Lessons From a Groomer: What's a Teddy Bear Cut?

Updated on February 24, 2016

A Custom Haircut

This poodle mix's mommy knows how to communicate and he gets this same custom cut every time: A #5 kennel clip with poodle feet, poodle face, with a short piere type mustache. Never shorten the tail!
This poodle mix's mommy knows how to communicate and he gets this same custom cut every time: A #5 kennel clip with poodle feet, poodle face, with a short piere type mustache. Never shorten the tail!

Defining Groomer Speak: Those Cute but Confusing Terms

When I worked as a pet groomer I have learned how to speak grooming language and 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 to 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 a beautiful, made- to- order, fancy haircut. You won’t get the haircut 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.

Pictures From my Grooming Shop

A Shihtzu with a Teddy Bear cut using an #A comb.
A Shihtzu with a Teddy Bear cut using an #A comb.
Maltese with a Puppy cut and Puppy style face using a 3-3/4 blade.
Maltese with a Puppy cut and Puppy style face using a 3-3/4 blade.
An Austrailian Shepard with a Kennel clip using a #7 blade.
An Austrailian Shepard with a Kennel clip using a #7 blade.
A Schnauzer with a Kennel clip using a #10 blade.
A Schnauzer with a Kennel clip using a #10 blade.

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 1 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 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 and inch. Only the faces are different and that is only due to owner's preference.

Kennel Cut

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 "off season." Most hunting dogs, for example, are "kenneled" in the "off season." 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 a 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

Cocker cut. Sorry not a good pic of the body, but the head detail is excellent.
Cocker cut. Sorry not a good pic of the body, but the head detail is excellent.
Schnauzer cut. Wish she'd put her ears up!
Schnauzer cut. Wish she'd put her ears up!
Poodle face done with #10.
Poodle face done with #10.
Poodle feet done with #40.
Poodle feet done with #40.
Sanitary with #10. I don't shave the scrotum because you can burn them easily. You can carefully scissor the long hairs around the area.
Sanitary with #10. I don't shave the scrotum because you can burn them easily. You can carefully scissor the long hairs around the area.
My favorite top knot to do! I call this the "pom-pom" top knot. I use my greyhound comb to gather the hair, rubberbands for braces to hold hair, and then put in bows afterwards.
My favorite top knot to do! I call this the "pom-pom" top knot. I use my greyhound comb to gather the hair, rubberbands for braces to hold hair, and then put in bows afterwards.

Breed Cuts and Show Grooming

Breed cuts obviously vary greatly from breed to breed. Most groomers can give your dog its 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 show-grooming services 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 and 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 to accomplish. 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 the feet.

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.

Top Knot

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.

Good reasons for giving your dog a short haircut: 1. You have less than 10 minutes per day to brush out your pets hair. Every day. 2. Your yard has many stickers, leaves, shrubs, bare dirt, or other issues. 3. Your dog has a skin condition that would benefit from getting lots of exposure to air. 4. Your dog constantly defeats your brushing efforts with excessive rolling, and digging. 5. It's hot outside and short hair is really the only humane option. 6. 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.

Good reasons for maintaining a longer haircut: 1. You have plenty of free time (at minimum 10 minutes a day) and enjoy spending time brushing your pet. 2. Your pet has healthy skin with no dandruff, hot spots, or other conditions. 3. Your yard is landscaped in a way that there are no problems with him bringing the outside in with him. 4. It's cold and you can commit the extra time for brushing a long coat. 5. Because you are willing to and do brush, you rarely find any mats on your pet. 6. 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 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 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!

This Lesson Is Part of My Dog-Grooming Series

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    • profile image

      Kimberly Rothman 6 weeks ago

      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 .

    • Mrs. Obvious profile image
      Author

      Mrs. Obvious 6 months ago from Northern California

      Judy,

      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!

    • profile image

      Winifred Fletcher 6 months ago

      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++++

    • profile image

      Judy 7 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Bernadette 9 months ago

      Please...no bib on Schnauzer

    • profile image

      beryl 2 years ago

      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

    • profile image

      ttBird 4 years ago

      Can you tell me when we should take our 8 week old puppy for her first hair cut?

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks. Very informative, I will share this on my dog twitter.

    • Mrs. Obvious profile image
      Author

      Mrs. Obvious 6 years ago from Northern California

      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!!

    • profile image

      Brittanie 6 years ago

      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??

    • Mrs. Obvious profile image
      Author

      Mrs. Obvious 6 years ago from Northern California

      @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!

    • profile image

      Lee Riedel 6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Missy 6 years ago

      Taking

      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.

    • profile image

      AletaE3 7 years ago

      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.

    • Mrs. Obvious profile image
      Author

      Mrs. Obvious 8 years ago from Northern California

      I will try to put up a photo gallery soon. Thanks for the suggestion!

    • profile image

      HI 8 years ago

      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

    • profile image

      R Garcia 8 years ago

      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.

    • Mrs. Obvious profile image
      Author

      Mrs. Obvious 8 years ago from Northern California

      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!

    • profile image

      andante7 8 years ago

      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.

      andante7

    • Mrs. Obvious profile image
      Author

      Mrs. Obvious 8 years ago from Northern California

      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 profile image

      Enelle Lamb 8 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      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.

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