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.

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!”

How to Get the Most from a Hands-On Grooming Clinic

Blog PicEDITEDAttending a hands-on clinic is still one of the best ways to learn. These events often feature stylists that have proven their skill level around the globe. Despite their busy workshop travel schedules, celebrity pet stylists can still be found at their grooming tables every day, just like you, grooming regular clients.

Have you ever had the opportunity to train with a celebrity pet stylist? It’s a great way to improve your skills and get super energized!

Many top professional pet stylists love to help the next generation of groomers. Some of these teaching opportunities may be demonstrations or lectures. Others might be workshops where you supply the dog or cat (as well as the grooming tools) and have the opportunity to be personally coached as you work.

So, how do you get the most out of one of these coaching sessions?

1. Make sure your core/foundation skills are strong.

 Core or foundation skills include:

Proper coat preparation
  •  bathing
  • drying
  • nails trimmed
  • ears cleaned
  • 100% tangle free coat
knowledge of basic anatomy
basic (and correct) usage of tools: brushes, combs, clippers, scissors, carding tools, and stripping knives

2. Make sure to bring a quality practice pet. 

If you do not come to the session with an adequate pet to work on, you only hurt yourself.

  • select a dog or cat with enough coat to demonstrate your skills
  • the pet must have an appropriate temperament
  • the pet should be a good representative of the breed

There are a wide variety of very accomplished pet stylists. Many specialize in a certain breed, grooming technique, or topic.  The better prepared you are to participate in the hands-on workshop, the more you’re going to get out of it. Step into the session with a very open mind.

If you are young and fresh to the industry, the information shared in these clinics can be almost overwhelming. Be the driest sponge that you can be – soak up every bit of knowledge that you can.

As your knowledge and skills develop, the clinics won’t be intimidating. They will become a great tweaking session for your skills. They will keep you abreast of advanced grooming skills and trends. Plus, these types of functions are a great way to invigorate your career.

These principles remain valid for many forms of advanced learning in the pet grooming industry. If you aren’t able to attend a hands-on training session, there are other ways to learn from the experts. Be part of the audience at a trade show or pet grooming competition. Watch a grooming video lesson featuring one of these top stylists. The better you can execute the core skills with your everyday grooming, the easier it will be to successfully transfer their lessons to your own grooming table.

If you are not as accomplished as these award-winning and highly successful pet groomers, keep at it. You can learn a lot from observing their well-developed skills. Learning new skills, tips, and tricks make grooming pets all that more fun!

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.

clinicSpend the day with Melissa

Melissa Verplank will be in the Tampa, Florida area on Sunday, March 19, 2017 for an all day seminar.  Melissa will present four of her most popular lectures that are sure to help you and your business!

Click here for more information and to reserve your seat.

 

It’s Shedding Season!

DG It’s shedding season in the northern hemisphere. All those heavy coated bath and brush dogs have begun the seasonal shedding process. It’s my favorite time of year!

Is it messy? Absolutely. Can it be a lot of work? You bet. But if you’re prepared, have the right tools, and know the tricks, it doesn’t take that long. And it’s not that hard. I don’t know about you, but for me, this is the most gratifying grooming work. There is nothing more rewarding. I love the feel. I love the smell. I love to watch the dogs move as their coat floats and glistens in the sun.

I love big furry dogs. My husband and I live with three Maremma Sheepdogs. We live on a farm in Michigan and experience all four seasons. Seasonal shedding is something we battle every year. As owners of a grooming school, we are fortunate to have our dogs groomed on a regular basis.

Pearl2editAfter a recent grooming session, our Maremmas came home looking and feeling great. However, although one looked amazing, a closer inspection told a different story. Her loose and shedding coat was still stuck next to her skin. In another week, we were going to have a mess. She was going to start leaving tufts of white fur everywhere. When done well, all the packed coat is removed and a comb will glide through the coat from the skin out. Each hair shaft stands independently. This wasn’t the case with this grooming.

As professional pet groomers, we are problem solvers. People bring us dirty dogs. Shedding dogs. Stinky dogs. Overgrown dogs. Matted dogs. Our job is to clean them up while treating them with respect and compassion. The faster and safer we can get though a big job, the better is it for all involved – people and pets. But we want to be thorough at the same time. If a grooming job is not going to hold up or it’s not thoroughly done, the client isn’t going to come back and/or become a repeat customer.

What are the tricks to get these heavily coated, shedding dogs done in the least amount of time?

Here’s what I think about every single time I groom a heavy coated dog:

The bigger and messier it is, the more impressive and rewarding the outcome will be.

  1. A clean coat is going to facilitate speed in the grooming process. Let’s face it, it’s much more enjoyable to work on a clean coat versus a dirty coat! Let the shampoo do a lot of the work for you. If you remove the dirt prior to doing a lot of brushing, your products and your tools can do most of the work for you to remove matted and shedding coat. My rule of thumb is if the water can penetrate to the skin, get the dog directly to the tub. If there are sections that are so dense that water can’t penetrate, cut those areas into sections so that it can. Do at least two lathers with a shampoo. The first one can be quick and the second lather much more thorough. Occasionally, you might need a third lather in certain spots to get it clean. Using a great conditioning treatment after the bathing process can also be very beneficial.
  2. pearl3editA powerful high velocity dryer or “blaster” is the key to getting through this type of grooming job. A powerful stream of air from the high velocity dryer will do the bulk of the work for you when it comes to removing mats, tangles, and shedding coat. Ideally, you will want to have a condenser cone on the nozzle of the dryer when you first start the drying process. On well-behaved dogs who enjoy the high velocity dryer, two or even three high velocity dryers can be used to speed up the entire process. On pets that have a lot of mats, tangles, and densely packed coat, using a high velocity dryer with a condensing nozzle to blow the shampoo out of the coat on the second lather in the tub is a great trick. What do you do when you have a ring on your finger that you can’t get off? Apply soap, right? The same principle applies. The shampoo provides the lubrication and air pushes the hair apart. Easy on the dog – and easy on you.
  3. Being efficient and effective starts with focus. Your eyes should always be looking directly where the air is striking. Hold the dryer nozzle as close to the skin as possible without curling the hair onto itself, which can cause whip knots. (These whipped knots are almost impossible to remove.) As you’re moving the nozzle around the dog, watch for problem areas with the skin and coat. As the air strikes an area, the coat spiders out. The spidering area is loose coat, mats, and tangles as it’s pushed out and away from the skin.
  4. Elbow grease is a must. Once all the problem areas have been loosened and pushed out as much as possible, it’s time to remove the condenser cone and pick up the brush. You will brush using a pat-and-pull method just where the air is striking. It’s a very soft and methodical brushing technique. Done correctly, it’s highly effective while also being gentle on the dog. Brush only where the air is concentrated. This allows you brush to work through the rest of the problem area while the air blows excessive fur out of the way and off the dog.
  5. Pearl4editBe methodical. Be kind. Be considerate to the needs of the pet. Sometimes, on these heavily coated dogs, slowing it down will actually speed you up. Be thorough. The dog is not done until a wide toothed comb can be sunk down to the skin and pulled smoothly through the coat. Feel for dampness. Feel for inconsistency in coat density. Let your fingers sink to the skin. Let your hands be your guide. If anything triggers a quality control check, don’t ignore it. Go back and redo that area.

This type of work is a challenge. Not everybody can do it well. But those who do enjoy working on the large and the furry know what I’m talking about. We love it. I get so much gratification seeing piles of loose coat on the floor. I love those days when we have to empty out our shop vac multiple times because of so much shedding coat floating around the salon! At the end of those days, I know I’ve earned my money (and a glass of vino!)

If you’d like to learn the details of dealing with a heavy coated dog, here are some resources:

Notes From the Grooming Table16_CMYK_Grooming_Cover_4-18Bnew-image:

Bathing, Drying, Brushing, and Structure of a Mat sections

Theory of 5Theory Cover:

Bath and Brush section

Learn2GroomDogs.comL2GD_LOGO_Web

streaming video lessons:

  • Bathing & Drying Combination Coat
  • Bathing & Drying Heavy Coated
  • Brushing Skills
  • Finishing the Bath & Brush Style Pet
  • Salvage Work on a Heavy Coated Dog
  • Structure of a Mat
  • The Magic of Forced Air Drying
  • Speed & Efficiency – How to Groom a Monster Sized Dog in 76 Minutes

I love seeing a coat that glimmers in the sun. That moves with the dog as it moves. When you sink your hands into it, it feels soft and silky. Not only does the dog look good – they smell good too! The dog knows it. They have an air of distinction – they are proud and it shows. This type of work, done well, makes me proud to be a professional pet groomer.

~Happy trimming,

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white 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.

clinicSpend the day with Melissa

Melissa Verplank will be in the Tampa, Florida area on Sunday, March 19, 2017 for an all day seminar.  Melissa will present four of her most popular lectures that are sure to help you and your business!