Monday, July 31, 2017

Grooming How-To: Asian Fusion Inspired Trim on a Poodle Mix

With the popularity of poodle hybrids on the rise, we've all seen an influx of clients dealing with the high-maintenance needs of poodle-type coat who aren't interested in a poodle-type look. For many, that means a full, shaggy headpiece (what I like to call a "muppet head") that's prone to matting and all the usual wet beard issues we see in sheepdogs, schnauzers, and other dogs with a lot of facial hair. In response to the messiness, many doodle/schnoodle/somethingpoo owners decide to split the difference between a poodle's shaved face and a full muppet head and settle on something in a snap-on comb length all over the muzzle and chin. I have many clients who take this route and it works well.

We usually treat the body the same way, with an all-over length that follows the dog's natural shape. Sometimes we leave a bit more hair on a scissored pillar leg or do some sculpting to play up the dog's angulation, but these are all what owners like to call "puppy cuts" -- a basic, generic, one-size-fits-all style that varies only in its length. It works for so many because it's both practical and cute.

But the fact remains, there's not a lot of room for style or flair when the goal is to leave a uniform inch or two of hair all over a dog's face and body. It can feel like a lost opportunity, because the wonderful thing about poodle-type coat is how many options it gives you for turning up the wow factor. The recent Asian fusion grooming trend is a wonderful way to capitalize on the versatility of a poodle-type coat without making the dog "look like a poodle" while still sending clients home with a reasonably low-maintenance look.

This little schnoodle has been through a variety of styles, starting with her very first haircut as a several-months-old puppy, when she got a 1/2" comb (that's a 1 or orange comb) on her body and chin, with everything else scissored to match, to her current Asian fusion inspired look. There's a lot about settling on a style for a dog that's really about problem-solving than aesthetics. This dog likes to chew her ears, so we decided to take them short. Her owner is good at keeping her combed out in between appointments, so we can leave her legs fairly long, but they also have an active and busy lifestyle, so we want to make sure they don't get too long. Sometimes that means trying things and then asking the client for feedback, as well as taking note of the condition of the coat when the dog comes in for their next appointment

My number one principle of flair is contrast in length. This dog gets a #5 blade on her body and I set the length of her legs by skimming into them (working off the shoulder on the outside of the front legs and off the thigh muscles on the back legs) with a 5/8" comb (that's a 0 or yellow comb). I want the legs to get slightly wider at the foot to emulate the Asian fusion flared leg but without leaving that much length. I set that width by lifting the foot and scissoring around the pad at whatever size I want the leg to be at the bottom. No matter how big the leg, I always take the front of the foot tight to the nails. I leave nail trimming to the end of my groom so that I know the nails will disappear behind that scissored front edge. If you cut nails earlier, as many do, make sure you don't take the front of the foot too short or you will expose the nails and mar your silhouette.

I use the same technique to set the length around the front and the back feet, focusing on making all four feet the same size. When I scissor the front legs, I go straight up towards the body on the front of the leg and then scissor a straight line to connect the area where I skimmed off the shoulder to the newly scissored side of the foot. I scissor the back of the leg straight up and down at whatever width I want that leg to be in side-view. For more drama, I would take the leg in tight above the elbow and flare every aspect of the leg -- front, back, inside, and outside. Keep in mind that true Asian fusion requires leaving a lot of hair at the bottom of the leg, which amps up the maintenance requirements between grooming appointments. For this dog, we're doing a lower-maintenance leg whose flair comes more from its overall length in contrast to the body than from how dramatically it flares from elbow to foot.

On the back leg, a true Asian fusion style starts short at the hip and flares like cone down to the foot. The front leg and back leg look very much the same. But in the modified version we're doing on this schnoodle, I'm giving her a more classic poodle-style rear leg, focusing on angulation to give her some flair. So, I take her tight from her point of rump down to the bend of her stifle on the back of her back leg. I leave a little hock hair and echo the curves on the back of that leg with a little bit of curve and a hint of a knee on the front of her back leg.

The inside and outside of the legs are scissored in parallel lines, like a poodle leg. I finish them with a little bit of a bevel, tightening up the hair at a 45 degree angle around the base of her feet to keep it off the ground.

She has a short dock on her tail, so I usually scissor it round like a bunny tail. Many poodle mixed dogs have long tails and you can do a fan, a flag, a plume or whatever style your client prefers. If she had a proper poodle dock, I probably wouldn't do a typical poodle pom tail on an Asian fusion inspired look. I'd either take the entire tail the same length as the body or I would leave it longer all over without any shaving at the base.

Like the rest of her clip, this dog's head isn't quite proper Asian fusion. Her hair doesn't have the plushness required to stand the way I'd like muzzle hair to stand up for that kind of cut, so I leave more hair and work with it the way it does like to sit instead of teasing it and filling it with products that aren't going to last in between haircuts.

I start her head with a 3/8" comb (that's a 2 or blue comb) on the chin. One of the hallmarks of this style of head is a nice, short chin that helps move focus up towards the dog's eyes. I also run the 3/8" comb in exactly the same places I would shave a poodle face if I were doing a donut style muzzle. I run it down the sides of her head, along the line from eye corner to ear opening that I would use to set a poodle topknot. The only difference is that I'm clipping downward instead of against the grain of the hair. I run the snap-on comb behind the mustache area, under the eye and shorten up everything behind the back corner of her mouth.

I trim up her eye corners and clean out her stop. Then I comb her muzzle hair forward and trim off everything that falls past a point about 1/4" past the end of her nose. Normally, you would want to trim off in line with the end of the nose, but leaving that extra hair helps this dog's muzzle retain its shape. You want to clean the lip area under the nose and trim stray hairs around the upper lip.

Next, I fluff the mustache hair out to the sides and I scissor it into an oval shape, leaving the sides as wide as they'll go without falling under their own weight. I leave plenty of hair on the top of the muzzle, combing that straight up and neatening just a little. On a nice, plush coat, that hair is meant to sit in front of the lower half of the eyes when viewed head-on, giving the dog a soft, stuffed animal sort of expression. This dog's hair doesn't do that, so our goal is to give her a low-maintenance face that evokes some of the shaggy muppet look and the Asian fusion teddy bear look at the same time.

Finally, her topknot is hand-scissored and blended into the neck in the back and into the cheeks on the side. The profile view of the Asian fusion head is very distinctive and this dog does fit very well into that profile. The topknot has a visor similar to a poodle, but angled a little more sharply away from the eyes.

The last piece of her head is the ear trim. Any ear style is permissible in Asian fusion, from long and flowing to shaved very short. The two major considerations are maintenance and contrast. Because she chews her ears, this little girl gets a #4 blade on the outside and a #40 inside and the edges are trimmed to the leather, following the ears' natural shape. She could easily get an even shorter blade on the ears and still be cute. I like to leave them a little bit fuzzy because her coat is always just a little stubborn about fluffing straight and the bit of wildness a #4 leaves fits in nicely with the rest of her look.

Asian fusion styles are great to offer to clients who are open to some wow factor but aren't into the poodle look and modified Asian styles are perfect for clients who want something different without upping their pets' maintenance requirements.

 Remember that grooming should always be customized to the dog, its lifestyle, maintenance needs, and the preferences of the people who care for it and look at it every day, but you still want to give yourself a little bit of space to put your own creative, artistic stamp on your work. Encouraging your clients to allow you to try new styles and techniques helps keep you interested and motivated at the grooming table. And it can make things more interesting for your clients as well. It turns the dogs' style into a conversation piece which dogs usually enjoy because of the extra attention. It's a great way to stand out from your competition and it can help drive new business as well.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Grooming How-To: Lion Clip on a Pomeranian and Cats

Pomeranians come in a variety of shapes and sizes and, similarly, there are many variations on the lion clip that you can do on them. This is my preferred pattern placement for lion clips in general with some customization to suit this particular dog.

The lion clip (or lion cut) is a nice compromise between long and short styles, allowing the dog (or cat) to show off some of the natural shine and beauty of their topcoats while reducing the amount of hair that you and the owner have to manage in between grooms. You can use snap-on combs or blades in whatever length the client is looking for, from a #10 blade all the way into snap-on comb lengths. You can leave the mane natural, run a snap-on comb to set the length, scissor it into a highly sculpted shape, or use thinning shears for a shorter, but less fussy look.

For this haircut, I'm using a 3/4" stainless steel snap-on comb to set the body length and doing some light shaping with 25 tooth chunkers on the mane. I like this longer body length because it preserves some of the coat's ability to protect the dog's skin from the sun and insulates a bit against the heat. It also is long enough to shed somewhat normally, which helps reduce the risk of post-clipping alopecia (failure of the hair to grow back in properly) after grooming.

I like to set the back of the mane a little behind the shoulder blades and then angle it forward so the bottom edge passes just in front of where the front leg joins the body. (A common variation is to set the mane further back so that it ends behind the front legs. In that case, the front leg feathers are usually left longer.) The style you choose is entirely up to you and your clients, but I prefer to set the mane in a way that mimics the placement of an actual lion's mane.

To set the pattern, I part the hair along the edge of the mane. I comb the mane forward and the body hair backward, towards the tail. Then I clip a clean line from the part backwards. This leaves a nice overhang, where the longer mane hair falls across the pattern line, hiding it (assuming the mane hair is left long enough).

I run the snap-on comb over the body, belly, underpart of the chest, and all over the dog's rear end. (This is the exact same pattern I would use for a cat or for a shorter lion clip except that when the body's shorter, it's usually more convenient to shave about halfway down the legs and end in boots than it is to blend. More on that later.)

With this longer length, I have a lot of options for disguising faults. If the dog had especially long legs or a weak-looking rear end, I might skim the pants to leave more fullness rather than taking them the same length as the body. Scissoring the rear into a "bubble-butt" can help give a dog a cuter shape. Because this dog has a good-looking backside, I clip his pants the same length as the body to show it off.

If a dog is short-legged and/or has a long back, it helps to take the back of his rear shorter than the body length. This isn't usually something you would do for a pomeranian, but for clients with shih tzus, a nice, tight rear can help make them appear more compact than they really are.

Similarly, leaving a little extra hair on the front of the back leg and on the back of the front leg will make a long-backed dog appear shorter.

Another trick for long-legged dogs is to leave a little extra hock hair and scissor it with a slight curve when viewed from the side. Leaving a little more hair is always a good idea for dogs with skinny or misshapen legs so that you can give them a nicer profile.

This pomeranian is solid and nicely built, so I trim enough off his front feathers to echo the shape and size of the back leg. The size you choose to leave the front leg is up to you -- some groomers prefer the front leg to have more hair than the back, while I choose to balance the front and back equally. For this dog, I trim the hock hair short and straight down towards his foot.

For longer lion clips like this one, you simply blend the clipper work (skim with the snap-on and then scissor to finish) into the lower leg for a seamless transition. But if you used a shorter blade length on the body, you'll need to transition your clipper work into the legs. The easiest way to do this is by leaving boots, the tops of which usually start around the top of the hock in the back and roughly halfway down the front legs. For manes that end behind the front legs, the back legs often end in boots while the front legs are blended. Again, it's personal preference. If you're doing a blended front leg, though, always be sure to pull the foot forward and check the underline, especially where the leg connects to the body, for stray hairs that don't need to be there.

Pomeranians are supposed to have small, rounded ears, so I like to trip off the hair at the tips. I do this by running my thumbnail up the ear until I'm over the edge of the ear leather and then scissoring off the hair beyond it. After the ear tip is tight and rounded, I comb up all the hair around the ear and scissor it so that nothing sticks up past the newly trimmed ear tip. You don't want to trim tight to the sides of the ear, just tight at the tip and blending out to the sides. You'll have to comb the hair up a number of times and ask the dog to perk his ears up to make sure you've gotten all the strays tamed.

Rounding the ears is optional, but most pomeranians look more polished when the hair around their ears is combed out and the edges of the ears are cleaned up a bit.

After you've set the ears, you can move down into the mane and blend out any sticky-outies. Most of the time, I like to leave a mane with a natural edge, so I don't trim anything below the forehead. But this dog's owners like his mane tamed down some, so I use my chunkers to take length off around the front and clean all the edges. Using chunkers rather than regular shears helps preserve the soft, natural look of the mane, which I prefer over a heavily scissored version. I also like how much faster a quick clean-up with chunkers is as opposed to a detailed scissor trim.

Since I am shaping up this dog's mane and not leaving it natural, I've set my pattern straight across the bottom front edge. I used my chunkers to give the mane a reverse teardrop shape, coming into somewhat of a point between his front legs. For a non-scissored mane, I would achieve this same shape by making sure my clipper pattern comes to a point between the front legs. If you're not scissoring your mane, the edges will fall however your clipper work is set. If your shave line is uneven or out of shape, your mane shape and edges will reflect that.

The pads of his feet are shaved, sanitary areas cleaned out, ears cleaned, and nails clipped. The feet are neatened up the same whether the legs are blended or end in boots -- in a standard golden retriever-style foot. This pomeranian has a full tail, trimmed into a long fan shape.

This pomeranian's finished groom is pictured below. On a six week schedule, he stays reasonably neat-looking and tangle-free in between appointments.

I've also included some photos of cat lion clips with a few more variations. The black and white cat has a mane set exactly the same as the pomeranian, but the edges were left completely natural. She was clipped with a #10 blade and has boots set at the top of her hocks and about halfway down her front legs. For cats who are cooperative, I sometimes use thinning shears to soften the edge of the top of the boots, but for most cats, I make as neat a line as I can with my clippers and leave it at that. This cat has a lion tail, created by shaving to about 2" from the tip of the tail. The tip of the tail is unscissored. Dogs can have lion tails as well and, if they have a blunt end to their tail, I'll often scissor to shape them into a more natural-looking teardrop shape like the one on this cat. I like a nice, long poof on my lion tails so they look elegant rather than comical.

The persian tabby in the last photo is in yet another version of the lion clip, this one in a #10 body, with boots like the black and white cat, and with a full tail like the pomeranian, but without a mane. His head is shaved right to the point where the back of the skull meets the neck and around behind the jaw line. You can further blend the transition line with thinning shears, but if you hit the right spot, the transition should look decent with clipper work alone. For cats who don't love the grooming process, my philosophy is, "Good enough is perfect."

And that's the lion clip -- versatile, customizable, stylish, and not difficult to execute. The hardest part is figuring out your preferred style and adjusting it to suit the animal you're putting it on.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Preventing Mats and Tangles

Coat Maintenance Q&A for Pet Grooming Clients

Q: Why are tangles a problem?
A: Tangles turn into mats. While tangles are generally straight-forward to brush and comb out, matting is a tangle of tangles. A mat or two can be removed with advanced grooming techniques on a patient pet. Large mats or large numbers of smaller mats are best removed by clipping them out.

At best, mats are uncomfortable for your pet to live with. At worst, mats can create serious hazards to your pet’s health and well-being.

  • The top layer of this ear is a solid mat.
    Note the bruising in the skin below it.
    As mats tighten, they pull on the hair, which pulls on the skin. This causes pain and, when the mats are tight enough to pull the hair out, bald patches.
  • Mats cause localized loss of circulation in the skin, which interferes with the body’s ability to heal itself. In extreme cases, poor circulation can cause tissue death and even loss of limbs. When severe matting is finally released, blood rushing back to the surface can cause bruising and, in delicate places like the ears, can rush back so quickly it ruptures the skin.
  • Mats collect moisture and dry slowly, which can lead to irritation and infection.
  • Mats interfere with the coat’s ability to help an animal regulate its temperature, leaving it less protected from both heat and cold.
  • Mats collect dirt, debris, and make a perfect place for parasitic insects to hide.
  • Mats turn into pelts.

Q: What’s a pelt?
A: A pelt is a network of mats that have interwoven with each other and cover a large portion of an animal’s body. A pelt must be removed by shaving underneath it and frequently comes off in one piece.

Q: Why is dematting a problem?
A: There are lots of tools and tricks available to make dematting as comfortable as possible for animals. But that doesn’t make it fun.

  • It takes time. Most pets prefer grooming sessions to be short and straight-forward. Dematting requires pets to stand still for longer periods of time, sometimes in awkward positions.
  • It perpetuates the cycle of matting. Dematting damages and breaks hair, which makes it mat more quickly and more tightly in the future. Continually dematting too much hair on a too infrequent schedule means that each subsequent grooming session is more unpleasant than that last.
  • It’s uncomfortable. Even gentle dematting requires a bit of tugging. And even good slicker brushes have scratchy pins. While an experienced groomer will always try to minimize pulling and the pins’ contact with skin, the worse the matting is, the more likely the skin is to get irritated.
  • It’s unnecessary. Mats are completely preventable with some know-how and commitment to maintenance at home, a reasonable length and grooming schedule, or periodic short haircuts. Most of the time, the decision to demat is made for aesthetic reasons rather than for the good of the pet. The fact that something can be done does not necessarily mean it should be done. Any ethical groomer will refuse service to a pet owner who requests unreasonable dematting for a pet whose condition or behavior necessitates a shave.

Q: When is it appropriate to demat vs. shaving?
A: Any pet in coat can have problems with tangles once in awhile. Five to ten minutes isn’t an excessive amount of time to spend gently unraveling a problem area or two. A good groomer will let you know of any problem areas and suggest ways to alleviate them for the future.

  • For pets who are generally anxious or unfamiliar with the grooming process, asking them to stand for prolonged detangling is unfair and can be dangerous for both pet and groomer.
  • Very young and very old pets should never be expected to put up with excessive dematting or even light detangling beyond what they can easily tolerate. Puppies should have good experiences to build a positive grooming future on. Seniors deserve less fuss and more comfort as they age.
  • No pet should be asked to put up with excessive dematting on a regular basis.
  • No pet should ever be subjected to severe dematting over large portions of its body.
  • No pet should have to bear the discomfort of a matted coat for extended periods of time. A responsible grooming plan not only removes tangles, it’s designed to prevent future tangles, too.
  • A matted coat does not keep a pet warm in the winter, but sweaters do.
  • Not liking the way your pet looks shaved is not a reason to avoid grooming. It’s a reason to have your pet groomed more often!

Dematting should be a rare necessity, not a way of life. If your pet’s coat is tangling up regularly, his hair length and maintenance schedule should be adjusted to prevent that.

Q: How do I know if my pet is tangled or matted?
A: You can’t always tell by looking or even by running your hand over the coat. Often, the top layer of hair stays in decent shape, while the lower levels mat up. When a coat is tangle-free, you can part it down to the skin, everywhere, in every direction. If you can’t make a part, it’s because adjacent hairs are tied together instead of standing on their own.

The simplest way to check for tangles quickly is to run a comb through your pet’s coat. Often the tops of their head and back remains untangled while the legs, belly, beard, ears and tail start to mat up, so check these high-risk areas first. If the comb catches, you’ve snagged on a tangle or mat. Light tangles should easily separate with gentle picking of your comb. Mats involve a lot more hair and can only be unraveled by breaking at least some of the hair holding the clump together.

Q: What turns tangles into mats?
A: A wig sitting on a shelf will never tangle, but animals are constantly moving and doing things, and so their coat will interact with itself. A tangle is two or more hairs tying themselves together. A mat is a collection of tangles getting together and interweaving into a more solid clump.

There are conditions that make tangles form more quickly and tighten into mats more easily.

  • Hair length. The number one risk factor for tangling is the length of the coat. Long coats tangle much faster and mat more tightly than short coats.
  • Hair texture and thickness. In general, thin, wiry hair is less prone to tangling than dense, plush hair. This is a big reason why some animals tangle so much more quickly than others.
  • Friction. Collars can create lines of matting underneath them as they rub against your pet’s neck. If harnesses are left on for long periods of time, they can cause a whole criss-cross of matting. Animals have natural friction points in their armpits, behind their ears where they like to scratch, and any place they tend to lick themselves. This is why some spots on animals are more likely to tangle than others.
  • Moisture. Getting hair wet destroys the electron bonds that maintain its shape, which allow it to wrap around itself in all kinds of counterproductive ways. Water also makes hair more elastic, which means it can tie itself in knots that tighten up as the animal dries. Bathing a dog with tangles, rubbing them with a towel (friction!) and then letting them dry is a sure recipe for creating extra-tight mats very close to the skin.
  • Coat damage. Healthy hair is smooth on its surface and that extra slip helps prevent tangles from forming. Damaged hair is spiky and broken, making it act more like Velcro and forming matting very quickly.
  • Uneven coat. When the coat texture is uniform, a medium-length hair next to a long hair will tangle together much faster than hairs that are the same length. Coat breakage and spot shaving can both create this kind of situation.
  • Lifestyle. For all the reasons stated above, all things being equal, a pet who hikes and swims and rolls in things is more at risk for mats than a pet who spends most of his day napping on a couch.

Q: What causes coat damage?
A: Many things -- including hair chewing, exposure to the sun, and rolling in the dirt -- but grooming is probably the biggest contributor to broken hairs and frazzled hair cuticles.

Damage is inevitable, but when you understand how the various types of grooming tools and products work, you can minimize it.

  • (For extra-long coats) A pin brush is the most gentle way to get through a coat without causing damage. A pin brush is only capable of light detangling. Rather than getting caught and breaking coat when pulled across a tangle, the pins will simply move away. The higher quality the brush, the more polished (and therefore gentle) the pins will be. This is a great tool for daily brushing of a curly-coated or drop-coated pet with very long hair (for example, a poodle or yorkie with over 3 or more inches of length). Longer hair should never be brushed wet and it should never be brushed dry. Wet (and even damp hair) hair is fragile and prone to breakage. Brushing dry hair creates static, which damages coat. Ideally, hair should be misted lightly with an appropriate conditioning spray or water while it is being brushed. You want just enough moisture to stop the static but not enough to absorb into the coat. (Andis pin brush:
  • (For all except the shortest coats) Slicker brushes are a wonderful tool for gently unravelling tangles and mats. They come in a range of firmness from soft to firm. A soft slicker is one step firmer than a pin brush. It will pull a little more, but will still release if a tangle is too set for it. A firm slicker will attack mats more efficiently, but also cause more damage in the process. But even a firm slicker brush will let go at some point. A slicker will never catch on a mat or tangle, so you should always follow up by combing from root to tip to make sure that the hair is properly separated. Pins are pokey, so while it’s important to get all the way down to the skin, be careful not to stab or scratch your pet while brushing. (Artero universal slicker brush:
  • (For all coats) A comb is the best way to locate every tangle because it will catch on them. If you keep pulling, the hair will break (or you’ll hurt your pet), so combs should always be used with a light touch. Combs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with longer or shorter teeth, further apart or closer together. A coarser comb is best for thick coats while a finer comb is needed to catch the tiniest tangles. A rake tool has a handle attached at a right angle to a comb, which is more ergonomic for some coats. For the majority of coats, a medium/fine greyhound comb is a solid choice. Always set the comb at the root of the hair, right against the body, and pull away towards the tip of the hair. You never want to drag the teeth along the skin. (Andis steel comb:
  • Conditioning sprays can protect the coat from brushing damage in several ways. They often include moisturizers, which make the hair less brittle and harder to break. They can also include ingredients that coat the shaft and make it slippery. This helps tangles fall apart with less effort and breakage. Finally, they create a microscopic barrier against abrasion on the surface of the hair. Be aware though that conditioning sprays can leave a residue behind that attracts dirt and contributes to future matting, so only use as much as you need. There are a wide variety of “brushing sprays” available, so ask for recommendations based on your pet’s breed and coat type! (Chris Christensen Just Divine spray:

For clients with well-maintained pets who like to bathe them at home between grooming appointments, I usually recommend they comb the coat out before the bath, but only if the animal is not too dirty. Body-based dirt like oil, urine, or dandruff in hair is fine to brush through, but actual dirt from outside is gritty under a microscope and those particles will scratch hair cuticles if you drag them across the hair with a brush or comb.

Q: What if my pet doesn’t let me brush him?
A: Most pets need some training before they learn to accept grooming calmly. It’s important to show them that 1. Nothing bad is going to happen to them and 2. Standing nicely is the correct way to behave.

If your pet is fussy, first be sure you’re not causing them unnecessary discomfort. Always be extra careful using brushes and combs around your pet’s face and sensitive areas like the belly, groin, and ears. Be mindful of tugging and scratching the skin. Many dogs have structural problems their owners aren’t aware of so be careful how you manipulate joints (the knees in particular).

Be calm but in charge when you’re working with your pet. You want grooming to be enjoyable, but it’s not a game. Discourage them from bouncing around or playing with grooming tools. Reward them when they’re being calm and still. The more relaxed your pet is for grooming, the safer he’ll be when there are clipper blades and scissors whirring and snipping around him.

If you and your pet can’t come to an understanding with at-home maintenance, it’s ok to let the professionals handle it. Many pets behave better at the grooming shop than they do at home. You don’t have to do any bathing, brushing, or combing if you don’t want to as long as you choose to keep your pet in a style that works with a regular maintenance schedule at the grooming shop.

It can take time to figure out the right length of coat and length of time between haircuts works best for you and your pet. Your groomer should be happy to make suggestions and help figure out a good balance.

Grooming needs often change over time as well, so talk over adjustments with your groomer as needed.

Q: How do grooming needs change over time?
A: Age, lifestyle, health, and behavior all impact grooming needs.
For example:
  • Puppy coat is usually easy to take care of until they reach about 6 months old, when the changes in their hair texture make them mat very quickly. After their adult coat comes in, they’re less work than they are during coat change, but more than when they were puppies.
  • Senior animals often go through major changes as their bodies begin to slow down and often need their style and grooming schedules adjusted for their comfort. Usually this means shorter haircuts at longer intervals, but not always.
  • Vacations can mean more time at the beach, in the water, in the woods… all that fun stuff that contributes to matting. It can also mean less time and attention for brushing. A shorter haircut beforehand can prevent a long demat or shaving session when you return home.
  • Illness can interfere with at-home maintenance at a time when there’s enough stress already without worrying about pets getting tangled up.
  • Many clients choose to have their pets style adjusted based on the seasons. When it’s wet in the spring and snowy in the winter, it’s often helpful to have less hair on the dog. A longer haircut does not necessarily mean they’ll be warmer in winter, particularly if the longer coat is getting matted and trapping moisture. Pet hair insulates their body in much the same way as a double-paned window: by trapping a layer of air between the skin and the outside air. For most coats, it takes at least a ¼ inch of untangled hair to create this insulating layer, which helps shade their skin when it’s hot and holds onto their body heat when it’s cold out.
  • For well-maintained pets who are comfortable with grooming, there are many style options available, with new variations on a theme introduced all the time. Many groomers like to mix things up once in awhile, so if you’re interested in trying something new, speak up!

In order to maintain an animal with a constantly-growing coat, there’s a lot you should know and do. It can be overwhelming, but it helps to take it one step at a time. If you find you can’t keep up, remember, it’s hair and it grows back. You can always try again. And you can always decide your pet looks cute in a short haircut after all.

Every pet stylists wants their clients to be thrilled with their pets’ look. But please remember the limiting factors. In addition to his age, size, and behavior, there’s his hair type, length, and texture. We have to work with the coat that’s put in front of us, in a way that keeps the animal comfortable. The best way to ensure that your pet will go home looking like the cutest version of himself is to bring him in without any matting and communicate clearly what you’re looking for.

Your groomer will do the rest!