Interview with Iris Chan, Doggy Stylist
Dog grooming is an incredibly serious business in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs, and Dogs Empire is run by one of the best “doggie stylists” available in town, Iris Chan.
Iris is a fully qualified dog groomer with nearly a decade of experience. She began her career by working in a number of grooming parlours and veterinary hospitals before deciding to establish her own parlour.
One of the most interesting things about Iris is the fact that she has experience with both Japanese and American grooming styles and techniques. Japanese dog grooming is now a major trend with animal lovers transforming their pampered pooches into “the teddy bear look” or “the rag doll look”.
But do the dogs like to be groomed this way? Iris has been specially trained to use correct, calm and gentle dog handling methods. Besides dog grooming, she is also a high interest in dog training and dog psychology. Here, we find out about her passion for animal care.
I love animals, especially dogs. I wanted to get a job where I can see dogs every day. I decided that I wanted to have skills and knowledge I could also use on my own dogs, and I wanted to be able to bring my own dogs to work as well. Becoming a veterinarian or vet nurse was going to be too intense for me as I don’t like seeing blood - so I chose pet grooming!
I guess the biggest challenge was keeping my customers and their dogs happy with my service and coming back to me all the time. It is not an easy task to get customers to come and try our service. But the real challenge was to make sure they were coming back after their first visit. In my area, there are many other grooming businesses near my parlour and it’s challenging to compete and stand out amongst them.
There are a number of strategies to overcome this challenge. These strategies are:
Skills and knowledge – I need to have advanced grooming skills and extra knowledge to provide professional advice and deliver quality work. Training is the key.
Consistency – I need to make sure that quality of work I turn out is always consistent. If I have new staff, I have to make sure that they groom just as professionally as me.
Customer service - Providing quality work is not enough to satisfy the customers. Skilful groomers with poor customer service will eventually make customers turn away. We need to be friendly to all our customers and their pets. My main goal is to make them feel special, listen to their needs and take extra good care of their pets.
Pet grooming is fun and challenging. However, it can get very physical and requires heavy lifting occasionally. Sometimes, it may involve some dirty work as well, as the dog may have jumped into a puddle or rolled onto something smelly before coming into grooming!
I strongly advise animal care students to visit a grooming parlour. Have a look what’s involved and see if pet grooming is suitable for you or not. Additionally, dog handling is very important as well. Not all dogs will stand still or sit still for you to groom. Being able to read the dog’s body language is essential to the grooming process.
A strong love of animals – Groomers groom dogs and cats every day. You need to enjoy working with them as a priority!
Enhanced communication skills – Groomers need to communicate with pet owners and understand their needs. For example, groomers need to know what kind of style the owner wants, how often they groom their pets, what kind of daily activities they normally do with their pets and things like that. From that information, groomers can find out what the most suitable style for the pet is.
Attention to detail – This occupation is about styling the pets. Pets need to look perfect when walking out from the grooming parlour. For example, the pet cannot leave the parlour when the coat is not completely dry, one leg is still dirty and one ear is longer than the other.
Patience and a calm nature – Not all pets are well behaved - however, groomers cannot be rough with animals. Getting rough with the animal will not help, instead it will make the pet struggle even more. Some may require more time and patience to get used to the grooming process - especially young animals. Many young animals have no idea what grooming is all about.
Groomers need to be calm and patient with all the animals they have contact with. One bad experience may mean that it can take a long time to gain the animal’s trust back. Some pet owners may never have had pets before, so it is the groomer’s responsibility to educate the owner as to how to maintain their pet’s coat and keep it clean and healthy.
Crossbreeds are very popular in Australia. Crossbreeds such as Cavoodle, Labradoodle, Spoodle, Moodle and others like that are seen every day. Some of these breeds may not even have breed standards at the moment, in terms of a recommended style. Therefore, groomers will have to apply their skills and knowledge, then make a judgment of what style will look best on the dog.
Additionally, “teddy bear style” is very popular, and many dog owners will ask for. It is a style that groomers must learn and master. If you would like to add some feature with the teddy bear style, you can create a Mohawk on the head as well.
Successful groomers pay attention to every procedure in the groom, as it is a chain reaction. If the pet is not bathed properly, groomers cannot brush and fluff dry properly, then the finished clip will also be affected.
I consider myself a pet stylist. Pet grooming is not only about washing and shaving the pet’s coat short back and side. Successful pet groomers/stylists can create a style that is practical and trendy.
Every pet groomer has their own set of “work ethics”. I strongly believe good qualified pet groomers will not do something that is cruel or harmful to the pet. Even if it is a request from the pet owner, I will reject it when necessary.