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Closet Organizer

Messy-Closet-PhotorrI talk to people in and outside of our industry every day and I am always looking to learn something from every conversation, not matter how short or long the conversation happens to be. Sometimes the conversation is very short, a simple phone call to check in with staff at the office or colleagues in the field, and sometimes the conversation are much more lengthy, which could include planning meetings or networking opportunities. All in all, everyone has something to say and there is always something to learn.

Recently, I was speaking to someone on a plane about their business. We engaged in the standard reciprocal greeting when we found ourselves sitting next to one another and then proceeded to go to work on our laptops. After clicking away for about 30 minutes, I happened to pick up a vibe that the man I had said hello to just a little while ago is in some form of law enforcement or military, I wasn’t sure yet. So, being the social butterfly I am, I asked. Boy am I glad I did!

The man was a retired Marine who is now working as a management consultant. I was instantly intrigued. I asked him what lessons he learned from the military that he felt were the most valuable to him in his new line of work. He answered very quickly. His top pick was “systems” and “standards”. Read the rest of this entry »

Come! Sit! Stay!

blogrLeadership. If you’re running a business, you know leadership is important. Yet, when I’m speaking before groups of pet professionals, there are always questions on this topic. Here are a few typical ones that always seem to crop up when I do an open mic session.

  • How do I create a reliable team?
  • How do I motivate my team?
  • How do I bring consistency to my team?
  • How do I create respect?
  • How do I stop the bickering?
  • How do I create an enjoyable work environment?

I’m not going to lie. Being a great leader is certainly a challenge. It constantly takes work on the part of the leader. The second you let your guard down, forward momentum can be lost. Directions are not followed. The morale of the team sinks. Productivity dwindles. And customer service goes out the window. Sound familiar? Read the rest of this entry »

How to Get Your Clipper Work Smooth – Like a Summer Hay Field

blogrIt’s been over 35 years since that first time. I still remember standing in awe, watching a talented pet groomer give a dog a haircut. She handled her clippers with ease. The long fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and gorgeous. And she was fast – super fast. She made the whole process seems so simple.

The first time I tried, I quickly discovered it was not simple. Those initial attempts were pretty pathetic. Saying my first efforts were rough and choppy would be polite. There were long tufts hanging out everywhere. I was frustrated beyond belief.

I was determined to master the skill. After all, the groomer I had been watching proved it could be done. It was simple – I just had to focus and figure it out.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Jennifer Hecker Story

Bouvier HugrIt was May, 1996. Star pupil Jennifer Hecker was three days away from graduating from grooming school and I was still very much a hands-on Director of The Paragon School of Pet Grooming.

I remember walking into the lobby during check-in. The front staff was just greeting a new client with a very large Bouvier des Flandres. I looked at the dog and immediately sensed something was off. The dog came in willingly enough, but its body language and eyes were telling me to be very, very careful with this dog.

Once the owner was gone, I told the front staff to attach the dog to a wall tether. I sensed we could have a real problem if we tried to place that dog in a kennel. Being out on the practical skills floor where we could closely observe this dog without the housing restriction was much safer. I suggested that the instructors place a muzzle on the dog before they attempted to do any grooming, just in case.

Because we didn’t see that many Bouvier’s at the Paragon Training Center, it was assigned to Jennifer, one of our most advanced students. At that time, Jennifer had shown Giant Schnauzers and had advanced one of them through the highest levels of French Ring Sport. She was not intimidated by the size or the potential attitude of this dog.

Not 15 minutes into the class, someone raced into my office and told me I’d better get out to the practical skills floor – fast. Someone had been hurt. Seconds later, I was on the practical skills floor. The first thing I noticed was how empty and quiet the room was.

The second was the blood trail.

It led diagonally across the space towards the bathing room. There was a crowd of people around a small prep sink. One person in particular was obviously in great distress – Jennifer.

Our general manager was holding her hand under cold water and asking her series of questions. One of the questions still haunts me today…

“Can you feel your fingers?”

I got a glimpse of Jennifer’s hand. Place a quarter on the meatiest part of the heel of your hand. Now imagine that area… gone.

handrThe Bouvier had done exactly what I had feared. The instructor and Jennifer had done what I had requested. They had muzzled the dog before team-lifting it onto the table. That’s when it struck. Unbelievably, it bit Jennifer through a muzzle. It was a nylon muzzle that was open at the end of the mouth so the dog could breathe freely. This type of muzzle can be effective as long as it fits snugly. In this case, they had selected a muzzle that was slightly too large. Even though the dog was muzzled, it could still open its mouth just enough to grab the heel of her hand to chew through her flesh…

…and it did.

We raced Jennifer to the medical treatment center. The local med-station felt that they could handle this wound despite the fact that she had lost sensation in her little finger – or maybe the pain was so great – she couldn’t be sure. They stitched her up, bandaged her, pumped her up with antibiotics, and sent her home.

The following day she was she was back at the doctor, but this time to see a hand specialist. They ripped out all the stitches from the night before and started over. Jennifer was looking at a long recovery period.

Jennifer had such a great attitude towards this whole thing – it was hard to believe. Even though she missed the last three days of class, she still graduated with very high grades. However, finding a grooming job was certainly out of the question for her – at least for a while. We ended up hiring Jennifer for our front office at Paragon while she healed.

As Jennifer’s medical bills mounted, we collected everything and turned them into our insurance company.  However, our carrier did not feel the situation warranted a payout on their behalf.


That’s when we learned that in the state of Michigan a pet owner is ultimately responsible for their dog – even if they are not with it. The insurance company went after the pet owner. They were able to collect from their homeowner’s policy. That was news to me and served as a lesson to all of us.

As the story unfolded, we got more information that was unnerving. My initial gut reaction was well-founded. This was the third reported bite case for this dog – and the third owner. Of course the owner never bothered to share that information with us upon check-in. The dog was destroyed after this third incident with Jennifer.

We learned 5 lessons through this unfortunate event.

  1. Trust your gut. Never do a dog that you feel is dangerous to you, your team, or itself.
  2. Use muzzles when necessary and make sure they fit properly (we changed to full basket-style muzzles).
  3. The pet owner is ultimately responsible for their pet regardless of whether they are with them or not.
  4. In the state of Michigan, if the dog creates an insurance situation, the pet owner’s homeowner’s policy will be responsible for paying any damages or claims.
  5. Love and passion for dogs can still shine through despite severe injuries inflicted by them and long recovery periods.

Jennifer has been grooming with us for over 18 years. I’m fortunate that she is still on my team. She has become one of our most talented and productive pet stylists. She grooms every day at our luxury kennel, Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa. Plus, Jennifer has been one of our talented Training Partners on since the beginning.

We just filmed her for We had been looking for someone to do a traditional style grooming lesson on a Bouvier des Flandres for a very long time. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect Jennifer Hecker to step up to the grooming table for this lesson! I’m so glad she did. Her love and compassion for all dogs is clearly evident – even for the Bouvier des Flandres.


Happy trimming,




Bring Nature to the Grooming Table

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Courtney Ramstack a compassionate stylist with a dynamic personality. She has a strong sense of quality with everything that she does. Courtney has trained over 150 grooming students. She takes great pride to make her shops fun and exciting places to work.

We are proud to have Courtney as one of our Training Partners at The first time I heard this idea explained by her, I thought she was brilliant!

This vivid grooming tip comes from Courtney. This is her description of how to trim an ear short in her video lessons.

Clipper trimming the ear on a dog can be a dangerous step in the grooming process if it is not done correctly. It is very easy to nick an ear with the clipper blade. The ear leather is thin. If you do not follow the correct direction of the coat growth, the ear leather can feed easily between the teeth of the blades.

Courtney came up with a very clever way to describe how to clip an ear to minimize accidents. The visual clarity of her description makes it almost impossible for student to do it wrong. When she’s training new groomers this is how she talks them through the process.

Think of the ear leather like a leaf. It has veins that you can clearly see running through the entire leaf. Think of the dog’s ear like a leaf.

When trimming, a very close blade, like a #40, is typically used on the inside of the ear leather.

The outside of the ear leather is typically left slightly longer. Blades can range from a #30 blade all the way up to longer guard combs. This technique works well with any blade length when a clipper is being used to style the ear.

When you start clipping, lay the ear across your open fingers. Start clipping from the top of the ear at the center — where the stem would be. As you clip, keep the ear gently braced on your fingers. From that center point of the leaf, clip out towards the edges, following the veins just like on a leaf. Keep your fingers underneath the ear as you move the clipper towards the edges to brace it. This will keep the ear stable and the dog under control as the clipper removes the coat.

On dogs with natural ears, there is a small skin flap on the inside of the ear leather. This delicate skin flap is typically found on the back side of the ear. When you flip the ear over and hold it in your hand, normally you can see it clearly. You need to be careful of the skin flap — it is very easy to catch it in teeth of your clipper blade. Typically, the closer of blade cuts, the less likely it is to catch that inside ear flap. For safety, always know where that skin flap is located.

 As long as you clip in the same direction as the veins of the leaf, your risk of injury to the ear leather is very minimal. As you clip — or instruct someone else — imagine following the veins of a beautiful leaf. It’s hard to do it wrong with Courtney’s clear visual image etched in your mind.

Happy Trimming!


The Most Viewed Videos of 2012

The winner of the Most Viewed Video of 2012, Lindsey Dicken, was presented her award at the Atlanta Pat Fair.

From the Archive:  Our Top Ten Most Viewed Videos of 2012
The numbers have been crunched! We are thrilled to announce the Most Viewed Videos for 2012!

These videos have helped thousands of groomers to learn more about their craft. Some of our members review breed specific videos before the client’s dog arrives. While others use them to help train for competition.

But whatever the reason, here are the Top Ten Most Viewed
Videos of 2012.

Most Viewed Video – Rank #1
Grooming the Bichon in a Show Style Trim

with Lindsey Dicken

Most Viewed Video – Rank #2
Dematting Tips for Any Breed

with Karen Tucker

Most Viewed Video – Rank #3
Adorable Pet Trim on a Shih Tzu in 45 Minutes

with Suesan Watson

Most Viewed Video – Rank #4 
How to Groom a Daisy Dog in Less than 45 Minutes

with Suesan Watson

Most Viewed Video – Rank #5 
Trimming a Round Head Style on a Drop Coated Dog

with Melissa Verplank

Most Viewed Video – Rank #6  
Grooming a Pet West Highland White Terrier  

with Courtney Ramstack

Most Viewed Video – Rank #7 
Trimming a Light Coated Yorkie in a Hand Scissored Trim

with Irina Pinkusevich

Most Viewed Video – Rank #8  
How to Groom a Monster Sized Dog in 76 Minutes

with Lisa Leady

Most Viewed Video – Rank #9  
Grooming a Bichon in a Modified Show Trim

with Lisa Leady

Most Viewed Video – Rank #10 
Greatest Hits #1: Trimming Round Heads

with Suesan Watson, Misty Fowler, Marc LaFleur, Melissa Verplank

Visit our Sneak Peek Video page for links to these and other grooming lessons in our video library!

Great grooming lessons from Cheryl Purcell

This week, we are releasing an incredible triple feature on focusing on the Kerry Blue Terrier. Your training partner is Cheryl Purcell. She will be reviewing the common mistakes that people make when they groom a Kerry Blue and how to avoid them.

We are so happy to have Cheryl on our team of training partners. Cheryl Purcell started in the industry as a manager of a pet store. After a fire destroyed the retail section of the building, all that was left was the grooming salon. The owner wanted to continue grooming and the rest is history. After picking up the basics from their in-house groomer, Cheryl has had an impressive career.

It was her Mom who really encouraged her to be a groomer. They opened a shop together in 1994. Since then she credits much of her success with continuing education. After taking advice from a friend, she started taking private lessons from groomers she looked up to in the industry. Cheryl offers private training herself. (See her bio for details)

She has been on GroomTeam USA numerous times since her first competition in 1994. Cheryl can be seen here at the 2004 NDGAA Fun in the Sun where she won Best in Show. I am very proud to have Cheryl on our training partner team. She will continue to be a valuable asset to groomers who want to continue their education.

Cheryl Purcell earning Best In Show at the NDGAA 2004 Fun in the Sun Show

Photo by Animal Photography