I Want a “Puppy Cut”

Don’t you love it when an owner walks into a salon and ask for this trim by name? They actually think this is a universal standard trim that all groomers and pet stylists should know how to do. When we start asking them questions, they get all huffy, thinking we don’t know how to do our jobs. Frustrating!! You and I know there isn’t a consistent right way to do a “puppy cut.” There are many – many variations!

The puppy cut is one of the most popular haircuts. It works well on a wide variety of pets. From Shih Tzus to Doodles. From Pomeranians to Bichons. Almost any breed that grows longer coat can be done in this easy-to-care for style.

Yet, the puppy cut is also the most misunderstood haircut in grooming salons around the country. Why? There are no clear directions of what this trim actually is or how it should be done. It’s left up to individual personal interpretation by owners, groomers, or talented pet stylists.

The puppy cut started out as a trim style for Poodles. The puppy cut is a specific trim used on young Poodles in the dog show world. Once the puppy turns a year-old, they are put into the elaborate adult haircut for the conformation ring.

Today, the term “puppy cut” is used very loosely. It can apply to a wide variety of different breeds. It’s highly adaptable to any size of dog. Coats can be curly, wavy, or straight. Almost any purebred or mixed breed that grows hair looks appealing in a “puppy cut.”

quote 2 Many owners love this style of trim. It can be very cute. It’s easy to care for. It’s highly versatile. That’s a win-win-win for any busy family! The dog does not drag in dirt and debris from outdoors. Their ears do not drag in the food or water dish. The need for brushing between grooming appointments is minimized. And on smaller pets, bathing between grooming appointments is a breeze. When done well, it can be extremely attractive, to boot.

So what is it?

Essentially, the puppy cut is one length all over. The most common length is between 1-2 inches over the body, legs, tail, head, and ears. Typically, it’s done with a clipper fitted with a long guard comb over the blade. There should not be any clipper marks, uneven coat, or sharp edges left in the fur. Next to a powerful clipper, high quality blenders are your best friends when doing this trim. Everything is soft and plush, like a fluffy puppy.

The term “puppy cut” can be tricky. In some circles the puppy cut can also be known as the “teddy bear trim”, “summer cut”, or “kennel cut.” I’ve even seen some salons turn their version of the trim into their “signature haircut.” So the puppy cut becomes “The Posh Pet Special” (brilliant marketing by the way!) Generally, the only things that change between theses trims are the names and the length of coat.

It’s important to keep this in mind, too: one person’s interpretation of a puppy cut might be that of a smooth-coated puppy. Think Boxer, Pug, or Beagle. Another person’s interpretation would be that of a fluffier breed like a Shih Tzu, Bichon, or Poodle. There’s also a big difference between a four-week old puppy and a ten-week old puppy in terms of coat growth.

With all these interpretations, there is a wide variance of what each individual dog will look like and what each owner expects their dog to look like. If an owner is requesting this trim for the first time, be prepared to discuss the trim in detail with the owner. DO NOT ASSUME YOU ARE BOTH ON THE SAME PAGE! Communication is the key to a happy customer.

Here is a great tip to remember when talking with clients: whoever is asking the questions controls the conversation. As groomers and pet stylists, we are problem solvers. Uncover the problems in five simple steps.

  1. Observe the pet as the client walks through the door. Let common sense guide your line of questions.
  2. Find the problem. Ask basic questions like, “Were you thinking of a short and smooth style or something a bit fluffier?” Letting the client talk will help uncover problem areas.
  3. Gather clues from what the client tells you and what you observe.
  4. Offer limited choices as you help the client solve the problem.
  5. Guide the questions in five areas of the pet: overall body – head – ears – legs/feet – tail.

Here is a list of talking points when a new client request a “puppy cut.”

  • In general, what is the look they are hoping for? Something smooth and sleek so it’s easy to care for? Or something that makes the dog look slightly fluffy, plush, and super cute?
  • What is the lifestyle of the dog? Active? Sedentary? City dweller? Enjoys outdoor activities?
  • What is the texture and coat density of the dog? Fine, thin coats will looks shorter than dense coated dogs even with the same length clipper blade.
  • How much length do they want left on the body? What about on the legs? Feet?
  • What type of head style would they prefer?
  • Depending on the pet’s ear set, ear styles can change dramatically (dropped ear or pricked and pointed). How do they want them styled? Long? Short? In-between?
  • Do they want a long coat left on the tail or trimmed down to match the body? Or something in-between?

It’s important to have a thorough conversation with the owner when considering this haircut. There are so many variances with a puppy cut. Simply having the client state they want one is not specific enough.

Advise the client about trim options that would work best for their dog. Based on the condition of the coat and your pet’s body structure, you will be able to offer some valuable suggestions. A skilled pet professional will know how to make minor changes to the trim enhancing the pet’s appeal. Maybe the pet’s coat is too tangled to do the longer trim today. You’ll be able to suggest alternatives on how to modify a trim that works best as you discuss options for future trims.

Educating clients on proper pet hygiene is a valuable service most salon offer for free to their clients. In order to keep the dog looking its best, you can advise the client on how to best maintain this haircut between grooming appointments. At home brushing and bathing can make a big difference in how they look and smell, too. You can also make suggestions on how often the trim should be done based on the pet’s life style and coat texture. Maybe you suggest they get a full haircut every 4-6 weeks. Or maybe a maintenance program would be better suited for the client when you see them for weekly or bi weekly appointments.

Always remember, your clients are the lifeblood of your business. Taking a little extra time up front for a warm and welcoming pet consultation will go a long way toward building a solid relationship with them.

There is a good reason why the “puppy cut” is one of the most popular trims in grooming salons around the country. There are many – many variations!

What is YOUR first thought when you hear this term? How do you address this issue?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it!
Happy trimming,

~Melissa

P.S. You can make this and ALL grooming conversations easier and more successful.

This is a great tool tool for getting the conversation started in a way that is easy for you to explain and for the client to understand. The photos and drawings make it even simpler! Try it the next time you talk to your guests. Even better? Use this as a teaching/training tool for your staff so you are all consistent in the ways you speak to your clients. Once everyone on your team knows how to discuss the essential parts of the pet, they’ll sound more knowledgeable, your clients will feel more comfortable, and you’ll waste less time (and possibly profits) correcting “guess work!”

7 Speedy Grooming Tips for a Happier Pet

headerSpeedy pet grooming is one of many ways we show compassion for the animals in our care. Grooming efficiently doesn’t mean you care less about their needs. You can groom a pet quickly while still being gentle, respectful, and without sacrificing quality and thoroughness.

I understand this not only as a groomer, but from personal experience with my own fur family. I have Maremma Sheepdogs, two of which are over 10 years old. They are heavy, double-coated, large dogs. At one time, they had the physical strength to endure longer grooming sessions. However, as they’ve aged, grooming has become more uncomfortable to tolerate.

It’s important to get them in and out of the grooming salon as quickly as possible. Anything over an hour and a half fatigues them. They have some difficulty standing on the grooming table. The risk of injury is much higher simply because they are not as steady, strong, or sturdy as they once were. When they come home, both sleep for hours without getting up. As beautiful as they are, I know they are physically and mentally exhausted from the grooming process.

Most pets benefit from minimizing the amount of time they spend in the grooming process.

  • Young dogs do not have the attention span to deal with prolonged grooming sessions when they are first being introduced to the process.
  • Many pets are “home bodies” that don’t deal well with situations outside of their home life. The sooner you can get them back to their owners and into their home, the more comfortable they are.
  • Prolonging the grooming process on difficult or aggressive dogs typically aggravates the situation. Handling them in a gentle, respectful manner in the least amount of time is beneficial for both them and the groomer.
  • Senior dogs may not have the patience nor the physical ability to tolerate longer grooming sessions. Speeding up the process and/or giving them rest breaks as they get fatigued between active grooming procedures will make them more comfortable.

Regardless of whether it is a full brush-out or a haircut these are my time goals for pets being groomed every 4-6 weeks:

Most small to medium-size dogs – about an hour.

Larger, furrier dogs – approximately 90 minutes.

quoteOf course, large dogs with excessive hair that are in poor condition or are not groomed on a regular basis are going to take longer. Short haired, light coated, smaller dogs, or pets with simple haircuts may take less time.

How do you speed up the process without sacrificing the pet’s well-being?

  1. Equipment – Working with high-quality equipment facilitates speed, effectiveness, and quality of the final grooming product. Continually upgrade your tools and equipment. Do not hesitate to replace tired or worn out items. The investment will have a positive impact on the well-being of your pet clients (as well as your bottom line).
  2. Supplies – Keep your tools organized and within arm’s reach. Having your supplies nearby also means fewer wasted footsteps each day. Saving steps = saving time.
  3. Handling – Pets are highly capable of reading energy – yours and the salon’s. Dogs are silent communicators. Minimize unnecessary talk and movements towards the pet. The more you can remain calm, cool, and collected, the more enjoyable the entire grooming session will be – regardless of the temperament of the pet.
  4. Focus – While working on any pet, staying fully focused enables you to complete the grooming process in the least amount of time possible. If chatting and music are distractions, eliminating them will allow you to focus more closely on what really matters – the pet.
  5. Comfort and Safety – Comfort and safety applies to both the pet and the handler. Adjustable tables and grooming arms need to be sturdy. A well-positioned safety loop keeps the dog tethered to the table or in the bathtub comfortably while restricting unnecessary movement. Utilizing a Groomers Helper acts like a second set of hands for pets who are overly active on the grooming table. Using an anti-fatigue type matt on the tabletop offers security and comfort to the pet, especially those that are larger or older. If a muzzle is necessary to prevent a dog from biting, make sure it is comfortable for the pet. If a pet is sensitive to the noise of a dryer or the sounds of an active salon, a Happy Hoodie can reduce their anxiety.
  6. Knowledge – The more educated you are about the entire grooming process, the more confidence you will have. The more confident you are, the more quickly you can make a dog feel at ease. Being self-assured allows you to get through the entire grooming process quickly.
  7. Bows and Bandannas – These items can easily be premade prior to the completion of the grooming. Having them ready and waiting means your pet doesn’t have to.

Being efficient with the entire grooming process is not just about getting more dogs done in a day. It’s about being compassionate towards the pet. It’s about being effective, knowledgeable and skillful with your grooming techniques. It’s about knowing how to produce amazing work in the least amount of time. It’s about being gentle and respectful to the pet regardless of their size, condition, or temperament.

We are here to help pets and their owners. We work as a team, looking out for the pet’s overall health and well-being. To me, that’s the most rewarding part of being a professional pet groomer/stylist. Being able to get a dog or cat back to its owner in the least amount of time is just one way of keeping pets healthy and happy.

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S. Did I miss any tricks? Tell me what works for you.  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it!

It’s Shedding Season!

DG It’s shedding season in the northern hemisphere. All those heavy coated bath and brush dogs have begun the seasonal shedding process. It’s my favorite time of year!

Is it messy? Absolutely. Can it be a lot of work? You bet. But if you’re prepared, have the right tools, and know the tricks, it doesn’t take that long. And it’s not that hard. I don’t know about you, but for me, this is the most gratifying grooming work. There is nothing more rewarding. I love the feel. I love the smell. I love to watch the dogs move as their coat floats and glistens in the sun.

I love big furry dogs. My husband and I live with three Maremma Sheepdogs. We live on a farm in Michigan and experience all four seasons. Seasonal shedding is something we battle every year. As owners of a grooming school, we are fortunate to have our dogs groomed on a regular basis.

Pearl2editAfter a recent grooming session, our Maremmas came home looking and feeling great. However, although one looked amazing, a closer inspection told a different story. Her loose and shedding coat was still stuck next to her skin. In another week, we were going to have a mess. She was going to start leaving tufts of white fur everywhere. When done well, all the packed coat is removed and a comb will glide through the coat from the skin out. Each hair shaft stands independently. This wasn’t the case with this grooming.

As professional pet groomers, we are problem solvers. People bring us dirty dogs. Shedding dogs. Stinky dogs. Overgrown dogs. Matted dogs. Our job is to clean them up while treating them with respect and compassion. The faster and safer we can get though a big job, the better is it for all involved – people and pets. But we want to be thorough at the same time. If a grooming job is not going to hold up or it’s not thoroughly done, the client isn’t going to come back and/or become a repeat customer.

What are the tricks to get these heavily coated, shedding dogs done in the least amount of time?

Here’s what I think about every single time I groom a heavy coated dog:

The bigger and messier it is, the more impressive and rewarding the outcome will be.

  1. A clean coat is going to facilitate speed in the grooming process. Let’s face it, it’s much more enjoyable to work on a clean coat versus a dirty coat! Let the shampoo do a lot of the work for you. If you remove the dirt prior to doing a lot of brushing, your products and your tools can do most of the work for you to remove matted and shedding coat. My rule of thumb is if the water can penetrate to the skin, get the dog directly to the tub. If there are sections that are so dense that water can’t penetrate, cut those areas into sections so that it can. Do at least two lathers with a shampoo. The first one can be quick and the second lather much more thorough. Occasionally, you might need a third lather in certain spots to get it clean. Using a great conditioning treatment after the bathing process can also be very beneficial.
  2. pearl3editA powerful high velocity dryer or “blaster” is the key to getting through this type of grooming job. A powerful stream of air from the high velocity dryer will do the bulk of the work for you when it comes to removing mats, tangles, and shedding coat. Ideally, you will want to have a condenser cone on the nozzle of the dryer when you first start the drying process. On well-behaved dogs who enjoy the high velocity dryer, two or even three high velocity dryers can be used to speed up the entire process. On pets that have a lot of mats, tangles, and densely packed coat, using a high velocity dryer with a condensing nozzle to blow the shampoo out of the coat on the second lather in the tub is a great trick. What do you do when you have a ring on your finger that you can’t get off? Apply soap, right? The same principle applies. The shampoo provides the lubrication and air pushes the hair apart. Easy on the dog – and easy on you.
  3. Being efficient and effective starts with focus. Your eyes should always be looking directly where the air is striking. Hold the dryer nozzle as close to the skin as possible without curling the hair onto itself, which can cause whip knots. (These whipped knots are almost impossible to remove.) As you’re moving the nozzle around the dog, watch for problem areas with the skin and coat. As the air strikes an area, the coat spiders out. The spidering area is loose coat, mats, and tangles as it’s pushed out and away from the skin.
  4. Elbow grease is a must. Once all the problem areas have been loosened and pushed out as much as possible, it’s time to remove the condenser cone and pick up the brush. You will brush using a pat-and-pull method just where the air is striking. It’s a very soft and methodical brushing technique. Done correctly, it’s highly effective while also being gentle on the dog. Brush only where the air is concentrated. This allows you brush to work through the rest of the problem area while the air blows excessive fur out of the way and off the dog.
  5. Pearl4editBe methodical. Be kind. Be considerate to the needs of the pet. Sometimes, on these heavily coated dogs, slowing it down will actually speed you up. Be thorough. The dog is not done until a wide toothed comb can be sunk down to the skin and pulled smoothly through the coat. Feel for dampness. Feel for inconsistency in coat density. Let your fingers sink to the skin. Let your hands be your guide. If anything triggers a quality control check, don’t ignore it. Go back and redo that area.

This type of work is a challenge. Not everybody can do it well. But those who do enjoy working on the large and the furry know what I’m talking about. We love it. I get so much gratification seeing piles of loose coat on the floor. I love those days when we have to empty out our shop vac multiple times because of so much shedding coat floating around the salon! At the end of those days, I know I’ve earned my money (and a glass of vino!)

If you’d like to learn the details of dealing with a heavy coated dog, here are some resources:

Notes From the Grooming Table16_CMYK_Grooming_Cover_4-18Bnew-image:

Bathing, Drying, Brushing, and Structure of a Mat sections

Theory of 5Theory Cover:

Bath and Brush section

Learn2GroomDogs.comL2GD_LOGO_Web

streaming video lessons:

  • Bathing & Drying Combination Coat
  • Bathing & Drying Heavy Coated
  • Brushing Skills
  • Finishing the Bath & Brush Style Pet
  • Salvage Work on a Heavy Coated Dog
  • Structure of a Mat
  • The Magic of Forced Air Drying
  • Speed & Efficiency – How to Groom a Monster Sized Dog in 76 Minutes

I love seeing a coat that glimmers in the sun. That moves with the dog as it moves. When you sink your hands into it, it feels soft and silky. Not only does the dog look good – they smell good too! The dog knows it. They have an air of distinction – they are proud and it shows. This type of work, done well, makes me proud to be a professional pet groomer.

~Happy trimming,

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white P.S. Did I miss any tricks? Tell me what works for you.  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

clinicSpend the day with Melissa

Melissa Verplank will be in the Tampa, Florida area on Sunday, March 19, 2017 for an all day seminar.  Melissa will present four of her most popular lectures that are sure to help you and your business!

How to Use Anatomy to Groom the English Setter

Anatomy is the Foundation of All Grooming 

You’ve heard me say this before:

All dogs – whether a Yorkshire Terrier, a Great Dane, a Bulldog, or a Dachshund – possess identical bone and muscle structure. Fundamentally, they all are the same.

Excellent grooming starts always starts with a firm understating of canine anatomy. It is the FOUNDATION of all grooming.

Basic pattern lines are set based on the muscle and bone structure.

Depending on how physically active a dog is, the muscle structure may be very prominent. It could be lurking under a layer of fat. It may also be poorly developed due to age or lack of physical activity.

Nonetheless, those muscles are there. They will help you set symmetrical and correct pattern lines.

The bones are there, too. Whether the dog is anatomically correct when compared to the breed standard is something else altogether when we are dealing with pet dogs. Understanding what a physically sound dog is will help you immensely. When you know the difference between good and bad structure, you’ll be able to hide many faults.

When we combine all the layers of the dog – the bones, muscles, the skin and the fur – we will be able to mold and shape the coat to highlight the dog’s best features and downplay the others. If the bone structure is a little less than perfect, you can use the hair to camouflage those defects.

Before you begin grooming any dog, get your hands on them! Close your eyes. Feel the structure under the coat. Sink your fingers deep in the fur. Pay close attention to the muscle groups highlighted in color in these diagrams.

The Essence of the Breed

Before you start grooming any dog, you need to familiarize yourself with the breed and understand its essence.

The English Setter is a Sporting dog of great style. It should be physically fit and structurally sound to work long hours in the field flushing game. The general outline of the English Setter will be rectangular. The shoulder lay back and the angles of both the front and rear assemblies should allow for adequate reach and drive.

The coat is silky, flat, and should lay close to the body. English Setters have longer feathering on the ears, chest, abdomen, underside of thighs, back of all legs, and on the tail. The longer coat should not be so long as to hide the true lines of the dogs, movement, or the function of field hunting.

Landmarks for Grooming & Styling

When it comes to grooming, let’s work around the dog using its anatomy as a reference.

When done “correctly,” Setters are hand stripped for a very natural look. However, in pet grooming circles, it is common to see the pattern clipper-cut or styled using a combination of clipping and stripping to save time. Regardless of the method you chose, the anatomy reference points – or landmarks – will remain the same.

Setting the Throat: Feel for the muscles at the sides of the neck to set the throat pattern line. A visual clue to this area is at the “frill” or cowlick line running down the sides of the neck. The throat area is directly below the jaw, inside the muscles running down the outside of the neck. The shape is generally a soft “U” shape. The lowest part of the “U” stops a few fingers above the prosternum bone.

Body: The jacket coat on the bulk of the body is shorter and lays flat on dog. Follow the natural lay of the coat when working this area.

Shoulder: Use the turn of the muscle at the shoulder to set the jacket pattern on the body.

Elbow: The turn of the shoulder will also tell you the location of the elbow. This is the general location of where to start the pattern on the body, sweeping back and upwards towards the flank of the dog.

Spring of Rib: The turn of the ribs will help set the pattern line separating the dog’s body jacket which consists of much shorter coat, blending invisibly into the longer feathering found on the lower portion of the dog’s body.

Undercarriage: The undercarriage line creates a focal point for balance of the overall dog. The highest point of the graceful sweep will be directly under the last few ribs.

Flank: Moving into the flank area, the thigh muscle should be exposed to help accentuate a physically fit and muscular dog.

Tail: For balance, the tail should reach to the hock and be a triangular flag. There is a slight gap of fur on the underside of the tail at the base. This slight space separates the longer rear furnishings with the feathering on the tail.

Topline: The top line maybe level or slightly sloping from the withers to the tail.

Neck: The long graceful neck is well muscled and slightly arched.

Head: The lines of the skull are parallel with a well definite stop.

Ears: Set well back and low, even with or below the level of the eye.

All these areas are natural landmarks used as reference points on any breed. When you combine anatomy with the official breed standard for any purebred dog, you have knowledge. You can use this understanding to accentuate the proper structure of the English Setter.

Always remember, all transition lines should be invisible. Ideally, the English Setter should look totally natural when finished – as if the coat simply grew that way.

Combining the use of these anatomical landmarks and skillful technical skills, a talented pet stylist can easily create a symmetrical, stylish, and well-balanced trim on any dog – purebred or mixed breed.

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteP.S. Has this helped? Let us know if there are other topics you’d like us to explore.  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us what would help you.