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December 2020
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Doodles are Job Security

In this video, Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank celebrates the business-building blessing of the Doodle. These coat-carrying mixed breeds might be controversial creations among breed purists, but they provide an excellent opportunity to educate pet parents and help them understand the not-insignificant hygiene demands to make Doodles look and feel their best.

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Fair Pricing - The Large Dog

In this video, Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discuses the challenge of fair pricing. Do you sometimes feel like you’re not getting ahead, despite a full roster of grooms? How are you pricing you “big dog” jobs - the Standard Poodle and Doodles and other time-intensive grooms? Learn how to tweak your pricing structure to get ahead of the game.

Want time-saving tips on grooming the “big furries”? Check out for a robust library of instructional videos and business tips. ( Use Code LUCKYDOG for 50% off your first month! Want to train staff to work efficiently, effectively, with reproducible results? Check out Paragon’s Distance Learning Program. ( Use code LUCKYDOG for $100 off Tuition.

Managing Your Schedule

How is your summer going? Busy?? Overworked? Feeling stressed? Not being able to ENJOY your summer because you are too busy?

Having too much work can be just as frustrating and scary as not having ENOUGH work. I get it. As groomers and service providers, we want to keep people happy. That’s how you build a thriving business. However, if the business is thriving - and you are not – how can that honestly be good for your business? How can that be good for your customers and pets in the long run?

We all have the same number of days, hours and minutes each year. Everyone wants to maximize their time to make the most out their lives. How you schedule appointments, how many hours and days you work each week and how much time you allot for yourself will contribute to how you feel at the end of the day.

If you are swamped, how to you find a happy balance? How do you take control and get your life back?  Simple. Discipline and effective scheduling. Set limitations. YOU need to control YOUR schedule, not the other way around!

There are several ways to efficiently schedule appointments in a salon setting. You can book all your appointments by assigning them a check in-time and then stagger your check out or completion times, or you can opt for a couple sessions per day. You can accept a few pets at a time, complete their grooms and then accept another set after the first group has been completed and left. Or, you might prefer to book one pet at a time – but that’s the least efficient use of your time for a salon-based business. What method is right for you?

There is no right or wrong. It’s whatever method works best for your situation. Over the years, we have used all the methods effectively in my businesses. Hopefully, one will inspire you take control of your schedule, allowing you to regain control of your work life.

Whatever system you choose, there are a few common elements you want to think through before you settle on a method that works best for you. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option.

Scheduling All Appointments Within One Arrival Window Advantages: This option allows for the most flexibility and efficiency by working on a larger group of dogs at one time. But just how many can you work on at one time? It can allow for an assembly line fashion of grooming which is highly efficient if that is how your team works. Pets are normally checked in early in the morning. Pick-up time can be staggered through the day based on your workload. (Tip: Practice giving your clients a time to return versus promising them you will call them when the pet is ready. Save time on the phone and give your clients a pick up time.)

Disadvantages: The salon can get loud with all the pets in the facility at once. You may experience bottle necks at the tub and maybe even the loss of hot water. You may not even get started on some pets for quite a while. You need enough enclosures to house all pets safely when they are not being worked on. Pets are held for a longer time period which many clients do not appreciate. This could mean more potty walks or potty accidents that now need to be cleaned up. This method could result in the lack of convenience for the client both for drop off, and sometimes, pick up. Scheduling Appointments By Blocks of Time or Staggered Arrival Times Advantages: 3-5 pets are booked per session, per groomer/stylist allowing for a flexibility and efficiency. Blocks can be anywhere from two, three or four hours in length. You can easily schedule morning, mid-morning, afternoon, late afternoon or evening grooming sessions. It is less stressful for the pets and staff due to limited pets in the facility at one time. Limiting the number of pets serviced at one time is convenient and advantageous for positive client relationships. And there’s something really cool that happens when clients are given a specific appointment arrival time. It is proven this results in less ‘no-shows’! Try it and see!

Disadvantages: Timing can be challenging based on experience of groomer/stylist. If booking less than 3 pets at a time, there can be wasted time if there are cancelations within the day, but you will know if you have a late arrival or cancel much earlier so you can backfill this spot with a possible ‘call in’ or wait list client. It can be disruptive with check-ins and check-outs happening all day but some would argue this is better than spending a lot of time checking in multiple dogs at one time in the morning and causing your clients to stack up in the lobby.

Schedule Clients a Year in Advance: This is highly effective for ‘in-demand’ stylists and mobile stylists where routing also comes into play when booking appointments. It ensures a full schedule however, the groomer/stylist must have a highly organized outline of their annual responsibilities and travel dates for the full year prior to booking their clients. This is helpful if you book appointments for yourself such as vacations, and other necessary breaks. Some groomers even practice booking their own breaks before booking client appointments (see below). Holiday Appointments
Holidays are prime dates for grooming, especially if the holiday revolves around family and high levels of entertaining. Start scheduling Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukah appointments in August and September. Offer prime holiday grooming dates to your premier clients first starting with your weekly and bi-weekly customers. Then move into your three-week clients. Continuing scheduling your four, five and six-week regular clients in that order. This will ensure you take care of your best clients first during the busy holiday season.

Vacation Time: We all need a break from our daily grind to stay our freshest. Make sure to take time for yourself. Work in your own down time FIRST, then schedule around it!

Have Someone Else Manage Your Work Schedule:
Learn to delegate. Let someone else manage your grooming schedule. A business grows and flourishes when you focus on your strengths and you delegate the rest. Outline the number of dogs, the types of grooms you need, and the time frames you want them booked. Oversee and monitor them closely to ensure you have the right balance of work, adjusting as necessary. Typically, it’s easier for someone else to be the gatekeeper of your time other than yourself!

The most indispensable thing we can have is TIME and when it is gone, it’s gone, never to be regained. Be disciplined and effective with your scheduling.

Working is important. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Additionally, managing your schedule to have down time for yourself is crucial to your well-being. This not only goes for you, but your fellow team members too.

Set limitations on how many hours you – or they - work each day. Each week. And each month. Don’t forget, YOU need to control YOUR schedule, not the other way around!

Ready for the Rebound: FREE Instructional Videos

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Correcting Behavior During Grooming

Correcting Behavior During Grooming – Learn the 4 Keys to Successful Pet Handling

If you are a long time pet professional, you’ve probably mastered today’s topic. If you are fresh to the industry, you are probably struggling with it. How do you handle the dog that does not want to cooperate with the grooming procedure?

You’ve heard me say this about dogs before – but let’s do a quick review.

  • They are hard-wired to think like a dog.
  • They are a predatory pack animal.
  • They are silent communicators.
  • They read body language.
  • They respond to energy.

The most over used word in a dog’s vocabulary is “no.” It’s a common enough word, but it means nothing to them. Why? They hear it all the time. How often is that word spoken every day? Pet owners are constantly “crying wolf” around the dog.

It’s typical. Dog owners overuse the “no” word, yet never back it up. They don’t project the energy necessary to stop the behavior. Thus, they do not convey a strong pack leader presence. The issue they are trying to correct continues unchecked. Many dogs are not trained to understand basic rules and boundaries within their own family pack.

Dogs that are unruly, wiggly, or mildly aggressive on your grooming table have not had consistent training at home. You see it in your shops, salons, and mobile units don’t you?

It’s painful to watch someone who does not understand how to project authority work with these dogs. They think they can win the dog over by using high-pitched baby talk. First, they coo to the dog. Next, they try to reason with it. Not only are THEY getting more and more frustrated… so is the dog. Plus, any staff members within earshot of this ineffective banter are about to lose their minds!

As they spew out the words, their breathing is becoming short and rapid. Their energy is weak. They are losing control of the dog. Someone is going to get hurt – either the dog or the groomer.

So how do you stop this acceleration of bad behavior?

  • Stop using the word “NO.”
  • Remember the 3 C’s – stay Calm, Cool, and Collected.
  • Correct undesirable behaviors before they manifest into an action from the dog.
  • Be consistent, consistent, consistent.

First, you need to have the proper equipment. Always have control over the dog with a kennel lead or grooming safety loop. The leads and loops need to be adjusted high on the neck, right behind the ears.

On leash, keep mild tension on the lead. Not so much that you are choking the dog, but enough so that you can control the pet. Once you know the pet, you will probably be able to relax the lead tension if they are mild-mannered and well-behaved. Adjust the tension of the grooming loop so that there is a very slight amount of slack when the dog is standing comfortably.

Here’s a trick for working with new dogs that I learned ages ago. I teach them what MY sound is for correcting an undesirable action. I use a sound – not an actual word. It comes from low in my gut, coming out sounding more like sharp grunt. While I use the sound, my breathing is deep and slow. My eyes are steady on the dog. I’m giving the dog eye contact that means business (women, you know what I’m talking about! We all have ‘the look.”). I gently, but firmly, redirect the dog as I wish them to behave.

As soon as the dog cooperates, I soften my eyes and my hands. I might give a calm, single word of praise combined with a gentle, reassuring stroke.

The SECOND the dog makes a move to repeat the undesirable action, I repeat the correction. I am consistent in the training. I never step out of the 3 C’s mental zone: Calm, Cool, and Collected

My 9 Rules When It Comes to Dealing with Challenging Pets

  1. Never work on a pet that you feel is dangerous to itself or to you.
  2. Always maintain the 3 C’s: Calm, Cool, and Collected.
  3. Remember that dogs are silent communicators that respond to energy.
  4. Never take an unfamiliar pet from the owner’s arms.
  5. Always maintain some form of physical control.
  6. Become a lifelong learner of canine psychology and body language.
  7. Remember that not all pets are candidates for all professional grooming settings.
  8. Humanity always comes before vanity.
  9. Your hands are your livelihood – always protect them.

We will constantly be faced with less than cooperative pets in our careers. It is always better for you to win the trust and cooperation of a pet for the grooming process. Most of the time, this translates into becoming a highly effective dog trainer.

Dogs are hardwired to think like dogs. We love them, even treat them like children, but we need to remember that they are not humans. They are dogs. The more experience you can have handling dogs, combined with actively studying their language, their psychology, the more effective you will become.

Remember these four important rules. Do not use the word “no.” Always abide by the Three C’s: Calm, Cool, and Collected. Correct undesirable actions before they become an issue. Finally, be super consistent in everything you do with a dog.