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.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Poodle Topknots

 Poodle topknots...
I actually like scissoring Poodle topknots.....now.
(I better, I own four Poodles)
I wasn't that crazy about them when I first started grooming.
I tended to leave them too big and floppy.
A lot of times they would look like mushrooms instead of a nice round topknot.

I actually had a customer that liked the mushroom look on her Miniature Poodle.
When I started getting better at doing them, that same customer didn't like it, she wanted the mushroom.

Most of the complaints that I got from Poodle owners in my early years of grooming was about leaving too much over hang above the eyes.
I felt that I was doing the topknots right because that was how I was taught in grooming school.
It took me a little time to start making my topknots tighter.
I was fighting against that feeling of having to groom exactly the way my grooming teacher taught me, and if I did it differently it would be wrong.

Then there were those Poodles who had topknots where the hair was pencil straight with a part down the middle.
How the he** was I supposed to get a topknot out of that.

I had been grooming for about a year and a half when I was working at a kennel.
One day I had a lady bring in a dog that was a Poodle want-a-be.
The owner so badly wanted a nice big round topknot on that dog.
That dog hardly had any hair on it's head to begin with, and it was straight, with a good old part down the middle.

As a newbie groomer, I wanted to cry.
I did not know what to do.
I tried so hard to make that dogs head look like it had a round Poodle topknot.
I did get it round...round like a pancake, because that is what it looked like...a pancake.
I am sure that with mousse and hairspray, and scissoring the hair shorter, I would been able to get a fairly decent topknot out of that dog. 
I didn't know about those things then.

At the kennel, I did not have to wait around for my dogs to be picked up.
The groomers never went up front to talk to the customers.
The receptionist took the dogs in and out, so I would go home when I was done.
I explained all about the topknot to the receptionist before I left.

Every morning when I would come into work, there would be a clipboard on the wall by my table listing the dogs for the day.
When I walked in the next morning the list of dogs from the day before was still on the clipboard.
I didn't even have to pick it up.
I could see from across the room that one of the dogs had been X out.
It was a big, black X that was scratched repeatedly, and very angrily over and over again.
It was over the name of the Poodle with the pancake topknot, and next to it was written 'NO CHARGE!'

At the time I was too chicken to ask what happen.
I mean, it didn't take a genius to figure out that the owner must have been mad about getting a pancake topknot on her dogs head.
The kennel owner eventually came in and read me the riot act, and tell me that I was not getting paid for that dog.
The kennel owner was not a groomer, and did not understand when I tried to explain about the dogs head.

Well, I must say that that is one way of making me get away from doing things 'the way I was taught'.
I was not going to be yelled at like that again.
I was also not ever going to have someone tell my that I was not going to be paid for a job done.
So, I started working on my topknots.
I was determined to make them better.

I went to a seminar once, many moons ago, where a groomer claimed that you could get the perfect topknot done in 6 steps.
She actually demonstrated it on a Standard Poodle.
Of course, this Standard Poodle already had a perfect, thick, beautiful topknot.
But, I was still new to grooming and naive enough to believe that I could also do the perfect topknot in 6 steps.

I eventually came to the conclusion that no two topknots are the same.
You can not scissor every topknot the same way.
Just like people, pet Poodles have many different types of hair.
They also have different ear sets.
You think that you scissored a good topknot, then the dog perks up it's ears, and your nice topknot now looks like an hour glass on the top of it's head.

Every once in a while you get a Poodle with great hair, and can scissor a great topknot.

I don't think that I could teach someone how to do a topknot, because I am all over the place when I scissor one.

For example:

How many steps was that?
 I actually only put up half of the pictures my husband took of me scissoring that topknot.

I am all over the place when I do all of my topknots.
I turn the dogs head every which way and scissor. 
I comb and scissor more.
I gently jiggle the ears and scissor more.
I let the dog shake it's head and scissor more.
Sometimes I even touch the topknot up right before the dog goes out the door.
I use mousse on all of my topknots.
And, every once in awhile, I will even use a little hairspray.

Personally, I prefer a nice full topknot.

I even like to let my girls topknots grow out and curl naturally.

I kind of like that messy look, especially on my black spoo.

Messy goes with her personality.

Most of the topknots that I do look like this.

Just about all of my poodle owners want me to make sure and scissor short over the eyes.

I don't have a single poodle owner that wants the topknot hanging over the eyes.

I have Poodle owners that like the topknot blended into the ears.

I really like this look.
Especially on Poodles with short ears.

 In school I was taught to make a scissor line all of the way around the back of the poodles head.

I have not done that in years.

I bring the back of the topknot down into the neck in a V shape, and blend it well.

For some time now, I have been scissoring topknots the way the owners want them, or the way I have to to get a nice round look.

Owners request for a very short, tight topknot.

No topknot.

Because the owner chopped it off before the dog came in.

I guess she wanted to make sure that I took it short. :)

Those want-to-be Poodles.

Nothing a little mousse can't help.  :)

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. May I ask What kind of moouse do you use?

    Thank you for this post. I am having trouble with top knots lately and actually grooming in general I was a bather brusher for 6yrs and have been grooming for 4. I feel like I should be better than I am but I feel myself getting slower needing more time to do a good job. blah blah sorry for going on snd on. I love your blog. It has helped soooo much!!

  2. Anonymous,
    Sorry about taking so long to answer. I have used several people mousses, and most of them work pretty good. I did try the Chris Christensen mousse for dogs and did not like it at all. It was very sticky on the hair and took longer to dry the hair.
    My favorite mousse to use is 'Big Sexy Hair' spray mousse. You can find it in any shampoo section at almost any big chain store. I get it at Wal-Mart. Be prepared for sticker shock. It is expensive, but it lasts me a long time. It comes in a very tall red can. I wrote about it back in January. It was the Tues Tip #11. Click on January under the Blog archive on the right at the top of this page. Again, it is expensive, but I think that you will like it. You only need to use a nickle to a quarter size of mousse on the palm of your hand, depending on the size dog. I think that my last can lasted about 4-5 months.
    I put it on any dog that has a bushy type head that I want to make look round, mainly Poodles and Bichons.
    I think that most good groomers go through what you are going through. You want to do your best and you start to question yourself and your abilities so much so that you start to mess up. I have gone through this myself in my early years of grooming. Sometimes it got so bad that I wanted to put my scissors down and cry. I learned to give myself pep talks. Even lectures. Yes, I would lecture myself. It was a good thing that I worked by myself in my little back room, because I would lecture myself out loud sometimes. "Come on Lisa, what is wrong with you? You have done this clip a ton of times. You know what you are doing. Now stop this crap right now and get the dog done!!"
    I was not very nice to myself either. I would get mad at myself. I would try to remember back to when I was not having any trouble. It would help me think; "that's right, I KNOW how to do this."
    If you need to work a little slower on some dogs, that's okay. Make up your time later on a really easy dog. As long as you WANT to get better you WILL get better with time.
    I used to knit pick on my dogs all of the time, taking forever to finish them. Until one day my bather was leaning against the wall talking to me and I turned to her and asked her if the dog that I was working on looked okay. She made a face and said, "I thought that he looked okay about 10 minutes ago."
    It took me awhile to learn when to stop. Develop a routine, clip one side of the dog, scissor to tidy and move to the other side, finish the head and tail, then step back and look over the dog. Fix anything you might see sticking out and put the dog away. If you see something later while the dog is in the kennel, you can always take him back out and touch up. That was the hardest thing I had to learn...when to stop scissoring the dog!
    I still find myself knit picking on some dogs even after all of these years. :)
    Hang in there! As long as you care about the dogs and treat them right, you will get better with time. We need good groomers out there.
    Sorry, another problem that I have...talking too much.
    Lisa, MFF

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for this post on top knots. I started grooming my own two spoos about a year ago. I find scissoring of any kind to be a challenge. I am starting to gain confidence and I always remind myself how quickly hair grows back. Actually, if anything, I probably don't take enough off the top. Thanks for your blog-I have learned a lot and enjoy reading it!


    2. Thanks Laura!
      I always say that it is better if you don't take enough off then taking too much off... you can always take more off, but you can't put it back on. :)
      Thanks for reading my blog.
      Lisa, MFF