Adding training services specifically for the grooming experience is an extremely easy and profitable addition to grooming salons. Simple training services offer benefits for the dogs, their owners, and the grooming staff. Dog trainers and veterinarians are consistently looking to refer clients to salons that are able to offer dogs the benefit of a low-stress experience. Becoming such a salon is easier than it sounds. The following is a list of training exercises which are simple for employees to learn and can be provided as a quick (and profitable) add-on service. All of the training services use treats, which can be purchased by the salon in bulk or can be sold retail to the client as part of the package.

1.  Socialization Days

for new puppies, first time dogs, or nervous dogs that are unable to be groomed.

Cost: $5-$10 more than the regional price of daycare. In the Midwest it comes out to about $35. Includes time with the groomer, 3 hours of socialization, a food toy or bully stick & treats along the way. $15 extra if the nails are able to be clipped/grinded.

Total time for groomer: 10 minutes.

Very young puppies should never be turned away! I’ve heard from too many owners that they were told to bring their 4-6 month old double-coated dog back for grooming once the adult coat came in.  Every new client should be offered and encouraged to bring their dog for socialization days. This is great for dogs that are dropped off but end up being too nervous or aggressive to groom as well. Offering to work with the dog for the day will gain higher customer satisfaction than simply calling to tell the owner the dog can’t be groomed. It also allows the groomer to regain some commission from the experience instead of losing out on the spot.

During socialization days, the dog should be kenneled or put in an x-pen where it can watch and listen to the other dogs being groomed. The kennel or pen should have a comfy bed and be big enough for the dog to easily turn around and lie down in. If the dog is a large or giant breed, using a no-chew tether is another great option. The dog should be in view of at least one groomer at all times and if possible, also in view of clients coming in to make it easier to sell the service. If the dog is showing extreme signs of fear such as growling or expressing anal glands, keeping them in a kennel is safest for everyone.

During the day, the dog should be offered a tablespoon or two of braunschweiger in a food toy (customers may have peanut allergies so avoid peanut butter) or a bully stick to chew on. The dog should be taken over to the grooming table and offered treats and a few minutes of brushing. The groomer should take a few more minutes to pick up the dogs feet, put a muzzle on and off, check the dog’s mouth and ears and practice turning the dog each direction. Using grooming wipes on the face, ears, tail and feet is a nice tactile experience for the dog and a wonderful visual for a client who is watching. Small, meaty, training treats should be offered after each exercise and a note should be made if the dog readily ate the treats or not. If the dog is willing to sit or lie down when asked they should be rewarded and another note should be made.

When the owner arrives, let them know which signs of stress the dog is exhibiting (heavy panting, barking, whining, shying away, not eating, etc.) and whether or not they need to do another socialization day or if the dog is ready to try grooming. If the dog or puppy showed no signs of stress, let them know that too. If the dog is in-between stages, offer another socialization day with nail trimming and/or a bath and blow out without trimming. Continue to offer this service, adding an extra aspect of the grooming process each time until the dog is able to tolerate being fully groomed.

2.  AKC CGC/Therapy Dog Practice–

Owners who would like practice for their dog to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizenship test or work towards a therapy dog certification.

Cost: $15. Extra for tooth brushing and nail trimming if the dog isn’t being fully groomed.

Total time for groomer: 10 minutes.

Start with the dog on leash. Using small, meaty training treats, lure the dog to walk over to a bath mat on the floor, offering a few treats once they step onto it. Tether the dog securely to a wall or table and run both hands down each front and back leg. Practice this a few times, giving a treat after each time. Next, gently hold the dog’s chin with one hand and lift each lip to expose the teeth with the other hand. Give the dog a treat, hold the chin again and gently look at each eye. Give another treat and pet the dog in a long sweeping motion from their head to the very tip of their tail. Give another treat and lift the tail up and put it back down. Give a final treat and tell the dog job well done. Make a note for the owner any instances where the dog turned, snapped or flattened him or herself to the ground.

3. Groomer’s Nosework & Agility–

Playing fun games with dogs inside the grooming salon creates a fun environment for all dogs.

Cost: $10

Total time for groomer: 10 minutes.

This service is a fun add-on that the dog can do each time. It can be especially useful for dogs that are hesitant to walk inside the door or around the salon. It’s perfect for puppies and seniors. This can be a hard sell for walk-in owners but is a standout reason for dog trainers to recommend the salon. For agility, keep an 18-inch diameter wobble board on hand and spend five minutes luring the dog with treats onto the board, working towards having them balance for 10 seconds. Practice luring the dog to take a small jump up onto the table, wait for 30 seconds and jump off of the table. The table should be lowered to no more than half the dog’s height.

For nose work, hide a toy filled with meat or a small piece of hot dog around the grooming table in plain sight. Bring the dog a few feet from the table and let them smell your hand (which should smell like hot dog or meat) and tell them to “find it” in a happy voice. Follow the dog as they search the table. Do not let the dog leave the 6 foot area if other groomers are working. Repeat this same game in the bathing area or drying area, making sure the first few times the treat is easily in sight. If the dog is unable to find the food, point to it with your hand and let them eat it. As the dog repeats the service, make the food harder to find each time.

4.  Gentle Restraint, Mat Removal, and Muzzle Training

Cost: Varies

Total time for groomer: 15 minutes for muzzle and restraint, broken into 5-minute sessions.

These services are for dogs that need extra attention and cannot be groomed without wearing a muzzle. Spread braunschweiger on a mini plastic Frisbee. Offer the dog the option of licking the Frisbee and gently put the muzzle on and secure the grooming noose. The dog should be able to reach the Frisbee with meat the entire time, either because the noose is long enough that they can bend down, or because the Frisbee is zip tied to the grooming arm or bathtub wall. While the dog is licking the Frisbee, practice restraining the elbow for nail trimming for 10 seconds and then stop for 15 seconds before moving to the other legs. Work out one mat and then stop. If face trimming is needed, practice holding underneath the chin for 10 seconds, brushing or thinning out one area, and then allowing the dog to continue licking. The dog should remain relatively calm the entire time and consistently be licking the Frisbee unless restrained momentarily from doing so. The dog should be offered water often and given a break if they stop showing interest in the treat. If the dog is so stressed that they refuse to eat, are panting so heavily it could be dangerous, or are moving in a way that puts the groomer at risk, refer the owner to a positive reinforcement trainer who can create a personalized training plan.

All of these training add-on options can be given new names and customized to the clientele of the salon. Combining training with grooming is a great way to offer more services while keeping everyone happy, safe, and having fun. ✂