Tips from the Top

Some of the industry’s most successful professional pet stylists offer five of their personal tricks for better grooming.


The grooming industry is full of gifted, successful professional pet stylists who have seen it all over their long and storied careers. Luckily, the talent of these experienced pros is often rivaled only by their generosity in sharing their well-earned expertise with colleagues. Every groomer—from novice to long-time industry veteran—can learn something from the vast and varied experiences of the successful professionals that surround them; and it is with this in mind that Grooming Business approached some of the industry’s most respected pet stylists to get their top tips for better pet grooming.



Judy D. Hudson, NCMG, Oster Ambassador, Pet Tech CPR, First Aid Instructor, Certifier for National Dog Groomers Association of America, Past Groom Team USA Member, International Speaker and Judge.

1. Have a routine. 
Doing every dog the same way—whatever way works best for you—will speed up your grooming; and the ability to work on more dogs equals more money.

2. Make sure dogs are clean, clean, clean.  
You will spend a lot more time on the groom when the coat is not clean. A dog’s ears and face are especially important, as people tend to go easy in these areas for fear of getting soap or water in eyes or ears. However, they still have to be squeaky clean along with the rest of the dog. 

3. Rinse, rinse and rinse some more.
When the skin and coat are not rinsed well, shampoo residue and dirt can remain on the skin and coat.

4. Dry the whole dog at the same time. 
This way, the coat is curl free and dried evenly. This is another opportunity to save time on the backend of the grooming process. If the coat is perfectly dried, you will end up with a better groom.

5. De-shed and de-mat.
Be sure to de-shed every dog, and do a lot of de-matting in the tub. This will save time on drying and will mean less hair to clean up after force drying.



Diane Betelak, Master Groomer, Certifier for National Dog Groomers Association of America, Past Groom Team USA Member, Award-Winning Competitive Groomer, Salon Owner and Andis Spokesperson.

1. Pay attention to quality.
Buy the best equipment you can afford, and keep it in good condition. The better the tool, the longer it will last, and keeping it in good condition means that it won’t break down when you need it the most. When tools such as brushes wear out, replace them.

2. Stay organized.
Keep your blades and other tools in easy-to-reach places. If you know where they are, you won’t spend wasted minutes searching for them when you need them.

3. Keep blade swapping to a minimum.
Use each blade for everything you need it for before switching it out. For example, do all of your #10 blade work, such as sanitary, pads and facial trimming, before changing the blade to clip the body. This way you don’t have to keep changing back and forth.

4. Clip once.
As often as possible, wash, high-velocity dry and hand dry each dog before clipping, to avoid having to clip twice.

5. Educate clients.
Take the time to work with and educate your clients. Teach them how to brush their pet; working on a tangle-free pet is so much nicer and more rewarding than de-matting and shaving them down.



Jay Scruggs, Award-Winning Competitive Groomer, Former Groom Team USA Member, Industry Speaker and Representative for Wahl Clipper Corporation and The Coat Handler products. 

1. Stay on edge.
When scissoring a dog’s feet, move the dog to the edge of the table. This will make the feet much easier to get to.

2. Use the right thinners.
Trim Shih Tzu and other drop-coat heads with 44-tooth thinners. This will create a softer finish.

3. Size matters.
Is your thumb going through the hole on your scissors? Buy thick thumb guards to prevent it.

4. Turn the blade.
When clipping Poodle feet, turn the blade over to get the hair around the nail beds. It will push the hairs up and cut them.

5. Don’t get in a tangle.
Stay focused when you are drying a dog with the forced-air dryer. Keep the nozzle the right distance away from the coat, so you do not tangle the ends. The longer the coat, the farther away you need to be. Don’t forget there are attachments that come with many force dryers that make drying different coats easy.



Teri DiMarino, Award-Winning Competitive Groomer, Former Groom Team USA Gold Medalist, Industry Speaker and Judge.

1. Watch the polish.
When applying nail polish to a longhaired dog, use an old nylon stocking to cover the pet’s foot and poke the nails through the stocking. This makes applying the polish easy, and it doesn’t get on the hair.

2. Catch the water.
When using a high-velocity dryer, hold a small towel in your opposite hand to catch the water as it is blown off the dog. This keeps the water from traveling to areas of the dog that are already dry and cuts your drying time considerably.

3. Keep styptic powder nearby.
Styptic-powder holders are available through general suppliers and are a very handy way of supplying the product without dumping it all over the place and taking your hands off the pet.

4. Know your strengths.
Every groomer has a side of the dog that always turns out better for them, or is easier to work on. Sometimes, it’s difficult to get the two sides to match; but if you groom your weaker side first, then it will be easier to match it with your strong side, as you have more control.

5. Double check appointments.
Reconfirm every appointment the day before, even if they just made it. This will help reduce the number of no-show appointments and enable you to fill in any cancellations.



Connie Runyon, Award-Winning Competitive Groomer, Oster Ambassador and All-breed Handler.

1. Groom the dog for its next appointment.
For example, if you have a dog that comes in on a regular appointment and has been matted in the rear the last two appointments, take the rear shorter, so the dog won’t be matted for the third time in a row.

2. Set customers up on a six-week schedule. 
Time goes by too fast, and if your clients don’t make their appointments upon their departure, they might forget. Booking in advance helps you avoid having an overgrown mess on your hands. 

3. Clip away.
Use clipper blades and comb attachments as much as possible. If you know the correct structure and profile of the breed, it doesn’t matter how you remove the hair—unless, of course, you are hand-stripping the dog.

4. Blow out before bathing.
Sometimes, using a high-velocity dryer before a bath can help force out thick, blowing undercoat.

5. Dry completely.
Always make sure your dogs’ coats are completely dry before finishing. This will prevent the hair from settling as it dries, and your trim will look much better and last much longer.



Sue Watson, Certified Master Groomer with National Dog Groomers of America, Award-Winning Competitive Groomer, Former Groom Team USA Member and Spokesperson for Wahl Clipper Corporation.

1. Use coat spray.
Use a coat spray on every dog after they are bathed and dried, but before cutting them down. Mist and brush up the coat, so you are not back brushing the whole coat as you are cutting. This will produce a better finish on the coat without having to go over the coat a ton of times.

2. Never back brush while cutting.
You will save time by not back brushing while you are cutting if you just go to a shorter blade to start. Every time you brush up the coat and keep going over it, you are actually cutting the dog shorter than the blade you are using.

3. Book early.
Strongly urge clients to book their next appointment early, so dogs aren’t getting knotted or overgrown. 

4. Get a helper.
Use a Groomers Helper safety and positioning system for difficult dogs.  Dogs are a lot less intimidated when properly restrained and will struggle less. This will help the groom go quicker, which is good for you and the dog.

5. Stay positive.
Never apologize when you have to modify a dog’s trim.  Always talk to customers with positive words and turn negatives into positives. A good example of this approach might be, “I made a slight change to your dog’s trim today.  The ears look great trimmed short.  Your dog looks like a puppy again. It was the best thing to do for him because of the matting.”



My Top 10
While all of the tips generously provided by some of the industry’s most prominent professional groomers will go a long way in helping any grooming business raise its game, I thought I’d throw my own two cents in with my personal top-10 list of grooming tips:

1. Use your clipper as much as possible.
One thing I learned from Liz Paul about Poodle bevels was to comb all your coat from the legs down. Wrap your fingers around the leg, thumb and pointing finger at the bottom. Then, take a #40 blade just below your clipper work. Keep your blade almost straight in to the coat. This will create an almost perfect bevel every time.

2. A goof-proof way to do a Poodle topknot can be a lifesaver.
First, make sure your clipper work is straight and even on both sides. Then, comb all of the coat to one side with your blade angle out. Cut a straight line from the outside corner of the eye to the front top edge of the ear and then over the ear itself.  When you hit the back of the ear, you can turn your scissor angle inward and blend in the neck. Repeat on the second side. Then, the key is to split the topknot in half, look over and make sure both parts are even before combing it forward and rounding it out. Scissor the front to suit the dog’s head. Flip the coat up and tweak.

3. On dogs with coats that lie flat on their back, I like to use a longer blade or comb attachment in reverse.
This prevents me from having to comb the coat up multiple times to get the look I want.

4. Water is often overlooked as a therapeutic agent.
To keep the water on a dog’s skin as long as possible without wasting time, I use my Hydro Surge 5.1, which combines shampoo, water and air, penetrating the coat and getting water to the skin fast. Once I know everything is soaked, I let the dog stand with product on while I flush the ears, scrub the face and do anal glands. This allows the water to soften the skin, which means a cleaner dog and much easier de-shedding. Then, I go over the dog a second time with product before rinsing to wash away dead skin.

5. I schedule my customers one year in advance to keep the dogs looking and feeling their best.
It keeps their owners on track, and we don’t spend time after each groom making another appointment.

6.Keep pictures of well-groomed dogs displayed in your shop.
They are great a reference, and they train the eye of your dog owners on what a good trim looks like. Many will be drawn to some modified version of the style.

7. Puppy grooming can be a challenge at times.
I found that using the Groomers Helper keeps the pup in place, thus you have to correct it less, making it a more relaxing event.

8. Teach some of your extra-large breeds and long-coat breeds to lie on their side to be groomed.
You will need a helper in the beginning to train them, but these dogs tend to be on the table for extended amounts of time. Giving them a long break while you are still working on them will make life a lot easier.  When you get to the end of your groom, the dog can stand up and is rested, so you can finish them quicker—and better—in most cases.

9. At the end of most days, we are all tired and not looking forward to the next day in the salon.
Help make tomorrow a better day by having all of the day’s paperwork finished and tomorrow’s ready. Make sure everything is clean and fresh before you throw in the towel. It feels good to walk in and know you are all set.

10. Time management is always challenging in our business.
Set yourself up for success by giving yourself extra time to finish each dog. If a client has issues that day, change their appointment to better accommodate both sides. There is nothing worse than being rushed when you love what you do and you want to give the dogs your all.

Christina Pawlosky is a Certified Master Groomer, professional handler, breeder, and successful pet store and grooming shop owner (The Pet Connection) since 1985. She is currently is the National Training Manager for Oster Professional Products and produces grooming DVDs through her website GroomerWorks.com.






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