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.

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


  1. I completely agree with you in the importance of educating owners. I always try to give first-time offenders the 'benefit of the doubt' and spend a lot of time talking about preventative care and getting them on a regular schedule. But when they come in the next time in the same condition, its a whole different conversation. Unfortunately, there are pet owners out there who either don't get it or don't care to get it, that's what is frustrating to me. I hope this pup's owner takes the tools that you've given them and keeps this sweet little girl in good condition from now on.

    1. Hi Lynn,
      I agree...'benefit of the doubt' the first time. Sometimes even the second if it does look like they are 'trying' to take care of the coat.
      After that, if the dog still comes in matted, or not for a long time, I no longer help and the dog gets a short cut. I also let them know how badly the mats where hurting their dog...very matter of fact....not as understanding as before.
      Lisa, MFF

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  3. Good for you! I'll admit, I try to educate most of the time. However, sometimes you just assume people don't want to hear it.. that they aren't worth taking the time to educate them. At least half the time you get nowhere with the client. Their dog is in a horrible condition and you figure it'll be there next year in the exact same condition, because they are cheap, lazy, or just don't care. Thanks for the reminder that everyone (and especially their dog) deserves whatever education you have to give. They weren't all born knowing how to take care of a dog. Great Post!

    1. Thanks D!
      I will admit, as I was talking to this owner I really didn't think she was paying attention to me. I felt like she had that glazed over look in her eyes. You know the look people get when you start talking 'dog' and they really don't care. lol But, she was listening. Now I just have to wait and see if she keeps the appointment that she made. Then I will know for sure that she was listening to me. :/
      Lisa, MFF

  4. Thank you for this post! I will admit I am still what I would consider a newbie groomer, I have so much to learn but I have really struggled trying to figure out how much and in what way to tell clients about their matted dogs. To be honest I have run into enough grumpy customers who got so upset when I tried to talk to them about how much their dogs were matted that I have kind of stopped giving an education chat but I have also had several good experiences from those chats. I suppose it is time to refresh, figure out how to say it exactly and start again.

    1. Hi Dana and Holly,
      There have been a few times when I just knew it was not worth having a talk with the owner. It was blatantly clear that they didn't give a crap. So sad.
      Lisa, MFF

  5. I'm not saying the woman was lying but I can't people don't realize matting hurts! I have a Shih-Tzu, how often do you recommend they be groomed? He doesn't seem to have the typical Shih-Tzu fur. His is quite a bit more curly. I've looked at all the pictures you have of ones you have groomed and I get jealous because I don't think his hair could ever look like it does in some of your cuts!

    1. Hi Emily,
      It really depends on how long you like to keep the coat. If you like the hair on the longer side, you need to brush at least once a day and have him professionally groomed 4 to 6 weeks. Four weeks if you don't brush the coat, 6 weeks if you are brushing the coat.
      If you have your Shih-tzu clipped very short you can go longer between grooms. No matter how long you keep the coat, your dog should be professionally groomed as soon as mats start to form, before they get out of control.
      Lisa, MFF

  6. Hi!
    My name is Tara, and I just want to first start off with saying, I am so glad that I came across your blog! A few weeks ago, I was talking to my grandpa, and he told me I should go to community college, and get a degree (for an example, he said) as a dog groomer. And I kind of just brushed him off. But then when I got home, from staying a week up their with him, I saw Goob. My Chihuahua mix with Jack Russell Terrier. But he had grown out hair, and some mud on his lower legs. So I gave him a bath in Dawn dishsoap to help with fleas. Is that a true fact? But After that, I realized, that maybe I should look into this! And I was reading through your posts, and saw this one, and was blown out of the water! I didn't even know that knots hurt dogs, not like Goob gets them because of his short hair, that I know of, but it does get bad sometimes. I am only 16, but the main point of my comment is, how did you start out? Was their schooling, did you have doubts? Is it hard? I did read that you were going on vaca, but I would greatly appreciate it if you could get back to me, when you had time.

    1. Hi Tara,
      First, kudos to you for taking the time to do research about grooming your dog.

      Yes, I feel that the Dawn is safe to use on your dog for fleas, but you should let the soap sit on your dogs coat for at least 5 minutes to suffocate the fleas. You should also follow up with a second shampooing of a good medicated shampoo to help your dogs skin.

      How did I get started?

      To be honest, even though I have had dogs all of my life, (I was the kid who was bring strays home all of the time) I didn't even know that there was such a career as Professional Dog Grooming. I was working at a Bank when a co-worker mentioned a friend of hers who was studying to be a Dog Groomer. I wanted to work with animals so bad that that night after work I looked up Grooming Schools. Luckily there was one that was closes enough to me to take the bus to get there. It was not the best school around, but it got my grooming training started.
      I had no doubts. I really wanted this career. I really wanted to work with dogs all day.
      Yes, it is a hard, physically taxing job. The pet owners can drive you insane, BUT at the same time, it is a very rewarding career. I help to make dogs feel good everyday.
      Since you are 16, you could try to get a summer job at a Grooming shop, or a Kennel as a bather to get a feel of what a grooming job may be like and if it is for you. The place that you chose to work should be clean and should treat the pets kindly and gently.
      Keep doing research. The grooming industry can always use good, caring pet groomers. :)

      Lisa, MFF

  7. I can't believe the conditions that some of these dogs come into your shop. A, how could you live with a dog that stinky and dirty and B, how could sleep knowing that your dog is in pain and uncomfortable? and C, why would you expect that is a condition acceptable to drop your dog off to the groomer? . My wheaten is a pain to keep clean and groomed but I make it a point to bathe him at least 3 to 5 days before going to the groomer and brush his coat out to get all the tangles and what mats i can get. There are always a couple mats under his arms that I am afraid to cut out. I take my dog to a groomer because I am not skilled to do a cut, nail trim or ear pull but for goodness sake you shouldn't expect them to take care of 3, 6 or more months of neglect!! Brushing, bathing ear and dental health are things that should be done weekly!! That would be like never brushing your teeth and expecting your dentist to clean your teeth and fix your cavities for free. I know that these people "love" their pet but seriously how stupid can they be??

    1. These are the questions that ALL groomer ask and wonder about!!!