Style or Function?
What style do you want on your dog? Are you looking for a breed trim or a show groom? How about a style that is short and easy to care for? Perhaps you have a special event and you need your dog to look her best. Maybe you have a Yorkie but love the look of a Schnauzer? Perhaps your adult dog would look cute in a puppy cut. Bring back those memories of how cute he was with his allover wispy fuzz.
Style is all a matter of opinion. When the dog is a pet, you try to make the dog look cute, but make it easy to maintain between grooms. You are limited only by your imagination when it comes to styles, unless you are showing your dog, in which case you must go by the breed standards as to which trim your breed is shown. For example, Poodles are shown in a puppy trim until they are a year old, after which they are shown in the continental or English saddle trim. Each breed has its own standards set forth by the American Kennel Club or parent club of the breed.
Just what is a puppy cut?
Puppy cuts vary by breed. When you go to a groomer and request a puppy cut, most groomers take that to mean leave the dog about one inch all over, and fluffy. A puppy cut can be just about any length you want, and if you clip at home you can do it with a series of guard combs on your clipper or by scissoring the hair. If you go to a groomer, make sure you show your groomer with your finger and thumb about how long you want it cut.
Dog shows involve the best of the breeds, and many people are so enamored of the look that they rush out and buy a puppy of that breed from any breeder they find in the local paper. The problem is that many of the backyard breeders may produce puppies without the quality of hair or body type that show dogs are born with.
When J.R., a Bichon Frise, won Westminster, many Bichon owners wanted their dog to look just like J.R. Unfortunately, if your dog has limp, thin hair that has no body in it, all the mousses, thickeners, and other hair products in the world won't make your dog look like J.R. This is why it is important to know your breed standards. You can hide many faults with a hairstyle, but ultimately, if the hair isn't thick enough or doesn't have body to work with, you may have to settle for something a little less show dog and a little more your adorable baby with a look all her own.
Some breeds have hair that hangs over their eyes. The long hair is for show, and keeping it long can cause problems since his vision is obstructed. Cutting the hair allows the dog to see more clearly, and contrary to popular myth, it will not make him go blind. Similarly, cutting a dog's whiskers will not cause the dog to lose her sense of balance. In fact, show dogs have their whiskers removed.
Function of the coat is a consideration as well. If your dog is a Terrier and a pet, he probably treks through the woods and runs through the brambles and digs for vermin. A show style probably wouldn't be a great idea unless you enjoy picking out burrs and debris from your pet's fur. You may need to opt for something with a little less style and little more function.
Most Nordic breeds are not fond of water. They tend to shake vigorously when bathed. That's nature; if they weren't able to shake themselves dry in the frozen north, they could die of hypothermia. So don't take it personally when your Malamute soaks you with a good shake when you bathe her and you end up wetter than the dog.
A shorter style will make the coat so much easier to care for in this case. Wiry hair is meant to keep the dog's skin from being cut up. That's why it is so dense and harsh — to protect your dog from the elements. Nordic breeds have a dense coat that has a harsher waterproof coat over a soft undercoat for warmth. However, Nordic breeds do need regular brushing to prevent that undercoat from packing and losing its function.
If it's January and you live in Montana, shaving your dog very short probably isn't the wisest idea. If you have a heavy-coated dog and you live in Florida in July, a full coat may not be so comfortable for him. If you don't have time to brush out your dog regularly, keeping a very long hairstyle will serve to frustrate you and your dog when the dog's coat begins to mat.
It will also be nearly unbearable for your dog in the high heat and humidity if you don't care for the coat properly by keeping as much undercoat out as possible to keep it from packing down. A fluffy, brushed-out coat insulates from the heat as well as the cold. Only if you cannot find the time or energy to keep the undercoat in good shape should you decide to clip down a northern breed — a light trim is much more desirable. If you love to take your dog hiking or camping and it's been raining and muddy, long hair can accumulate an enormous amount of mud and you will end up doing much more grooming than you expected — and more house cleaning.
Breeding dogs to get a longer coat wasn't necessarily an act of God; man created many of the coats that we see in dog shows today. If you research the history of your breed, you may find that the dog originally had less coat and barely resembled the dog of today.
The Poodle's continental style was originally created to take some weight off the dog so it could swim more easily, because the Poodle was developed as a water retriever, like a Labrador. The pom-poms and puffs were left on the joints to protect them from the cold. Originally, that Poodle didn't look nearly as coiffed as today's show poodle strutting through the dog show ring with its bouffant hair styled high and perfect.