Don't forget the shape...

Living in an area where a number of my customers are here for a few months a year, and someplace warmer the rest of the time, I see a fair amount of other groomers work. Much of it is well executed. I can tell that the dog was well brushed out, and the groom is neat and uniform. But sometimes, it seems, some groomers forget to add any shape to the dogs. I see this most often in pets where the owner wants the coat to be left on the long side.  I have a suspicion that some groomers are hesitant to do much besides leave the coat the requested word, "long," so they just leave sort of a shapeless mass of hair. says one definition of the word is, "lacking beauty or elegance of form." 

Here is an example:

IMG_6999 (2)It's your average "mini doodle." He is groomed often, and is almost always in good shape. I am pretty sure the owners instructions are not terribly helpful, but she makes it clear that she does not want the coat cut short.  The first time she came to me I asked a bunch of questions, and what I came away with is that she does not like it when the dogs legs are clipped close, because they look too thin, but she's fine with the body being clipped quite short. It took some excavating to extract this information.  She has a summer home here, and tells me she loves the way I make the dog look. What I do is not terribly difficult.

After two shampoos and a light conditioner, we dry him and get him brushed out. Then, (using a Clipper Vac) I clip his body coat with a Wahl #1 comb. His chest and everything are taken down this length, including from his hip bone about 3/4's of the way down the back of his thigh. Then I use a Wahl A  or C comb on his legs. I trim his tail, round his feet and take a LOT of length off his face. See that long beard and cheeks? It just weighs him down and gets messy. Then I give him a good brush and combing, and scissor finish.  The below picture was taken before final scissor work was done, then I have a camera malfunction, but you can at least see the basic shape I have created.

IMG_7001 (2)The best thing about taking off a bunch of coat and creating some shape is that dog will be easier for the owner to maintain at home, and there will be less coat for me to wash/brush/dry deal with during the next visit.  The second best thing is that the owner loves the way the dog looks. Ok, maybe that is the first best thing, but either way, it's a winning situation. 

So, next time a customer is going about leaving the dogs hair "long," ask some questions. What is it they like about the look of long hair? Do they like it long everywhere or can you give it some shape and style? What is it about a short haircut that they dislike?  It can be fun to decipher what it is the owner is really looking for, and send them away thinking you are one terrific pet stylist.





Yesterday I groomed a cute Havanese that is a regular when they are in the area.  They had just returned from winter away. I saw him when he hopped out of the car and my first thought was, "He looks cute."  When he got closer, however, I noted that when I looked at him his head was what I noticed most. I flashed back to seminars I have attended over the years where I first was introduced to the concept of "balance," in grooming. It's a good topic, and this dog seemed like a nice example to explore. 

Webster beforeHere he is after I bathed and prepped him. There is nothing "wrong," with this groom.  His owners had no complaints, but did ask me to take him "quite a bit shorter," for this groom.

Webster head before

In reality his body length was nice, and similar to what I normally do to him.  His head, in my opinion had way too much fur around his muzzle and it made him look out of proportion.  He also had a multiple clumps of long, wet, hairs on his lips that were getting dragged into his mouth. That must feel unpleasant to a dog, and the constantly moist hair gets smelly and discolored. 

Using a #1 Wahl comb, with my Clipper Vac, I clipped his body coat. Then I just scissored his legs, blending into the clippered areas.  I took about 2" of hair off his tail, it was dragging the ground and didn't balance well with the length of his body and legs. Next, using a trimmer with a Wahl #0 comb, I shaped his cheeks and muzzle. I used my chunkers to tidy things up. I also used my trimmer to clean his lip line and remove those icky, wet hairs.  The change was fairly dramatic. In an ideal world, I would have shortened his ears up a lot, but his people like them long.

Webster head afterAs luck would have it, his humans came to get him while I was trying to get "after" shots, and he became a blur of happy dog, but hopefully you can see from this image the difference it makes in his overall appearance to have his head and face trimmed shorter.  It makes him look lighter, and it will be easier for his owners to maintain, too.

Perhaps the best explanation I can give for groomers who are trying to work on balance and proportion is this; stand back and look at the dog. If any one aspect of it grabs your attention first, there is a good chance that whatever that part standing out to you is out of balance.