A newer groomer recently emailed me and said, "I am having a really hard time with these dogs that have small eyes and long eyelashes - I understand that we want to save the eye lashes but I do not seem to get enough hair off to see their eyes or have their eyes pop. Their eyes always seem so hooded and hairy." I thought the topic was a good one for a blog post, so here are my thoughts on the matter.
First let me address the eyelash part of her mail. Not all owners are into having dogs with long eye lashes. But some are, and it can be very tricky to avoid cutting lashes when you are working on the pets face. In some cases those super long lashes are really impressive. Like on this girl:
I took a few pictures of a new puppy yesterday to show you how I groom fuzzy faces. This is Ollie. His mom is a mini poodle, his dad a small standard. At first his owner thought she wanted a traditional shaved face and topknot, but then she decided she liked him looking like a teddy bear. I thought this was a good choice because he is big boned. In this picture he has been washed and dried.
The first thing I did was comb the hair on the front of his skull forward a bit. Then, using 7 inch curved shears I carefully wacked a bunch of that stuff off.
Once I had some hair removed and could see what I was doing, checked to see if he happened to have pretty eyelashes. Since he is a baby, his lashes are still short, but for purposes of this blog, I proceeded to save them. I learned this trick on line a few years ago, and sorely wish I remember the brilliant soul that shared it. Simply moisten your fingertips with water, and gently grasp the lashes between finger and thumb. Now, gingerly twist them, just a bit, so they clump together. The water will make them a bit darker, so they are easier to see, and will hold them in place for a few seconds so you have time to trim around the eyes.
Once the lashes are safely out of the way and in clear view, you can use your scissors (and you may choose smaller ones than this) to trim a neat, close line, right over each eyelid. When you do this, the eyelashes will look more defined, and not blend in with other facial hair so much. I use a trimmer to clean out the eye corners and the area between the eyes on the bridge of the nose. Ollie, experiencing his first groom, wiggled big and I made this space too large, but he still looked cute. One thing about dog grooming, if you make an "oops" the hair grows back and you can fix the error next time around.
Once I have the hair around the eyes cleaned up, I use chunkers, thinners or regular scissors to shape the face the way I want. In this case, since he didn't have a ton of coat to begin with, I merely shortened his ears, and used curved scissors to tidy up his beard and shape his cheeks, blending into the top of the head. His body was done with the longest Wahl snap on comb. I didn't get the greatest "after" picture, but he looked cute, plush, and well balanced. His owners with tickled pink and rebooked an appointment for 6 weeks. (The hair over his left eye is too full. I did shape that up before he went home. His owners arrived a bit early and my chance for further photos was nixed. Ollie turned into a blur of happy puppy energy.)
I hope this is a bit helpful to those of you who might struggle with grooming heads like this. Happy clipping!