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.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How Would You Like Your Dog Groomed?

It is amazing how those seven words can cause so much headache for a groomer.
It seems like such an easy question, doesn't it?

A customer comes in with a dog and you ask; "How would you like your dog groomed?"
There are so many possible answers.

"Take him as short as you can get him."
"Take about a 1/4 of an inch off."
"Take half off."
"Just shorten him a little."
"Leave an inch on."
"Take her short."
"I don't want a full hair cut, but take just a little bit off."
"Just clean him up."
"Just do what you did the last time."
"Take him a tad shorter."
"Take her short, but don't shave her.
"Make her look like this picture."
"I want her hair cut, but don't use a blade on her."
"She has some knots, but I don't want her hair cut short."
"Don't cut him short."
"I don't know, didn't my wife tell you when she made the appointment.?"
"I don't know."
"What do you think."
"You're the groomer, groom him the way he is supposed to look."

Those are just some of the responses that you would get to that simple question.

I'll tell you how I tackle them.
I feel that it is very important that who ever is responsible for checking in the dogs must know grooming and know what questions to ask.
If that person is not exactly sure what the customer is asking for, they need to go and get the groomer that will be working on the dog that day.
You must ask questions.
I know it is like pulling teeth sometimes, but if you ask the right questions you can usually figure out what the owner wants.

I feel another must is; you must touch/feel the dog.
I always go straight to the dog and pick it up if I can.
If it is too large to pick up, I will squat down and greet the dog, petting it and feeling for mats.
To the owners it just looks like I am petting and hugging their dog, which I am, but I am also checking out the condition of the coat.

Now I ask the famous question; "How would you like your dog groomed?"

Owner:"Take him as short as you can get him."
           "Take her short."
Groomer: "My blades can go extremely short. My shortest blade would take your dogs hair so short that her skin would show. Is that how short you want to take her?"
Owner:  Oh, I didn't want her that short!

 Now I hold the dogs hair up to show the owner how long it is.

Then I use my fingers to ask how must hair that they want off.

If an owner still wants a white dog, or thin haired dog really short, like a #7F, or #10 blade, I warn them that the dogs skin will show through the short hair, and that there is also a potential for sunburn if their dog is outside a lot.

If cutting the dogs hair will make the color of the dogs coat change, make sure that you warn the customer that this may happen.

I once had a lady bring in a medium size Shepard mix that she said she wanted very short so that it would not shed so much.
I thought that I was safe when I pointed to the dogs muzzle and ask; "Do you want me to clip him as short as the muzzle?" (about #10 blade length)
She said yes.
I clipped the dog short with a #7F blade.
There was only one problem, I didn't warn her that all of the black and tan color on her dog would be clipped off, and only a ugly grey and washed out tan color would be left.
The owner became hysterical when she saw her dog.
It did not matter that I did exactly what she wanted.
She was not prepared for the change in color on the dog.
Something as simple as warning her about the coat change could have saved a lot of headache.

Owner: "Take about a 1/4 of an inch off."
             "Take half off."
             "Just shorten him a little."
             "Leave an inch on."

 You must find out what the owners idea of an inch is, a 1/4 inch is, or what half off means to them.

I know exactly what an inch measures on my finger.

I have found that  when an owner holds up their fingers to show me what an inch is, it is a lot different from my inch.

I will hold the hair up for the owner and show them how much I think that they are telling me they want off to make sure that we are talking about the same thing.

Once you have an idea of the length that the owner wants to leave, or take off of the dog, but you are not 100%  sure which blade to use, place the blade down into the coat (after it the coat has been cleaned and blow dried)

Keep the blade off.

You do not want it running.

You are just checking to see how much that blade will take off.

This owner only wants a 1/4 of an inch off, so I would start checking with a clip comb.

As you can see in the picture above, the green clip comb (where the blade teeth and the clip comb meet)  would barely take off anything.

The purple comb would take off more, but still not enough.

The tan clip comb looks like it would take the desired length off.

  If you are still not totally sure, try the next length which is the #4F blade.

This is a #4F blade under all of that hair.

It would defiantly take too much off for this owner.

This trick is not sure fire.

You still will not be 100% sure until you have actually clipped some of the hair.

 If you are not sure about the blade, or clip comb that you picked.

Find a spot on the dog to clip and check.

On the neck, under the ear is a good spot, just in case you take the spot too short.

It will be hidden under the ear and you can blend it in to the rest of the hair cut.

 That is close enough to a 1/4 of an inch off for me.

After you have been grooming for a while, you will be able to make a pretty good guess about which blade will take off the amount of hair that you want, without having to use this trick.

Owner: "I don't want a full hair cut, but take just a little bit off."
              "Just clean him up."
Groomer:  "So you don't want me to take any length off of the body? Do you want me to just trim up and tidy the face, trim the feet and rear and do the nails?

You want to describe to the owner exactly what you think that they want done.
They will either say yes, or they will change something and give you a better idea what they really want. 

Owner: "Just do what you did the last time."
Groomer: "Okay." 

Be careful!
This one can be a trap.
Believe me, I have fallen into it a lot.
Most of my customers a regulars that basically get the same cut just about every time that they come in.
So it is very easy to fall into the habit of asking; "Do you want him groomed the same as last time?"
Only it just so happens that the last time you did something different.
Now you have to try to call them and find out if they really do want 'the same as last time', or they really want what you normally do.

"Take her short, but don't shave her. 

Don't you just love this one?

This could mean anything from a clipdown #7F to a full blown hand scissor cut.
You can not just assume that your idea of 'short, but not shaved' is the same as their 'short, but not shaved.'
Once again you must pull the dog hair up, and have the owner show you what their idea of short is, and exactly how much hair they want you to take off.
I have owners use the word short only to discover, after many questions, that their idea of short was leaving two inches on the dog.

Owner: "Make her look like this picture."

I hate pictures.
I hate pictures, because 99% of the time the dogs coat in the picture is nothing like the customers dogs coat.
If it is impossible for you to copy the cut in the picture, because the dog does not have enough coat, or it has a different type of coat, you must explain this to the owner.
If you can do something similar, but it will not look exactly like the picture, you must tell them
It is always best to be honest and inform an owner before you do any grooming.
This way the owner will not be expecting one thing and get another when they come to pick up.
Even if you are pretty sure that you can make the dog look like the picture, tell them that you will groom their dog as close to the picture as you can, but it may not look exactly like the picture, because the dogs are different, even if they are the same breeds.
It is better to be safe than sorry.
If you manage to make the dog look exactly like the picture...great.

Owner:  "I want her hair cut, but don't use a blade on her."
Groomer: "Okay, how much hair do you want off?"
Owner: " I want about an inch and a half off."
Groomer: "No problem. To do that without a blade means that I will have to hand scissor her. It will be an extra $$ to do that. 

When a customer asks for something special that will take you more time, let the owner know right away that the groom will cost more.
Do not wait till they pick up their dog.
It is possible that when you told this customer what she was asking for would cost more, she would suddenly decide to let you use a blade on the dog. 

 Owner: "She has some knots, but I don't want her hair cut short."
               "Don't cut him short." 

You know what this means, don't you?

The dogs of these owners are almost always matted.
Too matted not to cut short.
These are the owners that have to be shown proof that their dog is matted.
I will put these dogs up on my counter and part the hair and show the owners the mats.
I will show them how close the mats are to their dogs skin.
I will explain to them how I don't have any choice about what blade I use on their dog.
I will explain that length of hair left on their dog will be determined by what blade will safely cut between the mat and the dogs skin.
Even if I know that with my shampoos and the HV I may be able to get a longer blade through the coat, I do not tell the owner this.
Because, all that they will hear is the word 'longer', and will forget everything else that you told them.
Then they will be disappointed because you didn't leave the dog as long as they thought that you would.
Let them be pleasantly surprised when they pick up the dog.

Owner: "I don't know."
             "I don't know, didn't my wife tell you when she made the appointment.?"
            "What do you think."
           "You're the groomer, groom him the way he is supposed to look."


These are the people that you can ask a thousand questions, and you are still not sure what they want you to do on their dog.
After I have tried every way I know how to get answers and still don't know exactly what they want, I tell them what I think that they want.
I will describe exactly how I plan on grooming their dog, giving them an opportunity to change something.
I will also tell them that I will groom their dog conservatively.
Meaning, I warn the owner that I may leave their dog a little on the longer side, because I can't put hair back on after I take it off.
I also tell them that I write everything that I do down so that the next time that they come in they can tell me that they want the same, or that they want the cut shorter or longer.

I know that it probably sounded like I was repeating myself a lot in this post, and I guess that I did.
I believe that as  professional groomers we must take the time to listen to the owners and ask a lot of questions.
We must try to make sure that we understand what the owner wants, and that the owner understands what we are able to do.

I know that I can't please every owner, but it sure isn't for a lack of trying. :)

Happy Grooming, MFF



  1. Short but not shaved has always been my favorite.

    I used to follow everything you've listed here, but I've developed a sort of ESP over the years. I can take what they say, what they don't say, and how their dog looks and put it all together and figure out what they want. At least 90% of the time I get it exactly right. Some customers I need to ask more questions than others, but I can usually figure it out - even when I get a wife's note like today from a clueless husband: "Puppy cut. Nails. Between the eyes. We want to EVENTUALLY put her into a Westie cut." And all the husband said was "Don't take her too short."

    This was a 4-month-old puppy, so I figured less is more. I trim-tipped the ears, but I didn't shave them. I skimmed a Westie pattern on her back with a 0 comb. Then I trimmed her feet, visor, and sanitary area.

    They loved it.

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      I agree with you 100%. You DO develop an ESP of being able to read between the lines, or comments as it were. I very rarely mistake what the owner wanted. The only thing that they may change is to take the dog a little short next time. Even the ones that totally baffle me I tend to get right. Thankfully!
      You did the same exact thing that I would have done on that Westie puppy. Good call! I am so glad that they loved it. That makes you feel so good at the end of the day. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  2. Yeah, that dreaded "as short as you can take her without shaving" (which turned out to be 7F!).
    Just today I had a cocker (new customer) with gorgeous hair -at least 3 inches on legs and skirt. I kept asking the lady how short does she want skirt/legs trimmed and she kept saying "as short as you can go so he still looks like a cocker - but don't shave, it degrades the dog!" and "I leave it to your discretion." Very helpful. I thought maybe she just wants pattern visible so maybe 1/2 inch or even 4 blade? And then she mentioned that he is waaaay overdue for his grooming. I ask how often does she usually grooms him and she says every 3 weeks. And it's been almost 3 and a half since he was groomed last! OOKAY then, I guess I will leave longer than 1/2 inch :) Wasn't it you tip, Lisa - to shave the pads and see how much hair comes off to determine how much to take off body? Anyway, I used that and ended up doing 4F on back and skim with 1 inch SS comb over legs/skirt. So glad I kept asking questions.

    1. Hi tvergirl,
      That has happened so many times. You ask questions...you are pretty sure that you know exactly what they want...then you ask another question...and the answer completely changes what you thought you already figured out.
      I am not sure if that was one of my tips or not, although I have used the hair in the pads as a rough idea for how much hair to take off.
      "degrades the dog" lol that's a new one that I haven't heard before. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  3. I work alone so i take the dog with the owner an i start to clip in a small area from the longest comb till they find a lenght they like so i go a little on the safe side. I live in a tropical island so almost always its very hot so most of my owners want short. I have a westie and a schnauzer that get a 30 blade on their backs i get terrified everytime they come and i ask them if they got any irritation from last time and go on and on reminding them that it would be easier for damage from scracthing, sunburn but they want the same as last time. I have others that say i want it short so it'll be easier for me but i dont want her shaved just to find out in the end that a 10 blade was the perfect lenght for them... Crazy little world isnt it :)

    1. Okay Jessica, I am officially jealous. Tropical Island!? I am so a warm weather person. :)
      Anyway, I have to say that I never thought about taking an owner back and showing them different blade lengths right on their dog. Very clever of you.
      #30 on a Schnauzer I can kind of see...kind of, but on a Westie, eek. That would scare the bagebees out of me too. What in the world does she consider shaved if the #10 blade is the 'perfect' length for her.
      Yes...I agree 100%...the world is crazy!
      Lisa, MFF

  4. Hi Lisa,

    A few days ago I made the mistake of just going with "same as before".
    This lady brought in her cat (I work at a vet's) and she was late, so when she arrived I didn't really have time to chat with her as I was in the middle of grooming another dog. I had read her file and it had said "Lion clip with #5F" for the previous groom.
    So I just asked the lady, "Same as before?" And she said Yes. I asked her if she wanted the same length and she said yes. It was like a 30-second conversation. And I even wrote down on the grooming form "same as before" in front of her.
    So I did a lion clip, leaving a mane, tail and the lower parts of the legs.
    I wasn't there when she picked up the cat but apparently she made a big stink that I HAD NOT LISTENED TO HER AT ALL. She said that she had given me SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS and that she has specifically told me NO LION CLIP. She was super pissed off and the vet clinic decided to give her another groom for free for another day (had to be another day because the cat has to be sedated). The lady said that she does NOT want me to groom, but for a nurse to groom the cat.
    ... ... It was my fault for not asking her specific things and for assuming that she remembers what the cat had done last, but I just think there was no need for her to be so nasty and start making up lies about how she told me specific things etc.
    When she complained she also said that her cat had a lion clip ONCE before and since then had always requested no lion clip. I read her file to all the way back, and that cat had a lion clip at least three times before! Some other times were shaved from head to toe. So...
    And my vet clinic has a policy of client is always right, so that makes me more annoyed to.
    Luckily I was not there when she made the big stink about how I totally ignored her instructions. Or I would have argued and pulled out the files from the past to show her she is talking crap. Grooming is so much better without the humans.

    1. Oh Ana,
      I am speechless right now...no I am not. I was just brought up not to say and write the things that I really want to say and write about that woman.
      I will say, that you should NOT blame only yourself. Yes, in hind sight, it would have been better to take a couple of minutes and make sure that both of you were talking about the same cut, BUT she also shares the blame for not making sure that you knew exactly what she wanted.
      As for the bold face lie...I am so sorry that you don't have people there to back you up. Someone in that office should have said to that lady, "Hold on and I will get the groomer on the phone to get her side of the story." Or THEY should have looked at her file. The customer is NOT always right!!! I have a hard time believing that the Vet would just stand back and let a customer tell him that he did something wrong without defending himself. He should give you the same chance before he gives your services away for free. Which by the way, by law he MUST still pay YOU for services rendered. If he wants to give her a groom for free to make her happy...fine, but he must pay you. I am sorry that your fellow employees didn't take up for you.
      I used to work at a pet store where the owner insisted that I write out all grooming instructions in front of the owners and then have them sign at the bottom, just so what happened to you, would not happen to them. If the owner came in saying that they did not ask for what I did, and I was not there to back myself up, all they had to do was pull out that paper with the customers signature on it. I hated asking people to sign, maybe because I don't like putting my signature on just anything myself. Anyway, I found that just asking them to initial the grooming instructions was just as good, and people didn't seem to bulk at it like they did for their signature.
      So, if you leave before your grooms are picked up, this may be an option for you to cover your bu** so that another customer, like the cat lady, can not do that to you again. All I can say about that lady is...karma, karma, karma.
      I am still mad at what she did to you. AND, that your boss didn't take up for you.:(
      Lisa, MFF

  5. Im glad you liked my idea of clipping on their dog for them to choose :) warm weather? Puerto Rico it is :) i'll see if i can find some weather temperatures for you to compare maybe itll give you a good idea ;) the westie well it didnt look too bad she hd like thick skin and she wanted the skirt also very short i dont know it is my only westie :/ i did infirmed the customer but she sayed she didnt care if it wasnt perfect and she lived it :)