Knowledge Plus Confidence Equals Success

Certification is a great thing. Even though certification is not mandatory I have certified with two organizations.

The first time I went through certification testing I was a fairly new groomer with only two years under my belt. I certified with ISCC which took me two years to complete at my own pace receiving my Master Pet Stylist status (MPS). I gained so much knowledge from the program that it just made me so eager to learn more. Then I certified with NDGAA at Intergroom 2009. I took all my written tests, practical tests as well as my Master written test in one weekend. It was grueling but it was well worth it. I am now a National Certified Master Groomer (NCMG) as well.

I know what you’re thinking, why do it again? Why? Well, it’s just another feather in my cap. I like feathers! I look at it as a personal achievement. Certification testing forces you to read the breed standards. That is such an important part of our jobs as Pet Stylists. I decided to certify with NDGAA just about a month before. Intergroom is practically in my backyard which was the incentive for me to do the testing. It was convenient for me to bring my dogs or my client’s dogs to the show to certify on.

I began to study. I started going through the AKC Complete Dog Book. I found myself reading every day. I was discovering so many things that I had forgotten as well as things I did not even know about the breeds.

I started comparing one terrier to the other, one sporting dog to the other, one hound to the other…..I was amazed at what I was learning. The AKC book describes the dog, it’s history, utility, structure, coat types, lengths, colors etc. I am so glad that I decided to certify again. It was not only a great refresher but also another learning experience.

It is so important to be able to identify every breed and to know what group they belong to. How many times do your clients ask you about puppies? What should I buy? What dogs are good with kids? What dogs are good watchdogs but yet are great family pets? What’s the difference between a beagle and a foxhound or a Miniature Schnauzer and a Standard Schnauzer? Knowing your breeds and temperaments is a great thing to bring to your clients.

Terriers may be good for one family and not for another. Herding breeds, hounds, working dogs are all great breeds but knowing the utility of the breed will help you guide your clients to a breed that will fit into their lifestyle.


Known for centuries along Portugal's coast, this seafaring breed was prized by fishermen for a spirited, yet obedient nature, and a robust, medium build that allowed for a full day's work in and out of the water. The Portuguese Water Dog, referred to as the Cao de Agua (dog of water), in its native Portugal, is a swimmer and diver of exceptional ability and stamina, who aided his master at sea by retrieving broken nets, herding schools of fish, and carrying messages between boats and to shore. He is a loyal companion and alert guard.

This highly intelligent utilitarian breed is distinguished by two coat types, either curly or wavy; an impressive head of considerable breadth and well proportioned mass; a ruggedly built, well-knit body; and a powerful, thickly based tail, carried gallantly or used purposefully as a rudder. The Portuguese Water Dog provides an indelible impression of strength, spirit, and soundness.

An athletic, active breed, the Portuguese Water Dog requires daily vigorous exercise. He is very intelligent and responds well to obedience training. His profuse coat is hypoallergenic, but requires regular maintenance. It may be kept in the lion clip (the coat on the hindquarters and muzzle are clipped to the skin) or the retriever clip (the entire coat is clipped to one inch in length and follows the outline of the dog).

In 2009 I was thinking... Is a Portuguese Water Dog a good fit for the Whitehouse? What do you think? I would like to hear everyone’s opinions. Bo is a beautiful dog. I love this breed and have competed with the PWD for several years. I can only hope that the demand that will be made on this breed from pet owners will not hurt the breeds temperament.


Did you know that Boston Terriers come in two sizes and do you know which dog is known for it’s spectacles? How about which breed is known to be the clown dog? Do you know which breed has bat ears or the breed that has butterfly ears?

If you have ever thought about certification….do it! It will bring you so much knowledge. My motto is Knowledge Leads To Confidence, Confidence Leads To Success. This is what certification is all about. The more knowledge and confidence that you display to your clients, the more they will respect you and look up to you as their pet care professional.

I have always been so eager to learn and know everything that I can possibly know about in this industry. I never want to stop learning. When I stop learning I should stop grooming dogs.

If you decide not to certify for personal reasons, do yourself a favor and read the AKC Complete Dog Book and my own book Dog Grooming Simplified from cover to cover. This is your profession. Be the best you can be.

When I teach I keep the breed standards in mind. My instructional series in conjunction with these books are great learning tools.

It's a Dirty Job, But Somebody Has to do it. Is it You?

From time to time I believe that all groomers have come to dread grooming that one certain dog.

You know... the one that shows up once a year and is a solid pelt, or the one that is always matted and hates to be brushed, and then there is always the one that has to be muzzled through the entire grooming process, including the bath. We all have had that special client. What I have learned over the years is that it is okay to say “no”.


Early in my career I had a client with an older Maltese who had Addison’s disease. Due to the illness he had a very fine thin coat. The owner loved him in full coat with a banded top knot. I groomed this dog every 5 weeks until he passed away. He was a sweet boy and was very easy to groom. He was never matted and very easy to maintain. After he passed away the client decided to get another Maltese. They brought home this adorable puppy.

The first thing she said to me was that she wanted him to grow in full coat just like her older dog, who was very thinly coated mind you. We all know what Maltese puppies look like and I’m sure you can imagine how soft and cottony the coat was. I put the puppy on a 5 week schedule to start. After a couple visits the puppy was starting to growl and bite at the brush. My question to the owner was “Are you brushing him in between appointments?” Her reply was “Yes and he absolutely hates it! My husband and I just laugh at him because he is so darn cute!” Well there you go, now we have a little puppy that the owner created a behavior that will be difficult to break. I tried to educate her regarding the brushing. Every time I went to their home to groom the dog he was very matted. The behavior was getting worse which made the task that much harder. I tried various products and techniques to help reduce the matting but to no prevail. Keep in mind that this was several years ago when dematting solutions like my “Matts Happen!” was not available.

I suddenly started to suffer from tennis elbow. I assumed it was just par for the course of grooming dogs. It became so bad that I had to get a cortisone shot to relieve the pain.Over the course of several months I realized that every time my tennis elbow flared up it was right after I dematted this Maltese puppy. Once I came to this conclusion, I spoke with the client and asked her if we could cut him down until he goes through a coat change, from puppy to adult coat. She flat out refused to cut him down. I changed his grooming schedule to every 3 weeks to help eliminate the matting. Three weeks still was not doing the trick so I changed his schedule to every 2 weeks. The client was not happy about the schedule but at that point that was the only way I could continue to groom her dog. This continued for several months. Now I have an angry puppy that hates to be groomed and the constant pain of tennis elbow in my right arm.

I suddenly started to suffer from tennis elbow. I assumed it was just par for the course of grooming dogs. It became so bad that I had to get a cortisone shot to relieve the pain.
I remember every time I saw this dog in my appointment book I would just cringe. One day I had enough and told her that I could no longer groom him if she didn’t cut him down. Even every two weeks was not helping the matting situation. It wasn’t fair to the puppy or to myself. She was very angry and decided to go elsewhere. I remember letting out a huge sigh of relief. Once I stopped grooming this puppy I never had one more flare up of tennis elbow again.

The moral of the story is, if you do not enjoy grooming a certain dog, let it go. This client taught me many lessons early in my career. The most important one was to always do what is best for the dog. I would never dematt to that extent again. Dematting a coat on a regular basis damages and stresses the coat which creates more matting. I wish I realized that at the time.

Groom the dogs that you enjoy grooming. Just because a dog is a problem for you doesn’t mean that it will be a problem for someone else. Dogs react differently with different people. Enjoy your job, take care of your body and always do what is best for the pet.