Getting the "Itch"

Being this time of year… You may think this blog is about something that is “going around”.


As a new groomer with very little knowledge or experience I found myself going to dog shows to see what the breeds were suppose to look like. Before I knew it I found myself almost addicted to going to shows. It helped me tremendously with my grooming skills. Little did I know, I would feel that “itch” regularly over the years.

Jodi-1Jodi Murphy educator grooming cocker spaniel dog

A few years ago I had to make a 2+ hour trip to a vet that was only a few miles from the Spaniel Club Nationals in Pennsylvania. As it worked out, one of my closest friends in the cocker world was showing there. So I just had to stop by and see her. She told me she was going to be there and I was really looking forward to seeing her as it has been way too long!

When I got there she was preparing to go in the ring and she had a gorgeous black and tan cocker on the table. As it turns out the bitch was the daughter of the dog I took to Italy and won a gold medal with. OMG! She was beautiful! As we were catching up, a girl that I know who was a new rising competitor, came up to introduce herself to my friend. She had recently bought a puppy from my friend through emails, site unseen to compete with. My friend had not seen the puppy since the puppy left her at a very young age. By this time he was now a year old and just stunning. As they got acquainted there was almost an instant bond. I stood back and watched and I could feel the excitement in this new competitor’s eyes, as it seems that it was not that long ago that I had had that same feeling. Being a judge and speaker now it seems I almost forgot what it feels like to be in that position.

The “newbie” told her all about her pup and her regrets that she did not bring him. With that eagerness to learn she drove 1 hour back and forth to get her puppy. By the time my friend was done in the ring (winning not only Winners Bitch with a 5 point major but also Best of Winners and Best Bred By) the girl came back with her puppy in tote. She was in awe as she went over the pup and was learning tips and techniques that my friend shared without any apprehension. The kind of camaraderie that goes on in the grooming industry, it is almost indescribable. I have found that teachers want to teach and learners want to learn and when you put the best teachers and the most eager students together great things happen. Now that I find myself on the other side, being a judge and a speaker it was so rewarding to have the opportunity to see someone else with that same “itch”!!!

Jodi Murphy judge dog grooming competition show

I worked many dog shows with my friend. My experiences at the shows and with her have taught me so much. Over the years of showing dogs I have picked up so many tips, tricks and techniques that have ultimately helped develop my skills and get me to where I am today. Other than just the grooming techniques that you will never find anywhere else, I learned so much about structure, movement, breeding and handling skills and what goes on behind the scenes but probably the most important thing I received from going to shows… the kind of bonds that last a lifetime. How much you get out of it all comes down to how much you put into it!! My grandmother used to say:

"Life should not be measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away!"

All in the Life of a Dog Groomer

It is so exciting to take on that new little puppy into our clientele.

We start out developing a good relationship with the puppy, ensuring that it has a positive grooming experience. I will never forget the look on the owner’s face once they see their little scruffy puppy transformed with their first haircut! It’s one of the most rewarding moments in the life of a pet groomer. Over the course of the first few grooming appointments, we give the pet owner updates on how the grooming sessions are going. We start working on table training and finding the right haircut that fits the owner’s lifestyle. We educate the clients on how important it is to get their new puppy on a good grooming schedule. We invest a lot of time and effort into molding the puppy and the client into the “perfect client”.

We watch their cute little puppy grow up. We start fine tuning the haircut to bring out the expression of the breed or capturing that cute expression of the mixed breeds with trendy head styles. Haircuts seem to evolve over time as the puppy’s structure develops and the coat texture changes.

Over the years this puppy has now become a dog….a dog that now has developed a trust and rapport with us, their groomer. We have also developed a relationship with the pet owner. We watch their children grow up, graduating from elementary school, high school… then off to college. So many of my clients have told me that they can’t even say my name or their dog will get so excited thinking it is grooming day! That’s when you know you have done something right!

Unfortunately, dogs are with us for a short time in life. Just when these dogs become loyal, lovable, well behaved pets… they turn into seniors right before our eyes. People don’t realize how hard it is for groomers. We love these dogs as if they were our own. Many have been in our lives for up to 15 years or so.

When dogs approach their senior years they can get grumpy… much like people! They don’t seem to tolerate things like they used to. They start to lose their hearing and their eyesight. The trust they had for their groomer is still there, they just become confused and scared. They are afraid when they can’t see the edge of that grooming table and they are afraid when they can’t see you scissoring around their eyes. Many seniors have dental disease and are too old to have professional teeth cleaning done. Their mouth is sensitive and they are uncomfortable when you hold their chin or muzzle to groom their head. During this time it is important for us, as groomers, to have patience and understanding. That cute little puppy that we spent so much time developing our trust needs us the most right now.

Long time clients are such a reward

So many of my clients have told me that they can’t even say my name or their dog will get so excited thinking it is grooming day! That’s when you know you have done something right!

Often times when drying the older pets they tend to have a “senior moment” where they will just start to howl. At this point the dryer needs to be turned off and the dog held close until they calm down and regroup. This behavior is very common with senior pets and it is important for us to pay attention to the changes in behavior as our once cute little puppy ages into a senior pet. Scheduling the seniors on a slower day when they can have our full attention and patience is important. Allowing them to sit or lie down when needed is “okay”. Changing the routine of the grooming process to accommodate their needs is also okay. Just like when they were puppies, the haircut does not have to be perfect. What is important is the experience they had with us.

Each time I groom my senior pets I wonder if this will be the last time I ever see them. I give them that last kiss goodbye; I tell them how much I love them.

I take that one last selfie with them and send them home. It’s always a sad day when we get that dreaded phone call. Our beloved client went over the rainbow bridge. The next phone call is the excited client saying they got a new puppy….the circle of life.

It’s all in the life of a pet groomer. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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.

It's Way to Cold Outside - Stay Warm in Your Mobile

There is no reason to be cold inside! We all know how important it is to keep our vans toasty.
There is nothing worse than frozen pipes and water heaters not to mention cold gloppy shampoo that makes dogs just cringe. Over the many years of being a mobile groomer I have gone through multiple electric fan operated ceramic heaters each winter.

Since my hot water heater is run by propane I prefer not to use my furnace to reduce my propane usage. Due to the fact that the generator is in use all day I have found the most cost efficient way to stay warm would be to use an electric heater. However, the ceramic heaters as well as electric fan operated heaters have a heating element and fan which pull the dog hair into the heating element. This significantly reduces the lifespan of these units, not to mention the foul smell of burning dog hair.


The low profile model sits very nicely underneath my grooming table. This radiator is thermostatically controlled. There are no moving parts to get clogged up with dog hair. Once the oil in the radiator warms, it produces the most even radiant heat very similar to baseboard hot water heat in your home. If you are using a stand dryer or a dryer of similar amps you may want to turn the radiator off. The oil will continue to stay warm even in the off position for quite a while. After I finish drying the dogs I turn it right back on. I always found that even when using ceramic heaters my feet always seemed to be cold during the day. With the oil filled radiator I am never cold.

I also use the same heater when I plug the truck in at night. One radiator in the grooming area is all I ever need. I open my towel hatch (Wag n’Tails model van) which allows warm air to reach the back of the van. The average winter temperature here in NJ can range from the single digits to the teens.

There are two models that I have seen, the regular radiator and the low profile radiator. I prefer the low profile radiator which I find more suitable for the mobile environment due to the fact that it is less likely to shift between stops. I purchased mine at Home Depot for about $59. I have seen them at Bed, Bath & Beyond for slightly more.

The ice and snow can be a challenge during the winter season. Staying warm and keeping your truck warm can be as simple as the right heater.

In and Out with Style, Mile After Mile


The more convenient we become to the pet owner the more often they will have their dogs groomed. I can remember many of my clients that started their dogs on a six, eight, even ten week grooming schedule.

After just a few appointments they came to realize just how convenient this service truly is and then gradually moved to a four to five week schedule. The fact that they did not have to be home was even more appealing. Now we have them on great schedules, let’s modify their trims to fit their individual lifestyles. Many of my client’s dogs are cute little lap dogs that very rarely touch the grass.

Then we have the majority which are very busy outdoors. There are many breeds that love to be in the water during the summer months. Many people love to bring their dogs to the beach and even camping. You have to take all these things into consideration when putting trims on their dogs. In these situations I will tighten my trims for the summer.

Leaving hair in the wrong places will only contribute to matting. You can put style in your trims by leaving hair in the right places. I prefer to maintain stylized trims rather than spend endless hours dematting and setting lines all over again at each visit. Maintenance is the key word here. Maintaining a good trim is my goal.

Adding style to your work is easier said than done. It takes an artistic eye. Groomers are very artistic people in nature. Although it does take time, experience and practice to develop that artistry. It is very important for groomers to visit dog shows to see how these breeds should look as well as how the breeds are being stylized. Just as our hairstyles are always changing, so are the breeds. Our objective as mobile groomers should be to custom tailor our trims to bring out the best qualities in our pets as well as keeping our trims practical and manageable for the pet owner.


The first thing I recommend is to modify the trim. It may take a few visits to find the right trim for their dog. If you are still having problems with matting and the client is happy with the trim, at that point I would recommend changing their schedule by one week or possibly even two weeks.

You may also want to take a hard look at the products you are using. Products will make a big difference in how your trims hold up. If you are using a shampoo that is deep cleansing at every visit and you are not using some form of conditioning the coat may become dry and begin to mat. There are many leave-in conditioners that work great on areas that are prone to matting, i.e. tails, ears, and beards to name a few.

Your bathing, drying and coat preparation can either make or break your trims. Everything from bathing systems, dryers, clippers, blades, brushes and scissors all play a major role in your efficiency. Investing in good equipment is vital in the grooming industry. When your grooming appointments become lengthy, you will become inconvenient to that client.

Taking all these things into consideration is quite a task, but just remember it’s all about style... mile after mile!

"Food" For Thought

As many of you may know I have developed a pulmonary condition over the course of my grooming career. Some refer to it as “groomers lung” while the diagnosis for my condition  is bronchiectasis. I have suffered for many years with this condition of a chronic cough that never lets up. It is physically and mentally draining and incapacitating  in so many ways. Daily use of inhalers, nebulizers as well as frequent courses of antibiotics is the norm.  I honestly felt that this disease was going to be the death of me. While traveling and presenting seminars I would withdraw from using inhalers to suppress the cough just so I could get through the day. Not the smartest thing to do as suppressing the cough could lead to lung infections. However, it was the only way I could get through a presentation without coughing constantly.

While on Facebook one day an ad came up about “juicing”. I started to do a little research and the one thing that caught my eye was a list of vegetable and greens that could improve lung function. So I thought it was worth a shot. At this point I would do anything to help this condition. So on November 1st, 2016 I went out and bought a juicer and a book “Reboot with Joe”. I posted many of my juices on Facebook, which I’m sure many of you have seen. I was really enjoying it and playing around with different ingredients.  In January I started to lose some weight. I started to have more energy and felt overall in better health.

February rolled around and I noticed that I wasn’t coughing half as much. It was hard to believe. Once in a while I would have a period of time that was better than others so I assumed it would start up again any day. Here we are into March and I am not coughing at all! Could this be the new norm? I don’t know and only time will tell. However, I still take my inhaler in the morning just in case. If anyone is taking inhalers you know that it opens up your airways. For me this meant that within an hour I would be coughing up all kinds of mucus. Now, when I take my inhaler I don’t cough at all.

I only have a juice in the morning. It always consists of some sort of combination of apples, blueberries, melon, carrots, sweet potatoes , lemon, spinach, kale, beets, celery and cucumber.  I keep the fruit to a minimum as it is high is sugar. I have also changed my diet dramatically. I cut out all sugar, carbs, breads, meat, processed foods and dairy. Although, I do treat myself now and again but I try to stick to it 90% of the time. I don't consider myself a vegetarian or a vegan, just eating healthier.  Is it difficult? No, not when I am seeing the results. It is worth it to me!

New studies reveal that lung tissue can be regenerated by increasing vitamin A levels and adding beta-carotene and leafy greens to your diet.  I have been juicing 6 carrots every day since I started along with spinach and kale at least every other day. This is crazy!

I am almost afraid to publish this in fear of jinxing myself. However, all I know is that I feel like a new person.  I forgot what it was like to not have a cough. I will continue to juice every morning as I feel that it is helping my condition and I feel fantastic!

I highly recommend watching the documentary "Forks Over Knives" on Netflix. It really made me think twice about my eating habits.

Cheers to a healthier lifestyle!



After countless private messages and comments of concern on my recent Facebook post, I decided to share my story in hopes that I can spread awareness of the occupational health hazards that can affect groomers.

After grooming for about one year I decided to become a mobile groomer. Within the first year of being mobile I developed a persistent cough. After many visits to the doctor and countless runs of antibiotics the cough would never completely clear up.

After several years, I had allergy testing done thinking the worst… could I be allergic to dogs? I have had dogs my entire life but it was possible that I could have developed allergies. Test results came in…. no allergies.  I was put on two different inhalers, an albuterol and a steroid, to try to clear the cough. As a busy mother of three, work and my busy competition schedule, I put my health on the back burner thinking it’s just a cough… it will eventually go away.

Well it didn’t go away and what I didn’t realize was the fact that my bronchial tubes were becoming damaged from this chronic cough.

After six years of coughing, bouts of bronchitis and even an episode of pneumonia, I woke up in the middle of the night coughing up blood. I was never so scared in my life. I drove myself to the emergency room. I was immediately given breathing treatments. A pulmonary specialist was on call that evening. After hearing my history he ordered a bronchoscopy. This is a procedure where a scope is sent down your bronchial tubes to see what is going on.

I was soon diagnosed with a pulmonary disease called bronchiectasis. Bronchiectasis is a condition where the bronchial tubes become enlarged resulting from any medical condition that creates the production of mucus. Frequent episodes of Bronchitis, pneumonia and chronic coughs can contribute to this disease. Once the bronchial tubes become enlarged they can form pockets that hold the mucus making it difficult to expel. This is a breeding ground for bacteria. Lung infections become a common occurrence. There is no cure for this disease and it is not reversible. This disease can be managed by inhalers and nebulizers which help to expel the mucus. Antibiotics are prescribed when the infections arise.  Pneumonia and flu vaccines are important for me to have. Any common cold can quickly turn into pneumonia for me due to the weakness in my lungs. The bleeding that occurred was from coughing so much and it is common in bronchiectasis patients.

So the question is… can grooming dogs and cats cause pulmonary issues? Absolutely! Coughing occurs when something irritates and stimulates your airways. If you find that you have had a persistent cough for more than eight weeks, it is time to get to the doctor and clear it up.

I remember days when I would come home after grooming a double coated breed and just could not stop coughing. The dander, hair and fine clipped hair that is in the air is constantly being inhaled into your lungs. Think of all those yeasty dogs and dogs with flaky dandruff…. all those particles are being blown in the air by the high velocity dryers. In my mobile van I could really see the quality of the air as the sun shines through.  The particles just saturate the air that we breathe.

My pulmonary physician discussed with me how my occupation was aggravating this condition and could be causing the frequent flare ups of infection. He recommended that I either take precautions or just stop grooming completely. I began to really take notice of how I was grooming. I started to brush the double coated breeds in the tub when they were wet and soapy to eliminate the undercoat blowing around in the grooming van. I developed a system that I felt was working really well. Not only was this method proven to be beneficial to me but it also became extremely proficient in removing undercoat and keeping it at bay for 5-6 weeks between appointments. It made a huge difference in the amount of hair that was in the air in my small confined area of the grooming van. This system is shown in its entirety in my video “Deshedding: Theory & Technique”.  A large amount of work is done it the tub….the end result: less hair and faster drying time. With Spring upon us, we will all see the double coated breeds shedding profusely. This is the time to change your procedure and save your lungs.

Protect your lungs… wear a mask. You don’t want to have to live with a pulmonary condition for the rest of your life. I will always have a cough. I will always have to use inhalers and nebulizers to help keep the mucus down to a minimum.  Some weeks are good where I have very little mucus and it is somewhat clear. Other weeks I suffer with a huge amount of mucus that is on its way to becoming an infection and that’s when antibiotics have to come into play. It scares me to think of taking antibiotics so frequently but I have no choice.  I know talking about mucus is gross but the struggle is real.

There are so many options for masks. The surgical masks are comfortable but do not give you complete protection. They do not hug your face, instead they leave gaps where hair and dander can still be inhaled.




There are masks available at Home Depot or Lowes that are made for different jobs. 3M offers masks for sanding and fiberglass jobs.  These masks are capable of preventing the finest dust from passing through the mask.


The girls at my nail salon gave me the masks that they use. They are very comfortable. They add a gauze pad inside the mask for more protection.  ( Thanks Oliver for being my model!)



Finding the right mask is something that will be a personal choice based on comfort.

Ear and eye protection are also important. Many groomers suffer from hearing loss because of noisy high velocity dryers. It’s time to think about your health. You could be one of the lucky ones and never have a problem but sometimes it just isn’t worth the gamble. 

Thank you for listening. If I could do it all over again I would have worn a mask and put my health first.  I can only hope that my story has made you realize that it can happen to you too.

Take care,