One of the most valuable tools in a pet stylist’s bag of tricks is the ability to look at a dog that you have never groomed before and groom it exactly the same way. You do this by looking closely at the dog before and after the bath, and looking for the visible patterns. There are several questions to ask yourself on any new dog or a dog you do not have notes on.
- Did the groomer before me shave down the nose, or under the eyes?
- If the dog is a poodle, did the groomer before me shave the feet or just round them?
- How much hair did they take off the body?
I have written before about my secret weapon for determining how long to groom a dog and I will revisit it here. Find the shortest hair on the body, like under the eyes, the belly, the pads or in the case of poodles with shaved feet, the feet. To duplicate the groom, take that area short like you would always do, and then figure out how much hair that was. If it was a half inch, then take a half inch off the rest of the dog. If it’s an inch, take off an inch. If you follow this philosophy, then the groom will be the same. Don’t worry about how much to leave on the dog, concentrate on how much to take off the dog. That way, if the legs were longer (let’s say on a teddy bear trim or a schnauzer trim) they will be the same as the time before when you are done. Confused about how long to leave the head or ears? Take off the SAME AMOUNT OF HAIR on those parts as well and the look will be perfect. It will be easy to see if angulation was set, legs were longer and everything else that you need to see if you simply look for the patterns. Sounds simple right? To me it is, but many people have a hard time seeing patterns in the dog’s grooms. They cannot tell if the hair was shaved the last time, if the poodle had poodle feet, if the ears were trimmed…..they simply cannot see it. For those people it can be harder to grasp how to duplicate the same groom as they have done before on the same dog, let alone determine what to do to a new client. With time, and by showing them carefully and repeatedly, you may be able to teach them to see the things you see. However, there will be some people who never “get it” and need detailed, written instructions for each and every dog they groom. If you are one of the lucky people who, like me, can tell what you did to each dog by looking at the area under the eyes, you do not need to keep detailed records, because your memory works like a record. You can duplicate any groom by just looking at it. If you cannot yet do that, it’s time to practice doing it. Every dog you pick up, look at it, evaluate it, and try to figure it out before you look at the dogs file. I will bet you can figure it out really fast after just a short time practicing doing it. Use your fingers or a comb to measure out the coat. You will see definite lengths of hair present on the dog and you can see where the blended areas are if you use your fingers and comb. There are also some clear rulers available that are amazing for helping you determine lengths on coat, but any small ruler is helpful for doing that as well. Measure the shortest hair, then measure the back, the legs, the belly, the head, and then take the length of the shortest hair (that will be almost at the skin when trimmed) and take that length off the other measurements. If your shortest area is ½ an inch, and the body is 1.5 inches, then the finished groom will be one inch on the back. Not sure if the legs are longer or the same length as the back? Use the measurements! If the legs are 2 inches and the body is one, then you can see what to do by subtracting the length of your shortest measurement and be confident that you are providing the owner with the same groom as the last time. I am always excited to be able to put the same groom on every dog we groom, including the ones we have never seen before. I love hearing a client say “This is exactly the way my last groomer groomed him! How did you know?” I smile, thank them and say “I can see the groom”. I have gained many clients in my shop for the simple fact that their dogs always look the same every time they are groomed. This technique is also very handy for the owners that change up their groom as well. If they say leave him longer than last time, you at least have a point to start with. Once you determine what was done last time you can go shorter or longer very easily and be sure you are giving the client what they want. I never understood how groomers cannot see what I see until recently when I hired a young man that could not see the groom. I thought everyone could follow patterns, but I found out that is not true. He literally could not tell what had been done to the dogs before, or follow patterns that were clearly set on the dogs. He could groom if given blades and comb lengths, but a simple set of instructions like “You took an inch off the body, so take an inch off the legs” did not make sense to him. I never could get him to understand the concept of seeing what was done before, rather than what was in front of him. Once you learn to see the previous groom by looking at the groom in front of you your grooms will be better, easier and more consistent. That will make your clients happier and happier clients make more clients because they tell their family, friends and neighbors. The best advertising is a happy client and by seeing through the hair to what was done last time you can ensure that your clients are happy, and your job will be easier. And a making you a happy groomer, by teaching you how to work smarter is my goal.