About Me:

I am a professional Pet Groomer. I have been grooming for 28 years. This Blog is a kind of diary of my work. I wish I had started years ago, writing some of the experiences I have had while grooming. Most days are fun, some can be sad, some can be just down right crazy. If you are a pet owner and come across this blog, I hope it helps you understand how your pet is groomed. If you are a Pet Groomer, I hope you can relate to some of the stories. Maybe even learn a grooming tip or can leave a friendly grooming tip for me. There is always something to learn, no matter how long you have been grooming.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Answering An E-Mail

I am back from a great vacation and ready to groom again!

We got lucky and the weather was great.

We enjoyed our one week off of the year.

I have about a dozen comments to answer, and I will get to them over the week.

I also had an e-mail from a new groomer.
She had some good questions that I thought other new groomers might like to know the answers to also, so I asked her if she minded me answering her e-mail on my blog.
She very nicely agreed.
Here is a portion of her e-mail:

I have been practicing on my dogs as well as did a practice on my hairdressers Yorkie over the weekend.
Very difficult as she would not sit still the whole time and always lent with her back towards me!
I have a grooming table with a loop which helped a lot but her constant moving made it hard and she kept wanting to back off the table.
Besides that she kept trying to nip me! I work in animal welfare so am used to it. Eventually she calmed down. But how would you deal with such a situation in a mobile environment?
Do you have a handler to help hold difficult dogs?
I attempted to trim her, the ears came out ok but the rest of the body not too good. Had no real idea what I was doing, but guess that's all with practice.

I had a hair dryer with me but she is terrified so had to towel dry her in the sun. Luckily she is small.

How many times during grooming would you say you oil your clippers? And do you use coolube?

What about a situation where the dog won't allow you to touch its paws? Even my own dogs get agitated when I try clip their paws on top, the pads are a whole different story. I'm terrified I nick them? 

Let me start by saying that every new groomer should try to sit back a relax.
Take a breath and remember that you're new at this.
You are going to be nervous, worrying about the dog, and if you are going to groom it right.
These feeling are going to be transferred to the dog, causing some dogs to act up, because they can feel your worry.

Not every groomer may agree with my advice, but this is what I do with every dog I groom before I do anything else.
I hold them, and pet them, and talk to them.
I get a feel for them and they get a feel for me.
My goal is to help them relax.
It is also so that I remember that they are a living, breathing thing that has feelings.
I talk baby talk if I need to.
I play a little with them if I need to.
Or, I just talk softly to them if they are really nervous.

This not only helps the dog to relax, but it helps me too.
I feel that you can't always be business when dealing with dogs.
You need to take a few minutes to help ease them into the grooming.
Over the years I have seen many groomers get so involved with how many dogs they are going to groom a day, or are so over worked, stressed and rushed that they become robots and forget that those dogs they are grooming everyday are furry children that have feelings and sometimes just need some reassurance that the grooming process is not going to hurt them.

Even with my regulars, I take a few minutes just to hug and pet them before I start to groom.

Now, pet owners will not always tell you the truth, especially if they know that their dog is not good for grooming, but I always ask an owner how their dog is for grooming.
Have they been professionally groomed before?
How often does the dog get groomed?
Does any part of the grooming upset or scare them?

The Yorkie mentioned in this e-mail may have not been good, or liked being groomed....or, the Yorkie may have felt how nervous this new groomer was and was acting up because of it.
It is hard to say exactly.

**Tip: Try sucking on a mint while grooming. The smell of the mint will help relax the dog and you.

To be honest, when a dog is nippy with me,(not meanly, or to brake skin) I usually ignore it.
This tends to confuse the dogs and they stop nipping because it is not working for them, because I am not stopping what I am doing.

If the nipping gets harder and mean, I firmly tell them 'NO', but I still do not stop what I am doing.
Stopping to reprimand them only gives them what they want...me to stop.

As for the dog turning its back on me while I groom....I just gently pick them up and set them on the table the way I want them to face.
I will hold them in place until they stay still saying 'stay'.
If they move when I let go, I repeat the same step.
It normally only takes a few times until the dog realizes what I want it to do.

Of course, there will always be those dogs that refuse to be still.
I have a small, very friendly Yorkie that I groom that is like working on a Mexican jumping bean. 
He is a very sweet, friendly dog that is extremely dangerous to groom, because of the way he moves and jerks all over the table.
I am lucky to have extra people at work to help hold dogs like this.

For a groomers working along the Groomers Helper would come in very handy.
If anyone would like to learn more about the Groomers Helper, there is a great instructional video made by Chuck Simons, the inverter of the Groomers Helper on youtube.

Becoming upset, or jerking the dog back around to you will only make the dog fear you and make matters worse.
Be firm, but gentle.
Pet and praise a little when the dog does what you want it to do.
Groomers have to also be trainers.
It is better to approach a grooming on a new dog expecting the dog not to behave the way you want it to.
Don't take for granite that the dog knows it is supposed to stand still on your table.
You, as the groomer, will have to train most of the dogs you groom to except the grooming.

There are times when nothing I do will make the dog stand the way I want, so I just work with what I have.
If I have to groom the dog laying down, then that is what I do.
Most of the time, the dog will eventually get comfortable and stand on its own.

I have written a post on this subject if you would like to check it out.

As for the dog moving and trying to back off the table...
I don't use a grooming loop.
That is my own personal preference.
They get in my way when I groom.
I do not knock groomers that do use grooming loops, they come in very handy for groomers who work alone.
As I stated above, The Groomers Helper is also a great tool for groomers who work alone.
I also like to groom with my table up against a wall so that dogs can not back off.
Some groomers do not like to have their table against a wall, because they like walking all around the table.
I train all of my groom dogs to turn on the table for me, even the large ones.
I tap the top of the table and say 'turn', it works for me.

I have also made a backboard for my table that closes in three of the sides of my grooming table to help the dogs feel secure and to keep them from backing off the back or sides of my table.
It also keeps the dogs up close to me and saves my back.
Click on the 'backboard' link above to see step by step instructions on how I made my backboard.

(I attempted to trim her, the ears came out ok but the rest of the body not too good. Had no real idea what I was doing, but guess that's all with practice.)
 Here is a post that I wrote about 'Scissoring a Yorkie'.

 (I had a hair dryer with me but she is terrified so had to towel dry her in the sun. Luckily she is small.)
When I have a new dog, that I have not groomed before, that is scared of the dryer, I treat them like they are a puppy being dried for the very first time.
First, I turn the dryer on low, pointing it away from the dog.
I hold and pet the dog, talking to it to reassure the dog as he/she is getting used to the sound of the dryer. 

Next, I let the dog stay close up against me as I slowly start to use the dryer on them (still on a low setting)

As the dog slowly realizes that the dryer is not hurting them, I slowly push the dog away from me back onto the drying table and continue to dry.

I am constantly reassuring the dog as I dry.

As the dog gets desensitized to the noise of the dryer, I turn up the speed of the air flow.

I follow these steps whether I am using the High Velocity dryer or a small hand held dryer. 

I tend to use the hand held dryer for  really small breeds

( How many times during grooming would you say you oil your clippers? And do you use coolube?)
I have never oiled the clippers that I use. (Andis® UltraEdge 2 speed)
As for my blades....yes, I do use KoolLube on my blades.
You must make sure that you wipe all of the KoolLube off of your blade, and blow it out from between the teeth of the blade before you clip the dogs coat.
I also hold my clipper, with the blade on it, below waist level and away from the dog when I spray my blades.
This way I keep the fumes away from the dog and myself.

( What about a situation where the dog won't allow you to touch its paws? Even my own dogs get agitated when I try clip their paws on top, the pads are a whole different story. I'm terrified I nick them?)
 The only way that I can answer this is..Gentle grooming. 
Develop a light touch. 
Don't grab the feet, or hold them too tight.
Don't pull the foot towards you, just slowly lift it up. 
Make sure you keep the foot in a natural position.
Try letting the dog rest its foot on your arm.
Be careful and make sure that you are not holding the leg or foot in such a way that it is uncomfortable for the dog.  
Try different holds, further up on the leg, or at the elbow. 
I also did a post on scissoring feet
Maybe you could look at the pictures and see how I hold the legs and feet to scissor.

As for the pads of the feet, you are safer using a #15 blade (you can use a #30 blade once you build confidence in what you are doing) to clean out between the pads.
Be careful of the webbing between the toes.
I feel that using a blade is safer than using scissors on the pads of the feet.

I hope that this answered your questions and has helped.
If you have anymore questions, just ask and I will do my best to answer them. :)

If any of the groomers reading my blog have any tips, I am sure that this new groomer would like to read your comments.

Happy Grooming, MFF


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Vacation Time!

It is that time of year again.

The one time of year that we actually close the shop for an entire week.
So, I won't be blogging next week.
Well, actually I am taking my handy dandy notebook with me to write up some up coming blog posts.

I know, I know, I am supposed to be on vacation, but there is a lot of sitting around on the beach and if I am not reading, I am writing.
I know, I am such a grooming geek. :-)

I hope everyone has a great grooming week!
I'll be back to posting in a week.

Happy Grooming, MFF

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What A Day!

Today started out as a very crappy day and ended with an unbelievably kind offer from a long time customer.

Let me rant a little.....oh, I mean, let me tell you about my day.

First of all, the Bank has lost my deposit from last weeks grooms.

Yes! I said LOST!

My father is my accountant.
Well, he was.
His memory is not so good nowadays, so I have taken over doing most of my own accounting.
He still wants to help me so I let him figure up and put in my deposit every Monday.
Every Monday evening I check my account on-line to make sure that the deposit was made.
So, Monday night I logged on only to see a huge deposit credited to my account.
It was for 10,000 more than it was supposed to be! (I wish!)
It turned out to be a teller error.

I have had minor errors in my deposits before and the Bank has always sent me a correction, no problem.
Of course, this was the biggest error I have ever had on my account, but since it was a teller error I figured that they would easily correct it. (I have the copy of the deposit ticket that shows it was teller error)

Anyway, I checked my account again on Tuesday evening to see if corrections were made.
Imagine my surprise to see the entire deposit gone!
Cash and all!

I had a special needs dog first thing this morning, so I went to the Bank right after I finished that dog.
I already had a couple of more dogs waiting for me, one a possible aggressive dog.
I ended up having to wait for an hour to talk to someone.
It got me nowhere.
They had no record of a deposit being made.
I did not have the deposit ticket copy on me , because I had not had a chance to get to my fathers house.
I figured that they would be able to look up the deposits and tell me that it was in the middle of being corrected.
I did not expect them to tell me that they could not find it!!
I have to go back tomorrow with proof that a deposit was made.

It is time to find a new Bank!
This was not the original Bank that I signed up with 26 years ago.
It has been sold out several times over the years.

Needless to say, I was not a happy camper when I left the bank.
I had lost over an hour at work for this.

I got in my car, turned the key, and NOTHING!
Well, that is not exactly true, there was a click, click, click sound.
My battery was dead, dead, dead.

I was going to have to walk back to work.
About a mile.
Not that big a deal except for the fact that it was already about 92 degrees out, the humidity was bad, the walk was partly up hill, and I have a really bad ankle right now.
So, a ten minute walk took me 20 minutes. :(
I was so happy to crest that hill and see the shopping center.

 $103 later and the car has a new battery.
I have the deposit ticket to show proof to the Bank tomorrow.
Oh, and the aggressive dog turned out to be a sweetheart.

Now for the best part of the day.

Obviously I was running behind after I got back to work.
My daughter ended up helping me with two of my dogs after she finished all of hers.
The two dogs belonged to a great long time customer.
We told her when she dropped the dogs off that they may be longer than usual and explained why.
She was very understanding and said no problem.

This same customer almost brought me to tears when she picked up her dogs.

She wanted to know if we got our car fixed, because if we hadn't she was going to let us use her van.
I was so touched.
That was better than any tip a customer could give me.
It also helped to de-stress a stressful day. :)

Tomorrow will be better.
Tomorrow WILL be better!!

Happy Grooming, MFF

Monday, July 15, 2013

Client Education

I have been reading a lot of groomer forums lately.
One thing is a constant on almost all of those pages.....groomers ranting.
Everything that they are writing and ranting about are the same things that I have ranted and written about over my years of grooming.

All of us groomers seem to be having the same problems with our customers.
Matted overgrown dogs.
Overgrown nails.
Disgusting ears.
Beyond disgusting teeth.
Late drop-offs, late pick-ups.
No-Shows and late cancellations.

Something happened a couple of weeks ago that got me to thinking.

First, let me tell you what happened.

This little one came in a couple of weeks ago for a grooming.

The owner knew that she was matted and had to be clipped short.

She was pelted from being bathed at home with the knots in her.

The mat hardly budged after bathing, conditioner, and the HV dryer.

I had to use a #5F blade to get under the mats.

The mats were all wrapped round and between all of her pads and toes.

Imagine walking around with hard knots between and under your toes.

I was able to save her face, ears, and tail.

The mats behind her ears and in the pads of her feet were so tight that I saved them to show the owner.

First let me say, I have never ever given a customer a hard time about the condition that they brought there dog in.
Not that I haven't wanted to.
To be honest, it surprises me every time I read a comment from a groomer about how they gave a customer a hard time about their dog being matted, or threatened to report them, or just down right yelled at them because of the shape their dog was in.

I have to admit, that there have been times that I wanted to strangle a customer for their stupidity.
There have also been times that I wish I could make the owners go 6 months to a year with no shower and no brushing their hair so that they could have an idea of what it feels like for their dog.

That being said, I have always tried to be professional and educate the customer.

As with the dog above.

When the owner of the Shih-tzu came in to pick up, I grabbed the mats that I took off of her dog and went out into the lobby to talk to her.
I showed her the mats.
I told her where they were on her dog.
I told her that she must watch that her dog does not go home and scratch behind her ears, because even though I filed the nails, they are freshly clipped and can do major damage if her dog starts scratching behind her ears where the mats were.
I explained to her why she should not bathe her dog without making sure that all the mats were out first.
I told her about the hard mats in the pads and how uncomfortable it was for her to be walking around like that.

While  I was giving the customer all of this information, she was just intently staring at me.
I remember it crossing my mind, as I was talking, that she had tuned me out and was not really hearing anything that I was saying.

I was about half way through my 'educational' talk when she suddenly interrupted me.
"You know, your are the first groomer that I have ever brought my dog to that took the time to tell me all of this," she said.
"All the other groomers would take me dog, shave her, and take my money," she continued. "They never told me any of this."

I was taken back for a second.
"Really?!" I said.
"No, I did not know that knots hurt a dog," she told me. "No one has ever taken the time to tell me any of these things you are talking about."

I continued telling her everything that I wanted her to know.
I ended my talk by informing her that the grooming price would be lower if she got her dog on a regular scheduled so that her dog did not get so matted.
I also told her that if she brought her dog in regularly, and it was not matted, I could leave the coat any length that she liked.
I told her how often a Shih-tzu should be professionally groomed.
I also suggested that she make her next appointment before she leaves....she did.

After this customer left, all I did was think about what she had said to me.
There are so many misconceptions about grooming dogs in the pet owner world.
Even Vets don't get it right.
I have had customers tell me that their Vet told them not to bathe or clip their dog till it is a year old.
I have had customers tell me that their Vet told them that they don't have to the nails clipped if they walk their dog regularly.
Now many Vets are telling pet owners that they do not need to clean hair out of the ears.

Don't get me started on the breeders that don't give correct grooming instructions, or lie about the care of the coat.

Sometimes I wish that there was a mandatory 'pet care and grooming' class that new pet owners had to take before they pick a breed, or bring home a new pet.

In the meantime, we as groomers must be the ones to help educate our customers.
Believe me, I know that not every pet owner will listen.
Some customers know it all, right or wrong, and you can't tell them a thing, but their are many pet owners out there that want to do and know the right thing, and take care of their pet the right way, they just need someone to educate them correctly.

I personally feel that , as educated groomers, we need to pass on our knowledge to our customers and not judge them because they are not caring for their dogs coat correctly.
They may honestly not know how.
I have grown a large, regular grooming clientele from taking the time to talk to my customers and educate them, without talking down to them.
I admit, it can be hard sometimes.
Some people can be incredibly dense sometimes, but at least I know that I tried, and maybe, just maybe, something did sink in.

So, try to take the time to educate your customers.
There are a lot of things that we take for granite that we think the pet owners should automatically, already know.....and they don't.
We need to educate without talking down to them.
Without making them feel stupid, or berating them for not taking the proper care of their pets coat.

I have turned many pet owners, who first came to me with matted dogs, into great regular customers.

I hope that the dog above will turn into one also.

If not, at least I tried my best.

Happy Grooming, MFF

Friday, July 12, 2013

Flower Bows...

 ...for girl dog collars.

I like ribbon bows, but I like flowers more.
So, when I saw that the local fabric store had all of their summer flowers on sale for 70% off, I stocked up.

Okay...so I went a little overboard.

Pretty, aren't they?

They make really pretty flower bows for the dogs collars.
The really small flowers can be used for dogs ears, or topknots.

Here is what you need to make flower bows.

Fake Flowers
Glue gun
Buttons (small and medium)
Plastic needle
Hair bands
Bling jems
Plastic beads

 Step 1: Start by taking some of the flowers off of the stems.

They should easily pull right off of the stem.

 This large flower will make a nice flower collar bow for a medium or large dog.

I want to add some bling to this flower.

I need to remove the center piece from this flower.

 Step 2: Turn to flower over and grab hold of the green  plastic center piece on the back of the flower.

Gently pull that piece off of the back of the flower.

Step 3: Remove the center piece out of the front of the flower.

I am going to add this smaller flower to the larger flower above for some more color.

I take the center piece out of this flower also.

Next I am going to use buttons to add bling and hold my rubber band.

Step 4: Use the plastic needle to feed the hair band through one of the button holes.

Pull the hair band part of the way through.

Then feed the other end of the hair band through a second hole.

Put one loop of the hair band through the other and pull to tighten.

This is what the top of the button will look like.

Step5: Put a few drops of hot glue on the top of the button.

Step 6: Add bling to the top of the button.

This is what your button will look like now.

Step 7: Use tweezers to put through the back of the flower to grab hold of the hair band.

Grab hold of the hair band and pull the hair band through the center hole in the flower.

Pull as far as you can.

Step 8: Feed the hair band through the back piece of plastic that you took off earlier, and add a little hot glue to help hold the flower and hair band together.

Here is what your bling flowers will look like.

Here is a small bling flower bow for the ears.

There is also another even easier way to make flower bows.

First, follow the first three steps from above to prepare your flower.

Next, cut 2 to 4 bead sections off of a robe of metallic beads.

You can use just one 2 bead section, one 4 bead section, or two 4 bead sections.

For the flower that I will be making, I am using the two 4 bead sections.

I cross over the bead sections to make an X.

Then I twist a hair band around the center of the beads.

I pull the hair band through the center of the flower.

Another flower bow ready for a collar.

I slide the hair bands over a  small PVC pipe to store the flowers till ready to use.

Have fun!

Happy Grooming, MFF