Want to become a master groomer? Then you’ll need to know how to do these two challenging dog haircuts! Luckily, April Costigan is here to help. April is a graduate of QC Pet Studies, having completed both the Dog Grooming and First Aid for Groomers courses. To learn more about April, check out her Graduate Feature here.
Now that I’ve started my own dog grooming business, I meet new people every day. Sometimes, I’m asked for my opinion on which kinds of dog haircuts are available. Clients will ask me, “What do YOU think would look good on a specific dog?”
Often, customers are coming to me with this inquiry because they themselves aren’t sure. For example, new dog owners might not know that their Cavapoo puppy – with their cute, fluffy coat – will grow out and become long, scraggly, and… well, not so cute.
As the professional, they’re relying on me tell them which dog haircuts are recommended. Moreover, it’s my responsibility to inform them how a good dog haircut needs to be maintained. This way, the pooch can retain that cuteness their owners fell in love with.
The 2 Hardest Dog Haircuts (In My Opinion)
There are a couple of dog haircuts that I’ve had to master because they’re requested often. In the beginning, I did find them to be tricky. But with practice, I have mastered them… and you can, too!
So, which two dog haircuts am I referring to?
The Teddy Bear Cut and the Shave, of course!
1. The Teddy Bear Cut
Let’s talk about the Teddy Bear Cut first. In the “Pet Cuts” textbook found in Unit E, QC Pet Studies’ Dog Grooming Course does an excellent job of describing and breaking down this popular haircut.
In the ‘Full-Body Cuts’ section, the Teddy Bear Cut is discussed in detail. Here, you’ll learn what the standard is for this type of dog haircut, which is all illustrated through some really terrific photographs.
However, what the course doesn’t touch on is that a Teddy Bear Cut does not look the same on every dog. I had to learn that on my own, through real-world experience. The booklet also didn’t mention ear type and shape, or what to do with different kinds of ears in order to enhance this look.
That being said, the idea is the same for all Teddy Bear dog haircuts. This cut involves a full, round face, column-like legs, rounded feet, even coat length on the body, and a cleanly-scissored tail.
Keep in Mind…
…coat type plays a huge role in how great the cut is going to look once you’re all done. Fluffy, wavy, or slightly curly coats look really cute. However, you must alter your expectations if you’re working with a dog that has a flat, silky coat.
They are still cute, yes. But with a flat, silky coat, I’ve experienced difficulty with this haircut. Particularly, in getting the dog’s head to look sweet and round. This is not necessarily because I cut the hair incorrectly. Rather, it’s because the dog held his ears funny. Thus, the top of the head looked like it had square angles. Alternately, it’s sometimes because the fine, flat hair just wants to lay flat. It’s stubborn and doesn’t want to hold the rounded look I’m trying to achieve.
Examples of Teddy Bear Dog Haircuts
Here are some examples of different ear types on three small dogs. When the hair is long, it can hold the ears down. You can see this in Kiwi’s Before Photo. It almost looks like she has very long ear leather. But once the hair is cut short, the ears bounce up. I think this looks very cute! My friend calls these bouncy ears “puppy ears”. This look gives Kiwi a more perky and inquisitive expression.
Let’s look at the next example. Here, both Reilly’s ear leather and ear hair is long. In this case, you can trim it to jaw length. This will give the dog’s face a more rounded, exaggerated look. In general it’s also a very cute look – although it is different.
In the last example, notice how Cheerio’s drop ears are lower on her head. They do not pop up like Kiwi’s did, even though the hair is cut short like Kiwi’s. Instead, Cheerio’s ears look more like sweet little ponytails. I could’ve placed bows on top of both ears to give her a little girl look. However, her owner likes a center bow.
Like the other Teddy Bear dog haircuts above, this look is very cute. Importantly, though, it’s unique to Cheerio.
Teddy Bear Dog Haircuts: Final Thoughts
It’s important that when choosing dog haircuts for clients, you take into consideration what their dog’s coat type is. You also need to factor in what kind of ears that dog has. Once you’ve identified both, you can master the Teddy Bear Cut and create a very cute look!
2. The Shave
The second dog haircut that I found difficult – but was able to master with time, patience, and experience – was the “Shave”. To be honest, I don’t really like this term. Here’s why: some of my clients have requested a shave, when what they really want is a short haircut that’s easy to maintain and lasts longer between grooming appointments.
For the purpose of this article, I’m talking about shaving a dog all the way down. I have a lot of experience with this particular dog haircut because I work in an animal shelter. We get lots of stray dogs in that are in terrible condition and the humane thing to do is to cut all of the matted, stinky, horrible hair off their bodies. This way, they can feel clean and comfortable again.
Keep in Mind…
While I love QC Pet Studies and all the wonderful lessons I’ve learned through their training, there’s more they could teach when it comes to the Shave. For instance, there are no instructional videos to illustrate this dog haircut, which would have been helpful. Moreover, the description offered in the booklets doesn’t really discuss the mechanics of completing a shave.
Page 18 of the “Pet Cuts” booklet is entitled, The Shave. But this section only discusses the misconceptions. It does not give actual instruction on how to shave a healthy dog. The course also doesn’t discuss how to complete a shave that would be necessary for a severely matted dog. Like me, you’ll likely need to learn these lessons on your own.
Shaving a Matted Dog
It’s important to know that when dealing with a matted dog, you absolutely CANNOT complete the grooming prep requirements outlined in QC Pet Studies’ curriculum. Yes, you may be able to clean the dog’s ears, trim their toenails (if not hidden in mats), and complete a sanitary cut. But you will not be able to brush out a severely matted dog.
It would be cruel to even try, as doing so can potentially cause them a lot of pain. You also cannot bathe a severely matted dog before you shave it. It would be an exercise in futility. When it comes to a severely matted dog, you’ll need to shave them first.
I’m aware that this goes against the primary teachings of QC Pet Studies when it comes to completing all of your prep work first. But keep in mind that this recommendation works best under regular circumstances. Grooming a severely matted dog is an entirely different sort of process.
Executing “Shave” Dog Haircuts
Now that you know where you have to start, it’s time to know this: no matter how new and sharp your clipper blades are, they will NOT glide through a matted coat like butter. That’s just not going to happen. This will probably be one of the reasons why this particular dog haircut is going to challenge you.
If you’re dealing with a matted dog, their fur is going to be filthy. Parts of it will be closely matted to the skin. Because of this, the danger of injuring the dog is real. You won’t be able to quickly shave a dog with long, even strokes from the base of the skull to the base of the tail. Instead, it’s likely going to be a slow process.
Your strokes are going to be short. Your blades are going to get gummed up with hair and debris. You’ll have to clean and oil your blades frequently. Also, you’ll need to stop periodically so you can change blades. This will help prevent the dog from overheating or suffering a potential burn. You’ll also need to go over an area more than once in order to clip through big mats.
The Honest Truth
I won’t lie: shaving a dog all the way down – especially when they have matted fur – an exhausting process. This is especially true if you’re working on a large dog.
It’ll take time and patience. Your dog will get tired, and you’ll be challenged by their constant movement. After all, the dog won’t understand that their severe mats require time and patience. They won’t comprehend what you’re trying to accomplish. All they’ll know is that they’re extremely uncomfortable – especially as time passes on.
So, remember to give the dog frequent breaks and offer them water. This is a stressful event for a severely matted dog. It’s critical that you keep that in mind and approach the groom with kindness, patience, and understanding.
After The Shave is Complete
Once you’ve gotten all of the ugly stuff off, you can complete the other prep items (if you weren’t able to complete them beforehand). Bathe and dry your client’s dog, and then take another look at the coat. Now will be the time to even out any spots that stick up or stand out.
Use your steel comb to fluff areas that need to be trimmed. Be sure to look at the dog from ALL angles! That way, you can trim off any long hairs that popped out during the bathing and drying process. Tricky areas to pay close attention to are the feet, armpits, groin area, and face. Take your time in these areas to ensure you obtain a nice, symmetrical look.
An Example of The Shave
Below is an example of a severely matted dog that came to me recently. Due to COVID-19, Dexter’s owner was unable to get him groomed. He also went 7 months without a bath. His owner eventually attempted to cut some of the mats off Dexter’s body. But they were unable to manage the legs, face, ears, and stomach.
Dexter weighs approximately 70 lbs. It took 4 hours to completely shave, bathe, and properly groom him. Dexter was tired and so was I. But in the end, our work together was worth it. Now he’s MUCH more comfortable now, thanks to me shaving him down to his “birthday suit”.
Food for Thought
In conclusion, QC Pet Studies‘ online schooling offers a lot of really terrific training and instruction. Through their guidance, you’ll learn all about a wide variety of different dog haircuts (among many other things). However, experience and exposure to different kinds of dogs – in different kinds of conditions – is how you will truly learn and perfect your skills.
Remember to always take your time, work carefully, and have some sort of grooming plan in mind. Your dogs and your clients will appreciate the attention to detail you give every pooch that comes to you for grooming!