“The overall wellness of the dog is our priority,” says Taylor Kier, groomer and owner of Little Barks Grooming and Boutique in Columbia, SC.
Together with her mom, Kim Kier, the two run a thriving dog grooming salon and boutique. What started as a dog boutique with some dog grooming has blossomed into a specialty grooming salon with a side of boutique. The mother/daughter team focuses on skin and coat science, safety, handling and sanitation.
Kim says, “At the core of grooming, I would say safety is the foundation, and you build from there. Without that in place, a beautiful groom can’t happen.”
Safety is a core tenant of the Kier family.
As a girl, Taylor showed dogs as part of the 4-H dog club. “In the training ring, you always make sure your dog is safe. My dad worked in a power plant and made sure it didn’t blow up. My brother has OSHA certifications. Safety is built into our family.”
Those safety considerations translate into dog handling. According to Taylor, “If we can’t trim a dog’s nails because they’re at a level four or five in fear, we back off and try again in a couple of weeks with positive reinforcement.”
Taylor says they’ve devised a way to let dogs safely stay on the table when their groom is complete, too. “Some dogs don’t want to get off the table. So if the dog wants to nap on the table after their groom, we’ll unhook them, lower the table, and they can step off when they’re ready.”
A focus on skin and coat follows Taylor’s natural interests in skin health. “I’ve dealt with eczema personally, so I want to help the dogs have healthy skin. I took classes with Christein Pearson, Certified Canine Esthetician, and got certified.”
Taylor says, “Each dog has a different microflora. We wipe out every crate after every dog. We sanitize shears between each dog. We got certified in COVID sanitation. We use veterinary-grade cleaners and wipes that can disinfect blood-borne diseases.”
With such a focus on safety, it’s not surprising the duo chose to close for six months in 2020. “We shut down because we thought it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t worth the risk of putting ourselves or our clients in jeopardy. We have a lot of elderly clients. During that time, we did continuing education and virtual shows. We never stopped learning. We took our esthetician license, and took a step back and thought about what we wanted for our clients,” shares Taylor.
They also thought about their vision for the salon and ended up rebranding.
Kim says, “We had this overwhelming feeling that it was time for Little Barks to make some BIG changes and move to the next amazing path God has for us. The next day we decided to rebrand Little Barks. New chapter and new focus and new beginnings. Little Barks Grooming would now focus on skin and coat and giving the pups in our care our best so they can be their best.”
As part of the rebrand, they upgraded their services and raised their rates.
Healthy skin translates into a healthy coat, so now their focus is on health. “We don’t offer a basic groom. If the dog needs a medicated shampoo, we don’t charge extra. That’s part of our service,” Taylor states.
The Kiers use an ozone machine as a natural disinfectant and a UV light. Taylor says, “The light source disinfects surfaces. We use it at least once a week to disinfect the playpens we keep the doggies in, the tables, the tools. Disinfection is really important to make sure we’re not cross-contaminating. We did this pre-COVID, so we didn’t have to change much to re-open.
“We also use de-ionized water to make sure there’s nothing in the water to irritate the dog. People realize the importance of these safety measures. They’ve heard horror stories about the big box stores.”
Now that businesses are reopening, the Kiers would like to connect more with their local community. “We’re hosting a couple of events for area trainers, groomers, and veterinarians about skin/health conditions later this year. We want to get more connected in the community.” Taylor shares.
Kim adds, “We are so happy to go to work, and the parents and pups are thrilled! We owe it to God, Family, dogs, and the remarkable grooming industry.” ✂️