A GROOMER ASKS:
I have an every 2 week Bichon who's mom swears I make him look better than any other groomer they have had and, in reality I have YET to see a groomer around here who can actually make a spherical head—they either look like a bell, which is flat across the bottom or some kind of cabbage patch doll. Apparently nobody but, me has read your blog. Anyway, "Forbes" is a super sweet boy, not yet 2 years old who's mommy & daddy have read EVERYTHING they can get their hands on when it comes to the breed. Usually it is a huge blessing, but, last Thursday it was a problem. Things got pretty heated when "Forbes" Mommy showed me several books she had read that said "NEVER, EVER use clippers on a Bichon! Scissors ONLY!" She thinks it will "ruin the guard hairs" and make his coat course. What say you?
I don't think that hair responds any differently to clipper cutting than to scissor cutting. Cutting is cutting. The Bichon books are usually referring to close clipping. Repeated close clipping on many breeds has the potential of altering the coat. What can make a difference is the sharpness or dullness of the cutting implements. Poorly maintained blades and scissors can cause fractured hair ends. Use of snap-on guide combs with clippers does not damage the Bichon coat.
This conversation is very interesting. Most Bichon breeders encourage their pet owners to maintain a "fluffy" coat. After all, that is one of the key features of the breed. On the other side of the coin, I have had Bichon owners tell me their breeder recommends shaving the puppy coat at 6 months in order to encourage a more firm adult coat. With all due respect to breeders, they often become very attached to opinions gained through myth and happenstance.
Surely show coats on the Bichon Frise are always maintained through scissoring. Those dogs are scissored as often as daily during a show series, and weekly when not on a circuit. Pet grooming almost always necessitates some compromise from the protocols of show grooming. We don't have the time that handlers or breeders have to devote per dog. The cost would be astronomical. Also, pet owners are not always willing to have the dog groomed often enough for the groomer to maintain a "scissored only" coat. At my salon, that would be every 2-3 weeks, religiously. It would cost $65-85 a visit. Certainly, any coat that has more than 4 weeks of growth has to be completely reshaped. Getting an even length all over the body with scissors only can be quite difficult. The use of guide combs over clippers helps us to restore the lines and sculpting that constitutes the Bichon "look".
I've seen scissored-only Bichon grooming that totally missed the mark. When a groomer simply trims the long coat all over, they can end up with what I call the "Marshmallow Trim"...a big fluffy blob. OTOH, use of snap-on combs allows lines to be established, even length to be achieved, and can assist in obtaining a breath-taking result in a decent amount of time. A stunning result still requires a good amount of scissoring. IMHO, what makes the difference between an awesome and awful in Bichon grooming is the groomer's commitment to obtaining the correct profile, not what cutting tools are used.
In case you missed it, I have attached a PDF of the recent article I wrote for Pet Age magazine on Bichon grooming. Bloggers can click HERE.