Mentors in the Spotlight

Trudy Akins
ABC Externship Facility

Trudy Akins has had her grooming and show dog business, Golden Touch, for more than 34 years. She previously groomed out of her home but opened a larger facility located within Cabot Animal Hospital in Cabot, Ark., about 5 years ago.

Trudy’s shop is open for business Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until the last dog goes home. She separates herself from the competition by not only grooming dogs but cats as well. Trudy has no other employees at this time besides her current intern but does have occasional help.

In order for students to gain the best knowledge possible before graduating Trudy says they must first learn how to bathe and properly brush out an animal. Without this basic knowledge, grooming will become more challenging than it should be, she noted.

Trudy enjoys seeing the pets’ and owners’ after a grooming session. She said that as much as their owners smile, she sees the “smile” on the animals’ faces as well, especially after getting the chance to view the outcome in a mirror.

What do you like most about participating in the ABC Mentor program?
My current student is my favorite part of the ABC Mentor program. She is a wonderful trainee and a joy to work with.

Has your facility hired any ABC students or graduates?
After my current student completes her externship, I will most likely hire her. She has a wonderful drive and is not afraid to try anything. I can pretty much put anything in front of her and she takes the challenge and never gives up. She is very brave and a joy to be around.

Describe why you think it is important for grooming to have on-the-job experience.
It is important to have on-the-job experience because the book is never enough. The book does not tell you even one-fourth of what you need to know. For instance, students need to be able to learn the difference between an animal who is aggressive versus one who is scared or nervous. This is only something that can be learned “on-the-job.” Once you put your hands on a dog, you are dealing on a whole different avenue. Dogs will wiggle, squirm, jump and leap while you are trying to work on them. It takes lots of experience and patience to groom dogs because they do not sit there like a statue. The book will get you started but once you begin to use equipment and work on clients, you will then find out that some equipment is faulty, works differently than described, etc. Basically, there is nothing that can replace hands-on experience.

Would you recommend ABC to anyone looking to pursue a career in pet grooming?
Yes, I would recommend ABC to someone looking to pursue a career in pet grooming because the program does provides good knowledge prior to beginning the internship and also requires hands-on training.


Annie's Pet Salon
ABC Externship Facility

Annie's Pet Salon, a large facility located in Nampa, Idaho, is open Monday through Saturday. Its grooming room consists of three grooming stations, four bathtubs and a huge retail and waiting area.

A typical day for owner Annie Bounds, her groomers, and ABC students involves working with anywhere from 10 to 30 dogs. In her facility students are not only exposed to basic grooming skills but also other sides of the business, such as do-it-yourself clients and retail. When students work along side Annie, they see all types of breeds and styles.

“I groom all breeds,” Annie said. “I like to not limit myself to any breed or size.”

“My favorite part of grooming is sculpting,” Annie noted. “I can see what the client wants as they tell me, and I love that I’m teaching our groomers of tomorrow how to work with clients and their requests.”

By working alongside Annie’s groomers, students can put what they’ve studied into practice while having a professional groomer answer any questions they may have.

“I love that the students are working out there in the field,” Annie said. “It's a hands-on job and I've seen first-hand that together, ABC and a mentor groomer can make another great groomer.”

Students have done so well working with Annie that she currently has an ABC Graduate working full time in her facility.

For Annie, the most important skill in grooming isn’t styling, but the safety of the pet and stylist.

“Too many times I've seen owners who have injured their pets because they are untrained,” Annie said.

Taking students through the daily grooming tasks from safety and bathing to clipping and styling, helps provide the experience and skills they will need in order to become successful.

“I recommend ABC to anyone looking to become a groomer,” Annie commented. “Although I can show students how to do a task, the college does that plus explains why it is that way. That is just as important as holding a pair of clippers properly.”


Sandy Pawz
ABC Externship Facitlity

Sandy Tate is an ABC Mentor Trainer and co-owner of Sandy Pawz Dog House, located in San Marcos, California. This grooming salon and training center is approximately 3000 square feet and sees between 20-25 clients per day. They groom dogs as well as cats. Sandy is also an ABC Certified Dog Trainer and Pet Groomer.

Her favorite part of the grooming mentor program is being able to interact with the students and utilize her teaching skills. Before becoming a professional groomer, Sandy was a high school teacher. She feels that it is important for students to have on the job experience if they want to become a pet groomer. Sandy believes that one cannot learn to groom a dog from simply reading a book, they need practice. She says “A book can teach you the fundamental techniques of grooming such as how to clip nails or trim a dog, but there are certain skills that come from working with experienced groomers like how to deal with different coat types or work with a skittish dog. You need both to be a successful pet groomer.” One of the most valuable skills that a student can learn from an established grooming salon is how to read a dog. This means looking for signs of fear or stress which is usually represented by the dog’s body posture, specifically in their ears or tail. “If you can read the dog, you’re less likely to get hurt. Also, if you know how to handle certain dog behaviors, your job can be easier” she comments.

Sandy recently became an ABC mentor and has already hired one of her mentees. Her experience with being an ABC Mentor Groomer has been a good one.
She enjoys working with ABC students and passing on her grooming knowledge to them. Sandy’s goal for her students is to have them work with as many different dog breeds as possible so that they are exposed to a variety of cuts and coat types. She is always there to answer questions the students may have and provide support and guidance.

Sandy would recommend ABC to anyone looking to pursue a career in pet grooming because of the success she has experienced in her own life and is now sharing with others. At this time she has taken on 2 students and is looking forward to mentoring more in the near future.

630 Nordahl Rd San Marcos, CA., 760-739-PAWZ (7299),


Maggie’s Farm Natural Pet Grooming
ABC Externship Facitlity

Kristin Gambler is the owner and head groomer of Maggie’s Farm Natural Pet Grooming in San Diego, California. Kristin discovered that she wanted to work with animals after volunteering at her local humane society. She began searching for jobs in the animal industry when she was hired as a bather at a local grooming salon. She did not have any previous experience except for caring for her own cocker spaniel but was committed to learning everything she could from her mentor. After 18 years, Kristin was finally ready to start her own grooming salon and in 1999 Maggie’s Farm Natural Pet Grooming opened its doors.

Kristin recently joined the ABC Groomer mentor program and has enjoyed passing on her grooming knowledge to students. The salon is very busy, grooming anywhere from 8-12 cats and dogs per day. According to Kristen, the students “get right into it” and work directly with clients. Thus far, she has worked with one ABC student who finished her externship in March of this year and has since hired her. She is also currently working with another ABC student who started in May. She feels that it is essential for students who want to become professional groomers to get hands on experience. “This is not a job for the faint of heart- you sweat and get dirty. If you are not committed and hard working, you won’t be successful” she comments.

The most rewarding part about being an ABC mentor for Kristin is sharing her expertise with students. In her opinion, bathing is the most important skill for students to learn in a grooming facility because “…no matter how good your skills are, a dog must be bathed and dried well to get a good trim.” In addition, she believes in a holistic approach to pet ownership and loves to teach her clients as well as her mentors about pet nutrition. She says “the benefits of good nutrition can be seen from the inside out. A dog or cat’s coat and teeth are a reflection of what they eat.” Kristin emphasizes the importance of knowing the different facets of grooming so that her students will be able to run successful businesses in the future.

Kristen is looking forward to working with more students as they enter into their externships. She would definitely recommend ABC to anyone looking to pursue a career in pet grooming because she feels it is a good start to learning the basics.

Maggie’s Farm Natural Pet Grooming, 1902 Rosecrans Street, San Diego, CA 92106, (619) 225-2210.


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