12 years ago, I worked at an animal hospital as a veterinary assistant. This hospital had a groomer and she needed some assistance as the normal bather was out. I agreed to help because I washed my own dogs all the time and figured what the heck, it’s a day of something outside of my normal routine. So I entered the world of grooming on a whim and never looked back. She taught me the basics and after a few more days, I knew I was done for. Grooming became my new career choice. As the years pass, I have realized that, like any trade industry, new and exciting things develop and the grooming world changes with the times and trends. I was content to live in my grooming comfort bubble and stick to what my mentor taught me. Same grooms, same tools, same results. But when the realization dawned on me that grooming wasn’t just a job, but a passion, my whole mindset changed and I sought to better myself in any way that I could. Reflecting on my career so far, it has become clear to me that the best options for bettering your grooming is to make investments in two major areas: your body and your mind.
In my first blog, I’ll convey what it means to invest in your body. I like to break this into three important categories: Ergonomics, tool/product improvement, and physical self-care.
See below for an example of having your arms too high for face trimming.
As a baby groomer, I wanted to look cool while working to make pets looks and feel good. It didn’t take long for me to feel a toll on my body, and I started to research potential causes. After a few doctors’ visits, the answer was my lack of ergonomics. This idea was something I thought was confined to the world of cubicles and it never crossed my mind that there were many areas I was overlooking where simple changes could add precious time to both my grooming career and overall well-being. While I am not a medical expert, these changes have helped me immensely in my day-to-day work life.
See below for an example of correct arm placement for face trimming.
Correct Grooming Placement
1. Correctly placing yourself, the dog, and your tools in your grooming space can help reduce the potential for undue strain on your body. I used to groom with each and every dog in position where I would cause myself to either stoop, hunch, or raise my arms unnecessarily high. If you have an adjustable table, this is something you can eliminate right now. In my A.K.C. Safety in the Salon certification course, Susan Divine Sholar states that an adjustable grooming table is an often overlooked but critical piece of equipment. As long is the pet is properly and safely restrained, adjust the table so that your arms are working in-between your belly button and your shoulders. This simple change in your range of working motion should help correct your posture and alleviate strain on your body, mostly in your back and shoulders. While we may still contort to get that perfect beveled foot, raising the table to allow a more upright position can help lessen discomfort.
See below for an example of correct standing posture.
2. As for tool placement, place them within easy reach in front or beside you. Placing tools behind you causes twisting and increases the potential for soreness and aches. Table mounted tool caddies and rolling tool carts create easily changeable configurations to optimize your work area while keeping your tools off your actual table and out of your pet’s kicking range. If these additions aren’t feasible, something as simple as rotating your table can change where your tools lie in accordance to your table to make life easier on your body.
3. Supportive shoes and/or supportive insoles are a game changer. There is nothing wrong with a good old tennis shoe to work in but aches in your body almost always stem from where your feet meet the floor. Take a trip to running shoe/walking shoe store and have your feet fitted for custom insoles and shoes. Some stores do these scans and analysis for free! Also try nursing stores for slip and spill resistant footwear that are made for standing for long hours. Nursing shoes and hiking slip ons with custom insoles have been my go-tos for years and the amount of pain after a long day has been greatly reduced. Another easy addition is to get a cushioned mat to place in the area(s) you stand in the most. These are now easily found in most box stores in the kitchen area and are easy to find online if you want to match the mat to your aesthetic.
Tool & Product Improvement
Look at your tools and consider the toll they may be taking on your hands and wrists. Clipper technology has come a long way even in just the last few years. Clippers are lighter than ever before, and cordless technology makes you wonder why you ever put up with a cord for so long. Losing a few ounces in a clipper makes a world of difference and you can store your old workhorse clippers as back up. Brush and scissor handles are also worth looking at as well because even the smallest change in handle or finger rest type can help with strain on your hands. As for products, look at your everyday products and see if you are getting the best results for your time and money. Grooming products have evolved with the times and a change in products can potentially produce the same or better results in the same amount of time or less. Consider adding a drying spray to lessen your dry time which means less time the dryer nozzle is in your hands and affecting your elbows and shoulders as well. Even a simple water and vinegar solution in a spray bottle can cut drying time! If possible, talk to other groomers in your shop or area and ask for recommendations if there is a specific area you want to improve. I am always willing to let other groomers in my shop try my tools and explain why I chose the items I did. If you have access to a grooming supply store, or better yet, trade shows, go and try everything!
This is short and sweet. Take the time to take care of your most important tool, your body! I used to consider a massage a huge luxury but in the last two years, I have made the jump to get massages on a regular basis and made sure I found a therapist who knew how to take care of my problem areas. With the exponential growth of our industry, making sure your body is feeling the best it can is more important than ever. And if you have been told by your doctor that massage therapy could alleviate a diagnosis you are having, the cost of massage therapy can be written off on your taxes.
Again, these points are things I have gleaned and experienced over the years in everything from mom and pop shops all the way up to corporate salons and back again. Finding solutions to common groomer issues can be overwhelming with the internet and social media but this is one humble groomer’s opinion. In the next blog, we will dive into investing in something a little less concrete and a lot more important: your mind.In 2009, Jennifer Mayer worked as a veterinary assistant and was asked to help the groomer who also worked at the animal hospital with her day. She became intrigued by the mix of creativity and animal care and asked the groomer to teach her more. Practicing on her own pets and family pet volunteers, she discovered her passion and new career. By 2011, she “officially” became a groomer and hasn’t looked back since. She has worked in brick-and-mortar salons, mobile grooming, and veterinary grooming. She has also managed corporate and private salons. During the past 10 years, she has attended trade shows and focused on learning new techniques and styles through seminars and certifications. While 2020, derailed her want to start competing, she focused on more continuing education. In 2021, she was certified in the AKC’s S.A.F.E handling program as well as the AKC safety in the salon course (AKC S.A.F.E. Groomer). She is now venturing into her career long dream of opening her own salon, Oasis Pet Grooming. Follow her shop @oasispetgrooming on Instagram.