The Kennels

Tails of the Unexpected Dog Groomer – Episode Five

Well as I sit here after eating my own body weight in Terry’s Chocolate Oranges washed down with various flavoured gins, it is the sudden realisation that I have only had time to write until now. Yes, it’s Christmas and the end of the year is looming…

The last six months have been incredibly busy which I am very thankful for. Having opened the salon in April, the support from clients has been nothing but amazing. There are definitely plenty of dogs out there but I am stunned how many paws have come through my door in the last nine months. So as I sit here with ten days off ahead of me, writing this post has made me realise what a year it has been. It’s not been easy and there have been many challenges. But the positives and triumphs have outweighed any of them during my first nine months in the dog grooming business, despite Covid not leaving like an unwelcome guest.

Training in a new career as I have mentioned in previous episodes has been a welcome change in my life. My fifty year old brain needed a test and training to be a dog groomer certainly put it through its paces! Speed also was something I struggled with. Faffing about I excelled at but having customers through the door paying for a service and wanting their dogs back before the sun went down was something I had to work on…

Thankfully I had the fantastic team at the South Coast Dog Grooming Academy for full support who were on hand with advice and positivity that actually “I can do this”! With their professional advice and virtual hand on my shoulder, I cracked on grooming dogs and slowly upping my pace.

So with timings improving, I really enjoyed meeting new dogs and their owners. With many now coming back every month, six to eight weeks or every few months, I have become very fond of the dogs and chatting with the owners. I have learnt so much running my own business in every way. A huge part of the business is the relationship between you, the dog and their owners. I feel to be transparent and honest about the grooming process and how the dogs take to it as a good thing. If a dog is finding being dried for example so stressful, then I talk with the owner and we work out a solution and perhaps they will go home a little damp. I have learnt that a groom has to be adapted to the dog, their behaviour or anxiousness and the condition of the coat with a job that needs to be done in order to keep them healthy. Every dog that comes through the salon door is different so that makes every day different. And that is what I love about being a dog groomer!

The challenge has been trying to find a harmonious balance with this work. I am only doing this part time as I also work as a social media marketer. Trying to run these two businesses together has been hard. As for running a house, cooking dinner and having a social life is something that’s thrown in for last measure. By niching the dog grooming business to just working dogs, terriers and their crossbreeds has given me lever to keep numbers within my part time hours.

However, I have found that some of these niched dogs are not easy. Spaniels all have an exit strategy the minute they enter the groomers, terriers will tell you what THEY want to do and grooming is not often in the equation. Working dogs are too busy to be groomed but most can be persuaded with some peanut butter on a licky mat or some biscuits hidden to hunt them out giving them something to do. The crossbreeds tend to be the easier of my customers but all these dogs sometimes just do not feel the grooming vibe on some days. And this is where I have learnt so much in knowing their behaviour and how to make the groom for them as easy I can.

Another challenge is what to wear without feeling like I’m wearing the latest teddy coat look for real! With the colder months too I have resorted back to jeans and a hoody but finding mounds of Cockapoo hair that are stuck in the hood or on my bedroom floor is all part of the job it seems. Keeping equipment in working order is another test. Don’t even start me on scissors that I’ve dropped on the floor (or the dog has kicked off the table in revenge for being groomed) or broken teeth in a clipper blade. I think this is the part that owners do not realise are the rising costs that us groomers face. Electric and water costs have rocketed and I’m washing towels on a par with a Chinese Laundry!

So my next task before I reopen in January will see me armed with a Domestos bottle in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. The salon has taken a bashing in the last few months and it is starting to show. I want it to look sharp again when I reopen in January and I’m very excited about the year ahead and I will not let Covid dampen my spirits. With an introduction of teeth cleaning too, I am hoping it will be a busy year. I am also working at the Academy helping new dog groomers with their business in the form of branding and how to market themselves through social media. I absolutely love helping them and I think it’s brilliant that the course is so detailed arming them with all they will need to make a successful dog grooming business.

Before I sign off this episode, I would like to give a shout out to some of the help I have received this year by helping me in the salon. Susan, Claire and Mia have really been supportive when I have needed it with dogs due to size or temperament and they have made the job so much easier this year. So a big THANK YOU to them.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year and let’s look positively at 2022 that it will be a year that we can live life with a hint of normality. And a year for me that I continue to put scruffy terriers, dishevelled working dogs and curly wild doodles all back into shape…. hopefully within a decent time!

Sam xx

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