I only want a bit off this time – A Groomer’s winter lament
It’s winter time here in Australia and for Professional Groomers it is a great time of year where they are not rushed off their feet and actually get some time to enjoy the job. Yes for most groomers it is not a job but something they have a passion for, as most who start grooming for just a job, soon find out. However it is the time of year where clients have a misunderstanding about our craft.
The first misunderstanding is that it costs less to take off less hair. At this time of year we are often asked not to do close cuts with a 7 or 5 blade but to leave more hair on. Clients often assume therefore that the job will take less work and of course cost less. In fact the opposite it true. In summer when the matted mutts come in we often clip off the hair close with a 7 blade and then wash and dry the dog and do a final pass with the clippers to even up what hair is left. Clipping with a 7 blade means that we are usually able to clip fast close to the skin and under most of the tangles and mats. The exclusion to this is the severely pelted dog that has been badly neglected. The drying time therefore is fairly fast, as there is less hair to dry. Most groomers will do this type of work in about an hour for a Shih Tzu, Maltese or Small poodle sized dog. When leaving more hair on however we normally have no option but to put the dog straight in the tub, wash and then dry out the entire coat. This wash and dry in heavily coated dogs like Shih Tzu’s, Poodles or any of the oodles can take the best part of an hour using a high velocity dryer and two hours or more if using fan dryers. Then we have to start the clipping and finally finish with scissoring to get a professional look. The clipping, if any hair is to be left on, takes much longer than the summer clips especially if the dog is not brushed out to the skin. Therefore these winter clips are more than likely going to take twice as long as a summer clip on the same dog. So if a client wants to pay the same amount for a clip in winter or summer there is no option other than a clip with a 7 or 5 blade. If the dog is significantly matted or knotted then often it is inhumane to stop and attempt to work out all the knots before starting the clip off.
The second major misunderstanding that we encounter in winter is that a dog that comes in with a coat that has grown out weeks past a regular clipping appointment of six weeks will be just as easy to clip off as a dog that is on a regular six weekly appointment. Most regular clients are great at sticking to a six weekly schedule in summer as they heat is a constant reminder to them that their dog need to be booked in. In winter week after week goes by with the owner telling themselves it is too cold or wet to clip off their dog. This means that dogs arrive carrying up to two or three times more hair, which most of the time is not correctly brushed. This is then combined with the age old comment “please don’t cut the dog off short” and an expectation that a clip is the same amount of work in winter as in summer puts most groomers in a very difficult situation. The dogs that you see with very long well maintained coats are not the result of letting the coat grow willy nilly and then clipping it back to the desired length. They are achieved by regular clips that over the course of 12 to 18 months are trained into the appropriate shape, normally by the groomer utilizing time consuming hand scissoring techniques.
Grooming is a service just like repairing a care or computer or services rendered by a plumber or electrician. In order to determine what each job should cost professional groomers know they need to take a certain amount of money per hour. In most salon based Australian businesses that is around about $60-$65 per hour, with more if the salon is located in a high rent area. Sadly however we have conditioned our grooming customers to expect that services will be spoken about in terms of what service we perform (clip, trim or bath). Customers are happy to book their car in for service and find that the car repairer took 3 hours to do the job even though it previously only took an hour and to charge accordingly at the going labour rate of $75 per hour (country NSW). They are also happy to have the cost of consumables and parts added to their bill.
Dogs need more not less grooming in winter to keep their coat in top condition and groomers need to be strong about charging an appropriate cost for the service they provide or else with the current economic climate in Australia the old saying of “use it or loose it” will apply. If you love what your groomer does then respect their right to charge as a respected professional performing a valued service.
The Pet Care Magician
Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behaviour, training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors