By Robyn Michaels
How do you get new grooming clients? Most of mine have either come from seeing a dog I groomed and talking with the owner, or often something I’ve said to a dog owner who repeated it to another dog owner. For example, as I get to know my clients, I always ask how the dog is at home, and, in so many words, if the owner is happy with the dog’s behavior. The short conversation, usually about if the dog has a cat friend, or us; a devil or an angel, gives me an idea of whether the owner will keep the dog. It also gives me a chance to address other issues. One big issue is the dog pulling on the leash. Unfortunately, most of my clients have frequented pet stores staffed by retailers who know NOTHING about the products they sell, and whether the products are dangerous or appropriate. As a result, almost all the small dogs I’ve been grooming went from wearing collars to harnesses in a matter of several years. Trending? Please!
Anybody who knows me, knows I hate them. Only Guide Dogs and sled dogs should be wearing harnesses. You can’t control a dog that wears a harness. Yes, I understand that many people don’t want to control their dog, and I understand the VETERINARIAN told them to get a harness (collapsed tracheas – of course) rather than reshape the dog’s behavior. Paired with a Flexi, you’ve lost all control. Dangerous not just on icy walks, but if you encounter someone who has their pooch similarly decked out and they (the walker) are on a cell phone or otherwise not paying attention to the end of the leash – dangerous.
I don’t sell any products. I remind my clients I don’t benefit economically, I am just telling them what is real. Well, sort of a miracle has occurred. Am I really that persuasive? Just about every dog owner I’ve talked to went out and bought a martingale for their dog and a six foot leash! And they tell me their dogs have stopped pulling! Can you imagine?
Why would I care? I care because I love dogs. When pet owners are not happy with their dogs, they don’t bond with their dogs. They might find homes for their dogs, and I’ve lost a client. This is why YOU should also care. Nobody leaves a dog groomer just because she charges too much; they leave because they don’t feel they are getting service. The big box stores will be able to undercut you on everything. You have to keep seeking knowledge about dogs and expressing an interest in your clients’ dogs.
What else do I tell my clients?
Let me show you how to brush this dog with a slicker brush…
and you are going to need a comb. I often get clients because the last groomer shaved the dog. Sometimes you have to shave the dog. I ask if the client bathed this dog without brushing it and I ask them to show me their brush. 90% of the time it is one of those horrible pins on one side, bristles on the other — worthless. Lots of people don’t know that matting is caused by static electricity. I use The Stuff or Ice on Ice in the shop, but you can now get smoothing products at a lot of drugstores and it doesn’t take much Dimethicone to get the tangles out. I explain why having the dog up off the floor is important, and why it might be a two person job. But once a week, five minutes is all it usually will take. I remind them if they have to wash their hands after brushing the dog, the dog needs a bath and I brush the shampoo through the coat. Who is going to do this? The pet owner who doesn’t want his dog shaved. More important, the pet owner knows I showed him what to do, and he didn’t do it, and I am trying my best.
Get double edged thinning shears!
How often do I get a dog in who needed a haircut three weeks ago and the owner cut the hair around the eyes? Sometimes I can fix this…but not always. Since they are going to cut anyways, I advise them to get double edged thinning shears. They are less likely to make a big booboo. I like the Oster & Master Equipment curved grooming rakes too, especially for Goldens & Collie types.
Get the dog used to being handled.
So many of my clients are mature adults with no kids. The dog is just there, or sitting on Mom’s lap. When I get them on the table, they become passive resisters. You know the type – they won’t stand up and they pull back. It used to be that obedience classes taught the basic ‘stand for examination’, but those kinds of classes are harder to find. If you can find conformation classes, they are much more informal, but the dog will get used to walking on a leash and being handled. This really helps with shy dogs.
Please don’t put a sweater on the dog – get a decent dog coat.
Sweaters are a joke. If it is really that cold, the dog needs a coat. And why shave a dog to put a coat on it? Another question…is the dog cold? I have two Whippets; one dog who shivers looking out the window and the other goes out in all sorts of weather and never seems to get cold. A sweater is a fashion statement, and when you pull it off a non-shed dog, hello static and matting. What’s the point?
Enroll your oldest kid (& the dog) in an obedience class…
and get one of the great books on dog training. I have seen kids as young as four do amazing things with dogs. How can that be? They don’t carry a lot of baggage about how to communicate with the dog. They speak directly to the dog, and they expect results. They just need mentoring. Dog training classes are an excellent family experience. Plus, there are so many really good books out there. I always recommend “How to be Your dog’s Best Friend” by the Monks of New Skete, “Good Owners, Great Dogs” by Kilcommons and Wilson and “Dog Training for Dummies”. There are now many good YouTube Videos as well. Training a dog gives a child experience in exercising patience and leadership.
You don’t want that smell from the shampoo to last more than a day.
I love the Nature’s Specialties LavaDerm, and I really loved the Bark 2 Basics Almond. Unfortunately, one of the dogs I used the Almond on had an owner who was allergic to almonds and she almost went into allergic shock. I am not making this up. Phthalates….have been linked to carcinogens. If it lasts more than a day, it might have bonded to your dog’s coat and skin. Better to use a spray cologne which is much lighter and will evaporate.
Let me know if you need training or grooming help.
Or if you know of people who can’t have pets but want to help them. I am involved in many animal welfare groups, which always need volunteers. Safe Humane Chicago always needs people who can go to court as advocates for animals in the court system. In less than 10 years they’ve made a huge difference in how animal crimes are prosecuted, and the judges welcome us. Many groups need help with marketing or fund raising. Some of the shelters need dog walkers and socializers. If we can’t spread this information around, who can?
Put an emergency plan for your pet somewhere most people can find it
(the refrigerator door?). I have a client who is an old lady with no living relatives. And it happened. One day, another neighbor knocked on my door and asked me if I could take Punkin. If I hadn’t, Chicago Animal Care & Control would have gotten her. Certainly, a ‘no-kill’ group would have snatched her up immediately…but this would not be so true for most dogs owned by older folks. They would be euthanized within days. I am working on getting an ordinance passed in my state to direct landlords who rent to people with no ‘next-of-kin’ or emergency contacts to ask how they want their pets dealt with. If you want to be that person, go for it.
As a person who loves animals, you have an opportunity to offer more service than any retail pet or chain store. Sometimes, it’s a bow or a scarf. More often, it’s that you had a conversation with the pet owner, and they know you care.