Puppy’s First Grooming
By Val Penstone
A puppy’s first grooming experience is when the bonds of trust are forged between a groomer, puppy, and owner. It is a unique opportunity to offer advice and guidance and make a customer for life.
The Phone Call:
Convey the image of a caring, knowledgeable professional. Share your enthusiasm and excitement about your client’s new pet. Get all the details you will need for your records. Ask how long it has been in the new home and where it came from. Offer help and advice.
Give the puppy time to get over the stress of changing environments. Even if the puppy has been vaccinated, it is wise to wait 10-14 days after adoption or purchase before bringing the puppy to a grooming shop. Since most diseases usually take this long to incubate, this waiting period will give symptoms of any disease time to show. No one wants a sickly puppy in the salon. Schedule your workload so that the stay need not be overly long. Neither owners nor puppies will want to be parted for an extended time. Feeding and potty training schedules are also considerations in scheduling the puppy’s time in your shop.
Take extra time with the customer on the first visit. Verify that you have all the relevant information for your records (name, address, date of birth, veterinarian, etc.). Ask questions. Is this a show prospect? Customers don’t always know the difference between pet and show grooming. A book of breed pictures and photographs of your work are invaluable. A picture of a similar pet, trimmed to the standard, will illustrate what can be done if regular appointments are scheduled. If the first haircut has been postponed too long and a close clip is unavoidable, a photograph will show them what to expect. Find out what the client expects the maintenance requirements of the dog to be, and tactfully educate. Demonstrate how to brush the puppy.
Getting The Job Done:
With puppies around, your usual strict standards of shop and equipment sanitation should be observed even more stringently. Let the puppy get used to the situation by putting it in a compartment with a view of the salon. Later, acclimate it to the table. Nervous and tense puppies need gentle encouragement. When it is comfortable, gradually introduce the brush and comb. After a while, turn on a clipper, but leave it running a few feet away. Introduce the clipper gradually, without a blade attached, and massage the body starting at the rear. When the puppy understands that the strange machine does not hurt, it will tolerate clipping. A light trim may be all that is advisable.
At check-out time, book the next appointment and make sure the owner has the proper brushes, combs, and coat sprays for use between professional services. After a few weeks, a mailing of some sort will cement the new relationship. Perhaps a cute certificate celebrating the first grooming. Or a small gift of treats for the puppy, with a "bounce back" retail coupon. If the next appointment was not made when the puppy left, be sure a reminder call or mailing is made in a timely manner.
Val Penstone is a 40-year veteran of the grooming industry. She is an international contest judge, competitor, speaker, and frequent contributor to publications. Currently, Val is Director of Grooming Operations for Best Friends Pet Care Inc., a national chain of boarding kennels and grooming salons.