Breed Trims

Whether you have a Shih Tzu, Bichon Frise, or any other pure breed of dog, you probably picked it because you like they way it looks when it's groomed to breed standards.

Many breed-specific trims can fit into other breeds in the same group. For instance, the sporting group, which includes all types of Spaniels and Setters, has the same basic pattern for trimming. You can use this trim on Cocker, Springer, and English Cocker as well as Irish or English Setters, with few variations. This basic pattern is used on many different breeds from Terriers to pet trims on many other breeds.

So, you'd like a Mohawk on your dog. How about a lion cut? The sky is the limit! Depending on the type of hair the dog has, you can do many things to change the look, from a traditional breed cut to something more your style. Maybe you think long ears are the cutest thing ever — if so, grow them out. It's your dog, and you should feel free to express yourself and your personality, as well as your pet's personality.

This is an Irish Setter before grooming.

Spaniels and Setters

In the photo, notice the solid line along the body of the dog. This is where you will be stripping or clipping the dog. The space between the solid line and the dotted line is your blending line, which is where you will thin any bulky hair and blend in your shorter hair to meet the longer hair below it.

The arrow pointing to the dog's foot indicates hair growing between the toes that you need to remove. Whenever scissors or clippers are used between the toes, extra care should be exerted to avoid scratching or nicking the delicate skin of the toes and the webbing between the toes.

An old-school groomer will preclip the dog before bathing it, but the truth is it's easier to bathe the dog first. You save time and wear and tear on your blades, which dull when they are used to cut dirty hair.

Notice the lighter colored hair? You need to card or pull out that fine fluff in order to leave the dark red of this Irish Setter. This Setter doesn't have long furnishings yet, as he is still very young. The line along the top of the dog's head indicates where there is light colored fuzz the groomer will remove by carding or plucking. The groomer will also remove the hair on his face and front of his neck down to the lines to leave a nice, long elegant neck.

Bichon Trims

The breed-standard Bichon trim is a hand-scissored trim, but you can cheat and use snap-on combs for the body most of the time. Many pet Bichons don't have breed profile trims because it's a lot of hair, and most owners can't maintain the breed trim.

Bichon heads have changed over the years. They used to have a bell-shaped head, but now they have a round head. It is a personal preference, but the round head is more popular in the show ring and among casual owners. You can make your Bichon look very cute and breed appropriate if you use snap-on combs or a long regular blade. About the shortest blade you can use is a 4F, but it depends on the dog. Bichons are white and tend to sunburn, so be careful not to expose any pink skin.

The Bichon is supposed to look fluffy. You can accomplish his by first washing and blow-drying the coat against the direction of growth, straightening out all the curls. Use a snap-on comb over your clipper blade to leave the desired length of hair and clip the body. The front legs are scissored into straight columns large enough that the feet don't show. Rear legs also don't show the dog's feet, but the curvature of the knee and rear are emphasized.

The head should be round with the ears trimmed to look as if they are part of the circle that makes up the head. You can get the eyes to look deep-set by trimming just in front of each eye and allowing a little more hair to fall between the eyes. This creates a little visor that curves upward into the round head. The Bichon's neck hair is left a little bit longer than the body to form a crest that joins the head. Make the tail stand out by making an inverted “v” for it on the rump.

Barbara Bird is one of the experts on Bichon grooming, and her Web site,, is full of information about the Bichon Frise and how to groom it properly.

Terrier Trims

Westies and other wire-coated breeds are traditionally hand stripped. However, they also look nice with a clipper trim. A 4 blade or snap-on combs work well to groom terrier coats. Remember to card out the excess undercoat after clipping. The easiest way to clip in a shorter saddle on terriers is to simply clip with the lay of the hair and where the widest part of the dog's body is, allowing your clippers to float off the body. It will gently blend the shorter saddle in with the longer skirt of some terriers.

Here is a West Highland White Terrier, or Westie, and you can see his rounded head.

To clip the fur on the Westie's head, envision what you want it to look like and cut in a circle. Depending on the dog, you may be able to layer out the top and face. Westie heads are supposed to look like a chrysanthemum, but most Westies don't have the right texture or enough fur to make it look that way. Hair gel to the rescue! There are numerous products to use to add body to otherwise limp or sparse hair to add volume.

Yorkie Trim

Most dogs are pets, and there are many cute styles to make your pet look adorable! There are no rules that say a Yorkie has to look like a Yorkie, or a Shih-Tzu has to look like a Shih-Tzu. Breed trims on those dogs are to the floor and are too high maintenance for most people. Opt for a cute trim that highlights your pet's best features, usually a cute face and expressive eyes.

This is a Yorkie before her bath and trim.

The groomer gave this cutie a modified Westie trim, with a rounded head and shorter back coat over a longer skirt.

With long hair you have a lot of options, but this dog lives in the country and it's summertime and hot out. Her owner wants her to be cool, comfortable, and cute. You can use snap-on guide combs on your clipper to groom Yorkies and drop-coated breeds such as Shih-Tzus, Lhasa Apso, and Silky Terriers. If you prefer a shorter cut, use a longer-length blade on your clipper; if you are using professional clippers with A5 type blades, a 4 blade works very nicely to leave the hair about one-half-inch long.

You will have to use a 10 blade or shorter for sanitary trim, and be very careful at the tuck-up area, which is the area in front of the hind leg where the leg joins the body. Longer blades easily nick this area if you aren't careful.

Special Ear Trims

Yorkies have the top one-third of the ear trimmed short. This enhances the pricked-ear appearance. You can do this with clippers and a 10 blade or with scissors. Be very careful to work from the middle of the ear toward the edge so you don't nick the delicate ear edges.

Schnauzers have the entire ear shaved short and Scotties have the ear shaved almost all over, like the Schnauzer, but a tuft is left on the front inside corner of the ear. To make the correct tuft on a Scottie, fold the tip of the ear down toward the head. Your tuft should start at the base of the ear and gradually blend back into the ear at the fold. Small scissors are used for this. The tuft itself starts out about an inch wide at the base of the ear and by the time it reaches the fold it resembles a small triangle. Spaniel and Setter ears are shaved very close at the top one-third of the ear and the bottom of the ear is rounded.

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