Hiding Conformation Flaws
Sometimes a dog doesn't exactly fit the breed standard and show dog groomers have to camouflage the flaws to make it look better. For instance, a Poodle that is too long in the back can be fixed by taking the hair shorter on the front of the front legs and leaving more hair on the backs, then taking the back of the rear legs short and leaving more hair on the fronts. This fills in the gap between the legs, fools the eye, and makes the dog appear more square.
A dog that is fiddle fronted has paws that turn outward, making the dog bowlegged. A dog can look as if it has straight legs simply by leaving more hair and using your shears to cut a straight perpendicular line from the shoulder to the foot. Again, on the insides of the legs this leaves more hair to fill in where the dog needs it and takes the hair shorter where the dog's legs bend, making the legs appear straight.
The lines on this dog show where you should cut the hair to disguise his crooked legs.
Underbites and Overbites
A dog with an underbite can have it disguised by leaving a moustache on the dog and trimming the chin hair shorter. You disguise overbites in the opposite way, leaving more hair on the chin and less on the upper lip.
Flying Nun Ears
Some dogs have what groomers call flying nun ears. If you are under the age of forty, you probably don't remember the TV series The Flying Nun with Sally Field, but she wore a nun's habit and a wacky hat that looked as if it had wings. Many dogs, especially Poodles, have this little flaw. The main thing to remember on dogs with these ears is not to cut the ears short. They need the weight of the hair to hold their ears down and make them look better. The more ear hair on these dogs, the better!
Cocker Spaniels are notorious for getting hula skirts from groomers and owners that are more concerned with making the pattern show than blending in the skirt. The hula skirt sticks out on the sides of the dog and looks funny.
Whatever the flaw you want to hide, you simply have to picture in your mind what the dog is supposed to look like and follow those lines. If you follow the contours of the dog's body, you will simply enhance its flaws.
The key to fixing this is simply to blend in the skirt with your clippers. Take your clippers and go down the dog's sides. When you get to the widest part of the rib cage, float the clippers straight down and off the dog. Do not follow the contour of the body; just let the clippers fall straight down off the dog. The result is a layered skirt that falls nicely around the dog and doesn't stick out. Blending shears — shears with one solid and one toothed blade — can tidy up places where you have a bulge in the hair or hair that doesn't fall just right.
On the Level
If the dog has a dip in his back, you can create a more level topline by holding your shears horizontal and trimming it. This leaves more hair to fill in the dip and takes the higher withers and hip hair shorter.
Likewise, if the dog has roach or hump back, you can take your shears and hold them level and trim the top of the hump very short, leaving more hair to fill in the areas over the rump and shoulders.
Once you develop an eye for seeing what you want to do, it becomes easier to fix imperfections. It's a good idea to take a step back now and then and really look at the dog and what area you are grooming. Things might just pop out at you then and you will see what you need to make a bit more even, or maybe you'll find that one big chunk of hair sticking out that you didn't see before. Groomers have been known to chase people out the door yelling, “Wait! I see something I missed!”