About Me:

I am a professional Pet Groomer. I have been grooming for 28 years. This Blog is a kind of diary of my work. I wish I had started years ago, writing some of the experiences I have had while grooming. Most days are fun, some can be sad, some can be just down right crazy. If you are a pet owner and come across this blog, I hope it helps you understand how your pet is groomed. If you are a Pet Groomer, I hope you can relate to some of the stories. Maybe even learn a grooming tip or can leave a friendly grooming tip for me. There is always something to learn, no matter how long you have been grooming.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Grooming By The Book Or...


When I was in Grooming School, it was stressed to the students that you had to groom a certain way.
Poodles got their faces and feet shaved with a #10 blade.
All dogs were clipped before the bath.
All dogs were cage dried.
Style cuts were 'by the book'.
By the book means, the way the School taught you.
 The only breeds that I learned in school were Poodle cuts; Lamb, Retriever, Town & Country, Puppy Cut, and the Springer cut, Airedale, Schnauzer, Cocker cuts.
I never saw or touched a Bichon when I was in Grooming School.

When I graduated, I was sure that I knew what I was doing, till I got my first job out of school.
The groomer before me had been fast, so my new boss ( a none groomer) could not understand why I was not as fast as the previous groomer.
I was also scared of taking dogs too short, so I tended to leave them on the longer side.
If someone sent a dog back, it was almost always because I didn't take their dog short enough.
That was frustrating.

Then someone came in one day and wanted me to clip their Cocker in the style cut, but they wanted the legs and skirt short too, just not as short as the back.
That can't be right.
That was not the way I was taught.
A Cocker Cut left full legs with beveled feet.

I left the legs and skirt too long.
The owner brought the dog back two times before I did what they wanted, which ended up being a Cocker pattern, #10 on the back, and #4 on the legs and skirt.
The dog was cage dried.
I remembered thinking that the legs looked awful.

I would also have customers ask me to clip their Cocker all over short, but don't shave them.
For years I stood there and told people that we could only clip a Cocker with a #7 blade or shorter.
I would actually stand there and tell them that I could not leave a Cocker longer then a #7, AND I truly believed that, because it was what my teacher told me.

I do Puppy cuts on Cocker's all of the time now.  :)

I don't groom anything like I groomed when I first started.
I almost never groom by the book.
I am sure that Show groomers would cringe if they saw how I groomed some full breeds.
I also know that there are a lot of groomers out there that believe in grooming by the book no matter what.
They will even go against what the owner wants, because 'that is the way the dog is supposed to look'.
I have heard some heated arguments over this topic before.
Some groomers believe that if you don't groom a dog the way the breed standard calls for, you are not being a professional groomer.

I disagree.
I am a Professional Groomer.
I am a Professional Pet Groomer.
You are a  Professional Groomer if you know and care about what you do.
You are a Professional Groomer if you respect the pet.
You are a Professional Pet Groomer if your #1 concern is for the comfort of the pet, and your #2 concern is to give the customer the cut they want as long as it is possible.

I know that 99% of my customers would not be able to keep up with some of the full style cuts on their dogs.
I groom for the customers lifestyle.
If a customer does not have the time to brush their long haired breed out everyday, then I recommend a medium or short clip to make it easier for them to take care of their dog.
I also groom for the dogs comfort.

It is fun to get a beautiful, full breed dog in and do the standard style clip.
It is fun to challenge yourself ounce in a while.
But, to me, everyday Pet Grooming means that you have to be prepared to groom a little differently.
To work with what you have.

I remember once that I went to a seminar about the 'correct' way to groom a Bichon.
I watched the demo.
I took notes.
I paid attention to all of the angles.
I watched closely how the head was done.
The 'true' Bichon head has always been a problem for me.

I came home all excited.
The next full coated Bichon I had on the books was going to get the 'correct' Bichon cut.
That Bichon turned out to be a Bichon that I had been grooming for a long time.
He had a really nice coat to scissor.
I was very happy with the body when I finished.
I could not do the 'true' Bichon head because the owner refused to let me cut the ears.
The next day I got a call from the owner.
She wanted to know why her dogs legs were crooked (the angle in the hind leg), and why wasn't the butt round, and why did I leave so much hair on the back of the neck?

It was a disaster.
She wanted me to groom the dog the way I always did.
I have found that everyday pet owners are not crazy about the exaggerated angles that are done on some of the style cuts now.

Schnauzer and Scottie owners don't want the long eyebrows.

Bichon owners want long, stringy ears.  :(

Yorkie owners can't take care of a long, flowing coat.

Some owners want everything shaved off so that the dog doesn't even resemble the breed standard.

 They want their Pomeranians to look like lions.

They want all of the beautiful feathering cut off of their Goldens.

They want Mohawks on their dogs.

They want beards cut off OES, Schnauzers, and Wheatons.

 They ask for Poodle type feet on OES, Cockers, and Shih-Tzus.

We as Professional Groomers have to figure out how to do what our customers want.
We have to educate our customers.
We have to make decisions everyday about what would be best for the dogs.

I remember working with a groomer for a short while that was known as 'The Poodle Groomer'.
This guy had one heck of a reputation for doing beautiful grooms on Poodles.  
He also had one heck of a following.
I can tell you that I was very intimidated.
I didn't want him to watch me groom.
I enjoyed watching him groom a Poodle though.

As good as he was at grooming Poodles, I very quickly found out that he was not very Professional.
He turned out to be what I call a grooming snob.
He could put out one heck of a great Poodle groom, but he couldn't or wouldn't do a nice job on a simple clipdown.
If the dog he was grooming was not a Poodle, he could care less how the groom turned out.
He put down almost every dog he groomed.
Even some of the Poodles if they did not have good breeding.
He was also very unreliable.
His appointments had to be rescheduled a number of times because he didn't show up for work.
Worst of all, he was not very nice to the dogs, they had to stand like statues.
I remember being very disappointed by this so called famous groomer.

I had a dog this week that I have had to make decisions about what is best for her grooming.
She was an Apricot Standard Poodle.

This Standard gets groomed about every 3 months.
Mom tries to groom her a little in the meantime.
As you can see, her face has been chopped up, and of course there is the good old chopped up holes in the topknot.

Her Mom likes her face and feet shaved.
Because of her coloring and pink skin, I made the decision not clip her face with a #15.

I clip her face before the bath with a #7f blade.

My grooming teachers would be screaming at me right about now.

I clip the face with the grain first to take off the bulk of the hair.

Then I go over the face against the grain with the #7f.

If the dogs skin is really sensitive, I will only clip the face with the grain.

Because this is a long tooth blade, you do have to be careful clipping around the eyes and lip line.

 I do touch up the lip line with the 15 blade.
I only go with the grain and use a very light touch.

 I also clip her feet with the #15 blade instead of my #30 like usual.

I don't feel that her feet can handle the #30 blade.

I also clip her feet before the bath.

When bathing her, I wash her face and feet with Medicated shampoo.
I put the medicated on first so that her face and feet can soak while I am soaping up the rest of her.

The face still looks shaved, it is just slightly fuzzy.
But, there will be no clipper irritation.

Her ears were also chopped up.

So I had to shape them as best I could.

The tail.
What can I say?

Mom wants a Pom Pom.

Mom did some of her own scissor work.   :/

Mom cut so close to the end of the tail, that I don't know how she didn't cut off the tip.

I thought about only clipping the traditional band, and letting the rest of the pom pom grow back, but that is not what the owner wanted.

I did the little puff at the very end of the tail just like the owner wanted.

I can't imagine how many groomers would be cringing if they saw this.  :)

I kinda like it, even if it does look silly.  :0

As for that hole in the topknot...

I did the best  that I could.

It's still there. 

The hole.

It's still there.  :(

I took the topknot short and tight.


...it's still there.

Oh well.

As Professional  Pet Groomers, we see so many different types of dogs everyday, all with different lives and various types of coats.
As Professional Pet Groomers we have to decide what is best for each of our four legged customers.
It will not always be 'by the book', but that is okay.
Our judges are the customers who pay us to do a job.

I would love to become a Certified Master Groomer, but I have never had the time.
I don't feel any less a Professional Groomer because I don't have CMG after my name.
I show up for work everyday.
I treat my customers very well.
I treat the dogs like they were my own.
I do the best job that I can everyday no matter how the dog behaves, or how bad their breeding is.
I educate my customers whenever I can.
I treat all of the dogs with respect.

I am a very Professional Pet Groomer.
So if sometimes you feel intimidated by another groomer, remember that as long as you are doing the best job you can, and are willing to continually learn and make your grooming better, you are a Professional Pet Groomer.

One other thing, when watching some of the grooming competitions, I sometimes wonder how good some of the groomers up there on stage are when they have to groom a dog that is not show quality, that wiggles the whole time you groom it, and that has crappy hair.

Don't get me wrong.
I admire their talent.
They do wonderful grooms, but there are a lot of groomers out there that never compete, and they do wonderful grooms everyday.

Be proud to be a Professional Pet Groomer!   :)

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. Damned straight I'm a Professional PET Groomer! I don't do show cuts, I don't want to do show cuts, I will do a mohawk or Iroquois or whatever else the owner wants me to do to bring out what they see as their dog's uniqueness. I make them happy, I keep their pet healthy, I treat them with respect and kindness and try to understand where they are coming from and educate them where they need it. I am proud! Thanks for reminding me of this! You rock!!

  2. Bev,
    Thank you so much! You made my day. I was a little worried about writing this post. It is a touchy subject. There are a lot of us everyday groomers out there that should be very proud of the work they do everyday.
    Lisa, MFF

  3. I love being flexible :) and customer's love it too! I would like to go to school for grooming, but I'm also a full-time University student, maybe next summer... (Being able to work with people AND animals makes you the professional ;)

  4. Hey, where are you located? I think you groomed my goldendoodles hair ( the poodle in the picture, she looks a lot more like a poodle than a golden retriever.

    1. Hi,
      I am in Maryland. The last dog pictured is a Standard Poodle.

  5. Hehehe! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and the pictures are great! I got my first dog ever from the SPCA in July, so he was...scruffy...lol. My mom actually thought he was one eyed when she saw pictures of him on Facebook! We got him the full treatment at the Petco and he came out beautiful! His next appointment I have to have him get a Mohawk!! That is how I found your blog here, lol, searching for Mohawks!

  6. Hello, I love your blog. I have a question. For the poodle feet on the shitzu what blade did you use? A #10 blade?

    1. Thank you Karly89,
      I rarely ever shave a Shih-tzu's feet, but if a customer wanted it I would not go any lower than a #10 blade. The foot pictured above is on an OES. I clipped that foot very carefully with a #7F against the grain. I also did not use too much pressure.
      Lisa, MFF

  7. In the not too distant past the term 'professional' meant a lot more than having acquired a certain level of skills & knowledge; it also described a high standard of behaviour , adherence to principles and ethics etc at all times and for all customers - and clearly your high class poodle groomer couldn't hack this side of his role.I maybe a 'grumpy old fart' but so many young professionals seem to act in an unprofessional manner these days - like my Dentist, my Bank Manager and even (sadly) my Vet. So give me an old school professional pet groomer who does what her customer pays her to do , so long as it doesn't harm the dog , each and every time. Ps I've learned more from you than many high profile professional groomers regards Lesley

    1. Thank you very much Lesley,
      What a very high compliment! :-) I don't know what to say...
      Lisa, MFF