What are the Benefits of Certification Testing?

booksProfessional certification can be found in almost every industry in the United States. Professions such as auto repair, nursing, and technology – to name a few – all have voluntary or mandatory certification organizations.

The pet grooming certification testing is the process of publicly proving you know what you’re doing.

Period.

The certification process includes education and experience as well as written and practical testing. Successful completion of each phase demonstrates a level of mastery in the grooming profession.

Is the process of passing the certification testing easy? No. It’s challenging and time-consuming. It can be stressful and frustrating.

But why shouldn’t this be the case? If you want to demonstrate mastery of your craft, shouldn’t the process be rigorous? Shouldn’t it mean something? Shouldn’t it be a true reflection of the skill and artistry of your craft?

If certification were easy, if the standards were simpler, it would devalue the accomplishment of being a Certified Master. As you pass each section it’s validation that you are an expert at your craft. It’s inspiring. It’s exciting. It’s rewarding.

So why should you do it – other than to get the certificate to hang on the wall?

I can tell you why I did it. You might be able to identify with some of my struggles and why I chose this path so early in my career.

I started grooming in the late 70’s. It was not necessarily my career choice. However, I was working at a kennel and when the groomer was fired I went from being kennel help to groomer, overnight. I had no formal training. All I had was a book and a patient boss. She helped me the best she could. On my first day I had six dogs to get through – not an easy way to get started! My early work was LESS than dazzling!

There were no certification organizations when I first started grooming. However, the kennel I worked at was progressive. We got the industry newsletters and magazines that were available at the time. I started seeing articles about this new group that would become the first voluntary pet grooming certification testing organization.

A few years went by and my skills improved – slightly. I started going to conformation dog shows. I learned about grooming competitions. The voluntary certification testing organization was picking up speed, too.

About that same time, I got married and moved. I started my first grooming business, Four Paws Mobile Grooming. Keep in mind that this is back in the early 80’s. No one had heard of mobile grooming back then. My company took off like wildfire. I was only 22 years old. In less than a year, I added a second truck and hired my first employee. Less than a year after that I added two vans at once and hired more groomers.  Within five years, I had six vans on the road and a team of groomers working for me.

Being young and having to hire experienced groomers was very challenging. I quickly realized I needed to have an edge. I needed to have the knowledge and the skills to gain the respect I needed to be their leader. I needed some way to learn advanced quality pet grooming techniques. I needed verification I knew what I was doing. I needed confidence. I wasn’t going to succeed in any of that if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone and push my educational resources.

Did I want to take the time it was going to take to learn everything I needed to pass these tests? Heck no.2017-04-19_1445

I wasn’t the best student in school. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to this process – especially taking those tests! But I was determined to gain the respect of my staff. I knew putting in the time and effort to earn my Certified Master Groomer status was what I needed to do.

Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed the process once I got started. I loved the learning aspect. I marked up my books. Pages were highlighted. Notes were written in the margins. I had sticky notes everywhere helping me identify key areas. I was passionate about being the best I could be. I could instantly transfer and apply what I was learning to my daily grooming appointments.

In the end, going through the certification process served myself and my team well. Certification quickly helped me turn my new business into a thriving company. I could network with other pet professionals who mirrored my beliefs and ethics. Become a Certified Master Groomer was the foundation work I needed to start building a career that always pushed me to new heights.

Here are seven reasons I would encourage you to become a Certified Master Groomer.

  • Certification is a valuable tool for learning. Today there are multiple certification organizations for both dog and cat grooming. Each organization focuses on a slightly different level of knowledge and skill sets. All of them will raise your knowledge and skill set to new levels.
  • Becoming certified raises the standards of our profession. Becoming a professional pet groomer is easy. There is no licensing and no mandatory accreditation. However, that does not mean the industry does not maintain quality standards. The certification organizations are raising our professional standards in the areas of knowledge, techniques, skills, and abilities.
  • Networking with like-minded professionals. You will meet pet professionals who value education, skill building, and personal growth. I found mentors and business acquaintances I could lean on and bounce ideas around. These were people who would support me and push me to become better. I’m honored to say that some of those folks became friends – and we’re still friends over 30 years later! I bet you’ll make lifelong friends, too, if you take the journey.
  • Employment opportunities. Voluntary certification will improve your chances of moving ahead in your job. Becoming a Certified Master Groomer instantly validates your skill set. Some employers prefer to hire people who are or are in the process of going through the certification process. Others will only hire job candidates who are already certified. Being certified may also be used to determine promotions within a team of stylists.
  • Higher price tags for your services. Being certified verifies you possess a higher skill set than most pet grooming professionals. Having a higher skill set translates into being able to charge more for your grooming services.
  • Gain respect. Becoming certified instantly gains you respect from your clients, your peers, your staff – and ultimately yourself. Many clients are becoming savvier as to what makes a quality pet stylist. They are seeking them out. Many even drive great distances to get to a certified pet stylist. Being well-educated leaves you with a feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment.
  • Confidence builder. One of the greatest benefits of certification testing is the self-confidence it gives you. I love this quote by Arthur Ashe. He said, “One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” Going through the certification process is the preparation you need to build a thriving career as a professional pet groomer and stylist.

There are currently four well-established organizations offering voluntary certification testing for professional pet groomers. There are new organizations popping up, as well. Do your research on new organization as they become available for testing. Weigh out for yourself whether you should invest your time and energy into their testing programs.

The established organizations who garner respect in the industry are::

  1. National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA)
  2. International Professional Groomers Inc. (IPG)
  3. International Society of Canine Cosmetologists (ISCC)
  4. National Cat Groomers Institute of America, Inc. (NCGIA)

When it comes to books and learning, I can never get enough. Once you start down the path of certification testing, you may find that it opens doors to continued education. I know it did for me. I’ve always said one of the most exciting aspects of our industry is that you can never know it all. There is always something new to learn and to improve.

Successfully completing the certification process is just one of the stepping-stones to improving your knowledge base, your skill set, and your career. It’s not about having the certificate hanging on the wall (although that’s nice), it’s more about what it can do for your emotional strength and well-being. The benefits can be immense, outweighing any obstacle getting in your way.

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteP.S. What do you think? Do you think groomers should be certified?  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us what you think.

Do I Need More Clients?

dog in curlersHave you ever sat down and thought about what your clients are worth to you?

Go beyond each individual appointment.

Sure, the individual price for the grooming is important. If you are doing six pets a day at $50 a groom, it starts to add up. $300 in sales not including tips – that’s not bad! Bump it up to eight dogs or more a day and it gets even better. Or raise the price a little bit higher than $50 per groom. Both scenarios raise your bottom line.

But let me ask you this…

  • Can you consistently maintain 6 or 8 dogs a day?
  • Do you know what it costs you to get a new client?
  • Do you enjoy working with dogs that aren’t in the best condition?
  • Do you always know how much time to set aside for each new pet?

Bottom line – constantly working with new clients can be trying, time-consuming – and expensive.

There is a better way.

Instead of looking for more clients, why not concentrate on getting more out of the clients you already have? It all starts with having a great conversation on the importance of proper pet hygiene.

Back It Up with Stats

There are an estimated 183.9 million dogs and cats in the United States. Over 68% (107 million!) of all households have at least one pet. In 2017, about $6.1 billion will be spent on services like grooming and boarding.*

830253d559a127d1869e9486a317b56aOver 62% of owners consider their pets family. At one time, dogs had a purpose to make our lives easier. They kept our livestock safe. They brought the flocks in to the barnyard. They helped us hunt and retrieve game for a table. They guarded our property. They were on varmint patrol. Most of these dogs spent much of their time outdoors. They were not the pampered house pet of today.

As their roles changed, so did their grooming needs. Today, most of our four-footed clients share their lives, homes, and even beds with their owners. As we invited dogs indoors to share homes, their grooming needs increased.

Keeping them well-groomed on a regular basis is crucial to making them enjoyable companions.

So how does this translate into creating a thriving grooming business?

Focus on grooming frequency.

Check this out. I’ve factored in two weeks’ vacation time for you. I’ve also bumped the client up so they get primped for all holiday festivities (wink).

Here’s how the math works if all your clients go 6 weeks between appointments:

math 4
A busy groomer working full-time doing 6 dogs a day only needs 167 pets to keep their books full. Whoa! That’s not a lot of clients. Most of us could find that many clients just through friends and family!

But let’s take it a bit further. Let’s figure out the value of a client.

If you educate your clients (while providing quality service), you’ll keep them coming back. Repeat business is the heart of a thriving business. Don’t look at each pet as just a $50 appointment ($50 is just an example – use whatever price tag is best for you and your salon). It’s better to see the larger picture. Look at the value over a year, then push it out even further by looking at the value of a client over the lifetime of the pet.

Example:

Times per Year Annual @ $50.00 each Visit Over 10 Years
13 4-week client = $650.00 $6,500.00
10 5-week client = $500.00 $5,000.00
9 6-week client = $450.00 $4,500.00
7 7-week client = $350.00 $3,500.00
6 8-week client = $300.00 $3,000.00

Wow, right? With each weekly bump-up in frequency, you get to pocket an extra $50! Who wouldn’t want to work on a 6-week pet versus an 8-week one? Or a 4-week client over a 6-week client? Not only is it good for your bottom line, the grooming gets easier and easier on the pet. Plus, the more often it’s groomed, the pet is cleaner and more enjoyable for the family.Let’s kick this out even further. Let’s look as what happens if you increase the frequency while REDUCING the cost. I call this our Coat Maintenance Program. 

Coat Maintenance Program
17 @ $40.00 3-week client = $680.00 $6,800.00
26 @ $28.00 2-week client = $728.00 $7,280.00
50 @ $22.00 1-week client = $1,100.00 $11,000.00

Earning NEW clients always costs more than maintaining existing customers. Simply boosting the grooming frequency of your current clientele solves light booking issues and grows your sales.

Over 60% of owners think of their pets as family. What people love, they take care of. It’s up to you as the professional to educate your clientele about the hygiene needs of each individual pet based on their lifestyle.

The value of any grooming business is not in how large the client file is. It is in frequency level clients rebook their pets next appointment. And remember, sometimes having a higher average ticket price isn’t the best solution. Lowering the price and increasing the frequency helps everybody – the pet, the owner, … and the groomer.

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteP.S. Has this helped? Let us know if there are other topics you’d like us to explore.  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us what would help you.

*2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey, The American Pet Products Association (APPA)

I Want a “Puppy Cut”

Don’t you love it when an owner walks into a salon and ask for this trim by name? They actually think this is a universal standard trim that all groomers and pet stylists should know how to do. When we start asking them questions, they get all huffy, thinking we don’t know how to do our jobs. Frustrating!! You and I know there isn’t a consistent right way to do a “puppy cut.” There are many – many variations!

The puppy cut is one of the most popular haircuts. It works well on a wide variety of pets. From Shih Tzus to Doodles. From Pomeranians to Bichons. Almost any breed that grows longer coat can be done in this easy-to-care for style.

Yet, the puppy cut is also the most misunderstood haircut in grooming salons around the country. Why? There are no clear directions of what this trim actually is or how it should be done. It’s left up to individual personal interpretation by owners, groomers, or talented pet stylists.

The puppy cut started out as a trim style for Poodles. The puppy cut is a specific trim used on young Poodles in the dog show world. Once the puppy turns a year-old, they are put into the elaborate adult haircut for the conformation ring.

Today, the term “puppy cut” is used very loosely. It can apply to a wide variety of different breeds. It’s highly adaptable to any size of dog. Coats can be curly, wavy, or straight. Almost any purebred or mixed breed that grows hair looks appealing in a “puppy cut.”

quote 2 Many owners love this style of trim. It can be very cute. It’s easy to care for. It’s highly versatile. That’s a win-win-win for any busy family! The dog does not drag in dirt and debris from outdoors. Their ears do not drag in the food or water dish. The need for brushing between grooming appointments is minimized. And on smaller pets, bathing between grooming appointments is a breeze. When done well, it can be extremely attractive, to boot.

So what is it?

Essentially, the puppy cut is one length all over. The most common length is between 1-2 inches over the body, legs, tail, head, and ears. Typically, it’s done with a clipper fitted with a long guard comb over the blade. There should not be any clipper marks, uneven coat, or sharp edges left in the fur. Next to a powerful clipper, high quality blenders are your best friends when doing this trim. Everything is soft and plush, like a fluffy puppy.

The term “puppy cut” can be tricky. In some circles the puppy cut can also be known as the “teddy bear trim”, “summer cut”, or “kennel cut.” I’ve even seen some salons turn their version of the trim into their “signature haircut.” So the puppy cut becomes “The Posh Pet Special” (brilliant marketing by the way!) Generally, the only things that change between theses trims are the names and the length of coat.

It’s important to keep this in mind, too: one person’s interpretation of a puppy cut might be that of a smooth-coated puppy. Think Boxer, Pug, or Beagle. Another person’s interpretation would be that of a fluffier breed like a Shih Tzu, Bichon, or Poodle. There’s also a big difference between a four-week old puppy and a ten-week old puppy in terms of coat growth.

With all these interpretations, there is a wide variance of what each individual dog will look like and what each owner expects their dog to look like. If an owner is requesting this trim for the first time, be prepared to discuss the trim in detail with the owner. DO NOT ASSUME YOU ARE BOTH ON THE SAME PAGE! Communication is the key to a happy customer.

Here is a great tip to remember when talking with clients: whoever is asking the questions controls the conversation. As groomers and pet stylists, we are problem solvers. Uncover the problems in five simple steps.

  1. Observe the pet as the client walks through the door. Let common sense guide your line of questions.
  2. Find the problem. Ask basic questions like, “Were you thinking of a short and smooth style or something a bit fluffier?” Letting the client talk will help uncover problem areas.
  3. Gather clues from what the client tells you and what you observe.
  4. Offer limited choices as you help the client solve the problem.
  5. Guide the questions in five areas of the pet: overall body – head – ears – legs/feet – tail.

Here is a list of talking points when a new client request a “puppy cut.”

  • In general, what is the look they are hoping for? Something smooth and sleek so it’s easy to care for? Or something that makes the dog look slightly fluffy, plush, and super cute?
  • What is the lifestyle of the dog? Active? Sedentary? City dweller? Enjoys outdoor activities?
  • What is the texture and coat density of the dog? Fine, thin coats will looks shorter than dense coated dogs even with the same length clipper blade.
  • How much length do they want left on the body? What about on the legs? Feet?
  • What type of head style would they prefer?
  • Depending on the pet’s ear set, ear styles can change dramatically (dropped ear or pricked and pointed). How do they want them styled? Long? Short? In-between?
  • Do they want a long coat left on the tail or trimmed down to match the body? Or something in-between?

It’s important to have a thorough conversation with the owner when considering this haircut. There are so many variances with a puppy cut. Simply having the client state they want one is not specific enough.

Advise the client about trim options that would work best for their dog. Based on the condition of the coat and your pet’s body structure, you will be able to offer some valuable suggestions. A skilled pet professional will know how to make minor changes to the trim enhancing the pet’s appeal. Maybe the pet’s coat is too tangled to do the longer trim today. You’ll be able to suggest alternatives on how to modify a trim that works best as you discuss options for future trims.

Educating clients on proper pet hygiene is a valuable service most salon offer for free to their clients. In order to keep the dog looking its best, you can advise the client on how to best maintain this haircut between grooming appointments. At home brushing and bathing can make a big difference in how they look and smell, too. You can also make suggestions on how often the trim should be done based on the pet’s life style and coat texture. Maybe you suggest they get a full haircut every 4-6 weeks. Or maybe a maintenance program would be better suited for the client when you see them for weekly or bi weekly appointments.

Always remember, your clients are the lifeblood of your business. Taking a little extra time up front for a warm and welcoming pet consultation will go a long way toward building a solid relationship with them.

There is a good reason why the “puppy cut” is one of the most popular trims in grooming salons around the country. There are many – many variations!

What is YOUR first thought when you hear this term? How do you address this issue?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it!
Happy trimming,

~Melissa

P.S. You can make this and ALL grooming conversations easier and more successful.

This is a great tool tool for getting the conversation started in a way that is easy for you to explain and for the client to understand. The photos and drawings make it even simpler! Try it the next time you talk to your guests. Even better? Use this as a teaching/training tool for your staff so you are all consistent in the ways you speak to your clients. Once everyone on your team knows how to discuss the essential parts of the pet, they’ll sound more knowledgeable, your clients will feel more comfortable, and you’ll waste less time (and possibly profits) correcting “guess work!”

7 Speedy Grooming Tips for a Happier Pet

headerSpeedy pet grooming is one of many ways we show compassion for the animals in our care. Grooming efficiently doesn’t mean you care less about their needs. You can groom a pet quickly while still being gentle, respectful, and without sacrificing quality and thoroughness.

I understand this not only as a groomer, but from personal experience with my own fur family. I have Maremma Sheepdogs, two of which are over 10 years old. They are heavy, double-coated, large dogs. At one time, they had the physical strength to endure longer grooming sessions. However, as they’ve aged, grooming has become more uncomfortable to tolerate.

It’s important to get them in and out of the grooming salon as quickly as possible. Anything over an hour and a half fatigues them. They have some difficulty standing on the grooming table. The risk of injury is much higher simply because they are not as steady, strong, or sturdy as they once were. When they come home, both sleep for hours without getting up. As beautiful as they are, I know they are physically and mentally exhausted from the grooming process.

Most pets benefit from minimizing the amount of time they spend in the grooming process.

  • Young dogs do not have the attention span to deal with prolonged grooming sessions when they are first being introduced to the process.
  • Many pets are “home bodies” that don’t deal well with situations outside of their home life. The sooner you can get them back to their owners and into their home, the more comfortable they are.
  • Prolonging the grooming process on difficult or aggressive dogs typically aggravates the situation. Handling them in a gentle, respectful manner in the least amount of time is beneficial for both them and the groomer.
  • Senior dogs may not have the patience nor the physical ability to tolerate longer grooming sessions. Speeding up the process and/or giving them rest breaks as they get fatigued between active grooming procedures will make them more comfortable.

Regardless of whether it is a full brush-out or a haircut these are my time goals for pets being groomed every 4-6 weeks:

Most small to medium-size dogs – about an hour.

Larger, furrier dogs – approximately 90 minutes.

quoteOf course, large dogs with excessive hair that are in poor condition or are not groomed on a regular basis are going to take longer. Short haired, light coated, smaller dogs, or pets with simple haircuts may take less time.

How do you speed up the process without sacrificing the pet’s well-being?

  1. Equipment – Working with high-quality equipment facilitates speed, effectiveness, and quality of the final grooming product. Continually upgrade your tools and equipment. Do not hesitate to replace tired or worn out items. The investment will have a positive impact on the well-being of your pet clients (as well as your bottom line).
  2. Supplies – Keep your tools organized and within arm’s reach. Having your supplies nearby also means fewer wasted footsteps each day. Saving steps = saving time.
  3. Handling – Pets are highly capable of reading energy – yours and the salon’s. Dogs are silent communicators. Minimize unnecessary talk and movements towards the pet. The more you can remain calm, cool, and collected, the more enjoyable the entire grooming session will be – regardless of the temperament of the pet.
  4. Focus – While working on any pet, staying fully focused enables you to complete the grooming process in the least amount of time possible. If chatting and music are distractions, eliminating them will allow you to focus more closely on what really matters – the pet.
  5. Comfort and Safety – Comfort and safety applies to both the pet and the handler. Adjustable tables and grooming arms need to be sturdy. A well-positioned safety loop keeps the dog tethered to the table or in the bathtub comfortably while restricting unnecessary movement. Utilizing a Groomers Helper acts like a second set of hands for pets who are overly active on the grooming table. Using an anti-fatigue type matt on the tabletop offers security and comfort to the pet, especially those that are larger or older. If a muzzle is necessary to prevent a dog from biting, make sure it is comfortable for the pet. If a pet is sensitive to the noise of a dryer or the sounds of an active salon, a Happy Hoodie can reduce their anxiety.
  6. Knowledge – The more educated you are about the entire grooming process, the more confidence you will have. The more confident you are, the more quickly you can make a dog feel at ease. Being self-assured allows you to get through the entire grooming process quickly.
  7. Bows and Bandannas – These items can easily be premade prior to the completion of the grooming. Having them ready and waiting means your pet doesn’t have to.

Being efficient with the entire grooming process is not just about getting more dogs done in a day. It’s about being compassionate towards the pet. It’s about being effective, knowledgeable and skillful with your grooming techniques. It’s about knowing how to produce amazing work in the least amount of time. It’s about being gentle and respectful to the pet regardless of their size, condition, or temperament.

We are here to help pets and their owners. We work as a team, looking out for the pet’s overall health and well-being. To me, that’s the most rewarding part of being a professional pet groomer/stylist. Being able to get a dog or cat back to its owner in the least amount of time is just one way of keeping pets healthy and happy.

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S. Did I miss any tricks? Tell me what works for you.  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it!