Important communication tip...

After more than 3 decades grooming pets, I have learned a few things about communicating with customers. My daughter grooms with me now, and sometimes she seems amazed by how I interpret conversations. Here is an example: new customers came in with their recently adopted young adult West Highland White Terrier. The dog had been shaved all over a few months before they got him, and his coat had grown in rather uneven and messy.  He was a cute little dog, and I was looking forward to making him look really nice.  "What do you have in mind for his hair cut today?" I asked.  The man said, "I want him in a traditional Westie trim." The wife said, "I want him short and easy to take care of."  I said, "OK!" and off they went.  My daughter looked at me and said, "So, what are you going to do?" I said, "I'm going to make him cute."   After a bath, fluff dry, nail trim and really good brushing, I put him in a traditional Westie pattern, with short furnishings. I made sure his head and tail looked the way they should. It was very rewarding to take him from looking scraggly and make him look handsome.  My daughter was dubious. When the owners returned, they adored the trim, and have kept him in that same style for the last several years.

What I have found is that listening to what people lead with is what is most important to them. To the man, he wanted his rescued dog to look like the pure bred animal he was. The wife, (who was clearly in charge of brushing and coat care at home)  wanted an easy upkeep hair cut. I knew I could make him look the way he should, but a bit more tailored so there was not excessive coat care between groomings. And that is what I did. 

Here is another example. When someone comes in and I ask what they want for grooming, and the first words out of their mouth are, "She needs her nails done!" I know that I need to pay extra attention to getting those claws trimmed as short as possible, and buffed with my Dremel tool to make them as smooth as possible.

Likewise, if the first comment is, "I can't see his eyes," I make sure to trim around those eyes so that they are clearly visible, and will stay that way until the dog returns in 6 weeks.  Of course there may be other instructions after that first comment, and I listen, but I have found that if I really pay attention to the first declarative sentence, I am very apt to make the customer happy with my work.

IMG_5438 (2)

 


Accepting a challenge...

It's been more than a year ago that I got the call. "Hi, I have a Glen of Imaal terrier, and am planning to show him. I'd like to make an appointment to have you groom him."  Well, all sorts of alarm bells went off in my head. I told her I had no experience with the breed, (in fact, I'd never even met one!) I told her I am a pet groomer, not a show groomer.  She was undeterred. We made the appointment, and I started doing some research. Thankfully, there is so much information available on line now, I was able to get a pretty good grasp of what I needed to do. I also reached out to a groomer who is a well known terrier expert, and she kindly gave me some very helpful advice. 

This breed is not very tall, but they have big bones and are very muscular. A lot of dog in a not-very-big package. And the coat is different than other terriers.  It's been a learning curve for me to work on him. And I've enjoyed every second.

The first groom we did a lot of dematting. The owner stayed to watch, and we talked to her about proper grooming tools, and gave her some other tricks and tips. She listened and followed our advice.  The dog was young, with puppy coat, so he was a work in progress. 

At one point the owner had a top handler from the breed talk to me on the phone. She was amazingly helpful and kind. Each time we groomed the dog he looked better.  And then we received a review on our business page that the Glen had finished his championship. We were thrilled.

He came in last week, looking rather disreputable after playing hard at doggy day care. He had a bath, blow dry, brush out, and then an hour and a half or so of stripping and trimming.  I have to say, he looked pretty terrific when he was done. And you know what? I was proud.  He is going to more shows in April, seeking his Grand Championship.

 

Fergus

 

He is one of those dogs that gets kind of squirrely when a camera comes out, so these are not the best pictures.   However, his coat has come in beautifully as he has matured, and his owner and handler are happy with his appearance.

Fergus 2
So, what's the point? I had absolutely no idea how to groom this breed when I was first contacted. But I was able to do some home work, and work with a wonderful pet owner, and learn a lot. I may never have another chance to groom this breed, but doing it this time was a delicious challenge. It is a delight to see this dog succeed in his show career.  I can't wait to see what's next.

So, if someone wants you to groom a dog you are not familiar with, you have two choices. You can refuse, or you can tackle the challenge and see what there is to learn. Be honest about your experience and open yourself up to being educated. These are the kinds of challenges that make our work fun, interesting and rewarding.