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.

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