Cutting a dog with scissors. Grooming. Hands close-up.

Choosing the Perfect Pet Style

The important thing to consider is the reason that you want the style in the first place.  Whether it will be for functionality, for the breed standard, or maybe to start a new trend with an original modified style, you put it together on your own.


This may be your only choice if your pet requires relief from heavy matting and long hair that is over-grown and too thick.  You may also want to keep a low-maintenance short look if you do not have time to brush out your pet every day, or you would like your pet to feel more comfortable in the summer. One solution would be to let your pet wear a sweater until the hair grows out (which usually takes about 2 1/2 – 3 months).

The Furminator Treatment is a great alternative to the shave down to decrease shedding. The Furminator Shedding tool is extremely effective in removing at least 70-80% of the loose undercoat after grooming, leaving a noticeably thinner topcoat.  Since pets shed over time and not all at once, it may take a few treatments every 4-6 weeks to keep the undercoat under control.  The second part of the treatment consists of a bath using the Furminator Shampoo and Conditioner formulated with all-natural ingredients.

Some Terrier and Spaniel cuts can be modified so that the skirt is scissored shorter than the breed standard, making it easier to maintain and to keep a fluffy look that stays free of debris.

Breed Cuts

It is important to do your research on breed standards for your particular breed.

Keep in mind that there is a different cut for a pet breed cut than for the show breed cut.

Show trims can be slightly higher in price and usually require hand plucking (link and explain), blending, and hand scissoring instead of using the blade set and pattern of the pet breed trim. The goal aspired to achieve in a show trim is to maintain the natural flow of the hair growth into a softer outline, rather than visible patterns and solid harsh lines in the pet breed trim.

Modified Styles

Modified styles are all about creativity.  Some pet owners prefer a completely different style than what is normal for their pet’s breed.  For example, a Schnauzer trim can be done on a Yorkshire Terrier.  Many different breed cuts can be combined to make one unique style.

Another example could be a Cocker Spaniel with a Cocker Spaniel head, but with a Poodle Lamb Cut on the legs.

Poodle and Labradoodle owners sometimes request a teddy bear trim instead of the breed trim just for something cute and different.

For longhaired cats and dogs such as Chow Chows, you can also choose a Lion Cut.  This cut resembles a real lion, leaving the scruff larger around the head down to the middle of the chest, with the rest of the body shaved closely.  The legs are slightly fluffier (with what are called boots). The tail is usually shaved down to the tip on the very end.  This cut is deficient maintenance.

Still even more creatively you can use stencils, gels, sprays, colors, and human styles on your pet.  A popular style is the Mohawk either on the top of the pet’s head or down the entire back of the body.

Some things you may want to focus on are:

Ears – If you have problems getting food or tangles in them, you may want to have them short for easy care.  Be sure to notify the groomer of any ear infections, allergies, or sensitivities.  Special products can be used to clean and dry the ears inside.  The ear products used can only routinely clean and dry the ears and cannot be used as a substitute for an ear flush and possible medical treatment that may be needed for chronic ear problems.

Head / Topknot – Try to consider whether you normally keep the topknot hair in a barrette or rubber band and never down, or if you would rather have the hair fall naturally into place without getting into the eyes.

Let the groomer know if you would like the head to be rounded, blended into the body, larger and more pronounced, or a specific shape (a terrier head is squared off instead of fluffy and rounded, etc.).

Tail – When clipping a pet short, there are different tail shapes that you may want to consider, such as a cipher, carrot, slick to the tail, or gradually blended natural tail.

Paws – Especially with poodles, try to be as specific as possible if you want closely shaved poodle feet or teddy bear feet, and if you would like the toenails showing or not.

Nails – There are several things to think about with toenails.  Some nails have quicks that have grown out extremely long and cannot be cut short without bleeding.

(Ask your groomer to check them).  If this is the case, the quicks will have to be cut back short and cauterized at a veterinarian’s office.  After this is done- regular nail trims will have to be done to maintain the nail’s shortness so that it does not reoccur.

To soften sharp edges after clipping the nails, you can request filing them to a rounded edge.  Dremeling keeps the nails short 30% longer than nail trims alone.  It also prevents nail cracking, injuries from scratching, and damage to hardwood floors.

Skirt Length – When deciding on the length of the skirt, consider the time you have available to spend brushing and combing out the pet.  A long flowing skirt is beautiful, but ridiculous if you can never have the time to maintain it.  A shorter skirt can be just a beautiful easier to care for.

Skin –  Give the groomer a heads up on the skin condition and if you would like a flea, conditioning, or medicated treatment added to the bath.  Allergic pets will only worsen if you do not communicate sensitivities to the groomer ahead of time to use only hypoallergenic products.  Spa treatments can only help soothe the skin and not cure skin ailments that require veterinary care.

Teeth –  For beautiful, healthy teeth, a routine dental check-up is needed by a veterinarian, and regular brushing during grooming appointments to loosen and prevent tartar from building up on the teeth.  It is an excellent preventative measure that costs just a few dollars more per grooming appointment.

It can help bring a picture of the type of style you may want, but remember that the groomer cannot be a miracle worker.  Don’t be shy about explaining the desired effect that you would like your pet to have.  Most groomers love a challenge or to try something different.  They will consider all of the factors involved (condition of the pet, timeframe, and work involved) and help come to a reasonable compromise between your expectations and what is possible.

Michelle Howard experienced Freelance Pet Stylist grooming and caring for pets for over 17 years developed in 2004. Since early childhood, always a pet lover who attended beauty school during high school, Pre-Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Technology at Morehead State University, and finally learning to groom pets while working and volunteering for the Kentucky Humane Society. Pet Grooming became a hobby that finally developed into freelance grooming of all breeds of both cats and dogs for various grooming salons and veterinary hospitals. Currently freelancing and grooming for the Pet School and Hotel in Louisville, KY.
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