When Should You Just Say No?

Agressive dogrrPet groomers and stylists are in the service industry. Our role is to help people and their pets. When we do it well, we make people happy.

What if you can’t make them happy because you can’t groom the dog safely due to its aggression or health? Should you still groom the pet?

If you have been in business for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve run into this scenario. Even seasoned professionals struggle with this dilemma at times. Should you groom the pet or turn the client away?

The easy answer is to refuse to groom the pet. However, there are many variables. If you feel the situation presents a high risk for the pet or you – simply say no. That’s your right as a business person or a conscientious employee.

You must put the safety of the pet and yourself first.

Once you have that clearly established in your mind you can start analyze the situation.

  • What is raising the red flags in your mind?
  • What are your qualifications when it comes to handling a difficult grooming situation?
  • Is this a new or a long-standing client?
  • Can the pet be groomed safely with the help of an assistant?
  • Will the pet cooperate if the owner stays or assists in the grooming process?

When I think about these questions, I always mentally play out the worst case scenario. The last thing that I ever want is to have to tell an owner that their pet was injured while in my care. Or that we had to take him to the vet for treatment. Worse yet – that their dog died during the grooming process.

Let’s face it, there are a host of things that could go wrong in any grooming salon even under the best of circumstances.

The list of dangers working in every grooming salon is massive. We are working with:

  • live animals
  • sharp instruments
  • tall tables
  • bathtubs
  • dryers
  • abrasive brushes
  • stacked kennels
  • slippery floors.

On most days, an experienced bather, groomer, or pet stylist takes all these dangers in stride. We know how to avoid accidental injuries to our four-footed clients.

So what do you do when that internal gut instinct kicks in?

You are standing there, looking at a dog (or cat) and listening to a client talk about their precious fur child. Deep down – some type of internal fear grips you. You just have a bad feeling about this particular groom. You know the old saying, “trust your gut instinct?” Well folks, that natural instinct is working in full force. Listen to it.

It’s okay to say “no” to a grooming client. It’s never worth grooming a dog you honestly feel is beyond your level of experience. If it’s more than you can handle, you have a potentially dangerous situation. The pet and you are the ones at risk – not the owner. I don’t know a single pet care specialist that ever wants to intentionally harm a pet.

Yet, if something goes wrong with the groom on that day, whose fault will it be? Yours.

Weigh out the risks. Whenever you need to decline service to a client, it’s an uncomfortable situation. But the alternative is much, much worse. Telling an owner their pet has been seriously hurt or died in your salon it the most difficult task you will have to address. You want to avoid that at all costs – even if it makes the client angry or upset.

If it’s a new client, it’s much easier. There isn’t that emotional tie that comes with repeat or long-time clients. It’s much easier to refuse to groom a dog that is too big or too aggressive for you to handle.

It’s the long-time clients that are tough. The longer they have been a regular client, the harder it is. If a pet has physical ailments, it’s tougher. This is when you need to weigh out the risks and look for alternatives to your standard grooming practices. The health and wellness of the pet has to be a top priority.

Here are the questions you need to ask.

  • Could the pet be done safely with an assistant?
  • Would the dog benefit from the owner staying with the dog during the grooming process?
  • Would a different time of day work better for the pet? Maybe a time when you can focus solely on the pet without distraction?
  • If your salon is busy, would a solo stylist or mobile stylist be a better option?
  • Would it be in the best interest of the dog to get the grooming done without stopping? Maybe it’s best to break the grooming into sections, letting the dog rest between sessions? That might be over the course of the day or even over several days.
  • Would it be in the best interest of the dog to be groomed at a vet clinic where medical attention could be rapidly administered, if needed?

Years of experience have taught me there is not an easy answer. Whenever you need to decline services to a client, it’s an uncomfortable situation.

However, if you decline services, do so out of care and compassion for the pet. Be prepared to offer alternatives to the client, even if that means you simply tell them “no,” you cannot groom their dog. Be ready to refer them to someone better suited to handle their pet. List all the reasons WHY you cannot and will not groom their pet. Do it with the confidence of a professional.

In the end, as difficult as it is to say “NO” to clients, you will sleep a lot better at night when you do. Trust me on this one.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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How to Get Your Clipper Work Smooth – Like a Summer Hay Field

blogrIt’s been over 35 years since that first time. I still remember standing in awe, watching a talented pet groomer give a dog a haircut. She handled her clippers with ease. The long fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and gorgeous. And she was fast – super fast. She made the whole process seems so simple.

The first time I tried, I quickly discovered it was not simple. Those initial attempts were pretty pathetic. Saying my first efforts were rough and choppy would be polite. There were long tufts hanging out everywhere. I was frustrated beyond belief.

I was determined to master the skill. After all, the groomer I had been watching proved it could be done. It was simple – I just had to focus and figure it out.

Fast forward a few years of practice and a couple hundred dogs later, and I could make any dog look amazing. When I did a simple haircut on a pet, the fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and appealing. I could finish dogs in no time. I’d gotten very efficient with my clippers.

It took years of hard work. There were years of standing on my feet until they throbbed, working until my hands and shoulders ached. However, my pain can be your gain. Here are a few tips to enhance your speed when it comes to simple, low maintenance haircuts:

  • Use the most powerful clipper you can afford and are comfortable holding. Duel speeds or variable speed clippers are great options.
  • Work with the natural lay of the coat. You can work with or against the grain. If you reverse clip, the end result will leave that fur approximately two blade lengths shorter than working with the natural lay of the coat.
  • For a large majority of low maintenance trims done with a #4F, #5F, or a #7F blade with the grain, you will go over the pet three times before it’s really smooth.
  1. The first time removes the bulk.
  2. The second time takes out the high spots.
  3. The third time erases what you missed.
  • The strokes are long and smooth. They overlap slightly. I often tell students to think about a hay field. The farmer wants to be as efficient as possible – but he doesn’t want to miss anything, either. Most farmers work in nice, neat rows as they cut hay, slightly overlapping each row to ensure they don’t miss any portion of the field. Think about the dog’s body in the same manner. It’s a hay field. Your clipper is the tractor. You want it done right… and you want to be done before the dinner bell rings.
  • When clipping the legs, remember the actual contact of the cutting blade is minimal due to the shape of the surface. It’s round – like a pencil. Only a few teeth will make contact with the surface as you run the clipper down the leg. Thus, on legs you need multiple passes to get the same effect as three passes on the larger flat surface of the body. You can clearly see this relationship by simply running a blade down your own finger and looking at the blade’s point of contact.
  • Back brush. Back brush. Back brush!

clippersYou’ll always get a smoother cut on a dog that is clean and the coat has been fluffed. Once you make the initial pass to remove the bulk of the long coat, it’s time to pick up the brush. Back brush the entire dog and go over it a second time. On the third pass, again gently back brush the entire area that needs final attention. Did you get that? Back brush!

When do you know you are done? You are done clipping when there is no more coat coming off the dog after it has been washed, dried, and effectively back brushed. Period.

Clipper work on a low maintenance haircut style can be extremely frustrating for new groomer. But once you master the clipper and understand how to work with the coat, it becomes second nature. It becomes simple. You become fast. And you will be able to perform the haircut safely with great precision.  You can do it. It just takes focus

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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The Secret to Handling Challenging Dogs

Dollarphotoclub_57676672In my years of teaching new pet groomers, I’ve seen hundreds of dogs take advantage of a new students. Dogs pull, squirm, whine, snarl… and bite. I’ve seen many students frustrated to the point of tears.

Then a miracle happens.

An instructor will walk over to the pet and gently take over for the student. Suddenly, this challenging pet turns into a perfect angel. The students’ jaw drops. A moment in stunned silence passes before the student exclaims, “How did you do that?!” The answer is simple:

Energy.

Dogs have keen senses and an uncanny ability to pick up on our energy and our confidence. They read us clearly even when we don’t think we are connecting to them. In the example above, the dog picked up on the instructor’s energy without a word having to be said.

Dogs are primarily nonverbal communicators. They have a language of their own. They are very clear in the messages that they give us. It is up to us to be able to interpret that language.

The #1 rule when working with pets is to remember the three C’s. As a professional you must remain: Calm, Cool, and Collected in ALL circumstances. The second you step out of this energy mode, the dog pet will know it.

Dogs are hardwired to think like dogs. They need a pack leader. If you do not exude the three C’s, dog language translates that to “poor leader.” The pet will not follow you. It will not cooperate with you.

So how do you gain the upper edge in this situation? Believe it or not, it all starts with your BREATHING.

I know it sounds far-fetched. How could something we do without conscious thought help in this situation?

To create a calm, cool, and collected energy, you need to be cool, calm, and collected. Deep breathing allows you body to channel that calm and focus. To make it happen, your breaths need to be deep and saturating. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Draw in the air and feel it fill your lungs. Now exhale slowly through your mouth. The most important part of deep breathing is to regulate your breaths. Three to four seconds in. Three to four seconds out.

Try it. You will feel the oxygen saturating your body. Tension begins to leave your shoulders. You will start to feel more relaxed almost immediately.

Screen-Shot-2015-11-05-at-4.08.52-PMDeep breathing can release stress and provide other noticeable health benefits. You will likely feel calmer after performing deep breathing exercises, and may trade feelings of anger or fear for a focused, relaxed state of mind. Most dogs will totally gravitate to this energy in a very positive way.

I firmly believe that 98% of all dog bites are preventable by reading the animal correctly and taking the appropriate precautions to protect yourself while gaining humane control over the pet. Your hands are your livelihood. You must take utmost care not to let your hands become injured.

Every pet is an individual with different physical and emotional characteristics. Some dogs receive clear directions and boundaries at home, making them very easy to work on in a professional setting. Other pets will not have the skills necessary to be well-mannered candidates in a professional grooming setting.

The personality quirks that you’ll experience while working professionally with pets will range from dogs that are perfect angels, to dogs that are mildly annoying, to dogs that could be potentially dangerous to work on for both the handler and to the pet itself.

Whenever working with pets it is always critical to remember the 3 C’s. As a professional you must remain calm, cool, and collected in all circumstances. And don’t forget to BREATHE.

Whenever you have a dog on a table or in your grooming facility, you must use humane, respectful, and consistent training messages. The more you can learn about dog psychology and combine it with actual experience, winning the control and the respect over the dogs will become second nature.

Always remember that dogs are primarily silent communicators. Excessive talking or giving of commands is not necessary to effectively communicate with them. Much of your control can come from maintaining the Three C’s – Always remain Calm, Cool, and Collected while working with any animal.

Any time you feel you are losing control of the three C’s, it’s time to step away from the grooming table and take a break. Breathe. Only when you can totally regain your composure is it time to step back and begin your work again.

There are many videos on Pet Handling in the Learn2GroomDogs library. Also my blog on Rating Dog Personalities is very helpful when determining how to rate personality and behavior in dogs.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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How to Scissor a Leg in Under 2 Minutes

autopilot-buttonGrooming systems allow us to go on autopilot. When we’re on autopilot, we can focus on the thing that matters the most – pets!

Think about the things you do every day. I’m sure you use systems all the time. I know I do.

I have a system for making coffee. I have a system for doing my makeup. I have a routine I follow when I exercise. I have a system when I get into the car to go somewhere. I have a routine I follow every night before I go to bed.

I bet you have a lot of routines, too.

When I follow my systems and routines, I don’t have the think about what I’m doing – I just do it. The beauty about routines is they become automated – and efficient.

How does it feel when you don’t follow your routine? What happens when you get interrupted? Do you lose your place? Do you have to stop and think about where you left off? Do you feel lost? What happens to your time?

I know when I’m interrupted, I lose my place. I get off track. I lose precious time. If it continues to happen, I get frustrated.

My guess is you’re just as busy as I am. We have places to go and things to do. Wasting time drives me nuts. How about you?

So, how do you apply this concept to dog grooming? Each phase of the grooming process can be broken down, systematically. For now, let’s talk about a routine for scissoring a leg in less than two minutes.

Now, I’m not talking about an 80-pound Doodle. I’m not talking about a dog you haven’t seen for months. I’m not talking about a dog that comes in matted to the hilt. I’m talking about average, everyday regular clients. Small and medium sized pets that have a bit of style to the haircut.

To become highly efficient with scissoring legs, there’s a secret.

It’s all in the set up BEFORE you pick up your shears.

Let’s break this down.

Let’s say you have a Shih Tzu that comes in every six weeks. It’s heavy coated and gets a medium guard comb on the body with fuller legs and a round head style. When it’s done, it’s so cute it looks like it should be a stuffed animal. The entire trim, prep, bath, fluff dry, and haircut should take 60 minutes or less.

First things first. The set up before you pick up your shears is critical. You’ll give yourself a huge head start if you do a few things beforehand.

All equipment needs to be sharp. Your blades need to be able to glide through the coat like a hot knife through butter. Your shears need to cut effortlessly with precision. Your thinners should run smoothly, without catching. Your Greyhound comb as well as your favorite slicker brush should be within easy reach.

Here’s my basic grooming routine on all my six-week or less clients who get a fuller styled leg trim.

  1. trim nails and clean ears
  2. bath
  3. towel dry
  4. hi-velocity fluff drying
  5. double-check coat for any mats or tangles prior to beginning the haircut
  6. trim the pads and round the feet at the same time with a #40 blade*
  7. Sani-work with a #10 (eyes, tummy, and under tail)
  8. guard comb work on the body*
  9. scissor the legs
  10. style the head
  11. style the ears
  12. style the tail
  13. apply bows and cologne based on client preference

I rarely break from this routine. This system allows me to go on to autopilot and focus on the pet and the quality of my work.

Notice the two stars in that list of 13 steps (6 and 8). Those are key areas when setting in the haircut to get legs done in less than two minutes. Those are your “cheat” areas.

What do I mean by “cheat”? Use your clippers. The clipper will remove the bulk of the hair. Any time you can remove excess coat with a clipper, you’re ahead of the game. It minimizes how much you must think about what you are doing while reducing the risk to the dog. #10’s, #40’s or guard combs rarely nick the body of the dog. Scissors? That’s another story. If you’re working with a quality pair of shears, they’re razor-sharp. It only takes one miscalculated move – one tug from the dog – and you have a potential injury that might require stitches. That’s not something any of us want.

Here is my step-by-step guide for this style of haircut focusing on the steps.

(Note: I always work around the dog in the circle.)

 Body:

  1. I brush downward over the leg and the foot with a slicker brush. With my less dominant hand, I slide my hand down the leg, with my finger and thumb closest to the table. When I get close to the foot, I gently ask the dog to lift its foot. I lightly clip the pads with a #40 blade (a #30 blade will work, too).
  2. Once the pads are clipped, I let my hand slide over the foot with my fingers wrapping around the edge of the dog’s foot. Any coat hanging over the edge of the foot, I quickly remove with my #40 blade. I repeat this process on all four feet.
  3. Once the pads and feet are trimmed, I turn my attention to the guard comb work on the body. In the pattern transition areas, I let my guard comb skim off the longer hair on the thighs, rump, and the shoulders. I’m thinking about parallel lines.
  4. When I stand back and look, I want the lines to drop from the widest points on the shoulders and hips to the table. Since the feet have already been trimmed, once you blend the coat at the transition areas, there’s very little left to hand scissor. Normally it’s just an area between 2-3 inches wide.
  5. Once my clipper work is done on the body and I have smoothly transitioned the short coat into the longer fur on the legs – I’m ready to pick up my shears.

Legs:

(In this scenario, I’m starting with the front leg and moving to a rear leg but you can use whatever order works best for you – or the dog. As I work around the dog, I complete each leg before moving to the next one.)

  1. I start with the front legs. I fluff the coat up, gently holding the dog’s foot in my fingers then give the leg a little bit of a shake. The leg is positioned as close to the table top as I can while still elevating it slightly. With straight shears, I box the outside and inside leg lines. (Creating a box is much easier than trying to create a cylinder when setting in the lines.)
  2. Next, I let the dog stand naturally in a square position. I trim a straight line from the elbow to the table with the dog standing squarely. While the dog is standing, I eyeball the front of the front leg making a mental note how much coat needs to come off to create a straight line.
  3. I recomb the entire leg, give it a little shake, and begin my final scissoring. With the dog standing, remove the corners and any longer hair falling over the boxed-in area, creating a nice straight cylinder. I then pick up the foot and detail the cylinder shape.
  4. I quickly give the leg another comb-up and do the final detailing with my thinning shears. I remove any of the high spots or rough patches.
  5. As I get close to finishing shaping the leg, I slide my fingers in around the top of the elbow, and give a gentle squeeze. This hold stabilizes the dog and naturally makes them point their toes so I can focus on the foot. I give the foot a quick fluff with my comb. Picking up my thinners, I remove any rough edges falling outside of the nice rounded foot blending into the sidelines on the leg. I never cut on the underside of the foot from this position.
  6. I put the foot down and let the dog stand naturally. I double-check my work between the large pad of the foot and the stopper pad. I re-trim that area if it needs it.
  7. To double-check the pad area, I brush the coat down and trim any stray hairs with small detail shears – always working around the outside area of the foot pad.
  8. I double-check all my work before I move on to the rear leg.

The rear leg will be the same (with a few variances) to help establish the angles of the rear assembly. When doing the guard comb work, I sweep the clipper over the hip and rump area and feather off towards the stifle. This helps establish the angulation on the rear leg.

  1. On the rear legs, I fluff the coat up. Gently holding the dog’s foot in my fingers, I give the leg a little bit of a shake. With the dog standing squarely, I scissor the outside of the leg in a straight, parallel line to the table.
  2. Next, while standing directly behind the dog, I scissor a straight parallel line on the inside of the leg.
  3. I re-fluff the leg and let the dog stand naturally. I scissor in the front of the rear leg, accentuating the curved angle from the stifle to the hock and then straight down to the rounded foot. I will often switch to curved shears for this section.
  4. Finally, I fluff the rear portion of the leg. Using curved shears, I scissor in the angles over the rump and down the rear section of the back leg, accentuating the angulation.
  5. I quickly give the leg another comb-up and remove any of the high spots or rough patches with thinners.
  6. I slide my hand around the thigh, lifting the foot slightly off the table, focusing now on the foot. I give it a quick fluff with my comb and pick up my thinners to remove any rough edges falling outside the lines of the nice rounded foot. I blend the foot into the sidelines on the leg. I set the leg down and double-check the hock.
  7. I fluff the leg one more time and do one of two things:
    1. Lift the dog so it is standing on its hind legs. With the dog lifted in this manner, I get a clear view of the inside of the rear legs. I look for rough spots needing to be smoothed out – or -
    2. Gently pick up the one of the rear legs. Lift it only as high as the dog is comfortable (most of the time allowing the dog to bring its leg into its body a bit). I double-check the inside of the rear leg and smooth out any rough spots with thinners.
  8. To double-check the pad area, I brush the coat down and trim any stray hairs with small detail shears, always working around the outside area of the foot pad.
  9. I double-check all my work before I move on to the next leg.

Have you ever timed yourself? If you haven’t, I encourage you to do so. You can’t improve what you don’t track. It’s important to know how long each step of the grooming process takes you. If you are not being able to get legs scissored on a relatively simple trim quickly, I encourage you to grab a timer or watch the clock. Play the time game with yourself. It’s fun. If you work on the system, you will be able to complete a leg in under two minutes.

When grooming pets, I love to automate what I do. It allows me to give the client a consistent haircut every time. It allows me to be efficient. It allows me to minimize the amount of time I spend on each task. I love how having systems in place allows me the freedom to focus on what is important – the pet.

Being efficient allows you to do more pets per day while enjoying your job. It doesn’t mean that you’re working harder, it just means you’re being productive. Think about all the things you do where you have a system or a routine in place. Thorough systems and routines allow you to get through the process effortlessly. And who doesn’t like that?

Creating routines and systems will also increase your revenue generation. I have yet to find anybody who does not appreciate being able to earn more money without having to work harder for it.

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