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55 High Street, Cockenzie, East Lothian EH32 0DG   01875-812648

 

East Lothian's Premier Dog Service

Setting the standard for quality grooming

 

     
 

About Us

We are a small dedicated family run firm who are nuts about dogs, based in the old fishing town of Cockenzie on the shores of the Firth of Forth in East Lothian.

When we finally got round to getting a dog of our own, our interest in how she needed to be groomed properly was sparked.  The more we looked into it the more interested we became and so a professional grooming course was booked at Scotland's only City & Guilds accredited Premier training school Scotgroom, run by the highly acclaimed Agnes Murphy in Carluke, Lanarkshire.  We simply didn't rate some of the alternative courses and centres that we looked at and are glad we opted for the best quality training available, as all was in accordance with current C&G 7750 standards using best practices on a huge variety of breeds.  It was good to have the opportunity to learn grooming to breed standard as well as variations on popular pet styles.  That initial interest has almost became an obsession and the rest, as they say, is history.

We were originally going to start as a Studio service in early 2009, but potential problems with planning permission in a listed building which had unapproved modifications caused that to be abandoned.  Going mobile with a grooming van was supposed to be a short term stop-gap but it was another two and a half years before we were finally able to open our first Studio in Cockenzie in the autumn of 2011.  We had very quickly established our mobile service as a quality business and our reputation grew far in excess of our expectations to the point where we had a customer base of almost 600 and pretty much fully booked months ahead.  We were catering for 90 to 100 existing customers dogs per month.  This made it very difficult to fit in new customers, so we lost around 4 new bookings every day, as we were only able to cater for 8 to 10 each month.  Opening the Studio almost doubled our appointment capacity and in the first week had not only catered for all our regular booked customers but allowed every new enquiry to be catered for and given an appointment within two weeks.  That was an instant improvement of two and a half months!  Just for interest, the page we created specifically to keep customers updated on the shop renovation progress between May and October 2011, is available here.  Just over one year on from opening the Studio, our doggy customer base had grown to over 800 with an average repeat rate of 76%!

End of an Era - Wash 'n Dry your dog the professional way in our DIY room

A unique feature of our Studio was the DIY Dog Wash 'n Dry Room in our reception area, where you could come and clean your own dog using the same professional equipment, shampoos and conditioners we use, but at a greatly reduced cost.  When all our bathing facilities became fully operational in January 2012, we were finally able to satisfy the demand from DIY customers, plus we were able to accommodate even more appointments.  Unfortunately, despite having a few regular DIY customers, we just didn't get the volume we anticipated to pay back the investment we had made, so when we expanded our staffing level to cope with the overwhelming demand for our main grooming service we ceased the DIY facility as we needed to make use of the large electric lift bath to replace the smaller fixed one we had in one of the bathing rooms in the back shop as we couldn't schedule appointments for large dogs to be made at the same time which was a major headache.  So we gave customers three months notice of the facility closing in the hope that it's use would increase to a level to sustain the service, but finally decided to close it from January 2013.  On the plus side for us, it meant we could increase our appointment availability by around 20%.  Perhaps if we were situated on a main busy thoroughfare it might have been a different story...

End of an era - our mobile service

Our mobile service ceased in December 2011 when we became fully Studio based, but previously covered all of East Lothian and some of Midlothian and Edinburgh too.  The green dots on the map below show where most were located.  We feel extremely privileged that 99.7% of our mobile customer base transferred to our Studio service, and once we opened in October 2011 we saw an increase in our new customer base by around 25 every month which was 3x our previous mobile capacity.

We continually innovate, implement, improve and refine

We continually innovate, implement, improve and refine our methods and equipment.  Over 30 years experience in electronic/electro-mechanical product design and manufacture are proving very useful skills in taking SDG forward in an industry which is not particularly technologically advanced despite being around for hundreds of years.  We also have experience in wholesale/retail purchasing and distribution, and have put our combined skills to good use for the benefit of new start-up groomers not just locally, but as far away as Nottinghamshire to Stirlingshire, in providing business start up and grooming training advice, as well as for marketing, advertising and accounting.  Undoubtedly, having previously run an "enterprise trust business of the year" in Edinburgh with a multi-million pound turnover, a computer networking firm plus a property development and letting firm in the past has provided us with a wide range of expertise to advise on starting, running and growing a successful grooming business like ours.  Our advice has an emphasis on getting good professional hands-on training before starting up, plus getting the business profile and accounts in order right from the start.  For many years in one of our previous business, we are a supplier of Intuit QuickBooks® under their professional advisor scheme.  An integrated accounting, forecasting, stock control and payroll package which can take the strain out of a major unknown for those new to the administration side of running a a business.

We carried out dozens of improvements and incorporated many new innovations to our mobile grooming van in the time we operated that service and a few of these were carried forward and further refined for a Studio operating environment.  As you can imagine, dog grooming is a potentially noisy, hot and dirty environment, so from the outset we designed our facilities to be bright and well ventilated whilst minimising the effects of the undesirable conditions.  Everything from the internal layout to the positioning of doors and choice of construction materials were chosen to minimise noise being carried from one work area to another as well as to adjacent properties.  These design considerations greatly assist us in providing a calm, low stress, easily cleaned and efficient working environment which is not only beneficial to us, but especially beneficial to the well being of our customers - the dogs!  For the environment, extracted air and waste bathing water produced from within the Studio is double filtered before leaving our premises.  As mentioned elsewhere, all our shampoo's and conditioners are specially formulated for animal use and are pH neutral (note that pH neutral for dogs is different to pH neutral for humans) as well being made from natural bio-degradable products.

Those of you that have used our unique own designed and manufactured "Splash Shower" system in the DIY room, will have experienced how quick and easy it is to get their dog clean compared to struggling at home in the sink/bath/shower.  Drying and preparing a dog for the final stages of grooming can take anything from 20 minutes to 3 hours, which makes up the majority of the appointment time and cost.  Forced hot air drying is something we have turned into an art form and have made many equipment improvements recently.  In particular reducing the radiated noise produced by our Allbrooks dryers by around 18dB @ 2m.  That's a lot, which is good for us, our neighbours and especially the dogs when you consider their hearing sensitivity is at least 10x better than ours.   We have done this by almost eliminating all the effects of resonance caused by the twin blower motors and sound proofing the dryers cases.  We have also fitted variable heat control instead of just on/off as supplied by the manufacturer, increased air flow and vastly improved filtering of delivered air to maintain a stable, controlled operating air temperature. 

No other dog grooming salon we know of has the facilities, equipment and environment to match ours.

Our philosophy on dog grooming

There are so many benefits to you and your dog when you have it regularly groomed.  You are a caring pet owner and you know that keeping your dog in good health requires more than a brush, regular worming and the annual booster at the vets.

We are not a franchised dog wash service, we are a professional grooming firm.  When we groom a dog, we aren't just keeping the dogs coat in good condition by removing surplus or dead hair, we are also exfoliating and toning the skin by brushing, clipping nails, giving an all over massage with a hydro-bath wash, cleaning ears, eyes and feet as well as removing painful mats which constantly pull the skin in high friction areas like between the pads, under the tail and between the legs when the dog moves.  Groomers often spot changes, lumps and bumps on your dog that you might not have noticed on a day to day basis.  During grooming we are going over every inch of your dog with meticulous care, right through all the coat to the skin.  We will always inform you of any abnormalities we find that are not already noted or have perhaps changed noticeably since your last visit.  Grooming is an effective early warning system which has been known to save dogs lives.  However, please note that we are not medically qualified to give a diagnosis on anything we find and it is the responsibility of the owner to have anything we note checked out by a vet.

Professional grooming is not just a "wash 'n brush out", it's more like your dog getting an MOT every few weeks with an intermediate or a full service.

When dogs are groomed regularly, you will quickly notice a difference around your home too as there is less hair to vacuum off the floor and furniture, plus allergens and doggy odours are reduced too.  And what about the mess created by washing your dog in the bath or sink?  Or the associated back-ache from lifting large dogs or leaning over the bath plus kneeling on the floor to brush him out and dry your dog?

So grooming is not just good for your dog - it's good for you and your home too!

Our philosophy on puppy grooming

The sooner the better!  Introducing puppies to a regular grooming process should be done as soon as you get them home and they can be professionally groomed as soon as two weeks after their second vaccination has been given.  Grooming is a vitally important part of socialisation as it gets the puppy used to being handled by a stranger as well as having its eyes, ears, paws, nails and coat maintained in good order.  Introducing a puppy to grooming by a professional and being handled frequently by it's owner, friends and family helps enormously in alleviating the potential for nervous and aggressive behaviour as it is developing and growing compared to dogs which have not been regularly groomed.

From our point of view, it is a pleasure to groom dogs that have obviously been well socialised as they are even tempered and don't mind being handled.

Sadly, many dogs groomers encounter do not like having something touched, paws, ears, legs, head, neck or having nails clipped which is often associated with painful nail clipping episodes from their past when they have been cut too short.  This unfortunately compounds the problem, as it often means the nails are left to grow even longer manifesting in crippling arthritic or bone structure problems in the paws and pasterns in later life.  It is vitally important that puppies get used to having their paws handled and have their nails regularly clipped.  All that is needed is to take the very tips off once every couple of weeks so they get used to the feel of it and you will be cutting well away from the quick so it is safe and not painful.  Don't forget the dew claws which are on the inside rear of the legs above the paws if your puppy has them.

Brushing should done all over right down to the skin and not just on the top and sides of your puppy.  Pay particular attention to high friction areas where mats occur under the armpits, in between the back legs, behind the ears and in between the pads on the paws.  Take special care when brushing near sensitive areas around eyes, inside ears, mouth, tummy, genitals and anus as well as joints.  Use a brush that is appropriate for your dogs coat plus a combination comb with wide and narrow spaced teeth.  Do not tug at mats to get them out as you can cause great pain to your puppy and will be counterproductive to him being compliant to future grooming.  A comb and a slicker brush used regularly in the correct way will minimise mats forming and remove smaller ones without causing your puppy any pain or harm.  If you find mats in between paw pads do not attempt to cut them out with scissors as you can cause serious harm which will require an urgent trip to the vet!  In fact, do not attempt to remove mats with scissors ANYWHERE on your puppy.  Clippers are much safer than scissors but can very quickly ruin a struggling dogs coat and can easily cause lacerations on the loose skin in the armpits, where the back legs join the waist and in between the toes if used incorrectly.  Do not be tempted to use clippers designed for use on humans as they are simply not designed for pet grooming.  If you do have pet clippers, only attempt to remove mats with them if you are trained, skilled and confident in their use and have assistance to ensure the puppy is properly restrained for the process in a home environment, and please make sure that you do not inadvertently manipulate joints in ways they are not designed to move when trying to access areas to be clipped.

Socialising and training your puppy is essential in helping to produce a well balanced, good natured, controllable dog that is a joy to own and be with.  Get as many different people to handle your puppy, not just clap it or pick it up, but look in his mouth, ears, under the tail and paws.  Always praise your puppy for being compliant, and although it is difficult sometimes when he is being particularly "naughty", be patient and try to stay calm in dealing with bad behaviour.  Praise for good behaviour always works better than punishment for bad behaviour.  From around a week after your puppy has had his second vaccination, you should start taking him out from your home and encourage him to meet other dogs.  Book on to a training class (see News & Links above) as this is a great way to give your puppy a way to get socialised and trained at the same time.  It only costs a few pounds a week and will save your house and your nerves getting shredded.  Ask your vet if they arrange puppy parties which can be a good way of introducing your puppy to others and get some basic information to help you get started.  And of course, contact us for grooming your puppy.

Please see our Supplies page for the basic grooming tools you need to keep your puppy's coat and nails in good condition.

Our philosophy on senior dogs grooming

We have a large customer base of dogs aged between 14 and 18 years old.  Almost all have some form of age related problem, just the same as we get - cataracts, deafness, arthritis, incontinence, etc.  Very often as dogs get very old they are too weak to be able to stand for the length of time needed to groom them as they would have been done when younger.  Their balance may also be affected and it may be difficult at best or even painful to have limbs manipulated to access areas necessary for clipping or clearing mats.  We have a range of supports that can be used during bathing, drying and further grooming to make this process as trouble free as we can possibly make it.  When the dog is fully supported it is able to relax and not become off balance which makes gentle manipulation of limbs less traumatic and so make the grooming process easier for all.  It is important to realise that especially for longer coated or thick coated dogs that they don't care what they look like and the best course for the dog may well be to remove it's coat.

The change in the dog can be dramatic, not just in their appearance as we see them, but also in it's ability to move freely and stay cooler and cleaner for longer.  The weight of a Newfoundland or a Bearded/Old English Sheepdog can run to several kilos, which will make life easier for weaker dogs to get around again, with added benefits such as possibly removing bacteria laden matted coat in difficult to groom areas such as underneath and in the sanitary areas.  Grooming, as you will be aware if you own a long/thick coated breed, large or small, is a time intensive business.  Being able to speed up this process for subsequent sessions after the initial removal of excess coat makes the grooming sessions less stressful and will more often than not result in a noticeably happier dog.  We have lost count of the number of dogs we have had where all four legs and other parts underneath have all been matted together.  Ears matted to neck and collar line as well.  Can you imagine the feeling of relief from pain and freedom of movement to have them all freed up and not having the skin constantly being pulled when moving?

It's not just old dogs that can greatly benefit from this approach.  We are great believers that a dog should be groomed to a style appropriate for the dog's lifestyle and is within the owners ability to maintain it how they wish it to look.

Our philosophy on short haired dogs grooming

Many owners of short haired dogs such as Labradors don't feel they need to have them groomed.  However, they still need to have in between their pads and their ears checked, and have their nails clipped.  Quite often, the only bathing these type of breeds get is a play in the sea or a river and an occasional dip in the bath at home or more likely a hosing down in the garden in the summer.  Nothing wrong with that as such, except regular sea dips can cause skin, eye and ear problems due to salt and other pollutants, which will also dull down the coat.  Short haired dogs also tend to shed a lot, and if you don't regularly groom the dog, you end up cleaning up your house more to get rid of the shed coat instead.  Shampooing your dog with a rubber curry brush or your finger tips will remove lots of dead coat and tone the skin and muscles, whilst brush drying with a high velocity dryer is best, a hair dryer and a bristle brush will help remove the rest of the dead coat and skin cells.  It will also stimulate the glands that produce natural oils which will be spread through the coat to condition it.  Whilst short haired breeds do not need as much grooming as longer coated breeds, they should still be regularly groomed to keep them in good condition and checked over.

If you are still in doubt about getting a short haired dog groomed, just have a look at the Labrador photo's below, all of which were taken when we were a mobile van service.  This dog was regularly brushed by it's owner and even after a pre-wash brush over to loosen and remove half a dozen brush full's of dead coat, the result in the bath after drying with the high velocity dryer is plain to see.  Once the bath is washed down and the removed coat is caught on our bath strainer (well spotted - it's a kitchen sieve) you get a good idea of the amount that still had to come out.  Incidentally, the same applies to longer coated breeds like Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds, you just get even more removed as you can see on the floor round the table in the photo at the bottom.

Alastair & Marina Ritchie, Proprietors

  
 
 
 
Hot Products
 
 

We can supply hand grooming equipment and show you how to use it so you can keep your dogs coat mat free between grooms.  We also stock a range of accessories, dog toys and shampoos.

 

 

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