What's a Teddy Bear Cut? (And Other Lessons From a Groomer)
A Custom Haircut
Defining Groomer Speak: Those Cute But Confusing Terms
When I worked as a pet groomer, I 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 bringing them in for 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 ShopClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
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 CutsClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
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.
Good reasons for 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.
Good reasons for maintaining 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 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
- 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.