trims done with a #4F, #5F, or a #7F blade with the grain, you will go over the pet three times before it's really smooth.

  1. The first time removes the bulk.
  2. The second time takes out the high spots.
  3. The third time erases what you missed.
  4. The strokes are long and smooth. They overlap slightly. I often tell students to think about a hay field. The farmer wants to be as efficient as possible - but he doesn't want to miss anything, either. Most farmers work in nice, neat rows as they cut hay, slightly overlapping each row to ensure they don't miss any portion of the field. Think about the dog's body in the same manner. It's a hay field. Your clipper is the tractor. You want it done right... and you want to be done before the dinner bell rings.
  5. When clipping the legs, remember the actual contact of the cutting blade is minimal due to the shape of the surface. It's round - like a pencil. Only a few teeth will make contact with the surface as you run the clipper down the leg. Thus, on legs you need multiple passes to get the same effect as three passes on the larger flat surface of the body. You can clearly see this relationship by simply running a blade down your own finger and looking at the blade's point of contact.

Back brush. Back brush. Back brush!

You'll always get a smoother cut on a dog that is clean and the coat has been fluffed. Once you make the initial pass to remove the bulk of the long coat, it's time to pick up the brush.

Back brush the entire dog and go over it a second time. On the third pass, again gently back brush the entire area that needs final attention. Did you get that? Back brush!

When do you know you are done? You are done clipping when there is no more coat coming off the dog after it has been washed, dried, and effectively back brushed. Period.

Clipper work on a low maintenance haircut style can be extremely frustrating for new groomer. But once you master the clipper and understand how to work with the coat, it becomes second nature. It becomes simple. You become fast. And you will be able to perform the haircut safely with great precision. You can do it. It just takes focus.

Happy Trimming, Melissa


The Secret to Handling Challenging Dogs

In my years of teaching new pet groomers, I’ve seen hundreds of dogs take advantage of a new students. Dogs pull, squirm, whine, snarl… and bite. I’ve seen many students frustrated to the point of tears.

Then a miracle happens.

An instructor will walk over to the pet and gently take over for the student. Suddenly, this challenging pet turns into a perfect angel. The students’ jaw drops. A moment in stunned silence passes before the student exclaims, “How did you do that?!” The answer is simple:

Energy.

Dogs have keen senses and an uncanny ability to pick up on our energy and our confidence. They read us clearly even when we don’t think we are connecting to them. In the example above, the dog picked up on the instructor’s energy without a word having to be said.

Dogs are primarily nonverbal communicators. They have a language of their own. They are very clear in the messages that they give us. It is up to us to be able to interpret that language.

The #1 rule when working with pets is to remember the three C’s. As a professional you must remain: Calm, Cool, and Collected in ALL circumstances. The second you step out of this energy mode, the dog pet will know it.

Dogs are hardwired to think like dogs. They need a pack leader. If you do not exude the three C’s, dog language translates that to “poor leader.” The pet will not follow you. It will not cooperate with you.

So how do you gain the upper edge in this situation? Believe it or not, it all starts with your BREATHING.

I know it sounds far-fetched. How could something we do without conscious thought help in this situation?

To create a calm, cool, and collected energy, you need to be cool, calm, and collected. Deep breathing allows you body to channel that calm and focus. To make it happen, your breaths need to be deep and saturating. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Draw in the air and feel it fill your lungs. Now exhale slowly through your mouth. The most important part of deep breathing is to regulate your breaths. Three to four seconds in. Three to four seconds out.

Try it. You will feel the oxygen saturating your body. Tension begins to leave your shoulders. You will start to feel more relaxed almost immediately.

Deep breathing can release stress and provide other noticeable health benefits. You will likely feel calmer after performing deep breathing exercises, and may trade feelings of anger or fear for a focused, relaxed state of mind. Most dogs will totally gravitate to this energy in a very positive way.

I firmly believe that 98% of all dog bites are preventable by reading the animal correctly and taking the appropriate precautions to protect yourself while gaining humane control over the pet. Your hands are your livelihood. You must take utmost care not to let your hands become injured.

Every pet is an individual with different physical and emotional characteristics. Some dogs receive clear directions and boundaries at home, making them very easy to work on in a professional setting. Other pets will not have the skills necessary to be well-mannered candidates in a professional grooming setting.

The personality quirks that you’ll experience while working professionally with pets will range from dogs that are perfect angels, to dogs that are mildly annoying, to dogs that could be potentially dangerous to work on for both the handler and to the pet itself.

Whenever working with pets it is always critical to remember the 3 C’s. As a professional you must remain calm, cool, and collected in all circumstances. And don’t forget to BREATHE.

Whenever you have a dog on a table or in your grooming facility, you must use humane, respectful, and consistent training messages. The more you can learn about dog psychology and combine it with actual experience, winning the control and the respect over the dogs will become second nature.

Always remember that dogs are primarily silent communicators. Excessive talking or giving of commands is not necessary to effectively communicate with them. Much of your control can come from maintaining the Three C’s – Always remain Calm, Cool, and Collected while working with any animal.

Any time you feel you are losing control of the three C’s, it’s time to step away from the grooming table and take a break. Breathe. Only when you can totally regain your composure is it time to step back and begin your work again.

There are many videos on Pet Handling in the Learn2GroomDogs library. Also my blog on Rating Dog Personalities is very helpful when determining how to rate personality and behavior in dogs.

Happy trimming!

Melissa