Starring South Coast Dog Grooming Academy
Welcome to the first episode from “Tails of the Unexpected Dog Groomer”! And in the words of Roald Dahl, “if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed”. And that is what I am doing, delving into the world of dog grooming.
Writing about my experience I hope will encourage anyone thinking of changing their career, especially in dog grooming to go for it! This is a real challenge for me and I am going to be honest with the many ups and downs learning this new skill will bring. Which I am now finding out and going to document for you…
If you have read my previous post, you will know that I have in the last month started training with the wonderful team at the South Coast Grooming Academy. Myself and five other trainees started with Sarah giving us an introductory insight into the life of the dog groomer. She brought in her lovely Cockapoo Buddy for all of us to give him the hairdressers version of a wash and blow-dry finish with a little manicure in between. Now, this sounds very straight forward as no clipping was involved… but believe me my first shock on day one was how long it takes to dry a dog – irrelevant of coat type! It’s not a quick blast of the hairdryer for five minutes and then they are dry. Oh no, it takes ages…and ages. To ensure a Cockapoo is bone dry will take anything from twenty minutes to half an hour. I’m honestly thinking of putting a TV in my grooming room and trying to decide what box sets I can watch to entertain myself during the drying marathon!
I also found it strange handling someone else’s dog and being responsible for them. This probably sounds strange but they are leaving almost their child in your hands and your job is to make them smell and look beautiful. Not hand them back looking like they have been chewed by a rat…
And then comes the equipment you have to use. There is a tool for every coat and the dilemma a dogs coats brings you. We have dematting and deshedding tools, rakes, slickers and files that we have to be armed with to ensure the dog’s coats are smooth and knot free! Clippers and the blades together with the guards is another tool of the trade which you have to learn to use for the job in hand. This is something a month later I am still not quite happy what number blade I need to tackle all the hundreds of different coats dogs have and how they are cut. But I know that will fall into place as I continue with the training.
The second week, we were asked to bring our own dog in to do the full works. So I looked at my three terriers and picked the easiest job, and that was Moley. He loved being at the Academy bonding with the other models. This was probably out of sympathy that they were having to endure us novices in giving them a “professional” groom. Sarah is incredibly patient and great in guiding us in how to make the process smooth and efficient ensuring the dog’s end result is a good one. We are also mindful too that the dogs are on the table longer as we are training, so plenty of breaks are given to them. And us….
With expert tuition we were shown to cut downwards, to clip in straight lines sweeping in line to the body and thinning scissors which as far as I’m concerned are the best grooming tool ever! I was really pleased with Moley’s end result as I gave him a very short cut, which sometimes can be not very forgiving close up. This is something that I am slowly learning to stand away from the dog and stop having a very critical close up eye. When you are grooming the dog on the table and feeling despondent as the line is not measuring up on your imaginary spirit level, placing the dog on the floor makes you see actually your dog looks great!
We had a Cockapoo day with a family of these poodle crosses coming in for the full works. These are now a breed very commonplace in the grooming salon and you really need full training dealing with these intelligent dogs and their curly coats. My face probably said it all when I was given the gorgeous Cookie, a six month old pup to wash and sort her fluffy coat.
She actually was really great in accepting all that was thrown at her and I was very mindful in introducing water, the blaster and hairdryer, noisy clippers and scissors to her with gentleness. She took it all in her stride but her puppiness was still evident in trying to chew me or the scissors. With her not being a fan of having her neck and head being cut, Sarah helped me do as much as we could and then stopped, ending on a good note. I would have liked her head and eyes to look more defined but I know it was asking too much of a puppy. Because of lockdown, she had missed her grooming introductions, so she was given an awful lot to deal with… and me too!
Another week and another Cockapoo. This time my friends lovely family dog Poppi who in her two years was very used to the grooming table. What a delight she was and so patient in my faffing… This is what I have been struggling with – my faffing. I always thought I was a methodical person but this training has shown me that actually, I’m probably not. I’m a great one at starting one job, then go to the next part of the dog as I see hair sticking out, then stop there and go to another area. Grooming a dog does need to have an organised method to it and Sarah stopped me in my muddle telling me to concentrate and finish an area at a time. Which when I did, the whole process speeded up. Which is what it needs to do. The rate I am completing a groom currently, I am thinking of offering clients dogs an overnight stay to finish them…
I know it is early days and I am discovering that patience is definitely a virtue in this game. I am absolutely loving it and really enjoying being in a training environment again and as a team. The trainees on my course are a great bunch with all good senses of humour. The South Coast Dog Grooming Team (as Sarah has many assistants that come in and help) are brilliant too. I did find the first few weeks physically demanding as I have been sitting on my backside in front of a computer for the last decade. This is getting easier and I am getting used to it. Am I getting used to dog hair stuck in my bra and pretty much everywhere else? Well, I seem to be looking more like a Cockapoo these days… Polyester tunics and trousers are the way forward in grooming dogs, although the Indian summer heat has something to answer for in its non-breathable sweaty way. But this is all part of the job.
So what to look forward to in the next instalment of Tails of the Unexpected Dog Groomer? Teeth cleaning, more full grooms and how to market yourself. And that is something I am very much looking forward to.
by Samantha Hobden
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