I may spend a little too much time reading grooming posts on social media, but something I recently read got me thinking. The post that interested me was written by Anais Hayden (also known as “The Goddess of Color”). Anais is from Atlanta, Georgia, she has been grooming for 18 years and is well known in the grooming industry for her very colorful, creative grooms.
Anais said, “I am making a lot of changes to my grooming career starting next year. I will no longer be grooming large dogs. I am going to increase my grooming prices and my non–refundable booking deposits. Also, I know that doodles are here to stay, so I’ve decided that with the mini doodles, I’ll only accept them as long as they stay on a monthly schedule. If the clients can’t afford in–between, monthly coat maintenance appointments, then they are to follow through at home. If they don’t abide by that, they can no longer be my clients.”
Since I’ve been grooming long enough to remember the days when we groomed every dog, no matter the condition (once a year, matted to the point walking was difficult, covered in parasites, and sometimes worse things), the concept of “they can no longer be my clients” is one I have a little trouble wrapping my graying head around. But I like it—a lot.
Anias continued, “The purpose is for us as groomers to always strive to work smarter, not harder. Unfortunately, clients that demand fluffy coats but don’t want to put the work in don’t care if they work us to death for their vanity. So, we have to demand respect through our work. This may seem extreme, but through years of experience with poodle mixes and their families, I’ve found that they can be difficult to do business with. I don’t dislike doodles; most are very sweet and beautiful, but their coats are horrible, and their owners can be hard to work with.”
The problem with the coats of poodle mixes is that there is a genetic roll–of–the–dice happening with each breeding. Poodle coats are dominated by the anagen, or growth phase, of hair and each individual hair may grow for years.1 The hair shafts are curly. The results can become a groomer’s nightmare when bred to a retriever or some other breed with a heavily–shedding double coat.
In many cases, the doodle coat is so thick that it is nearly impossible to get a clipper through it, even when properly prepped. Coats like this can be far more challenging to maintain than the coats of the purebred originators of the mix ever were. Add to this biological botheration the fact that a high percentage of doodle owners are determined that their pets boast a long, fluffy style yet cannot understand the intense level of work that goes into achieving the look they desire, and the result is a high frustration level for both groomers and doodle owners alike.
One groomer wrote, “Unfortunately most of us know there is a ‘typical’ doodle owner. I blame doodle breeders for lack of education about their proper coat care and grooming needs. Time and time again the owner will deny that doodles need frequent grooming and don’t need to be brushed or combed. They insist on long and fluffy cuts even if the dog has extensive matting or even a pelted coat. Some are willing to learn but most blame the groomer.”
I asked groomers how doodle–type dogs have changed the way they work. The results can be grouped into three camps:
1. Out of over 100 responses, most groomers expressed frustration.
“We cannot take any more. I groom four to six per day. They take hours just to bathe and dry. They take the slot of two or three small dog appointments. They are not cost–effective or smart for business owners to take, even in good condition, because their hair is so dense and hard to maintain.”
Another groomer said, “I have multiple calls a day for new doodle customers, and 85% of my current customers are already doodles. There are too many to accommodate.”
Finally, one quipped, “I drink more after work since the doodle craze.”
2. Many groomers simply refuse to groom any of the poodle mix breeds.
“I stopped accepting new doodle clients of any kind this past winter. I make more money grooming small dogs, and it’s easier on my body,” one groomer said.
In addition, several groomers stated that they had instituted a weight limit (usually 40–50 pounds and under) to eliminate all of the larger poodle mix varieties.
More than one echoed, “I’m at my breaking point and will no longer groom any of them.”
3. The last group—though small—was dedicated.
“We have embraced the doodles; they are awesome dogs! We have a structured way to accept new doodle clients—we educate them first. Three things must ‘marry’ together: budget, how much work the owner is willing to do between grooms, and the desired coat length. The answer to those three questions determines the interval between grooming and the price. Our ideal model client is on a four–week grooming schedule with the occasional bath in between. Consistency is the key. Clients who don’t adhere to the plan and aren’t willing to schedule at least six months out are carefully weeded out. This is how we can maintain approximately 150–200 doodles each month without stressing our resources too much. They have changed the way we do business because they are at least 25–30 percent of our business. We have some awesome doodle people because they are clients we cultivate no matter what kind of dog they own. Stick to your ideal business model and the rest will fall into place.”
One man said, “I have upgraded products and tools, as well as learned techniques that allow me to demat safely. However, I have also had to make updates to pet sizing, make detailed descriptions for services and service prices, and add new services.”
While researching this article, I learned that some social media groups of doodle owners publically bash pet groomers after being unhappy with their services. I can’t think of another time when a group of pet owners did this, and it is a graphic illustration of the chasm between some doodle fanciers and the grooming industry.
Since most responses from groomers I questioned included phasing out or refusing to groom doodle mixes, I wonder where this leaves those who own them. The popularity of poodle mixes has impacted our industry in ways none of us have previously experienced with any other pure– or mixed–breed dog. &
1. Why Does My Pet Shed?, https://www.aaha.org/your-pet/pet-owner-education/ask-aaha/pets-and-shedding/