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September 2014

Those Cuddly Fluffy Terriers!

 

As I wrote before, don't get bogged down in frustration or being overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do to get a groom to look its best. Why not instead seize those opportunities and take what you know, and find a way to overcome? Remaining proactive will get you much more accomplished and help you realize that most usually, with a little creativity, anything is possible!

I wanted to share some information that can help stylists and groomers to better achieve great groom outcomes even with less than ideal upkeep or appointment rotations in the salon. Options for us to make our clients happy, and to keep our workload down while maintaining efficiency.

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So, right off the bat, let's tackle how to address one of the hardest types of coat to keep up in the salon atmosphere: the Terrier coat.

Anyone who spends any time grooming dogs knows that any one breed's standard dictates the trimstyle and coat upkeep needed on their breed to bring out its truest type. But, as a steadfast rule, genetics and breed lineage determine the quality of coat and the palette of attributes we as groomers have to work with to create the best possible groom. 

All of those things aside however, the final say is always left up to the wishes and the genuine ability of the pet's owner in terms of their at home upkeep and their devotion in priority, and financial ability of keeping a regular rotation of dedicated grooming visits. In no way can we as a groomer bridge that final gap that sometimes exists between what we know to be correct for the dog and its breed, versus the decisions and methods we have to mold our practices around for the client dog when factoring in the actual care the pet gets from its owner.

It is very important to take proper care of terrier skin and coat in order to keep texture, layers and color visible year round. We all know that if terriers are not kept up depending on their genetic coat growth cycles, that you end up with a lackluster, overgrown, soft coat that is not indicative of a terrier at all. Therein lies the problem; you can't cheat on terrier coats. You can't cut actively growing hair off with a clipper, right along with the dead hair sitting within the same follicle. What happens when you do that, is that you back up the follicle with dead coat and this allows less & less new coat to come in. As less new, actively growing coat doesn't have room to come in, and the dead coat isn't removed from its place in the follicle, you inevitably end up with fluffy, soft, dull, dead coated terriers.

We also know that a lot of times your terrier owners in the pet salon cannot or will not commit to a two, three or four-week regular rotation you need in order to keep coats true. So what can we do his pet groomers that is both time effective and profitable in the grooming salon atmosphere as well as helps to maintain skin and coat on these breeds that grow & shed or "turn coat over" quickly, and keep clients happy?

We need to utilize the next best options as much as we can to get the most out of the coat growth phases while providing the methods of care such hair coat still needs to look its best. Those options come in the form of clearing out all of the dead hair coat, removing built up oils and dander from the skin, flushing out the hair follicles, and then using our hands and tools in a method that mimics the handstripping that these breeds require for upkeep. All the while, doing this within a time frame that keeps us efficient. And as a final measure towards a happy groomer AND a happy client, we need to PRICE our services properly to reflect the fat that we are playing a game of catch up at every visit. This is a skill greatly unrealize by many groomers.

Take it from me, until you decide to charge more for a difficult groom, nothing will make you feel better about having a dog coming in that you know will be a mess. That is, unless you've added tools to your arsenal that help you groom easier, and seal the deal by charging more for your hard work.

Below is an Irish terrier who only comes in every 8 to 10 weeks. Yes, 8-10 weeks. Believe me, you'll see what I'm saying when you see the before photo...

Genetically, I know this terrier needs a dedicated weekly stripping rotation on average to keep the undercoat down, and the harsh guard coat in all its fast shedding glory. This means that weekly, a person should be putting in about an hour or so of solid pulling of dead secondary coat and dead and dying guard coat to keep the skin debrided, and the coat colored, tight, and tailored true to its breed.
I have found that with a lot of salon clients that cannot keep up a tight grooming rotation schedule, or those that say they don't like their dogs short and tight coated or "naked", that these methods below are able to effectively bridge the gap between reality and being a groomer that delivers.


You and I know full well that if we don't give a client what they're asking for, they're just going to get it somewhere else. Obviously we need to educate and take the time to create a repoir with each client in the best interest of the dog that were grooming, but in the end if we don't give them what they want I'll just go elsewhere to get it. That doesn't help the dog and it doesn't help your sales revenue.


At times like that I groom the dog to the best of my ability and knowledge, and I keep a smile on my face the whole time I'm discussing with clients what is that they'd like to have their dog turn out like. Knowing full well that in the end I will do what I have to do to get them what they want as well as best caring for the dogs coat within my own a professional ability, but always without losing my profit margin.

Our first job as a groomer is always to remove dead and un-needed hair and dirt so that the healthy skin and coat can shine through. We are the housekeepers of coat.

To this effect, I always tackle every coat on my terriers with rakes, carding knives, a stone, a stiff bristle brush, and my hands, before even putting them into the tub. Working the coat with its natural oils present helps you to not irritate the skin by working it, and it helps you to be less likely to accidentally break coat when doing your initial raking and carding if you're working with very long tangled coat, or still mastering your terrier skills.


After working thoroughly through the coat in these stages below, the dog goes into the bath and receives a good benzoyl peroxide to or other follicular flushing shampoo. I do not use clarifying shampoo is in the salon on these coats as they are most usually overdrying and will put the skin into overdrive to create an abundance of oils in order to rehydrate. This can cause excesive oiliness at their next visit. I do not use terrier or texturizing shampoos which deposit a sealant on the coat that increases texture. Texturizing shampoos left on the coat for any length of time will most definitely cause breakage. As well I do not apply heavy cream conditioners on most any of my terriers with exception sometimes to long furnishings. Instead I opt for a light spray on conditioner put onto the coat as a final step just to add light moisture but nothing that will attract dirt.

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This is our terrier; in all her fluffy glory- ready for her initial coat removal before her bath.

First I use my coat rakes to rake through the coat in multiple steps. I begin with my coarse rake going over the entire dog to pull out the last layer of dead, long hair- working in layers- including the furnishings; but working carefully on the legs with any coat removal tool that has sharp tines. Next I move to my fine rake and repeat the thorough going over of the dog from the neck all along the jacket area. I do not fine rake the leg furnishings or the chest or side coat of any terrier as that would be asking for breakage.

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After that I move to my carding knives. I start with my coarse carding knife and then move to my fine carding knife, working in each step completely through the coat of the dog with exception to the head and leg furnishings.

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I work with a flat knife, or laying the knife flat gainst the skin at all times. I never turn my wrist or fingers as that will stand the knive on its teeth and most usually abrade the skin and/or break coat.

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This cycle always results in another pile of dead coat.

Finally, I work through the entire coat- including the furnishings and beard- with a final brushing with either a stiff bristle brush or palm pad, or a very soft flexible style slicker such as Les Poochs or my newest favorite tool- the ActiVet brush pictured below and available from Groomer's Helper.

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This final cycle of fine brushing pulls a little more oils up & out of the skin and gets the last it of hair ready to exit the coat.

Lastly, I do my handstripping work to pull out coat that needs a little direct attention to get out.
The head and leg furnishings I also always pull my hand, because you'll find with breakage of finer hairs that these areas and that since these hairs grow and then shed the fastest, that they also lose their texture and color the fastest, as well as flatwork areas of coat (areas where the hair naturally grows in shorter & must be kept tighter such as the head, cheeks, throat and butterfly or inner thigh areas).

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After a complete cycle of raking followed by a complete cycle of carding knives, I go through the jacket coat and roll it loosely between my fingers pulling out only the longest and most ready to shed hairs within the coat. You can use powder for this step, but it is not necessary.

After the jacket pull, I quickly pull the head & beard hair down as needed by hand including as much of the ear hair as they will allow. It is important regardless of whether or not you're leaving more coat on your pet terrier than what he should by breed standard have, to at least nail the head profile on these dogs so that they still look like a terrier in the end.

After all of the dead coat is removed, we have a dog that's pulled pretty well down.

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Next its into the tub, and a then a thorough HV drying with the growth of coat to set the lay of coat. Setting the lay of coat with your dryer will help create a tighter profile in the end. You cannot allow a dog to kennel dry in order to help *marcelle* or keep natural wave to the coat, but I have found that with these pet dogs actively drying the coat helps to remove every bit of dead hair and is incremental as a part to keeping the coats free of dead coat for a longer grooming rotation.


After the HV drying, I work through the coat again in the same stages repeated over the entire dog, which goes much faster as most all of the hair is already out.  

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From there I do the clippering portion of the groom to tighten everything up. I use a skip tooth blade of my desired length depending on what the owner has asked for. With this dog I chose a #4S (Skip) tooth blade. With this blade I skim loosely over the coat to tighten everything and make sure that there are no moth-eaten (uneveness caused by areas of blown coat) areas in the coat to the best of my ability. After the clipper work on the jacket and neck area of the dog, and doing the sani areas and feet tight with my clipper.

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Terriers are diggers and tight feet will always help with mess!

From there, I tidy up and finish the headpiece on the dog and hand pull anything needed on the leg furnishings and the tail in the sensitive areas. I also will flat re-clipper the throat latch mark outs and the butterfly area on the back of the dog as well as the inner ear of the dog nice and tight and the flu needs to be cleaned up as well.

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If a client says that they want their dog "fluffy",  and some do- I will help reintroduce some curl to the coat as a final step. To do this, I apply a light leave in or terrier coat conditioning spray and lightly dampen the jacket & neck coat with a spritz of distilled water. Then I softly squeeze the coat throughout the length of the dog. This is a technique known as marcelling for breeds like Kerryblue Terriers. It's purpose for pet grooming is to reintroduce the soft curls and a separation to the coat that the owners find appealing to keeping them curly and soft looking. (And yes, some terrier people want a fluffy cuddly looking dog just as much as some Poodle owners are adamant of not having a "poodly-looking" Poodle). From there they go into the crate to finish under a low setting fan to get them completely dry or to air dry depending on their length of visit.

This is the end result, and another reminder photo of what we started out with!

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Here are several other terriers who also get the same method of care!

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Until You've Walked a Mile In Their Shoes...

You see it time & time again. In posts and threads online, in group meeting discussions and amongst friends in the same line of work....groomers complaining about how poorly their clients care for their pets. Groomers not being able to let go of the frustration and anger towards clients over how little they care or know about grooming, how little respect they feel they get, or how little money they make to deal with the level of issues they see walk into their businesses. Groomers having to vent negativity on a regular basis. Bubbling over with anxiety and stress until it spills out on those around them.

Woman-pulling-out-hair2

Few people will be brave enough to pop in as a voice of reason and remind people that they are the one who dictates their pay rate as well as their own level of enjoyment in their work, no one else.

When I see or hear this stuff, I'm usually one of the first to state my personal opinion and then quickly and quietly exit stage left....

Recently there have been multiple "reminder posts" from long time groomers that had been there, done that, asking disgruntled and stressed out groomers to take charge of their own destiny and take that energy and put it into more proactive efforts.

I couldn't agree more..

I've got to tell you, I'm personally thankful this level of angst is a minority.

And both in person and online, with all of the trade shows and classes, or groups and chat rooms sitting there at your disposal, it is easy to notice that it seems that certain groomers often go through these levels of contempt or frustration in what comes to be to the quiet onlooker as definite cycles...

Imagine that....

LOL

It should be mentioned that with the 5 minutes of fame you get from being the "flavor of the day" online, or getting cheers from fellow naysayers, its really self defeating to your own work, and to the work of others in the industry you call home, to participate in melodrama or endless ranting. Instead, in the best interest of your own emotional well being, those standing on the outside of the mob invite you to eagerly run away at full throttle from any negative venting that is laden with nastiness.

Remember, people who are always intolerant or gossipy, will eventually bestow their gifts upon you.

But I digress...

I'm quite sure that every industry deals with it share of Negative Nellies, but perhaps because groomers are truly a passionate and creative bunch, or because since we are unregulated, social and news media coverage of bad situations are allowed to get out of hand pretty quickly with little recourse, we are especially hard hit by those who behave badly or with bad poor forethought. 

 I wanted to write this blog to discuss these peronality types and to shed some light on the thought process (or lack thereof) behind being reacitve and negative towards clients. My purpose is not at all to shame or ostrecize, not to bring poor behavior into the limelight, nor to emphasis a negative (but small) aspect of the people who work each day to comprise our industry.

Instead I'd hoped to maybe offer a different viewpoint to those who may just have their toes hanging over the edge of "going to the dark side" and struggling with not getting caught in the undertow of frustration. And especially to help our new groomers- who are just now learning the ropes of their profession- to understand that negativity and dishonesty is not the norm, and it is not well received by industry peers who seek to bring our work to a higher level or respect and consideration from pet owners and governing bodies.

Those of us who have been grooming for a very long time, have had successful businesses, and who speak and write to fans and peers who come to us for knowledgeable advice, have groomed in our salons most happily for many years. We have learned through personal experience that you must find the joy in what you do in order to do it for the right reasons. We have created a lengthy list of faithful and respectful clients by cultivating mutual tolerance, respect and appreciation. And we have been the designers of both a profitable and fulfilling career. 

If you are one of those groomers who finds yourself often upset through the day, your grooming day drawing to a close with yet another sequence of frustrating events, I would ask you to take an honest look at how you felt when you came in to work. Because unless some truly altering event happens, it is surely still the way you'll feel when you finish work, if not worse.

Some honest questions for the consistantly frustrated stressed out and angry groomer:

Why was it again that you got into this line of work?

Because you love animals?

Do you realize that its the animals that lose out when you allow your emotions to get the best of you?

You do realize that part of our job description requires that we fully realize that we do not own all of our the pets that come to see us? That part of our job in all fairness should be fixing mistakes and kindly educating and having patience with other humans just as much as that dog on the table in front of you?

And you do realize, don't you, that our entire industry loses out every time another animal loving and compassionate groomer closes their doors out of not learning to better work alongside their pet clients' human counterparts?

And you do realize that forever in the balance between being truly right, or being truly wrong, there are hundreds of gradiations of compromise and simple differences in opinion...?

So, you as a person in this world, do you want to be part of the problem, or part of the solution?

Do you want to put out good things and feel at peace with your efforts each day, or do you want to allow yourself to fold on all of the differences you can help cultivate- effects that could ripple out and possibly change many more events than you can't currently foresee?

It is important every day to stop to realize how vast each small corner of our world actually is. And even that with all it is comprised of, it is still infinitely small when compared to the realization that each and every person has their own tiny place to fill, their own set of responsibilities, their own version of reality, and their own goodness to bring to this big world. And all of these things have to come into unison just to get then to walk through your salon door.

So what will you do to get them to keep coming back?

At times we walk a tightrope between skirting our best judgement and giving our paying customers what they want and are still able to pay for. Some say never compromise, but after all of these yers grooming, I have learned full well that cutting off your nose to spite your own face, can come at the expense of your business. Sure, we all want what's best for us because we're the ones doing the work, and should never put ourselves or our clients in harm's way. But over many issues we can take with any number of opportunitues in the given grooming day, we have to set our emotions aside and ask, "Is it really worth it"? Is it worth it to possibly ruin a client relationship over? Is it worth it to tarnish the level of respect and appreciation you work so hard every day to both earn and to deserve? Is it worth it to remove the opportunity to truly help the pet that sees you for the care they need to feel better? Who really gets let down in that equation? No one's ego, that's for sure. Furthermore, it can weigh heavily on your self respect for you to look back on a confrontation with a client and wish you'd done things differently. By then, the lesson learned and the reflection you make with have settled too late. 

Is it safe to be completely unforgiving in a profession where at any given moment, it could be you who needs the forgiveness and understanding? 

It is important to never compromise our ability to the point where we do something not in the dog's best interest nor with their comfort and safety at the helm. But it is also important not to sweat the small stuff. Not to let yourself get frustrated by what you see walk into your business each day, and not to judge minor infringements on prioritizing pet care to the top of everyone's list. To remember that unless a pet is truly being caused pain, there really is no definite assertion of cruelty. And if they are being put in harms way, you'll do them far more good by being an advocate for them than a tyrant.

What we as professionals notice, whose job it is to note all of the aspects of grooming and general health, often mistake as common knowledge the things we see being missed or not cared for, are simply not always apparent to a pet' owner. Mats here & there, dirty ears, overgrown nails, a lump or bump- and the owner never even knew it was there?! HOW?! you say, does an owner not know these things?!   Well, because not everyone is alike. Not everyone cares for a pet the same way, to the same level or way that you personally do, and no one in turn can be held to any one person's standard of judgement when we each must live our own lives each day. We all prioritize differently, we all find different things to be a soure of joy or a source of difficulty. And on any given day, our lives can change. Changes that ripple out and can drastically cause but brief interruptions in our normal schedules, and in our normal activities, or can permanently change the course that we had planned for ourselves. It is unfair as professional pet care providers to pass judgement on our clients. Yes, there is always a right and a wrong way to do any one thing, but isn't the perception of what is right and what is wrong as invidividually decided as the individual who sets their perceptions? What we perceive as neglect, may simply be something someone overlooked.

Do not immeidately attribute to malevolence what could as easily to attributed to ignorance.

It is not realistic to assume that we all hum along on the same set of algorythms and are all on the same page when it comes to how we take in or give back forms of love and relationships like those we as animal lovers find necessary towards happiness.

I personally find brushing my dogs to be a moment of zen. Both of bonding with them, and with accomplishing a task at the same time of finding sweet release in a repetitive behavior that is second nature to me. But in reality, by the time I've groomed everyone elses' dogs, some days I barely have the energy to eat a decent meal before falling into bed.

On those days, my dogs go unbrushed...

*GASP and clutch the pearls!*

It's true, and if anyone said I was a bad pet owner for having unbrushed dogs, or taking a #7 to my Poodle, because after all, I am a GROOMER, they'd likely recieve a stern reminder of an alternate reality and a parallel universe very quickly. ;)    

 The saying goes; "Be the change you want to see in the world".

Well, are you?

In the following series of articles, I will be writing about methods and mindsets for the salon that will help us overcome the shortcomings of pet owner upkeep and the lofty dreams of styling outcomes versus what we can do short of a magic wand.

Things that we can do to best help our pet clients, and best help our level of sanity, and to remain profitable, all the while being proactive towards staying happy and feeling accomplishment.  

Watchdog

Please stay tuned for many more blogs!