“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”
­—William Penn

On internet grooming forums the following question crops up over and over: “How can I groom faster?” Most often this question is posed by people who are newer to our industry, those who have been grooming for five or fewer years. However, even seasoned pros can learn a trick or two on how to work more efficiently.

It is important to remember that though it is true that “time is money,” trying to rush through grooming a pet can be an exercise fraught with peril. Because dogs and cats are so sensitive to our moods and actions, a harried, hurried groomer can cause the animal she is working on to act up and behave in ways that actually slow the process down.

Another consideration is that when we rush, we may be more prone to accidents, and no one wants to risk injuring a pet (or ourselves) as we dash recklessly through our work. Then, too, we don’t want to lower the quality of our work by working hastily. So what is a hard working groomer to do? Following are some tried and true tips that seasoned groomers use to streamline their service and make the most of the time allotted for each pet.

Develop a routine:

For example, when I put a freshly bathed and prepped dog on my table to groom it, I approach the task the same way every time. First I get out my trimmers and tidy up eye corners (where applicable), trim paw pads and potty area. Next I get out my clipper and do whatever clipper work needs to be done. After that I comb/brush through the pet and get my scissors out to do the scissor work. By following a set routine I am more efficient.

Keep good records:

If Mr. Jones hands you his Bichon and says, “He looked great last time, but let’s go a little shorter today.” You will save time trying to figure out just how to groom that dog if you noted just how you groomed it last time. A glance at your records might say, “0 comb all over body.” Now you know to reach for your #1 comb instead. It’s a simple thing, but a huge time saver.

Challenge yourself:

Take a look at the clock when you begin working on a pet. Here is an example: when I was a newer groomer, it took me ages to clip Poodle feet. I began to make a game out of it, timing myself, and trying new approaches to get the task done faster. I can now do 4 poodle feet in 5 minutes. By making a game of it, and watching the clock, I was able to train myself to get this job done very quickly.

Keep your tools in good repair:

Imagine yourself in the following scenario: You put a blade on your clipper. You try to clip, it jams up in seconds. You take it off, put a different blade on. It too is dull. You stop, try to clean and oil it on the fly, it still won’t work. You rummage for blade number three. Meanwhile the dog is dancing on the table and the hands on the clock are sweeping by at an alarming rate. We’ve all done this. Sharp, well maintained tools are a must if you want to get the job done swiftly. Your sharpener is your friend!

Keep an eye on organization:

Having your essential tools at arm’s length and where they belong saves time. Every second you spend rummaging for a nail trimmer or your favorite scissors is time you will never see again.

Invest in time saving tools:

Have you ever wondered how many hours you have spent back brushing coats? Buying a vacuum system will cause this task to become a thing of the past. A recent thread on a grooming forum discussed back brushing, and I had to think long and hard to remember the last time I used this skill. Vacuum systems allow you to achieve excellent results in far less time. They pay for themselves at a rapid rate. Other time saving “must haves,” are bathing systems, high velocity dryers and electric tables. You simply cannot be an efficient groomer if you don’t have the proper tools.

Use the proper products for the job at hand:

Back in the bad old days, groomers were limited to just a handful of shampoos and conditioners. Now we can choose from a vast array of products to get the job done. Trying to remove packed undercoat from a Sheltie? Use products designed to help that coat slide out while you blow dry. They really work, and save not only time, but energy. There is something so satisfying about watching undercoat go flying through the air as you dry the pet, and realizing how little arduous brushing will be left when you are done. There are shampoos and rinses and sprays that help detangle, decrease drying time, add coat texture, whiten… you name it, we can buy it. It is almost silly not to take advantage of these liquid tools that give great results, fast!

Exercise restraint:

By this I mean use tools that will keep the dog where you want it while you work on it. A widget as simple as The Groomers Helper will literally save hours each day, because it prevents you from having to constantly reposition pets that sit, spin and try to leap off the table. Added bonus: it helps prevent bites and keeps pets safe while you work.

Declutter:

I am an admitted tool junky. If some new or improved widget is available, I’m in line to buy and try it. Some are great, some not so much! Left lying around are those tools I have purchased but never use, which just get in my way and slow me down. If you don’t use it, lose it. Pass it on to another groomer who might love it, or just toss it. I also have tools that are must haves, but only in certain applications. I keep those stored neatly where I can grab them when needed, but not in the area where the tools I use on almost every pet are kept. The box next to my grooming table only has my essentials. I can grab my favorite brush without having to dig through a stack of less effective ones.

Know when the job is done:

This may seem silly, but I have worked with many a groomer who wasted precious time on every dog by going over and over them. Try this: When you are finished with the pet, stand back a few feet, changing your perspective. Look at the pet from every angle. Chances are you’ll see a “sticky outie” or two. Fix those, give the dog a sweet pat and let it be finished. Don’t waste time re-grooming a pet that looks just fine.

There are ways to work that save time without the need to rush. Concentrate on being relaxed and efficient, rather than rushed and disorganized. Not only will you increase the speed with which you work, you will find your job to be less stressful. And when you are calm, the animals will be easier and more pleasant to groom. Remember to schedule time for breaks for you, too. If you work without pause, you become tired and inefficient. Even a 15 minute break to eat something healthy, rehydrate and change your position will help you work more quickly and with renewed energy when you get back to the grooming table.