Groomer to Groomer

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Standard Poodle in a Bichon Suit

Bread & Butter Grooming:

By Kathy Rose

The curly locks of a properly coated Poodle provide us with the canvas to create almost any work of art from creative styling to designing a breed imposter. In many instances, time dictates that we take some short cuts in our styling methods to keep the cost down for our clients. The use of snap-on combs greatly reduces the time spent and affords us the opportunity to send fluffy dogs out of our salons at a reasonable price.

Coat preparation is a key element in any groom but especially when using snap-on combs. The coat must be clean, conditioned, fluff dried, and completely brushed and combed before considering placing a snap-on comb on the dog. A tangle or mat may cause the comb to spring off with agonizing results when the blade under the comb hits the coat. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of proper coat preparation!

The usual prep steps, such as trimming nails, cleaning ears, and shaving pads and underwear (sanitary), are assumed and not covered in this article.

Fig. 1:

Begin by establishing the topline of the dog. By placing a large Poodle comb along the back, you can easily determine topline plane. This is important when using snap-on combs, because the guard will naturally follow the existing structural topline. For example, a dog with a dip in the topline will require some trimming modification in order to portray the illusion of a level topline. Keep this in mind when choosing your initial blade/guard length, as the length on the rump may need to be up to a few inches shorter than the blade/guard used just behind the withers.

For this dog, a 0 snap-on comb over a 30 blade was used for the body, chest, shoulder, flanks, and down the back of the rear legs.

Begin clipping a few inches behind the withers. Many dogs have a slight dip behind the withers. This allows a little extra room for blending up to the longer coat over the withers and onto the neck. Clip the entire back, stopping before you go over the point of rump. “Fall off” (skim off) at certain points, such as at the shoulder and the hip.

Fig. 2:

Lift the clipper off the coat just above the point of rump, and then proceed, clipping down the rear thigh to about three inches above the hock. Leaving a little extra coat at the point of rump will help you to create a curvy, round butt.

Fig. 3:

Clip the undercarriage, going against the coat growth pattern, and then blend up to the flank coat. Do not clip the “tuck up.”

Fig. 4:

Moving to the front of the dog, clip the forechest, beginning just under the jawline. Take care not to clip too far up on the cheeks. The clipped area forms a semicircle from under the jaw to a bit below the ear leather on the sides of the neck.

Fig. 5:

Continue clipping down the forechest and over the shoulder, falling off before cutting into the leg coat.

Clip the sides of the shoulders, leaving a triangular pattern of coat from behind the ear to a few inches behind the withers.

Switching to a longer guard comb (in this case, an “E”), clip the legs and the longer patch of coat left over the point of rump. Fig. 6 demonstrates how to clip the inside of the rear leg by lifting the opposite leg.

When clipping down the front leg, “fall off” before clipping the coat on the back of the front leg. Leaving coat slightly longer here helps to place the front legs well under the dog and give the illusion of a square dog. It will be tidied with scissors later.

Fig. 7:

If the dog has a high rear, a shorter blade will need to be taken directly over the rump. In this case, #4 was used to help give the illusion of a level topline.

Begin at the rear of the dog at the topline with long straight shears, then tidy the inside and the outside of the rear legs.

Switching to long curved shears inverted in a scooping motion, trim the angulation on the back of the rear legs.

Fig. 8:

Flip the shears and continue up and over the point of rump, creating a curvy butt.

Trim the stray hairs on the front side of the rear leg to show a slight bend in stifle (knee).

Using a short curved shear inverted, trim the tuck up, and then switch to a long curve.

Fig. 9:

Follow the natural underline of the dog all the way through the space between the front legs and curving up to the chest.

Blend the longer coat that was left from the elbow down the back of the front leg.

Fig. 10:

Tighten up the area where the upper arm meets the shoulder.

Using curved shears, create compact round feet, then still using short curved shears, create bevels on the foot.

Fig. 11

shows the parallel rear leg compared to the un-scissored opposite leg.

The head should appear large and round. When the dog’s mouth is closed, his eyes should be approximately in the middle of the circle. With his mouth open, it will appear as though his nose is in the center.

Fig. 12:

Using a #30, trim the hairs on the upper lip just under the nose.

Using a #10, trim slightly under, slightly over, and slightly beyond the outside corner. This is subtle; do not scoop out the hair like a mask. Do not shave the bridge of the nose or between the eyes.

Fig. 13:

Using a short curved shear, blend the coat from the outside corner of the eyes, creating a shelf over the eyes that curves slightly toward the nose.

Fig. 14:

Switching to long curved shears, trim a semicircle, beginning under the jaw and ending behind the ear.

Combing the coat up and out, blend the face and ears to create one headpiece. The ears should be level with or just slightly longer than the jaw and not evident. If the ears are trimmed too short, they will appear prominent when the dog perks his expression. If they are left too long, they will detract from the desired circular shape of the head.

Blend the triangle of neck coat/crest into a natural arched extension of the neck. It should curve from the shoulder into the neck when viewed from the side. It should not look like a “hunch back.”

Blend from the top of the head down to the withers. I use a long curve over the top of the head to about midway down the neck, then invert the shears so the coat curves into the withers. Use the long curves (inverted/scooping) on the sides of the neck to accentuate a graceful neck.

Finish the head and crest by polishing with large blenders.

Although body structure, including eye shape, muzzle shape, etc., plays a role in the final outcome, a well-coated Poodle can be transformed into an imposter of almost any breed you choose. This standard Poodle wearing his Bichon suit attracts a lot of attention and continually draws new Bread and Butter clients to my salon! ✂