By Daryl Conner
The old expression “time is money” certainly applies to the job of pet styling. Groomers walk a fine line, trying to groom pets in an efficient manner, without cutting corners or rushing in a way that can cause stress or accidents.
After more than three decades in this industry, I have learned to streamline the way I work so that I groom pets rather quickly. Since newer groomers often are looking for ways to increase their speed and efficiency, I thought I’d record a step by step groom on a random pet dog. Maybe you will get some ideas from my techniques that will work for you. In this case, the dog was a 35 pound Brittany spaniel mix. Here is how the hour I spent with her went:
9:00 AM- Chloe and her owner arrive at my grooming studio. I have groomed his other dog previously, so I didn’t need to get any contact information from him. I greeted him, and his dog. I asked her name, petted her, and did a quick assessment of her coat and general condition. We discussed how he wanted her groomed. His instructions were, “We like the way she looks, but want her to be neater.” I asked if he wanted her trimmed up all over and he said, “Whatever you think is best.” I love these sort of instructions!
9:05- I lift Chloe into the bathtub, slip a safety loop over her head, and turn the water on. I have every tool that I need ready and in easy reach. While the water was warming up and the tub filling, I cleaned her ears and trimmed her nails. Then I put two pumps of shampoo into the warm water, and turned on my recirculating bathing system. Bathing systems help groomers work faster because there is no need to pre-wet the dog. Also, because the shampoo is perfectly diluted, rinse time is abbreviated. Bonus points: bathing systems save on shampoo and water usage – a win for the wallet and the environment.
Warm, sudsy water moves through the coat, quickly removing dirt, dander and excess oil. This dog was not particularly dirty, and one bath got her very clean. For some pets I will drain the tub and give a second (or even third in extreme cases!) shampoo. Her skin and coat were healthy and normal and I didn’t feel that she needed a conditioning treatment, but I did refill the tub just enough to make the recirculating pump work and added a few ounces of Results Rinse. I pulsed this through her coat, let it sit one minute, and then rinsed well.
I towel dried the dog, squeezing as much excess moisture from her coat as I could. Total bath time? 7 minutes.
9:12- I have an absorbent bath mat and a fitted cover on my table top. This not only makes for soft, comfortable footing for the pet, but it absorbs moisture as I dry and reduces the sound that the air from the high velocity dryer makes when it hits hard surfaces such as table tops. I put a Happy Hoodie on the dog to help protect her ears and begin to absorb moisture from her head and neck. True confession time: I dislike the drying process. I try to make it as swift as possible. Wearing hearing protection myself, I turn the high velocity dryer on. Starting at the dogs lower, rear section, I begin to methodically dry, working up and forward. I use a condenser nozzle or a flat nozzle (depending on coat type) to push as much water out of the coat as possible. When the dog is nearly completely dry, I remove the nozzle and go over the coat to “fluff” it. I remove the Happy Hoodie and lower the volume of air I am using (I have a variable speed dryer but if I didn’t I would use a stand or hand held dryer on the head). While protecting her ears with my hands, I dry her head, face and neck area. Total drying time on this dog was 13 minutes.
Next, I remove the padded top and cover from the table and get ready to groom the dog.
9:26- Over the years I have developed a set routine that I rarely waver from as I proceed to groom each dog. This pattern helps ensure that I do not forget some part of the groom. Once the dog is dry, I do the following:
Mist the coat lightly with the coat spray of my choice. This will help make brushing and dematting easier, reduce any static, as well as gives the coat a light conditioning treatment and added luster.
Brush the dog all over with a brush appropriate to its coat type. In this case I used a slicker brush.
Comb the dog from nose to toes, making sure every last bit of clumpy undercoat and any tangles are removed. This dog had some spring undercoat, but most of it blew out as she was dried. She had a few thick spots that required a bit of extra attention, but overall was in excellent shape.
9:36- When these steps are complete, I am ready to begin clipping and scissoring. Again, I have a routine I follow:
Using a trimmer, I tidied up eye corners if necessary, and if the ears on the dog I am working on will be trimmed with clippers I do that now. This dog had very tight mats, about the size of a quarter, behind each ear. I opted to use the trimmers to remove these at this time, as she had plenty of coat to hide the spots, and the mats were so tight they would have been tricky to deal with any other way.
Next I trimmed the undersides of her paws, double checking as I did this to make sure the nails were all trimmed, and that I didn’t miss a random dew claw.
With the trimmer still in hand, I clipped the “sanitary” areas.
9:39- Once I have done everything I plan to with the trimmer, I put it away and get my clipper out. I use a vacuum system, so most pets are groomed using a #30 blade and a snap on comb. In this case I decided to use a #1 comb on the dog’s body. Vacuum systems allow groomers to work far more efficiently in a variety of ways. In most cases, going over the pet just one time achieves a uniform appearance, so there is no need to back brush and re-clip the coat. Also, the vacuum system gives a plush, scissored look to most areas of the dog, so scissoring time is reduced in many pet cuts. Another bonus is that clean up time is drastically reduced.
After going over the entire dog with the #1 comb, I put the clipper down, fluff the dog quickly with my comb, and scissor any “sticky outies” that appear. I back brush the feet with my slicker brush and trim them with 6” curved scissors. I tidy up the edge of the tail with those scissors as well. Then I use chunkers or blenders to neaten up around the edges of the dog’s ears.
9:58- After one final combing to remove loose hair, I apply a spritz of cologne and add a whimsical bow to complete the “just groomed” look. I put Chloe’s collar back on and settle her in a crate with a pat and treat. I vacuum up my area, replace my table pad, and clean and ready the tub for the next pet. When Chloe’s owner arrives she is clean, sweet and ready for a ride. I am ready to greet my next dog and make it pretty, too, in just about an hour.
The 60 minute spaniel. Using tools that allow me to work safely and efficiently, and having a routine and rhythm to the work I do helps me to achieve my grooming in a timely, safe, manner.