An animal lover from a very young age, Wendy has elite grooming credentials. She is a NZ Certified Master Groomer, NZ Groomteam member, international award-winning groomer, examiner and certifier of Groomwise Academy, and founder and administrator of NZDG, New Zealand’s largest groomers-only Facebook group.
Wendy founded Groomwise Academy in early 2020 – Rotorua’s first grooming academy for locals and international groomers to hone their skills and reach an elite standard of grooming.
Bringing her vast expertise, knowledge, and big heart for animals to everything she does, we’re honoured Wendy has come on board as a smith&burton Grooming Ambassador.
Here she shares her story.
Why did you decide to become a groomer?
My family has always been in the pet industry. They still own a very large pet store in Rotorua where I worked on and off for 25 years.
I’ve always had an interest in animals. My parents always kept animals, so it’s been a big part of my life.
I started grooming dogs by mistake really. There was a dog that was brought into the pet store that had been lost in the bush for quite some time and was covered in grass seeds and sores.
I helped its owner, as she couldn’t get him in with a groomer. I helped clip it all off and remember seeing the relief on the dog’s face.
Can you remember always loving animals?
When other kids were playing in the streets, I had my nose deep in dog breed books.
And back in those days we would go to our cousin’s place every now and then for the weekend. He had pig dogs.
I would go down to the pig dogs brush them, pick the ticks out of them, and read to them. Everybody knew that if they couldn’t find me, I’d be with a dog somewhere.
What is it about dogs that you love?
Their loyalty is amazing. They’re always happy to see you. And they’ve got their own little personalities. I’ve got three dogs and two of them are poodles – they are complete opposites. The smallest one is the ringleader, she’s hilarious!
What are some of your highlights over the last 10 years?
There’s been a few! The competitive side of grooming has always kept it interesting. It’s really nice to do something really pretty and flash.
I’ve entered and won a number of competitions around the world.
The standout moment for me would be when I was awarded Best All Round Groomer at Mastergroom Australia. I got this huge ribbon in a big glass case.
At the time my dad was sick. It was difficult for me to go because we weren’t sure if he’d make it while I was away. But I took first place and brought home this big ribbon. He couldn’t talk, but I could tell he was very proud. Of all the wins, and all the highs and lows, that was the best moment.
You’re a NZ master groomer. What does it take to reach that level?
The master certificate is run through the National Dog Groomers Association. It was a four-year commitment. It’s not something you can do in a few hours – it’s quite the journey. It’s not just about grooming. It teaches you a lot about yourself, your commitment and stamina and learning how to take criticism. It’s so much more than just giving your dog a haircut.
I’m really proud because of the commitment – it took four years, lots of money and travelling around the country to workshops and exams. Travelling overseas you learn more from professionals who have been doing this for a long time.
You must sit different exams, like a terrier exam, gun dogs, poodles, and the master exam. A poodle is the most technical because there’s so many angles and a high quality of finish.
Can you tell us why you set up Groomwise?
I started off running seminars, and then I was spending hours a day replying to messages from other groomers so I thought I might as well open an academy. It’s been really well received. I didn’t expect it to take off the way it did.
And why is an academy so important?
Our industry is not regulated. To me that’s concerning because it means anyone can pick up a pair of very sharp scissors and attempt to groom a moving animal without the necessary training.
Our Groomwise certification is about competencies and being confident and safe in the salon. We cover areas like safety and handling, the different hazards and chemicals, shampoo types, skin and coat care, breed and coat recognition, bacteria, and parasites – the skills that are applicable to our industry.
Our certification goes from ‘competency’ right through to ‘groomer of excellence’. You have to demonstrate all the traditional and modern ways of grooming safely, so you have a happy dog.
Exams to me, whether you go through Groomwise or the National Dog Groomers Association are very important.
As a groomer, you’re always learning. You can’t know everything in this industry, it’s forever changing.
Tell me more. Why are exams so important for groomers?
Exams provide an opportunity for groomers to keep learning.
I recommend everybody sits their exams, so we can all raise our standards, with our furry clients’ wellbeing at heart. The NZ grooming industry is growing at a rapid rate, and we have a shortage of skilled professional groomers.
What do you love most about your job?
I love grooming puppies – even though they can be a bit naughty, they are like a blank canvas and eager to please.
I love it when you see the lightbulb turn on as they melt into your arms and fall asleep because they have total trust in you. Once that happens, those dogs are absolutely perfect to groom for the rest of their lives. They’re not stressed. And that’s probably the most rewarding part of my job. It's pretty special!
When is a good time to take a pup to its first grooming session?
I recommend starting your puppy with a professional groomer from 12 weeks of age. After four or five months they can be rebellious, and it is harder for them to accept the grooming experience.
Some breeds are going to need grooming for the rest of their lives and need to see a groomer every six weeks.
What about older dogs?
When a dog enters its twilight years, we start talking about comfort grooms with the owners. The grooming sessions have to be shorter, and the style may not look ‘as pretty’ as when they were younger. It’s not your groomer slacking off, it’s about making the experience as comfortable as possible for the dog.
What are some of the main issues you see in the salon?
A lot of owners don’t know how to brush and comb correctly. Even though they try, a lot of the time they are not doing it enough, they use an incorrect technique, or they don’t have the correct tools for that particular coat or length. This can lead to matted coats which means we sometimes have to shave the dog.
We see overgrown nails which is quite a big deal. If the nails are overgrown, it puts the foot in a different position which affects the spine and the rest of the body, creating inflammation and arthritis.
Ear infections and seasonal issues are common. In winter their skin tends to get quite dry. Seasonal coat changes, such as shedding can affect the skin as well.
And we also see food, pollen and grass allergies.
Why is regular, high-quality grooming so important?
It’s important that you take your dog to the groomer regularly so that you don’t leave any issues too late. Dogs aren’t like humans; they don’t dwell on feeling uncomfortable. They just get on with it, but it can manifest as lethargy, digestive, anxiety and behaviour issues.
I like to take the time to educate my clients about after-care maintenance, like the different types of shampoos and tools, and where they can get them from.
I encourage owners to research their groomer, look at reviews, ask friends, and see what certifications they have. It is important to establish a good relationship with your groomer and stay with them as it's easier for your dog to know and trust that groomer’s process.
High quality grooming is a must. You want to see that your groomer is upskilling regularly and always keeping up-to-date with techniques and proper handling.
What do you enjoy outside of work?
I’m enjoying learning how to garden and grow vegetables. We’re also a close family and do a lot of travelling and spend a lot of time together.
Why did you say “yes” to becoming smith&burton’s grooming ambassador?
I’m honoured that smith&burton chose me to be their ambassador. I’m a product junkie! I’ve used almost every shampoo known to man. I started off with a couple of products in the salon and now have the complete smith&burton range.
One of the girls in the salon had skin problems with some other shampoos and would have to wear gloves. With smith&burton she doesn’t have to wear gloves anymore.
Also, I love that smith&burton’s fragrances are subtle. I can get migraines with other products, and I think that if it’s affecting me in this way, what’s it like for dogs who have a sense of smell 40-100 times more sensitive than mine?
I use the products on myself too and they have relieved my itchy scalp.
What’s your favourite smith&burton collection?
The Nourishing Collection was my favourite at the start. One of my poodles has a really dense coat and I use the Nourishing Collection on her.
Then it was the Soothing Collection. We get some crazy weather here in Rotorua and we see a lot of dogs with a bit of irritation, so we use the Soothing Collection on them.
For dogs with skin allergies, the Dermal Relief Collection is great.
Scent-wise it’s the Hydrating Collection I like the most. I use it on my miniature poodle because she’s got quite a coarse poodle coat and it can get very dry.
What’s your favourite ingredient and why?
I really like Mānuka Honey because of its antibacterial properties. My mum used to put mānuka honey on my cuts when I was little.
I’m thrilled to be working with a New Zealand company who love dogs just as much as I do. smith&burton craft only the finest quality, cruelty-free and naturally effective products (at professional groomer quality) to help promote and improve the skin, coat and general wellbeing of our pets.
Want to find out more about smith&burton or Groomwise Academy?
If you are a groomer and would like to trial smith&burton products or open a wholesale account visit www.wholesale-smithandburton.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org