For many years I worked at an upscale grooming salon where several groomers shared one space to complete finish work on pets. It was great because we could all chat and visit while we worked, and it was also terrific because it meant that there was more than one pair of eyes looking at every dog before it got off the table, eyes that could see each pet from a different perspective.
I quickly recognized that I could see areas on the other groomer's dogs that needed a little tweak far easier than I could see such spots on the animals I was working on. It wasn't because the other stylists were slacking; they were highly talented. It was because I was looking at their dogs from several feet away.
When I took my practical exams to become a Master Pet Stylist, I was extra proud of the American Cocker Spaniel I was finishing for my Sporting exam. My examiner passed by me as I worked and quietly urged me to "stand back." I was exceedingly confident in my work and slightly offended at her suggestion. Still, I obediently took a step or two away from the table, and VOILA! I could see some areas on that dog that needed more attention. I was grateful for that guidance and delighted with the changes I made once I looked at the dog from a slight distance.
It's a lesson I still need to remind myself of. One way I do this is by trying to take a picture of each dog after it's finished. I don't do anything fancy; I just step back from the table and try to get the dog to look pretty while I snap an "after" shot. Almost every time I do this, I see a clump of hair that I didn't see when I was right at the table or decide that the fluff over the eyes really could be a little shorter or notice someplace that needs a little finesse.
It's all about changing the distance and angle you observe. For example, a pet that looks just great while you are standing or sitting at your table will reveal areas that need more effort if you will take the time to stand back and look it over from a different point of view.
Some groomers put a large mirror on the wall opposite their table, which offers them a slightly distanced view of the pet as they work. This is an excellent option if you work in an area that lends itself to a mirror, but if not, train yourself to stand back and look at the dog you have just completed from all angles before you take it off the table. This will help eliminate the need to chase after a dog that is headed home with its owner, waving your scissors and hollering, "Wait! I see something I need to fix." That's a perspective none of us enjoy!
By Daryl Conner, MPS, MCG
Daryl Conner has been devoted to making dogs and cats more comfortable and beautiful for almost 40 years. You can find her happily working at FairWinds Grooming Studio with her daughter and infant granddaughter, or typing away at her latest grooming-related article. Daryl was awarded both a Cardinal Crystal Award and Barkleigh Honors Award for journalism. She shares her meadow-hugged antique Maine farmhouse with her practically perfect husband and too many animals.