Last week I groomed a very nice, well behaved dog. I complimented his owner on his excellent grooming manners and she said, “When he was a puppy, the groomer where I used to live had me bring him in every week for a while. They would put him on the table and play with him, trim his nails, give him a little brushing. He loved going in and has always been great about grooming. I am so glad they did that!” Clearly that groomer was on to something. They gave the customer some of their valuable time, but ended up with a loyal client and a pet that was a pleasure to work on.

Professional dog trainer Sumac Grant–Johnson, CPDT–KA (founder of Wag–it Games, Lincolnville, ME) says, “It has been researched and proven that what puppies experience in their first few months is of vital importance to their developing behavior. Careful exposure to a variety of positive experiences and interactions during the first few months will help the puppy not only learn how to accept and respond to those specific situations and encounters but expands to help the puppy grow into a dog that is more accepting and enjoys new experiences throughout their lives.”

Groomers come up with some creative ways to offer special puppy packages to customers, creating a winning situation for the pet, owner, and stylist.

Debi Hilley, (owner, A Cut Above, Albany, GA) says, “We work with local breeders to offer a free groom within 30 days of purchase, plus, we groom them before they go to their new homes. We do a “face, feet and tail” trim on some breeds, a full groom on Schnauzers, Cockers and some other breeds. Waiting makes it harder, we start at 8 weeks.”

This is an excellent way to gain new customers. A referral from a new pet’s breeder or veterinarian is worth its weight in gold. It occurs to me that it would be a good idea to have certificates drawn up to offer local vets to give out to new puppy clients. The certificate could offer a free or reduced rate grooming to new puppies within a certain time frame.

Renee Bartis (Piedmont Veterinary Clinic in Hillsborough, NC) says, “My VIP (Very Important Puppy) package is designed to socialize puppies to being groomed and teach their owners the importance of grooming. It has worked very well since I implemented it approximately 6 years ago. The VIP package is available to puppies under the age of 6 months. Customers must pre–book and pre–pay on first appointment, and there are no refunds for missed appointments. The package includes 4 visits, 2 weeks apart. The first visit is a bath and tidy (feet, face, fanny.) The next two visits are socialization and are only about 10—15 minutes. We work on things like being nice on the table, allowing the groomer to hold face or feet, trimming nails, and/or whatever I see as a possible issue with each puppy. The last visit is a complete groom with haircut.

The package cost is equal to two complete grooms at the adult rate. For example, a Shih Tzu, with an adult fee of $45 would have a VIP package price of $90. I also give ‘homework’ after each session and let them know if I’m seeing improvement. I offer their favorite treats (with owner approval), and try to make the appointments a positive experience for the puppy.”

Anneke Penne (stylist at Petco in Highland Park, IL) says, “I love our puppy special. I have made some of my most loyal, best customers this way. Puppies receive a ‘face, feet and fanny’ trim, shampoo, conditioning treatment and tooth brushing. This comes at a special price which is good until the dog weighs 40 pounds or is 6 months old. We frame this as an introduction to training and grooming. Any dog needs lifelong grooming, and the sooner the better. Dogs need to be trained to be groomed just like they need to be trained to do anything else. We explain that we get them used to the process; all the sights and sounds. It is always great to point out other dogs on the table standing nicely and explain they come on a regular basis, that’s why they are so good. We stress that haircut dogs need to come in every 4–6 weeks. I like to tell the short hair types to take advantage of the special, too. Their pup may look like a do–it–yourself wash and go but it is good to get them used to being handled and established with a groomer. I look at this as a great opportunity to establish good animal care.”

When introducing young dogs to grooming, moving slowly, using a soothing voice and giving them time to explore the surroundings is important. Here are some tips:

• Allow the puppy to wander around the grooming table while you pet it, keeping it from falling by guiding it with your hands. Let it sniff the table top, grooming loop and post before restraining it in any way.

  Let puppies see and smell each grooming tool before it is used.

• Turn clippers on, but leave them off to one side. This allows the puppy to get used to the sound of the motor. Do this with the dryer and any other noise producing tools, as well.

• With the clipper turned off, run it gently over the puppy’s body as you pet it. Once the puppy is used to this, turn the clipper on and repeat the process.

• With the clipper on, trim feet and fanny before the face, so the puppy gets used to the sensation.

• When clipping the face, hold the clippers in your hand, and the puppies chin with your other hand. With the hand that is holding the clipper, gently and repeatedly tap the puppy on the muzzle, near the eyes, with your little finger. Then swoop your clipper in to clean eye corners. Repeat the tapping if the puppy is resistant to the clipper on its face. You will be amazed at how well this works!

Use lots of gentle praise as the puppy learns important new life skills!

Increasing your business and customer loyalty while teaching pets to be cooperative for grooming… it’s just one more excellent service that groomers provide.  ✂