Deshedding Tips and Tricks
The Importance of Canine Anatomy to Groomers

How to Communicate Effectively with Pet Parents

Did you know – whoever is asking the questions controls a conversation? It’s true.

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When you are asking a question, it forces the other person to pay attention to you. If you merely talk, the listener’s mind can wander to other matters. But the minute you say, “Let me ask you this…” the listener must pay attention because a response will be required. It is an automatic reflex.

On average, a person can speak at about 250 words a minute while a person who is listening can think at about 1200 words a minute. So, if you are doing all the talking to a client, the client has a great deal of time to figure out what they may not like about what you are saying thus giving them the advantage to figure out a way to complicate the situation.

As the pet professional, take control. Ask direct, scripted type questions to the pet parent. By letting them answer specific, targeted questions, you are now in control. Plus, when you ask questions, you show compassion and concern for the needs of the client and their pet.

The best start to effective communication is to get your hands on the pet before it goes into the grooming process – preferably with the pet parent standing right there. You’re going to be looking for anything unusual or could possibly pose a problem after the grooming is finished.

Let all your senses come into play.

  • What does the skin and coat look like?
  • What does the skin and coat feel like?
  • What does the skin and coat smell like?

Give the dog a visual once over. Identify any potential problems. Confirm what you may see by sinking your hands into the coat all the way down to the skin. Is there anything unusual? Lumps? Bumps? Mats? Filthy coat? Grit next to the skin?

To be proactive, it’s important to identify potential issues before the grooming process even begins. Formulate your questions around what you observe, feel and smell.

All service-based businesses solve customer’s problems. Pet grooming businesses bathe, brush and style dogs and cats. We provide a service our clients prefer not to do. Most of them don’t have the time - or expertise - to groom their pets themselves.

We are problem solvers in the areas of pet hygiene and coat management.

The book Theory of Five by Melissa Verplank is a practical way to communicate with pet parents. It’s a systematical way to discuss the grooming needs of any pet. By combining the Theory of Five with your expertise in grooming, you can create a line of very helpful questions. You guide the conversation. You control of the situation. You simplify the grooming options. You make things easier.

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So how do you ask the questions? You can simplify the process in five easy steps.

5 Easy Steps

  1. Be observant as the pet parent walks through the door. Let common sense guide your line of questions.
  2. Ask basic questions like, “Were you thinking of a thorough bath & brush for ‘Fluffy’ today or more of a full haircut?” to find out what the pet parent is thinking. Let the client talk.
  3. Gather clues from what the pet parent tells you and what you observe.
  4. Offer limited choices as you help guide the client to what is possible.
  5. Ask questions focusing on each of the five areas of the pet: overall body – head – ears - legs/feet – tail.

Blog diagramUsing principles outlined in Melissa’s book, allows you to easily guide a pet parent through the grooming process. It helps them understand the possibilities and have a clear understanding of what they will see when they pick up their pet. It systematically covers the overall body, head, ears, feet and tail.

Communication Tip from the Melissa: Offer two options for the client to choose from for each area of the body. Do this by asking questions such as, “Do you think this is the look you are shooting for, or this one?” (Knowing – you - the Groomer can do either!)

The pet parent will feel like they have had control over the grooming process, but you had full control in the direction of the conversation from the very beginning. We call that a win-win for both the pet parent and the pet!

Always remember. Humanity before vanity. Many clients have no idea how to best deal with their pet’s coat, the health risks associated with the lack of regular grooming, temperament issues, or the aging process. Most want to do what is best for their pet if information is presented in a sincere and respectful manner.

Take control. Ask the questions. Remember… It’s easy. Observe. Ask. Then listen to the answer. Offer limited choices as to what you can do for the pet. You will come out ahead every time using this method when communicating to your clients! It’s great for the pet. The pet parent. You. And your bottom line!


Paragon’s Distance Learning Program ( is a web-based grooming instruction solution. It’s perfect for individuals looking to make Grooming their future. It is also an ideal resource for Salon Owners and Managers who find it hard to locate groomers. It’s designed for those who don’t have the time - or desire - to teach.



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