Some readers may say, "What's the big deal?" about knowing how to properly set in bevels on a groom. So, that's the purpose of this article- not to just show you how, but to explain WHY such a simple procedure is important to every groom and every dog.
Aside from the how to-s of this, I want to explain a little more first on why each great groom is the sum of its parts. Without one thing, other parts may falter, so it is important to have an understanding that each thing touches the next, and so on- akin to the domino effect.
According to breed standards, many breeds of dog are desired to have a nicely round and tight foot, or to be viewed in their profile to be "up on toe". A well created bevel will make your dog look as if it is "floating" just above the surface of wherever it is standing, and this creates definite "presence" to any groom!
*A dog with healthy foot composition and structural mechanics that relate to the entire conformation of a dog, will be viewed in a more positive light whether you know what to look for when taking in a dog or not.*
So, how does this relate to us in the grooming salon?
More often than not, we as skilled stylists have the ability to create that nice tight foot, correct foot placement and most importantly- a foundational element of a balanced groom just by using the coat our client has to work with and our capable eye. And, more often than not, the pets that come to us for grooming can benefit greatly from our ability to perform fault grooming and to really have a knack for the tricks that create a beautiful signature groom.
The Foot is the Foundation of a Groom
When standing back and looking over a freshly groomed dog, where does it all begin?
Our eye should be drawn toward the center of the pet's profile. However, anything that is out of proportion or unbalanced will pull our eye away from the overall symmetry of a dog and detract from the fluidity that we view the entire animal. This creates a less than desirable look for the dog, and a less than pleasing groom as well. Sometimes, we cannot quite put our finger on what it is, other times when standing back, we can easily see where the groom fell apart.
Almost always- it has to do with one of three things- proportion, balance (or symmetry) and angulation.
These are three incredibly important words, for every single groomer. From a new groomer in school, to a groomer working every day in a salon, to a competition groomer, to the top competing show dog groomer.
Angulation: The precise measurement of angles.
Balance: A harmonious or satisfying arrangement or proportion of parts or elements, as in a design.
Symmetry: Correct or pleasing proportion of the parts of a thing.
Proportion: A relationship between quantities such that if one varies then another varies in a manner dependent on the first...Agreeable or harmonious relation of parts within a whole; balance or symmetry.
Fundamentally every groom and breed profile relies on each of those attributes to define itself as aesthetically pleasing and mechanically sound.
So always think about those things each and every time that critique your grooms.
A Solid Foundation
The groom begins, where the dog begins,,, at the feet.
By starting your groom correctly from the ground up, you are setting yourself up for a better outcome.
If a dog's feet are too full, too large or they look like a pancake, that will travel right on up the leg, across the entire groom, and leave you with a dog that looks chubby, frumpy, and needs to be shorter all over. This means that by setting the length of a foot, you are also setting the length of the entire groom as much as you are with any other length of clip you do on the other parts of the dog.
Normally, The very FIRST thing I do is to set in the front (chest and neck) and the back (point of rump to bend of stifle) on every groom that I do. This allows me to see the overall length of the dog that I am working with so that I can correctly judge the center of the dog where the eye should be drawn to- typically this sets just behind the last, (or 13th or floating) rib of a dog. And this allows me to adjust every other piece of the groom in accordance with that central point based on all that I have to work with per the conformation and coat of the dog.
So what does this have to do with the feet?
Well, what do I do next on every groom?
I set in the feet.
Prepwork is POWER.
I have said it so many times that it sounds like a self help guru's slogan, but it is the truth. No one can create a beautiful groom on a dog that is not properly prepped.
Properly cleaned and dried and conditioned coat, properly trimmed nails, cleanly trimmed pads and well trimmed sanitary area are all foundational to a good groom- even a shave down!
~But let's stay on course & stick to the feet. Be sure that your pet's nails are trimmed as close as they safely can be. This will help keep the circumference of the foot as small and compact as possible. Also be sure that the pads are cleanly trimmed without cutting into the coat around the paw so that you have all of that to work with for creating your bevel. Another reason that I trim the pads first is so that I can clearly view the foot shape in case there is a missing, misshapen or superfluous digit that needs to be hidden with more hair.
Hind leg first:
Next you will want to comb all of the hair on the foot so that it is tangle free and well lofted or standing well up from the skin.
While they stand, lift the back leg up carefully so that it is perpendicular with the table top. As so:
With the leg lifted, now trim the hair off the back of the foot and straight up the hock. When you reset the foot, this will most easily set the hock angulation needed for the hind leg in one easy step.
From there, now you can set in the front of the foot. I always do the back, then front, then pull the sides together, but that is up to your preference.
One easy way to set in the front of the foot and to find the tips of the nails- so that you do NOT cut into the needed hair to cover the nails up- is to take up your shears, and with the dog standing, pull the blades of the shear (closed) across the top of the foot, and down against the toenails. This way you will quickly see how much hair you can safely cut away and still keep the foot tight, but not expose nail.
Once you have that, just open the shears and cut off the hair straight across the front of the foot and upward at about a 30 degree angle from the table as so:
~A note- this can be done with straight shears, but is much easier with curved shears.
From there, you can cut in the outside angle of the outer edge of the foot a the same angle, and then lift the leg inward and slightly outward to set in the remaining inner edge of the foot.
**Please remember something important: The front assembly of a dog is held together by joints and ligaments, and the rear assembly of a dog is held together by a ball & socket- so lift the legs always very carefully. Never over the level of the dog's back, the front leg should not be over extended either forward or backward any further than its normal length of stride, and always push the hind leg in towards the body to create the most safe leg lift in case the dog is old, stiff, or slips.**
Next the Front Leg:
Again, fluff out the dog's leg hair, combing the foot hair well, lift the paw slightly so that you can view the underside of the pad and trim the hair which falls past the bottom of the foot.
Reset the foot squarely under the dog.
Locate the dog's nail tips with your shears, and cut in the front of the foot. Then cut in the sides at the same angle, and the inner edge of the foot as well. Once the foot is shaped, now you can set in the slight curve at the back of the foot across the stopper pad so that the back of the leg is tidy and the dog will look up on toe- as so:
Once your bevels are all set in, you can soften the edges of each foot if you prefer a less crisp edge. This looks most nice on a dog with straight furnishings such as the American Cocker.
And this applies to your Terriers with full leg furnishings also. Except that toenails can be exposed.
Thanks for reading!