I would be embarrassed to tell you how long it used to take me to create a cute round or “teddy bear-style” head on dogs. I would groom the dog’s body completely, then, using thinning shears, scissors and a comb, I would pick and fuss and trim for a long, long time before achieving the look I desired.
Then, one day, a groomer I greatly admired said, “Just use snap-on combs!” The thought had literally never occurred to me. I am quite sure my hands shook the first time I gave it a try, but after working up my courage on that fateful day, I have never looked back.
This technique can be done using adjustable blade trimmers with comb attachments or a full-sized clipper, with or without a clipper vacuum system. You can achieve excellent, adorable results in a fraction of the time it takes to attain a similar look using scissors alone.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO GET STARTED:
- Start with a perfectly clean and conditioned coat.
- Brush the damp coat so the hair lies in roughly the direction you will want the finished hair to end up.
- Dry the head completely, blowing the coat flat where you want it to lie smoothly and blowing the opposite direction of the fur growth where you want it to look fluffy. (For example, if you want the top of the head to be fluffy, but the cheeks to look flat, dry each area accordingly.)
- Brush and comb the head once it is dry to remove dead coat and any tangles. Follow this with a very fine-toothed comb to separate the hair as much as possible. This will help you achieve a more uniform finish.
- If you’d like to clip a little bit from the inner eye corner, do that before you begin working with combs.
- I usually choose a snap-on comb length that is one or two sizes longer than the body coat to begin. Sometimes I end up with shorter combs, but prefer to err on the longer side until I see how the hair responds to the trimming.
Fig. 1 Starting under the jaw, clip against the grain to trim the hair on the under jaw and up to the lower lip.
Fig. 2 Next, work from behind the head at the crest of the neck, clipping against the grain, shortening the hair and blending from the body coat into the long head coat. If the hair has a poodle-type texture, I clip the top of the head from back to front all over; however, if the hair is straighter and lies naturally flatter (sometimes with a natural part), I will often clip from the center of the head down towards the side and ears. You can experiment until you get the hang of it. The longer combs are quite forgiving, allowing you the ability to explore your artistic side until you create the desired look.
Fig. 3 I often go against the grain on the cheeks, which clips the hair a bit shorter, then clip with the lay of the coat on the muzzle to leave more hair in that area.
On drop-eared dogs, if you want them short, you can make them uniformly plush and tidy by using the same comb on them, top and underside. If you are going for a rounder head and want the ears to stand out a bit, leave the hair that grows on the side of the head just under the ear a bit fuller to give the ears a little lift.
Conversely, if you want the ears to lay close to the head, trim that hair shorter. Of course you may be leaving the ears long and just trimming up the ends, in which case you will not use your trimmer on them at all. I keep a soft hair tie at the ready, and if I am leaving the ears long, I often tie them up out of the way while I work on the head so I don’t accidentally zip off hair I don’t intend to.
You can then blend from behind the ear into the body coat. Since this area is prone to tangling on many dogs, I sometimes use my scissors to shorten this spot even more once the clipping is done.
The nice thing about using a trimmer or clipper and combs is that you can press the clipper against the skin to clip evenly, following the dog’s natural contours, or just float the comb over the hair, taking off some length, but leaving enough to do some creative scissor work later.
Comb through the head and face well and stand back to see how your roughed-in work looks. If it is too long, repeat with a comb one size shorter.
Fig. 4 To finish up your work, decide if you want to use scissors, thinners or chunkers. I usually use scissors first, tidying up the ears and over the eyes. Next, I put my beloved chunkers to work. Combing everything forward, I neaten up any uneven spots.
I like to use a short blade (usually a #30) to clean up any straggly hairs on the upper lip, just under the nose. This was once described to me as “kissy lips,” and my customers like the look and the fact that it removes a lot of hair that remains damp all the time. I also check to make sure the flews do not have clumps of dark, stained hair. If they do, I trim that up too.
On average, I can groom a small- to medium-sized dog’s head like this in about 5-10 minutes. A far cry from the 25-30 minutes I used to spend on this oh-so-important part of the dog. Using snap-on combs can help you create adorable short faces in a snap! ✂️