The High and Tight, or shave down is a style that some groomers either refuse or dread. As a resident of Florida, where our temperatures can reach over 100 degrees and a mom that hates to vacuum, I can understand why this a choice of some owners. While not glamorous, there are some tricks and hints to get a smooth finish and a well blended head and tail.
Normally, when shaving a lab, beagle or any other dog with short course hair I make one pass prior to the bath. I figure the less to dry the better. Plus, if I do a good job with the first pass the second should just be more of a skimming to touch-up.
This first pass is normally done with #7 blade in reverse. If at all possible invest in a #7FW. The wider blade reduces the shave time drastically and the wider cutting spread makes an amazingly smooth finish. The shave normally begins at the base of the tail and ends at the occiput (the area right where the skull meets the neck); remember you are going in reverse.
Once the first pass is complete I bathe and dry the pet completely. This allows for second pass over the dog, and the ideal smooth finish that separates the professionals from the hobbyist groomer.
With the second pass I go with the grain of the coat with a #10 blade. Those handheld adjustable trimmers such as Laube’s Speed Feed or Wahl’s Bravara are ideal since the blade does not get hot and they leave a nice finish.
To blend the head I usually take a #2 comb attachment in reverse and then straight over the areas where the head meets the shave. Then I further blend with my thinning shears.
As for the tail, this really comes down to owner preference. Some want the tail left full and just the base blending into the shave. Others, want the tail trimmed more into proportion of the hairstyle (oh the dreaded raccoon tail). Make sure to inquire about this area prior to beginning the groom. Also, remember that if the tail is left to brush and de-shed it, since chances are the owner may have chosen a short hairstyle to alleviate shedding problems.
When I am done with the groom I make sure to card the coat lightly. This is normally done with a de-shed tool, and aids to remove some undercoat. We all know how wonderful they look as the shave grows out and the undercoat grows faster than the outer one. Taking the time to card afterwards helps reduce this problem.
A version of the High and Tight where mom wanted a Mohawk. I affectionately call it Dogzilla.