Mrs. Obvious is a mother, wife, and mentor. She used to own her own groom shop called Puppy Love and was self-employed for nine years.
Defining Groomer Speak: Cute but Confusing Terms
When I worked as a pet groomer, I learned how to speak grooming language and how to interpret my clients' needs and desires. Not all groomers can translate dog owners' wishes into great haircuts, however. I sympathize with pet owners and groomers who have a hard time understanding each other. There are various terms in grooming, and groomers use words that are unique to their trade.
I have defined here some of the language of the dog grooming world to help facilitate effective communication on both sides! Better communication can make it easier for dog owners to get a more unique haircut for their dogs.
There is a big difference between dropping your dog off for a generic haircut and bath and bringing them in for a beautiful, made-to-order, fancy haircut. You won’t get the cut you want if you don’t know how to communicate what you want to your groomer. Sometimes there is confusion and disappointment when pet owners ask for certain types of cuts and it doesn't come out the way they wanted.
It’s a good idea to build a relationship with your dog groomer; talk to them and ask questions so you both understand what you would like your pet to look like.
Here's a sneak peek of the topics this article covers:
- Teddy bear and puppy cuts
- Kennel cuts
- Breed cuts
- Shaving between the feet
- Grooming a poodle to be show-ready
- How to cut around the butt
- Maternity cuts
- Pros and cons of long and short hair
Teddy Bear and Puppy Cuts
Teddy bear and puppy cuts are essentially the same thing.
- This type of cut generally means one length all over the body and legs.
- Contrary to popular belief, it does not mean any particular coat length, and there may be quite a bit of variance in opinion from groomer to groomer.
- A puppy or teddy bear cut really only implies that the pet should look cute and cuddly with hair of a length similar to when they were a puppy. This can mean anything from 1/2 inch to over one inch long!
- Puppy cut also refers to the fact that very young puppies are often taken to the groomer to have their faces, feet, and sanitary area done without touching the rest of the coat. Again, this means that the coat could be any length but does generally infer a longish cut.
Do you see in the pictures how I labeled one a puppy cut and the other a teddy bear cut? They look the same and are the same. In fact, the difference between a 3-3/4 blade and the #A comb is less than half an inch. Only the faces are different and that is only due to the owner's preference.
The kennel cut has its origin in the idea that when not showing or otherwise using your dog in the capacity for which he is bred, you would keep his coat very short.
Short coats are easy to manage and less maintenance can be desirable in the "offseason." Most hunting dogs, for example, are "kenneled" in the "offseason." That's how the expression "kennel cut" was born. It actually does not indicate a particular length, except for short. In my book, that is 1/16th of an inch (#10) up to about 1/3 of an inch (#5).
This type of cut is very practical for dog owners with animals that have profuse amounts of coat that they need while hunting to protect their bodies, for instance, but which requires too much up-keep when the hair is not needed.
I put up two pics of kennel cuts so you could see that it is a short cut on the body with lots of options for the head and tail.
Breed Cuts and Show Grooming
Breed cuts obviously vary greatly from breed to breed. Most groomers can give your dog their proper breed cut if that is what you are looking for.
Don’t assume that you can accomplish the pattern yourself. The proper breed haircut is established by the AKC (the American Kennel Club), and there are many good breed pattern books on the market. They are not hard to do if you know the correct techniques, but if you are looking for perfection, you must start with an almost perfectly bred, show-quality animal.
As for show grooming, there are few groomers who will attempt to do show-quality grooming for you. For most of us, it is not cost-effective to put in the time and effort.
If you need a show-quality groom, please seek out a groomer that advertises this and has years of experience in the show arena. They may want to keep your dog for a few days and will charge four to five times what a pet groomer will charge, but your pet will be show-ring ready at the end of the process.
Poodle or Clean Feet
This refers to shaving between the toes and over the entire foot so that it is bald or has barely any hair left.
- This technique is great for keeping the feet clean during muddy seasons and keeping foxtails away from the feet.
- It does require patience and a willing pet. Not only can it be time-consuming, but if the dog is ticklish or sensitive, they may not allow the groomer to do it at all.
- This is one area where I give pets a lot of room. If the groomer is not gentle enough, or if there is a problem with the dog's feet that you are unaware of (like a foxtail in the skin between toes), the process of doing a poodle feet cut can be painful. So use caution, and check the feet carefully when shaving that area.
Poodle or Clean Face
This means shaving the face, cheeks, and muzzle to a nearly bald length, just like poodle feet.
- This is a great cut for animals that tend to have dirty faces, drool a lot, or have leaky eyes. It gives a very fresh, neat appearance.
- It is done with poodles to show off the delicate and beautiful quality of the bones in their faces.
Sanitary Area, Poop Shoot, and Maternity Cut
These terms refer to shaving the hair away from the groin and genitals, including the rectum, for sanitary reasons.
A maternity cut involves shaving the entire belly, from the armpits to the groin, to expose all of a female dog's nipples. This makes it easier to nurse puppies and will assist the mother in keeping herself a little cleaner.
This is the hair on the top of the head. We usually only refer to it as a top knot if we are talking about a poofy poodle style or when putting a bow in the hair of a long-haired dog such as a Yorkie or Shih Tzu.
Arguments for Long and Short Haircuts
To help you mentally prepare for your pet's haircut and decide which style to ask for, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there anything about my dog's current haircut that looks uncomfortable for him? Are there mats on his legs or behind his ears? Is the hair hanging in his eyes? Is poop stuck to his butt?
- Is his hairstyle practical for our lifestyle, our house/yard, and my available maintenance time?
In regards to the second question, check to see if the following applies.
Benefits of Giving Your Dog a Short Haircut:
- You have less than 10 minutes per day to brush out your pet's hair, every day.
- Your yard has many stickers, leaves, shrubs, bare dirt, or other issues.
- Your dog has a skin condition that would benefit from getting lots of exposure to air.
- Your dog constantly defeats your brushing efforts with excessive rolling and digging.
- It's hot outside, and short hair is really the only humane option.
- If his hair hasn't been brushed well in the recent past and he's covered in mats, it may be a long and painful process to try and brush them out. It would be better to just shave the matted hair off.
When You Can Maintain a Longer Haircut:
- You have plenty of free time (at minimum 10 minutes a day) and enjoy spending time brushing your pet.
- Your pet has healthy skin with no dandruff, hot spots, or other conditions.
- Your yard is landscaped in a way that there are no problems with him bringing the outside in with him.
- It's cold, and you can commit the extra time for brushing a long coat.
- Because you are willing to and do brush, you rarely find any mats on your pet.
- Your dog is a little lady and makes an effort to avoid getting dirty.
No matter what you want your dog to look like, his hairstyle must conform to both of your needs.
Your biggest consideration should be how much time and effort you wish to put into maintaining the hair you allow your pet to keep. This includes winter! If winter means your pet must have more hair, then you must maintain it!
If you believe that you can just let it go and not brush or bathe him because you will be shaving off in the spring anyway, you are making a big mistake. This line of thinking will cause your pet so much grief and pain in the form of possible hot spots, bad mats that pinch and pull at the skin, sores from stickers like foxtails and burrs, and a myriad of other skin conditions that will have gone unnoticed all winter.
Now, when you begin grooming, put all your answers to these questions together, and you have a comprehensive picture of what you need to do.
Grooming your pet is not just for a look; it is for their health and comfort, too. I hope you can reach a happy medium between what is necessary and what you like!
More Grooming How-Tos
- How to Use Scissors and Clippers Learn about different types of scissors and clippers, how to choose the correct tools for your pet, and what is worth your money.
- Shampoo Selection for Fleas, Dandruff, and Other Skin Issues Learn about different shampoos and when, why, and how to use them. You don't have to be too picky about the kind of shampoo you use on your dog, just make sure to get a shampoo that is made for dogs, not humans.
- How to Clip Nails and Properly Bathe Your Pet In this lesson, I will describe clipping the nails, cleaning the ears, and giving the bath. Nail clipping is hard to describe, but I will do my best.
- Clipper Tips and Tricks Learn the basics of clipper handling and how to cut hair so that you use your tools safely and effectively.
- How to Dry your Pet Correctly To blow dry or not to blow dry, that is the question. Well folks, the answer is: to blow dry. Why you ask? For several reasons.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Erin on August 19, 2019:
I just got a poodle and it is approaching time for a haircut. I want her to have the same length hair all over her body, I want it to be short what would i ask for?
Suzanne on August 09, 2019:
Can my 7 month old Javanese puppy get a 1-2" main body trim yet? When will her full puppy coat grow in? Thank you.
Willow Mattox (author) from Northern California on May 25, 2019:
Well, I had honestly never heard of a Mi-Ki either so I looked them up online. I am guessing most groomers don't recognize them because they are not AKC certified breed, but they are recognized internationally from what I read. So, a regular sanitary cut should have the butt (around the anus) and the belly (around the nipples and vulva area) shaved. Just be clear with your groomer that you want a regular sanitary cut. IF you don't want the anus completely shaved you can ask for it to not be shaved bald, but maybe just trimmed close to the anus and the surrounding hair shortened too. Hope this helps!
Tamika on April 23, 2019:
My dog is a Mi-Ki purebred. Most don’t know and call her a ,
Maltese or Shih Tzu, that said, could you clarify the different sanitary cuts. With her long straight hair, poop can fall and catch on hair. I’d like a sanitary cut, but have not received consistent results at groomers. With a plume tail her butt shows so I don’t want it all shaved, but need to keep her clean. Since she lays on tummy all day, it can get matted, but unsure a need a full Maternity cut (under arm pits for example, but do want genitalia area and flat of tummy shaved). Do i ask for “sanitary cut, with tummy shaved, and clean feet and paws” with a breed specific body cut? I’d like a consistent groom, but unsure how to get it. Thanks
Kimberly Rothman on May 09, 2018:
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In responce to a post that i just read below that was from several years ago, (I know it’s been a long time but I feel this should be addressed) about bathing cats . The post mentions using a shampoo that contains coal tar and silver. I learned in grooming school that coal tar in shampoos can be extremely TOXIC for cats. MNy dog shampoos contain this and should not be used for bathing cats. When selecting shampoo products to use on cats, you should make sure to read the bottle to see that it mentions that the product is safe for
Use on cats as those will be the products that do not contain coal tar etc.
correct me if I am wrong, but I did complete 6 months of training to get certified in pet grooming and small animal handling safety .
Willow Mattox (author) from Northern California on December 20, 2017:
Being that your dog is still a puppy, I have a feeling that the hair has not reached its full potential yet. Yorkie's have long, thin, straight hair, while Bichon's have a bouncy, curly coat. So it may grow in fuller later. Also, the puppy may not have given the groomer a fair chance to make the cut cute and she probably did her best! For the top knot, try brushing all the hair forward and then cutting it in the shape of a scoop of ice cream. Like a half moon. Then if you take each ear and gently but quickly tug on each one alternately, it will help the hair stand back up naturally. Then continue blending the hair in the shape of an ice cream scoop perched on top of the head, that has melted over the top of the ears. (no sharp lines over the ears, blend it if possible). I hope this helps a bit! Good luck!
Winifred Fletcher on December 16, 2017:
Thank You so much for taking the time to do these write up,s...The information is astounding ...and very helpfull..........thank you for also showing the pics of the lovely dog,s...AAA++++
Judy on October 25, 2017:
My 5 month old Yorkie-Bishon was groomed with a puppy cut; however, his hair on top of his head makes him look like the characters Alfala. Bangs over eyes were cut straight across the new rest of hair is longer. What Can I do to improve his look to being more like the puppy or teddy bear cut. Before cut, he looked like a teddy bear.
Bernadette on August 28, 2017:
Please...no bib on Schnauzer
beryl on January 20, 2016:
I am a new groomer just started a year ago. I saw in your post that use something called a #A comb or brush. What is it, and long short does it make the coats. Thank you
ttBird on June 02, 2014:
Can you tell me when we should take our 8 week old puppy for her first hair cut?
Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 24, 2012:
Thanks. Very informative, I will share this on my dog twitter.
Willow Mattox (author) from Northern California on May 20, 2012:
Brittanie, I'm guessing this is something she's writing on her cards and you haven't been able to ask her about it yet? I wrote a lot of my own shorthand on cards and mine may not be the same as hers, but here are my interpretations that I actually used in the shop. A/O probably means "all over", such as #10 A/O. F/O may mean "face only". I would definitely call her and ask because good communication is essential to good grooming! While I'm at it, here are a few more that I used in my shop. FT "feet". FC "face". PFT "poodle feet". PFC/FT "poodle face and poodle feet". SNZ "schnauzer", useful for saying SNZ cut or SNZ face. TK "top knot". My personal favorite (and one I invented) is using an O with a line over it to indicate "owner". I can't write it here because there is no way to do it with typing. Having a code for owner is useful for saying things like "owner's request" "owner's shampoo", "owner is difficult" and so on...you get the drift! Anyway, thanks for your question, and have a great day!!
Brittanie on May 17, 2012:
I'm new to dog grooming I've only been doing it for a year and recently we have hired another groomer working Saturday's only and she uses two terms that I'm not familiar with they are: F/O and A/O. Any help with this??
Willow Mattox (author) from Northern California on February 15, 2012:
@Lee, if you ask for a teddy bear cut you must be very specific about how long you want the hair to be when its done. The shih-tzu in the pic I did with an A comb. This leaves the hair a little over an inch long and is really cute. But, if this is your puppy's first haircut, she may not be all that cooperative with the groomer. Give the groomer some grace that she will make your puppy look the best she can. The haircut your groomer can do is also based on the condition of your dog's coat. Hopefully it is not matted too much. If it is, then she may end up looking really different than what you expect. Good communication is the key here, so you all know what to expect when it is all done. Good luck!
Lee Riedel on February 15, 2012:
I have an 8mo. old Tibetan Terrier amd she will have her first haircut next week. I'm terrified she will come home looking like someonelses dog. I love her look but want a shorter version because we camp and travel in an R,V, Should I ask for a teddy bear cut? I love the cut on your site of the Shi Zue.
Missy on August 22, 2011:
My shihtzu to
Be shampoo tommarrow I want just around her face and hygene trimmed up she is only four months old the length is perfect.
AletaE3 on July 16, 2010:
Also with bathing cats. Make sure the water is very warm. Not too hot to burn the cat but warm enough for you. It seems the warmer the water the more relaxed the kitty gets, Usually.
Willow Mattox (author) from Northern California on March 10, 2010:
I will try to put up a photo gallery soon. Thanks for the suggestion!
HI on February 18, 2010:
i would like to see a photo galery for dogs you've groomed. so that when i do my dog, it is muck eaiser to go by as well TKS
R Garcia on February 07, 2010:
Wow, this is a great article, well-written and easy to understand for non-groomers. Thank you for helping to facilitate communication between the two groups.
Willow Mattox (author) from Northern California on December 30, 2009:
Yes, cats can be bathed, but limit baths to once a month or so. Use a pet shampoo with coal tar and sulfer as the main ingredients for the dandruff problem. And remember to bathe your kitty very quickly to avoid a long drawn out process and an angry kitty!
andante7 on October 23, 2009:
Terrific articles, Mrs. Obvious! I have two cats...
My questions are:
1) Can or should they be bathed with soap and water? One of my cats loves the shower, being handled and bathed; the other one, not so much.
2) The kitty who is not so much with water seems to have dandruff. Should I use some special dandruff treatment?
Thanks for your comments.
Willow Mattox (author) from Northern California on October 03, 2009:
Enelle, I would use a deep conditioning shampoo on those guys. Maybe start with oatmeal shampoo and then follow up with a creme rinse conditioner about once every other week till their hair starts to feel soft and moisturized. Also if you can or have access to a force blow dryer use it to dry them and it will force out the dead hair and save you some brushing time. Also, try brushing them both every day for at least a week straight. Then you can maintain with once a week brushing. If all that sounds like a lot, send them to the groomer for a good moisturizing bath and to do all the major brushout/blowout work and then just keep them maintained at home. Good luck and I hope that helps. P.S. I don't even do my own dogs at home. Always at the shop!! ;)
Enelle Lamb from Canada's 'California' on October 02, 2009:
Another winner - easy to understand, great illustrations and information! Are you going to do one for short hair breeds too? My b/f has two large dogs (mastif/rotty cross, and shepherd/hound cross, both med/short hair) and they shed horribly! I have been brushing them at least once a week (I don't think they were ever groomed!) and that has improved the shedding situation somewhat, but any tips you can provide would be helpful. I have been using the fruminator deshedding tool and find that works really well.