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, September 4, 2013

Mat Chart

Where have I been?!
Up to my neck in pictures. :)
I have been making a Mat Chart.

Let me explain.

I don't know about other groomers out there, but it took me a long ,long time to start educating my customers about mats on their dogs.
When I went to Grooming School we were not taught anything about matting other than shaving the mats off of a dog.
Just about every dog was shaved with a #7 (skip tooth) blade.
Any dogs that came in with a decent coat, was used for a test dog to place your patterns and test your scissor skills.
There was no such thing as de-matting in the Grooming School I went to.

So, imagine a newbie groomer being faced with customers who don't believe that their dog is matted, or want 'the groomer' (me) to comb the mats out.

I will say, that I did start out my grooming career just shaving those matted dogs down.
There was one problem...I now had to deal face to face with those upset pet owners that had to have their dogs shaved because of matting.
No one had taught me how to deal with upset customers, or customers who accused me of lying when I told them that their dog was matted, or the pet owners who would beg me not to shave their dog short.

Mainly out of panic and no back bone, I taught myself how to de-mat dogs.
I did not want to have to deal with these crazy customers who liked to pretend that they didn't know that their dog were matted.
Or, the customers who told me that it was MY job to get the mats out.

I just did not know how to talk to these customers.
My conversations usually went something like this:

Customer: "The last time he was groomed the groomer shaved all his hair off. Don't do that. I like him the length that he is now."
Me: "He does have knots in his coat."
Customer: "No there not knots. I just brushed him last night. He is just dirty."
Me: "Oh....."

Then I would proceed to spend a considerable amount of time de-matting the dog.

Many times I was so over whelmed trying to figure out how to get the mats out of the dogs coat quickly and without hurting the dog that it would bring me to tears.
I started to get really angry with myself.
I was angry that I was not standing up to these customers.
I was not standing up for myself or the dog.
I was letting the pet owner tell me how to groom.

I can not pin point exactly when things started to change.
I can tell you that it did take years for me to get a back bone when it came to talking to my customers about their matted dogs.
I actually became very, very good at de-matting, and very quick at it.


You know what?

I actually DO remember when things started to change.

Unfortunately, it took an accident for me to get to stand up to my customers and do what I knew was right.
It is a memory that I wish I could forget, but it did teach me a lesson.

I had had my shop for a couple of years.
It was a new customer come in one day with a Cock-a-poo.
They had come to me, because they had had a bad experience with another groomer.....the groomer had shaved all of the hair off of their dog.
The dog had about three inches of hair growth now.
Most of the coat was actually in good shape, but the dogs neck,chest and ears were very matted.
The owner only wanted about an inch off.
So I proceeded to groom the dog.
I brushed him out, got the ears de-matted, and then started on the chest and neck area.
He was getting an inch off so I decided to do what I had done a million times before.
I would cut the mats down in half and then de-mat the rest of the hair.

Then the unthinkable happened.
While cutting the mats in half, the mat pulled the skin up with it and I cut the neck.
Not a nick...a cut.
A V cut right on the throat.
It was fairly deep. (my scissors were very sharp)
The dog did not flinch, or cry out, but I felt the scissors cut the skin.
Unbelievably the cut did not bleed.

I was sick.
Sick, sick, sick.
It still makes me sick to think about it today.
AND, I was pissed!
I was pissed at myself.
I knew that this particular matting was way too tight.
I knew it was in a bad spot.
I knew that I should have just shaved that spot with a #7F.
That is exactly what I did.
I picked up my #7F blade and I shave the rest of the matting off of the dogs neck.

I also immediately called the owner.
I was beside myself.
This was one of the worst accidents that I had ever had.
All because I didn't know how to say 'No' to a customer.

That customer, who had left another groomer because she had shaved their dog, was so understanding.
She was calming me down.
That customer never asked me to de-mat her dog again.

That customer became a very long time, great regular customer.
I loved that dog and his owner.
I went on to groom that dog for 15 more years till he passed away.
That dog also never came in matted again.

After that accident I got better and better about standing up to customers about their matted dogs.
I have no problem now a days telling a customer that their dog is too matted to save the coat.

But, it is not that simple.

You must learn how to talk to the customer about their matted dog.
As anyone who has been reading my blog for a while knows, I like to educate the customer, not talk down to them.

Believe me, I still get some of those tough customers who just don't want to believe that their dog is matted, or think that I am not doing my job if I say I can't brush their dog out.
I do a pretty good job explaining about mats to my customers, but there are times that I have wished I had something visually to show them.

I am very much a visual person.
I pick up on things very quickly if I can see how something is done, or see what someone is talking about.
I am also pretty good at visualizing things when someone explains them to me, but I have found that a lot of people need to see what you are talking about.

 So, the last few days I have been making a Mat Chart to hang on my lobby wall.

I have also made something like flash cards to show my matted dog customers what I am talking about.

I started out by making drawings of hair and skin.

I wanted the chart to be very simple and straight forward.

I did not want to get technical.

I want to simply explain matting in a way that the customer will understand.

 I also wanted to add real life pictures of dogs hair to go with the drawings.

It took me a few nights to go through all of my pictures and decide which ones I wanted to use.

This is one of the five flash cards that I made.

The Mat Chart will hang on the wall, but the 'flash cards' are something that I can let the customer hold and look at while I explain why and how their dogs gets matted.

This card shows a mat free coat and how small mats get started in the coat.

This card shows how the small mats can grow into larger mats if the owner does not brush their dog.

These cards and pictures are just a tool to use.

I can get as detailed as I want while the customer has a visual aid to look at while I am explaining about the matting.

The drawing helps show how dead hair wraps around good hair, and how a mat can grow.

I also show a card about top brushing a coat, for those owners who insist that they brush their dogs all of the time.

One drawing shows them brushing above the matting.

The other drawing shows how they should be brushing down to the skin.

The pictures show how a matted dog can look like it is not matted, until you pick up the brushed hair to show the matting underneath.

There is also a card that shows how a groomer has to clip under the mat.

I have found that a lot of pet owners are surprised when I explain how we groomers have no choice in how short we have to take a matted dog.

They do not realize that we have to clip under the mat.

This visual should help.

One of my last cards shows how the air space between the skin and the mat determines how long we groomers can keep a matted coat.

I choose the pictures of the same dog from the above card to let pet owners see how tight matting can get, how short a dog may have to be shaved, and how the matted coat comes off all in one piece.

I have learned that I have to be very matter of fact when talking to pet owners with matted dogs.
I don't accuse them of having a matted dog....I inform them that their dog is matted.
There is a big difference.
I don't want the pet owner to get on the defensive.

I have also learned not to give a pet owner false hope.
Even if I am pretty darn sure that I will be able to keep the coat on the longer side once I bathe and HV the dog, I tell the owner that I will have to take the dog short, or shave it.
I would rather have the pet owner come back and be pleasantly surprised that I was able to keep their dog longer than we discussed, rather than have the pet owner come back and be upset because all they heard me say was that I might be able to keep the dog longer and ignored the fact that I said the dog may have to be shaved.

After all of this, I still get that one pet owner once in while that just wants to argue and tell me that their dog is not matted, or that the mats will come out easy.
Have your comb handy.
Hand it to the owner and have them run that comb through their mat free dog.
I have no problem putting a dog up on my counter and parting the hair to show the pet owner all of the mats in their dog.
I show them how tight the mats are.
I show them how the mats are pulling on their dogs skin and hurting him/her.
I tell them how those tight mats may have sores hidden under them.

If they still insist that they don't want their dog clipped short, I show them how to brush their dog and give them the choice to take their dog home, get all of the mats out, and then I will be able to do any length cut that they want.

I still de-mat dogs that don't mind it, and for owners that really are trying to keep their dogs mat free.
I still enjoy the challenge of saving ears, faces, and tails if I can.

I like the flash cards, but I think that I will work on the chart a little more. :)

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. This is a really good idea. I would love it if I were your customer as I'm a visual person too and I like to understand things.

  2. I wish I could use something like this at where I work (pet**). I do like the comb idea though. I think that would help with the "over assertive" customers. I have a hard time dealing with those types of customers because I really want to make people happy and I need the clientele. Thank you for the idea :)

    1. Hi Tiny Kitty,
      They won't let you use a simple illustration to help the owner understand what you are talking about?! How sad. I am sorry. I hope that the comb idea works for you at least.
      Lisa, MFF

  3. This is awesome! I wish we were allowed to hang stuff like this and show flash cards to educate the customers where I work :) I hope they help!

    1. Hi Cherie,
      Thanks! Sorry they won't let you use something like this.
      Lisa, MFF

  4. So when will this visual aid be available to purchase?
    Brenda Young

    1. Hi Brenda,
      I will not be selling this. I am getting ready to make it available to any groomers who would like to use it through a PDF file or download. I will post when it is ready. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  5. Since you're working on flash cards for customers, I noticed card #2 has a typo: "If small mats are not brushed out or of the pet's coat,..."

    Just a helpful extra eye for proofreading. I adore your blog!

    1. Thanks Morgan,
      I proofread and proofread and still miss things. lol I think that I look at it too much. Thanks again. I'll fix that. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  6. Nice! Good project ;-)

  7. You are so smart!! This is such an ingenious idea and so helpful to your customers! You should think about getting a Patent for this if you haven't. I know I would buy something like this if I could.

    1. Thanks Anjanette,
      I will have it available for my fellow groomers soon.
      Lisa, MFF

  8. I love combing and brushing my maltese/shih tzu! If he does have a small mat, I gently comb it out! lol! I have practice on my own African hair of detangling gently!

  9. I was just going to tell you you need to sell these - that's a great idea, every groomer should have a set of your flashcards!

  10. I show the pet parent the different size blades and how much they differ in thickness for their visual aid then explain how I have to get under the matpto get it out. Most customers understand that way.

  11. Great idea and thank you for being willing to allow others to use it!

  12. Is the PDF available? if so how do I get it? Mary C

    1. Hi Mary,
      The PDF file is available at the link in this post:

  13. Really nice and interesting idea. I really love it too. Thanks for sharing!

    K9 Toronto

  14. I love your blog...I'm what they call a newbie to grooming I just graduated from a 6 week all breed professional dog grooming course in December . I now run a shop from my home , I've had amazing friends and family bring there fur babies to me to be groomed its been great. Last sat I had my worst nightmare come true....I had the worst matted dog , I thought in school I had some pretty bad matted dogs but nothing topped this. The owner was picky and hadn't had the dog groomed since Nov hmmmm its March they clearly didn't brush the dog , wipe eyes nothing . After reading this blog I'm going to be honest with customers ...lets be realistic your dog isn't getting a trim he need an over haul . I'm so trying your bathing and HV dry to move or remove mats . In school its all about removing matts before the dog hits the tub...that takes forever and everrrr. I've just ordered the shampoo and conditioner you suggest ...I really felt defeated that day, I also didn't charge enough for all the work I had to do. Then she complained it was to short I managed to do a # 3 1/4 F on the body and scissored in the legs . I was a hairstylist for 12 yrs , this customer with her matted dog was my teacher in hairstyling school ...hmmm if we brush our hair shouldn't a stylist know she should brush her dogs fur :s well that's my vent. Thank you for your amazing posts lots of great advice , I love your photos with descriptions of grooms. I really like your customer stories they are hilarious ....as a hairstylist i have many of those stories lol.

    1. Hi,
      Isn't it amazing how the owners that go for long periods of time between grooming, and don't bother to brush or take care of the dog between groomings are the pickiest about how their dog is groomed. Now THey care about how the dog looks?! How about the last 4 months? How about those mats that have been pulling on their precious dogs skin for at least the last 2 months? How about those big eye boogies that have been growing on their dogs eyes? NOW they care about how their dog should be groomed?

      Oh...how I wish I could say all of that to all of those picky customers!

      Don't beat yourself up. The only picky customers that I pay attention to are the ones that come regularly and take care of their dogs between the groomings.
      The customers that only get their dogs groomed once or twice a year and let them mat terribly between grooms....I'll listen to all of their picky comments.......Then I will very nicely tell them (in no uncertain terms) that I am going to shave your matted dog. :)
      Shame on the hair stylist. She should no better.

      Does this seem like a touchy subject for me? lol

      Thanks for reading my blog. Congratulations on your new grooming career. :)
      Lisa, MFF