I hear this question all of the time.
It seems to be the number one question for many groomers.
It is also the same question many employers ask....unfortunately.
I say unfortunately, because I feel that many groomers are pushed to groom more dogs a day than they safely should.
Sometimes they are being pushed by a boss/shop owner.
Sometimes they are pushing themselves, because they are paid by commission and they need, or want to make as much as they can a day.
This puts so much unnecessary pressure on groomers everyday.
It started right after grooming school with me.
The owner of the school asked me to stay on and work for her after I graduated.
She told me that I would be responsible for grooming any dogs that the students did not get to during the day, and I would be the only groomer on Saturdays.
I was ecstatic.
I didn't have to go out and look for a job.
The next grooming class was not to start for 2 weeks and the owner of the school was going out of town for those two weeks.
She was leaving me with a receptionist and kennel helper, who was to become a student in the up coming class.
I was so scared to be left like that right after graduating, but the owner told me it would be no problem; "just groom as many dogs as you feel comfortable with."
She also told me that she would check in on me everyday to see how everything was going.
I was about to get my first big lesson in what it was like working the in 'world of pet grooming'.
I graduated in early May of 84.
The first few days at my new job went went very smoothly.
I was grooming about 5 dogs a day and was very proud of myself.
Then the temperature shot up.
Suddenly it was in the upper 80's and the phone started to ring off the hook with people wanting to get their dogs hair cut....right now!
So I decided to try to groom 7 dogs a day.
Meanwhile, the owner had not called everyday to check on me like she said that she would.
She did finally call three to four days after she left.
She ask the receptionist how everything was going.
"Everything is going great, we are so busy that we are turning people away."
Boy, was that the wrong thing to say.
To say that my new boss was pissed is putting it mildly.
We were not to turn anyone away.
We were to take everyone who called.
The kennel help girl was to bathe for me.
So for the next week and a half I had my baptizum into the world of grooming during warm weather.
To say that I became a 'chop shop' groomer is a understatement.
Between me and a bather, we groomed between 25 and 33 dogs a day.
Yes, the most dogs that we groomed in one day was 33 dogs...all clips.
(I don't remember what time we finished that day)
I truly thought that I was doing a great job at the time.
Looking back, I am 100% sure that those dogs looked like crap when they went out the door.
Every dog was a clip down, or strip (however you want to describe it) with the #7 (skip tooth) blade.
I would clip every dog before the bath.
I would clip them clean so that there would hardly be any hair left to clip and scissor after the bath.
Every dog was kennel dried.
Then every dog got a 5 minute scissor finish.
I still cringe thinking about what those dogs must have looked like.
I truly did think that I was doing a very good job at the time.
I didn't know any better then.
I will tell you, I got fast very quickly.
I could strip a dogs coat in 10 to 20 minutes depending on the size and condition of the coat.
That was my first lesson in learning how a shop owner did not care one whit for me or the dogs, only the money.
Boy, did she clean up too.
I was a new groomer, right out of school, so she was only paying me 30%.
Okay, okay, I didn't know any better then.
My next couple of grooming jobs were a little better, but with every job came the pressure to groom a lot of dogs each day.
The last job that I had before opening my own shop was in the back room of a pet store.
They started me a 40%.
My pay would go up to 50% if I groomed more than 11 dogs in a day.
I averaged 10 to 12 a day without a bather.
I just could not groom anymore and still do a good job.
I am happy to say that my grooming had improved 100% by that time, since leaving school.
When I opened my own shop and started to hire groomers, I would never book them more dogs than they could groom by our closing time.
I groomed any hard to handle dogs.
I did not want my groomers bitten.
I did not want my groomers to be under pressure while grooming.
Accidents happen when people rush, or are under pressure.
I did not want any accidents happening on my watch.
I personally think that groomers should be paid on a salary.
I wish that the grooming industry would change to salary.
The amount of salary based on the number of dogs a groomer could safely groom in a day.
Then you wouldn't hear groomers asking how many dogs do you groom a day?
Or, how many dogs should I be grooming a day?
I lost a groomer once, because she felt that she had to compete with me with the number of dogs that she was grooming a day.
She would get so frustrated when I finished my dogs before her, because I was grooming 4 to 6 more dogs than her.
I kept telling her to stop getting upset.
I had been grooming longer than her.
She had only been grooming about a year.
I thought that she was doing good for the time that she had been grooming.
Everyday was like a race.
She eventually quit.
Now the rolls have reversed.
My daughter is now faster than me at grooming.
I have slowed down.
I groom so many special needs, difficult, and old dogs that I have to groom slower.
I will admit that it gets to me some days.
I have so many special needs, difficult, and old dogs to groom, that I rarely get an easy, quick dog to groom.
To be honest, I am not even sure how fast I could groom a normal dog anymore. lol
So, what do I tell groomers that ask me how many dogs that they should be grooming?
I tell them that they should groom the number of dogs that they are comfortable with.
The number of dogs that they can safely groom in an 8 to 9 hour day.
How can you put a definite number on a job the varies everyday?
When you don't know what condition the dogs with be in that you will be grooming?
When you don't know how the dogs will act on the table, in the tub, with the dryer?When you don't know if the owners will show up on time for thier appointments?
In my entire grooming career, the only time that I could defiantly say how long it would take me to groom a dog was when I was grooming out of a van.
I was booked a year in advance with nothing but regulars, every 4 to 6 week grooms.
Everyone of those dogs I could have done from start to finish in 45 minutes to an hour.
Only two dogs took me an hour and 15 minutes to groom and they were Cockers.
Be careful what you wish for....
I used to get bored sometimes grooming all of my regulars everyday, in that van.
There was no challenge.
I would wish for a hard to groom dog just to break up the regular grooms.
Well, now I would give anything to have some of those regular, easy days back. :/
So, what am I trying to say after all of this rambling that I have been doing?
I am saying, that if you are a new groomer, groom the number of dogs that you are comfortable with.
Your speed will pick up with time and experience.
Your boss is pushing you to groom more?
I wish that I had an answer for that.
Maybe you need to ask the boss if they would rather you groom 5 dogs safely and beautifully, or rush to try to groom 8 dogs and do a crappy job, or accidentally cut a dog because you where forced to rush.
I also had a question about what to tell customers who want to know how long it will take to groom their dog.
First a groomer needs to have at least a rough idea of how long it takes them to groom a dog.
Time yourself for a couple of days.
Keep a notebook by your table and record the start and finish time for each dog that you groom.
Time the bath.
Time the blow dry.
Time the finish.
If you know roughly how long it takes you to do each step of the grooming, you will be able to give an estimated pick up time if an owner calls while you are still grooming their dog.
You still have the head to scissor, and the owner is on the phone wanting to know when they can pick up their dog.
You know that that it takes you about 10 minutes to scissor the head.
Tell the owner that they can pick their dog up in 20 minutes.
I always add 10 minutes just in case I have to stop to answer the phone, clip walk-in nails, help with another dog, or any number of other things that might back me up.
If you know about how long each size dog, or style of clip takes you, you have a better idea of when to tell an owner to expect their dog to be done.
Whenever I get a new customer/dog in for grooming and the owner asks me when their dog will be done, I give them an estimated time, but I also follow that up with; "because I don't know your dog and your dog does not know me. I will groom him/her at their pace. Meaning it will be up to your dog how long it will take me to groom him/her. If your dog is nervous about something I will go slow, or stop and give them a break. So if you have not heard from me by (such and such time), give me a call and I should be able to give you an exact time then."
This way you are giving them an estimated time to watch out for, but at the same time you are not guaranteeing that time.
If you do not think that you will have the dog finished at the estimated time that you gave, you should always call the owner and let them know that you are running behind.
If you can help it, don't let that owner come over to pick up and then make them wait in the lobby while you are still grooming their dog.
The dog hears the owner.
The dog gets upset and wants off your table.
You get upset because the dog won't stand still anymore.
The owner gets upset because it is taking you forever to finish their dog.
Most of the time pet owners are very appreciative of the fact that you saved them from having to wait for their dog in your lobby, and the understand that you are running behind....most of the time. :/
Okay, I have rambled enough.
I have probably written about this subject before.
I don't remember anymore.
It's been a long week.
One more day.
And, guess what....I have a new dog tomorrow morning.
He has been thrown out of other grooming shops.
According to his owners, he is a biter and will not let anyone groom his head.
He is a Shih-tzu.
I don't know, maybe it is time for me to start turning some of these dogs away........
✂ Happy Grooming, MFF ✂