‘Tis the Season to Stay Safe
By Khris Berry
Most people look upon the Holiday Season with mixed emotions. Pet groomers are no different; however, the sights, sounds and emotions connected to the holiday rush can bring a different set of emotions to even the most seasoned pet professional.
With any business, a busy season can bring excitement, extra money and new customers. When dealing with pets during the Christmas season, there are other factors to consider. The busy season in a grooming salon can also bring the additional burden of extra dogs to consider and care for; stressed clients; and stressed, tired employees. Add to the mix well–meaning groomers who try to accommodate last minute holiday services, overbooked schedules, and set their own physical and emotional well–being aside by working extremely long hard hours, and the stage is set for mistakes, errors or oversights by even the most conscientious employee.
How can you prevent mishaps in your salon during the busy holiday rush?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Plan your holiday schedule and stick to it. Who hasn’t taken that last minute phone call during Christmas week and felt sorry for the poor little dog represented on the other end? By trying to accommodate everyone, you risk diminishing the service time available for the clients to whom you are already committed.
Explain to clients that your time is limited and you can only safely provide services for a limited number of pets in the holiday rush period. For the desperate client, an offer to assist their pet the week following the holiday will be an acceptable compromise. On that note, understand that you are NOT superhuman and are bound by the same amount of time and energy as other mere mortals. Don’t stretch yourself beyond physical or emotional limits. Accept your limitations and live within your personal pace. No one wins if you are overcommitted, overtired or overstressed and have an accident with a client’s pet. Your family will appreciate this as well—you can enjoy your time off and remain festive rather than too exhausted to celebrate.
Risk–assess your workplace and procedures.
Many salons are guilty of letting policies slip when they are overrun with the pressures of seasonal customers. Understanding that when you are at your busiest, you should also be at your most vigilant is a great start. Rather than just stepping away from a pet for a moment to take a call or speak to a favored client, stay sharp and monitor your shop’s procedures closely.
While you are risk-assessing, make certain that you know your limits. Know how many dogs your shop can safely service as well as how many dogs each person can safely manage on any given day. Don’t exceed those limits. Your clients and their pets will thank you for your attention to their needs.
Extra people in a work space don’t always mean extra productivity. Discuss workflow procedures and make certain that pets have private, uncrowded spaces. While enjoying their grooming service, every dog should have ample space so that they do not feel stressed. While in tubs, tables, cages, and even walking on a leash, make certain that the pets maintain a comfortable distance from other pets at all times.
Have an emergency protocol and make sure that everyone in the salon knows it. Whatever your protocol may be—call the owner, call the vet, call your husband—make sure that contact numbers are available and that your staff is up to date on first aid and CPR training. When disaster strikes, prior training and seconds can save a pet’s life. The AKC’s S.A.F.E. grooming salon program is a great way to obtain that safety education.
Last minute holiday calls and last minute grooms often result in pets who have not enjoyed regular grooming services in the months prior to the holiday. This subset of our client pet population may be matted, more unruly for grooming services due to lack of experience with them, or provide a more challenging condition for pet groomers.
Explaining to your client that the service their pet requires is best completed when you have extra time and attention for safety and their special needs is always an acceptable choice. By relying on your safety record and concern for the welfare of pets, groomers can dialog with owners about doing what is best for everyone involved.
When Christmas chaos ensues, or when your shop feels more like a Polar Express than a Silent Night, following these parameters will help ensure that everyone in a grooming salon—from client to pet to employee—experience the best possible outcome this season. Here’s hoping you and yours have a safe and Happy Holiday Grooming Season!