Mixed Breed and Potpourri Grooming
By Deb Bostrom, NCMG
Many years ago, when some of us started in the grooming industry, we were taught how to groom each breed by its individual standard. Our schooling serves us well, as long as the owners want their pets to look as they should. Life experience teaches us that this is not always the case. Some owners of purebreeds want their pets groomed outside of the standard for reasons such as lower maintenance and cost efficiency. As professionals, we need to be able to accommodate each client’s individual needs.
Many breeds such as Lhasa Apsos, Shih-Tzus, and Maltese are purchased because their fur is considered to be hypoallergenic. However, when their coats are in a long natural state, they often become allergen-ridden dust collectors for allergic owners. These clients often want their pets "short, but not shaved". In other words, they want a "puppy cut."
This trim can most easily be achieved by using a snap-on comb. Snap-on combs work best when used over a #40 blade. The coat should be clean and totally free of mats for the best results. Each comb is numbered. The lower the comb number, the longer the coat length. The higher the comb number, the shorter the coat length. Working with the grain of the coat will achieve the smoothest appearance. Combs save on scissoring time, but never eliminate it. Some touchup work is always required. One of the cutest heads, often referred to as a "Benji" head, can also be done with snap-on combs. A "Benji" type head can also be achieved by skimming a #4 blade along the top for a shorter, tidier look. Remember that balance is important, so shortening the ears, either with a snap-on comb or a #4 blade, will keep the pet looking in proportion. Always use a #10 blade for the insides of ears to avoid injury!
Another very popular trim for purebred dogs such as Pomeranians, Chow Chows, American Eskimos, and even cats is the "Lion Trim." This trim is generally done by clipping the body of the pet with a #4F, #5F, or #7F blade. If the customer requests a "mane," simply start clipping behind the shoulder blades and blend in. The legs are then scissored to blend neatly into the body. The head should be rounded, and the tail can either be clipped two thirds of the way to create a pompom, or just made neater. This is an adorable "fox-like" look on a dog, and an easily-maintained "Lion" look on a cat. (Please note: only the most seasoned groomers should attempt this clip on a cat, and the blade of choice is a #10). When grooming any breed outside of its standard, be sure to spend the time necessary with the client to educate her on the beauty of the breed in its natural coat, and be sure she fully understands that trimming the coat may alter it for life. The pin-straight Maltese coat may develop a wave. The Lhasa’s coat may become denser, and color changes may occur.
Favorites among many of us groomers are mixed breeds. There are no textbooks we can go by to make these pets beautiful. We rely on creativity and a good eye to foresee what cut will look best on each pet as an individual.
There are several guidelines that help us determine how to groom a mixed breed. Probably the most important factor is to start with breed dominance. What does the pet most resemble? Your client may have a Schnoodle; (Schnauzer/Poodle mix). As a groomer, you must decide if that dog looks more like a Schnauzer or a Poodle. If he looks like a Terrier, he probably won’t look his best with clean-shaven feet like a Poodle! If he looks more like a Poodle, sporting eyebrows probably won’t suit him!
Another determining factor in mixed breed grooming has to be coat texture, and the best example would probably be a Cockerpoo. Some have curly textured coats like a Poodle, while others have coats much more like Cocker Spaniels. Some even have coats which are a combination of the two breeds. Try to work with rather than against the dog’s coat to help you determine how best to groom it.
Always discuss with the owners their preferences and your professional opinions, then let your creativity as a groomer be your guide. Remember, while there is no right or wrong way to groom these special pets, our job is to bring out the best in them.
Deb Bostrom has been a groomer since 1984, was a grooming instructor for many years, and managed a busy urban shop (Pride & Groom) near Boston. She is currently a full time groomer in Bulger Animal Hospital’s (North Andover, Massachusetts) grooming department.