Demystifying Groomer Pay

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Groomer pay is a polarizing and well-debated subject in the pet service industry. Visit any social media outlet haunted by groomers and you will find the industry seems polarized. Groomers, shop owners, and even tax advisers are at odds with one another- meanwhile the clients are unaware of the looming controversy behind the scenes.

Sweeping changes and reform in how Pet Stylists/Groomers are compensated for their work has begun. To fully understand the issue and the reason for controversy, it is helpful to review the various methods which Groomers were historically compensated for their work.

There are three basic ways which Groomers have been traditionally compensated. The Independent Contractor (IC) method was the most widely used method and is deeply ingrained into the foundation of the industry. Beginning in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the pet entered a new phase in the American (and International) household, the need for Pet Grooming services became more constant and an industry was born. Traditionally, grooming services were offered at boarding kennels and veterinarian offices as a necessity and an additional revenue source. Due to previous standards in taxation, insurance, and employee codes, it was both beneficial and fiscally desirable to hire a groomer as an Independent Contractor. The hosting business did not provide regular wage, workers compensation, benefits, or share taxation burden with the Groomer IC. Groomer IC’s were compensated based upon a predetermined percentage of their work. Those commissions varied widely throughout the industry with percentages typically ranging from 30-70%.

As the pet owning public’s demand for services grew, stand-alone grooming shops began to open and the burgeoning Pet Industry was well on its way to the American Pet Products Association staggering estimate of over 60 billion dollars in Pet Expenditures in 2015.  For those business owners, hiring Groomers as Independent Contractors became the normal way to compensate for the work completed. As either hosting business owners or the Groomers themselves began to look for different ways to maneuver the changing landscape of business ownership, insurance pitfalls, and the ever-present authority of the IRS, the option of Booth/Table Renting became another consideration. Based upon a similar concept from the Beauty and Salon industry, the Groomer operated as a complete and separate entity from the hosting business and merely utilized the premises to conduct their business. Basically the Booth Renter became a sublet within the existing business. Enter more regulation and stricter definition of the roles of the parties who participate in this business arrangement. Today, this has become perhaps the most difficult relationship for the involved parties to create and manage legally within the jurisdictions of respective Federal, State and Local government entities.

The final option for compensation is for the Groomer to become an employee of the hosting Pet Service business. The employer/employee relationship is the most desirous for the entities which regulate employment as they can ensure that proper taxation occurs, employees are working in safe and insured environments, and employees have adequate benefits provided in accordance with established guidelines. The weight of the relationship shifts from the individual to the business owner. And that is where the controversy begins. It is more expensive for companies to employee persons than to farm out the work with IC’s. It does not allow IC’s to avoid taxation or opt out of purchasing their own insurance policies, their own advertising, or their own company infrastructure.

The Groomer compensation issues that have arisen as the IRS has enacted sweeping legislation are not going away. Ignorance of the law is not an acceptable defense of the violation of running a business illegally. The IRS has provided many resources so that Groomer and business owners alike can become educated and choose to conduct their operations legally. The IRS 20 Factor test is a simple way to self-diagnose the correct relationship between a business and a person providing the services.

It’s time that every pet owner begins to ask if their chosen Pet Service provider is operating legally. The well-being of the people who take care of pets should be a concern of the customer- if someone is willing to operate their business or conduct illegally, are they the right choice for your pet? It’s time that every Groomer accepts that the reform has been created by the richness and success of the industry- it was inevitable that the organization would follow. It’s time that every business owner chooses to become educated. Professionalism should go hand in hand with success and prosperity.

Breaking Down Potty Training

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Our guest blogger is Josh Aaron- 4th generation dog behaviorist and Lead Trainer at See Spot Sit.

The biggest obstacle new puppy owner’s face when bringing home their new addition is pottytraining. There are many different methods to achieving success in potty training. With any form of training the key to success is consistency, the more consistent and diligent you are with your puppy’s schedule the faster you will achieve success.

UsingProvidencePomskies1 a crate is essential in this time of your puppy’s life. A crate fulfills many basic behavioralneeds your puppy is going to need in their life. In this time it allows you to better control the puppy’sschedule and activity. Anytime your puppy comes out of their crate they go outside, before they go back in the crate they go outside. If you take your puppy out and it doesn’t use the bathroom (in a reasonable amount of time), You should put it back in it’s crate for 10-15 minutes and then try again. If you take your puppy out and it does not use the bathroom and you just bring it back in your house it’sgoing to mess. By putting it back in it’s crate it helps the puppy understand that it doesn’t get rewarded with playtime until it potties outside.

Controlling your puppy’s intake is equally important. It’s very easy to control their food intake and most people do a good job with this. Don’t allow your puppy to graze. Give them an ample amount of time to eat(10-15 minutes), then take the food away until the next feeding. This allows you to know exactly when your dog ate last, therefore you know exactly when your dog needs to go to the bathroom. The problem most people have comes from controlling their water intake. Treat their water just the same as their food. You will be putting water down more often during the day but by doing this you also know exactly when your dog had water last and when it actually needs to go to the bathroom.Be diligent with the schedule of your dog and you will quickly obtain success.
Use this sample as a base for potty training but adjust it to fit your family. In between potty breaks be sure to play with and socialize your puppy.

7:00 Take puppy outside for potty
7:15 Feed puppy in crate
7:30 Take puppy outside to potty, then allow them some play time outside of their crate
8:00-8:15 Put puppy back in crate

Repeat this at lunch time without the feeding
Repeat this at dinner time with feeding
Before you put your puppy in the crate at bedtime walk them one more time.

Josh Aaron, See Spot Sit

What’s a Dog to Eat?

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Dog food is exhausting. What should you feed your dog? Raw, kibble, canned? What brand of food? And should it be holistic or grain free? How much and how many times a day? Breaking down the different kinds of dog foods and what to feed can really scare you away from what you actually should feed.

If you think about a wolf, they track their food and kill live animals in the wild. They eat raw bones with meat. They eat offal such as liver and heart. They eat raw eggs. They eat decaying material. They eat a wide variety of Insects, bark, soil, birds – complete with their tiny bones and feathers – whatever. Every meal they eat is totally raw. Not one bit of it is cooked. Ever. They eat vegetables including herbs, from the gut of their prey. This vegetable material is raw, totally crushed and partly digested. They eat feces. A wolf’s diet contain almost no grains. For a wolf – not one single meal consists of dry dog food. They don’t eat canned dog food either.

Now think about what you’re feeding your dog.

Kibble is generally higher in carbohydrates than canned foods, as a certain amount of starch is required for the food to retain its shape. Kibble also requires more preservatives than canned food does, to extend its shelf life. The better dry foods are higher in protein and use natural preservatives such as mixed tocopherols (a form of vitamin E).

Without going into too much detail on the history of dry commercial kibble diets, the short end of the story is that it was introduced in response to the high cost of meat during the Great Depression and was heavily promoted at the end of WWII when it gained popularity for its convenience, ease of distribution and low cost. If our pets have managed to survive off this cheap, convenient, low quality protein source for the last 80 some years, why should we be concerned about it? Even though our pets may be surviving off commercial kibble, can we really say that they are thriving on it?

The answer is pretty clear.

Chronic degenerative diseases, auto-immune diseases, allergies, kidney, pancreatic and liver disease are all rampant within our pet populations and cancer rates continue to rise.

As pet professionals we are seeing a large number of dogs coming in with these issues. Hair falling out and not growing back properly. And that is the first among many problems we see.

For years, raw food enthusiasts have touted the health benefits of uncooked food for humans. Now, veterinarians and pet owners believe that a raw meat diet is best for pets. I believe it. If eating paleo is so great for us these days then why not try it with the dogs? Throw them a chicken breast or some ground beef. Play around with it for about eight weeks and see how much happier and healthier your dog is. 

Amanda Aaron
See Spot Grooming and Daycare
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I am writing this from 10,000 feet above somewhere sunny as I return to Louisville following the first “check-up” visit on See Spot Florida store number one.  I am tempted to report on the gleaming beautiful new facility, the smiling thankful faces of customers discovering how we make the grooming experience just a little better, or the happiness of seeing Josh and Amanda (and their tiny family) thriving as they endure the trials of starting a new business. But I won’t.

Instead I find myself thinking of the vast differences between grooming from one area to the next. Grooming itself is a small world. It’s more like a sisterhood (or brother) of professionals who understand the hours, hard work, and passion that combines to create great grooms. That part doesn’t change no matter where you go.  The differences are in the customer experience. In the new See Spot store its apparent that grooming in Florida is a very different animal.

Customers are wary.  One by one they are finding us and the story is always the same. They have had bad experiences- a lot of them. These clients have been through the wringer. They’ve received poor quality cuts, or rude service, or their pets have had rough or neglectful experiences. As See Spot Team members we are pretty accustomed to getting pats on the back. We love our customers and they love us in return. We are told daily that we are really good at our jobs and it’s kind of addictive- we keep trying to be better.

I don’t think every groomer or shop these customers has experienced has been bad but I don’t think their recollections of experiences are exaggerated. I simply think that few shops have set a standard or set best practice standards that are non-negotiable for the customer and pet experience. I’ve met some wonderful groomers already in Florida. Some of the worlds best hail from nearby- but they can only service so many pets. As I fly back over this sunny place toward my old Kentucky home, I am prouder than ever of the commitment that Team Spot has made to every customer and every dog to provide the best experience possible.

Khris- the Original Spotimage

Service Dogs- the new Purse Dogs?

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This was reshared from Jan Baldwin, Tulsa Oklahoma. Jan makes a valid point about the rights of service animals being overstepped. Help protect against fraud so that the REAL service animals can continue their important work!

servicedog

Being involved in a service dog organization has taught me the dangers of people lying about their pet and calling it a service dog. Here’s a little 101 for you.

How can you tell the fakes from the real working dogs?

1. If the dog is confined or has restricted body movement due to being in a stroller or shopping cart, it is unable to physically perform tasks in order to aid their disabled handler.

2. If the dog exhibits poor behavior and the handler isn’t trying to correct it or isn’t removing the dog.

3. If the dog is ENTIRELY focused on interacting with its environment rather than the handler, it cannot be focused on assisting the person with their disability.

Certification, ID tags and vests don’t make a service dog. A dog is considered a service dog when it is trained to physically do something (performs a task or work) in relation to the handlers disability. The dog must be doing something for you, that you cannot do for yourself.

The law does NOT recognize ’emotional support’ or ‘comforting’ to be trained tasks.

There is no legitimate legal certification for service dogs, or emotional support animal.

Mazerati

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Morning breaks over the bluegrass of Kentucky and I enter the grooming shop with a spring in my step. I glance at the schedule for the day and one name jumps out- Mazerati. Every groomer has one client that strikes dread in the pit of their stomach when they see the name on their schedule. For one of the groomers I work with that name is a Himalayan cat named Mazerati.  The monthly grooming of him has become a spectator sport in our grooming salon.

Groomer Lisa enters the building a short time later and I can’t help but greet her with a smile- “Mazerati is on your schedule today,” I quip. Lisa is a seasoned groomer- she has been to the trenches of groomer war and lived to tell the stories. She has been to groomer hell and back- there is no animal she can’t or hasn’t groomed and she has a never say no attitude. But I see a quiver in her face when she hears Mazerati is coming. Just a moment, then it’s gone and her Groomer face armor is back on- she begins to mentally prepare.

Mazerati’s mom floats into the shop about thirty minutes later. “He’s not in a good mood today,” she says. And I think to myself, Let the circus begin.

His carrier goes straight to the bathing area- one doesn’t really need to ask which part of the building Mazerati is in to know his location. Like a built in GPS system, the guttural growls begin and he can be heard throughout the building. Mazerati’s song is an old one- primal and ancient and meant to strike fear in the soul of anything that elicits it.

He continues to voice his loud and angry opinion while enduring the drying process then moves to Groomer Lisa’s table. The opening act is over and the main event is ready. I look around and notice that his move to the grooming table has drawn a crowd.

She secures the frothing beast with a noose around his shoulder. He replies to this new insult by increasing his throat growling volume. Groomer Lisa begins executing the fastest possible lion cut while Mazerati focuses on swiping imaginary foes from the air in front of him. Like an Olympic prize fighter, he swings a left hook then a right hook then repeats. His swimming motion with his long gone imaginary claws is punctuated by now open mouthed song. He is singing the “I’m going to kill someone if I can get free song”. And it is met with wide-eyed stares from employees and a now growing crowd of customers watching the bout.

Some groomers are not impressed with Mazerati’s antics. One of these is Brittney- she continues to continue the scissor cut on the 90 pound Goldendoodle on the table next to Groomer Lisa. With each swing, Mazerati gets closer and closer to Groomer Brittney. And as he gets closer to an actual target his guttural sounds increase. With each swipe he screams yet she scissors faster trying to finish the masterpiece on her own table.

Then, in the midst of her own creative genius moment, Brittney steps back to survey her finely scissored Goldendoodle. At that precise moment Mazerati swipes in a super-cat moment and somehow catches the back of her shirt. What happened next should be described or imagined in slow motion- devoid of sound and complete with the slo-mo screams reserved for movie theaters.

Mazerati seized the moment- and Brittney’s shirt and began his ascent. Now, it should be noted that Groomer Brittney has a fetish for being touched on her neck. The mere mention of anyone touching her there can literally cripple her into a writhing ball. Each moment is punctuated by a guttural scream- only now it is coming from Brittney. Because Mazerati is still contained by a safety restraint, with each grasp of his paw he is propelled backward carrying his victim (Brittney) with him. Surrounding them, there are gasps, murmurs, and silence.  I didn’t pause to determine if they were in fear or awe of this death-defying display. Just as Mazerati reaches the pinnacle, Groomer Lisa swoops down upon them with a grasp that only a fellow groomer can appreciate and plucks the mewling, growling creature from atop Brittney’s ponytail.

“Show’s over, folks,” she says with only a trace of her Alabama drawl.
The crowd slowly disperses from whence it came, mumbling amongst themselves things about bravery, cats, and groomers. Groomer Lisa places Mazerati securely back on the table top and quickly finishes the lion cut.  Brittney straightens her smock and adjusts her ponytail just as the Goldendoodle owner walks into the salon. Brittney and Lisa lock eyes in a look that lasts a moment.  She puts her best groomer smile on and goes to greet her. And that’s how it happens in a grooming shop.

Anxiety at the Groomer- What’s An Owner To Do?

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Every day at See Spot, at least one pet and his owner arrive for their scheduled appointment and Spot is shaking as if he were about to enter the Worlds Worst Doggie Torture Chamber.  Regardless of how well his previous grooms have gone, or perhaps it’s his first visit ever to our professional salon, his owner asks the dog the inevitable question “Don’t you like it here?”  As as groomers we sigh an inward groan and assure the owner that the pet will be just fine.  We see this particular behavior often and are well-equipped to help your pet adjust to the surroundings, a relaxed grooming experience, and endeavor to train each pet to learn to enjoy their time spent with a groomer.  So why, you ask, does my dog begin shaking uncontrollably when we arrive?

The sooner owner and anxious pet are separated from one another- the more quickly the situation will dissolve and the pet will begin to relax.  For a worried owner, this is the worst part. You know your pet well and you are concerned by that look of distress on his face.  And he knows you well and becomes more distressed the more you worry.  He reasons if Dog Mom is worried, then perhaps he should really worry as well. Our goal at See Spot as pet service professionals is to make this a better experience from the start before the groom even happens. Happy dogs are easier to produce great haircuts and allow groomers to showcase our best work-  and we want to do our best for you every time!

Pet owners know that dogs are highly sensitive creatures- they are in tune with our moods, feelings, and inner thoughts. Dogs are so sensitive to our energy that at times can detect seizures, low blood pressure in diabetics and even pregnancy.

Therefore it’s easy for emotions to escalate and your dog is constantly trying to read how you feel about every situation. Especially when they are exposed to something less familiar or new.  They react to the worry, or even the owner being worried about the dog’s worry. In any case, it can be a vicious circle that gets out of hand easily. It subsides quickly when the dog is removed from the effect of those enotions and handled in a calm and reassuring manner.  Then the cycle repeats again when we start thinking about how much our pooch dreads going to the salon, and we dread leaving him there with that dread.

So how do we go about ending this vicious cycle? The first thing is to make sure you have a groomer that you know and trust – feeling comfortable and personally knowing your dog is in good hands gives you the confidence to execute a flawless drop-off. To familiarize yourself with the groomer, talk to them before hand about any concerns you have before even bringing your dog for his groom, ask to see the grooming space, come by without your pup while other dogs are being groomed so you can see how the groomers interact with the pups. Every groomer has a unique handling style and matching their energy to that of your pet is a great step toward success. Having a good relationship with your groomer or salon is half the battle.

So, what can you do as an owner on grooming day?

– Make sure to spend as little time as possible checking in; the longer you prolong the departure, the more stress and anxiety build. When you make it a big deal, it becomes a big deal. Be calm, matter of fact, and confident.

– Leave first; the worst thing you can do is stay and have someone pry your dog away from you to some terrible fate. 99% of the time they will follow the groomer after you leave because they are no longer fixated on you.

– Don’t say goodbye; if you leave as though you’ll be back in 5 minutes there will be less reason for your dog to stress out. A great way to practice this is to come in a few times on days before the groom, walk in with your dog on a leash and hand the leash off to a staff all while making no eye contact with your dog, and then leaving as easily as you came in. Have the staff praise your dog once you’ve left and when they’re calm. Come back in a few minutes. You may want to try this a few times with longer spans of time. Letting the staff know what you would like to do for your dog’s haircut ahead of time helps execute a flawless drop-off because it enables you to come in, keep the conversation short without making eye contact with your dog, and then walking out without blinking an eye.

All of these useful tips and tricks are small changes that once made will achieve big results with your dog. If you are more confident in what’s happening, it will turn into a more confident dog. At See Spot we strive to make certain that every dog/every groom/every day pets are handled in educated and professional ways to create long lasting and satisfying results for our client family.