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.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Simple Trims....

....Not always so simple.

Trimming is another one of those simple grooming requests that can lead to misunderstandings.

When an owner says "trim him up", I want to know exactly what they mean by 'trim', exactly what they want 'trimmed', and exactly how much they want 'trimmed'.

Sometimes a trim has turned into a full blown hair cut.
Other, times a trim means trim only the pads of the feet, or only around the rectum, or only the corner of the eyes and nothing else....even if I see a lot of the things that need trimming to make the dog look nice.

There have been times that an owner has brought in a dog and I take one look at it and know exactly what I want to trim to make that dog look great.
What I want to trim and what the owner wants trimmed may be two very different things.

This sweetie needs a trim.

This owner leaves the trim up to me.
The goal of the trim on this little lady is to neaten up her feathering to keep it from collecting leaves and things when she is outside, and to help keep her looking neat and clean.

Some owners will only want the pads of the feet trimmed, and.....

....that may be all the owner wanted trimmed, because the owner loves the fuzzy, fluffy feet.

It does not matter what we, the groomer, wants.

Now, if those fuzzy feet are full of mats between the toes, the the groomer needs to call the owner and explain how mats between the toes can hurt as the dog walks, and could possibly cause sores.

Even then, I would only cut out the mats saving as much as the hair as possible, because I know that the owner would prefer the feet fluffy.

Other owners may want the feet left full, but still want them shaped up round.

In that case I would only clip out the pads, comb the hair on the top of the feet out and round up the outline of the foot.

The foot is shaped up, but still full and fluffy.

For some owners, trimming the feet means trimming them up nice, tight, and neat looking.

For this I would clip out the pads, shape around the foot and then brush the hair on the top of the foot up....

....give the foot a little shake to let the hair fall naturally and then scissor to shape up the top of the foot.

 This leaves a nice neat, tight foot with the feathering still long.

 A 'trim' may also mean trimming up that long feathering to get it off of the ground, or to make it nice and neat.

Trimming around the rear may mean only trimming around the rectum, and leaving the rear feathering alone.

 Trimming the rear feathering could also mean just scissoring enough hair to shape the feathering and make it look neat.

Or, the owner may want the rear feathering taken very short.

These are questions that need to be asked.

As groomers, we may think that the rear feathering would look nice shortened and shaped up, but the owner may love all of that messy fly away hair.

I scissored up this little ones rear feathering just enough to make it look nice and neat but not too short.

The front leg is the same.

Some owners actually like the hair dragging the floor, so make sure that they want that hair 'trimmed'.

The hair on this little girl was trimmed just enough to get it off of the ground, but the feathering is still long.

She has now been 'trimmed' to look nice and neat.

All of the fly away hair has been 'trimmed' just enough to get the feathering off of the ground.

All of her outline and feathering could be taken shorter and tightened up more if the owner would like.

Every once in awhile I will get a customer that seems to get frustrated at all of my questions.

"I just want the hair trimmed up", the owner will say.
I will smile and say, "Sorry about all the questions, I just have to make sure that I know exactly what you want, because once I cut the hair off I can't put it back on. There are several different ways that I can trim your dog, and I want to make sure that I do exactly what you want."

Most of the time, this small statement will make the owner understand why you are asking so many questions.
Then they are more willing to answer your questions.

Remember, when a customer comes in and asks you to 'trim' their dog....ask questions.
The five or ten minutes you spend at drop off may save a lot of grief at pick up.

No trim is the same, even on the same breed of dog.
Different coat types, and different pet owner preferences.


  1. it's funny you talk about those misunderstandings/difference of opinions today. I just gave my own dog a "trim" this weekend. I do it myself because I'm too afraid someone else will take her too short, or trim her feathers at all. I like her body neatened, her belly shortened (just to take the wispies away) and her butt fur neatened, but don't touch her front leg feathers. She may look uneven to other people, but it's part of her personality! Don't ask me how front leg feathers can be part of a dog's personality, but they stick out and are super cute and she would look like she had sticks for legs without them.

  2. P.S. I love the days of the week when I come to work and get to read a new MFF post.

  3. Hi! I wanted to let you know that I love your blog. I just found it yesterday and spent all night reading random posts. Your love for your furry customers really shines through. I have a sheltie that I take care of myself -- for the most part. Still working on getting him to accept nail clippers without having him play keep away with his paw, so we seek out professionals for that. If only we lived even 30 minutes closer to your store, we could totally try to bring him to you (along with a box of chocolates, after reading all you have to put up with from some non-furry clients). Can't wait to read more!


  4. Hi its the newbie groomer from Australia. I've now been grooming for a whole 3 months, some days I ...love and well others...at the end of the day I'm looking at the bottom of a wine glass before I can calm down and think that was a crazy day.
    Its winter here and so many customers come in with "I want a light trim." Sometimes I just scratch my head wondering what blade to use? This post is awesome and I love how you say that you cant put the hair back on! But the scissor finish makes a lot more sense. Unfortunately my boss doesn't agree and thinks the dog doesn't look groomed....go figure.
    I would love your advise on another topic - I've had 2 complaints to my boss - who is the vet. Both were from the same customer who brought in both dogs a week apart. I figured that she was happy with the first one, so booked in the other ....yahoo I thought, until the complaint. The first dog an old Poodle and she wanted poodle feet with a shaved face. The complaint was clipper burn. The second dog a cocker spaniel that almost did my head in, he just would stay still for a minute especially the HV drying. So apart from blade tracks on his back and the owner wanting everything long and fluffy and not clipping on the legs, I knew in the end I was not happy with this groom at all. So I wasn't surprised at this complaint, but as it turns out I missed his armpits and belly. He is booked in next week for me to fix, which I am fine with - 2 complaints (that I know of) in 3 months as a newbie groomer is all good in my eyes.
    So, the vet has now requested that the groomers call the customer the next day and see if they are happy with the groom?? As far as I see it, that's just questioning my work as if I perhaps wasn't happy with it. I maybe a newbie groomer but for the last 25 years I have worked in customer service and to me calling a customer the next day is questioning a service that was provided that has already been finished and delivered? Does that make sense?
    Have or do you call customers the next day? If so, what do you say? Would love any advise.

    1. Hi Teddy,
      Congratulations on becoming a groomer!
      Ah, It can be tough working for a Vet. Some 'get' grooming, some never 'get it'. They never get all of the work and time and aggravation that grooming a moving object, with a mind of its own can be. A dog comes in for a an examination and is on the Vet's table for maybe 5 to 10 minutes, then they are on to the next dog. Groomers are working on one dog for anywhere from an hour to three hours on just one dog depending on the size, condition of the coat, and the dogs personality.
      When a Vet has to do something that may hurt the dog, they are able to put the dog under. That way they can work on an dog that is not moving, biting, or crying. They can work quickly and pain free on the dog. Now....I am not knocking Vet's in any way. Their job is also stressful...figuring out what is wrong with a dog, worrying that the dog makes it through surgery, worrying that they have made the right diagnosis, working on some dogs without putting them under, ect, ect. I am sure that there are many, many pressures on a Vet everyday.
      What I wish Vet's would understand about grooming is that there are many pressures on a groomer everyday also....pet owners, and worrying about if we have interpreted the vague instructions that they tried to give about what they want, trying to groom a moving target that just 'will not' stand still for even a second while the groomer is using sharp instruments on it, trying to do something as simple as cutting hair from around the eyes while the dog is jerking its head back, twisting it to the sides, or flicking that tongue out and up over the nose right into the blades of the scissors. Dealing with owners that are in denial about their dogs matted coat, dealing with owners that think a groomer should be able to magically do whatever they want on their overgrown, matted, misbehaving dog. We are not PLAYING with dogs all day! I personally would love to give every Vet out there just three dogs to groom in one day and see just how many of them get though the groomings with clean, well clipped and scissored dogs. They would have so much more respect for 'the groomers' job!

      (I have typed too much....the rest of this response follows below)

    2. Okay, sorry, got off track there....I am climbing down off of my soap box now. :)
      Oh, as for trimming, your boss should realize that a good bath, brushout and trim CAN look just as beautiful on a dog as a clipper cut. Some dogs look much better with a trim as opposed to a clipper cut. A dog does not have to be clipped to look groomed. Besides, if the pet owner only wanted a trim, they are the ones paying, so they should only get a trim.
      Clipper burn...I hate that term....it is clipper irritation. It can happen to any dog. Just like a man who shaves his face. On some men the skin on their necks get irritated from shaving no matter how careful they are shaving. The same goes with dogs.
      This is what I do for ALL my poodle customers. First, I determine what blade length I think the face and feet will handle. If it is a young, middle aged Poodle with nice thick hair I will use a #15 against the grain on the face and a #30 on the feet. If it is an older Poodle, or one with very thin hair and thin skin, I will use a #10 either against the grain or with the grain on the face, and a #15 on the feet depending on what I think the skin can handle. I clip all my faces and feet before the bath. Then when bathing, I use only a medicated shampoo on the face and the feet. I soap the face and feet up first so that the medicated shampoo can sit while I bathe the rest of the body. Then I rinse the face and feet really well. I like to rub while I rinse so that all of the shampoo is lifted away from the skin.
      This has worked very well for me. I have only had two owners call back about clipper irritation
      in 30 years of grooming. Both dogs where older with thinning skin, and I could no longer shave their faces against the grain.
      I am not sure what blade you used on the Cockers back, or what type of blade tracks the blade left. Sometimes if you slow down running the clipper down the back you won't get tracks. I almost never go any shorter than a #7F blade on a Cocker back.
      As for the armpits and belly....we have ALL missed that at one time or another. Try to develop a routine with your grooming. My routine is: Clip bottoms of feet, clip nails, clip belly, clip/scissor rear, clip armpits, clip one side of body, scissor to finish that side, turn dog and repeat on the other side. I do this in this order with every dog. That way if I get called away to wait on a customer, or answer the phone, I don't come back and look at the dog and say "where was I?" What have I done and what haven't I done?" That may help you to remember everything....maybe. :) We are only human.

      (OMG once again I type too much!! lol Continued below)

    3. Okay....this it....

      I agree that calling every customer after a groom is over kill. Some people just like to complain. I had one very long time customer that would complain about 'something' every single time she brought the dog in. Finally after years of grooming her dog, she called back after a grooming and in a defeated voice I asked her "what did I do wrong this time?" The owner was shocked. She didn't even realize that she had been complaining. At least she didn't consider it complaining. She never 'complained' about anything ever again, and remained a very loyal customer.
      Does your Vet call all of his customers the next day? Has he never gotten any complaints from crazy, over protective customers? Will he pay you overtime for this service? I can see some, if not most customers getting annoyed by those phone calls.
      Maybe your Boss would let you put a small table in the lobby so that you could bring a dog up, put it on the table and ask the owner right then and there if they are happy with the grooming. Or, how about a small post card that can go home with the owner. A nicely worded postcard asking how they liked the groom once they got the dog home and then drop in the mail. Comments would be appreciated to help improve their dogs grooming experience. This way the pet owner is not put on the spot, or bothered by a phone call.
      Don't worry about those complaints, learn from them. There are always going to be complainers. It seems to be in some peoples DNA. Other people like to complain even if nothing is really wrong just to get something free (like a free grooming to make them happy)
      I don't give free grooms...I fix the problem.

      I hope that at least some of this long, long rambling response was helpful. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  5. Thank you soooo much Lisa.

    Every word, every single word rang so true - you really are wise, understanding and witty to boot! I I cant thank you enough for your advise and help. Love the idea of the table to check. And thanks for the tips especially the one about running my clipper to fast down the back. I know I need to check myself every now and then to slow down and don't let time pressure get to me.

    Its my day off - its been a tough week and reading your reply has made me laugh & cry my eyes out. Luckily I sent my husband to the supermarket otherwise he would be thinking I am an emotional wreck.

    The last 2 weeks I have been questioning if I have done the right career move..."am I a good groomer? Does this dog look good or like crap? Should I be grooming at all? Will the vet or the 4 vet nurses I have to deal with think I am doing a terrible job?"

    So I've had to have a few little positive conversations with myself - I like grooming, I like being by myself in the groom room. I love getting impossible dogs to like me...I love to give cuddles while clipping nails on dogs who's owner will tell me they hate getting their nails done. And I love seeing the look on the owners face when they see their little baby looking beautiful.

    Then I've had to have tough conversations with myself "grow thicker skin girl ....you have made a big commitment - you have spent a truck load of money on clippers, scissors, combs and more clippers - so stick with it and give yourself time, you are still learning, you will always be learning".

    And somehow at the end of that chat in my head I am all good again.

    Then - yesterday I spent a day with our other groomer. Mainly because the vet nurses absolutely cannot stand the guy and he is terrible with customers. We both started at the same time. He does 2 days a week and the rest of the week he grooms mobile. I don't work on the days he is at the vets, so I had no idea what he groomed like but I need to have a talk to him about the state of the groom room when I come in after him. Its stinks!

    So I got the task of "chatting" to him about cleaning and his lack of customer service mainly because the vet nurses love my customer service and he keeps getting complaints from customers about his grooms. The guy has been grooming for 10 years in his own mobile business so he must be doing something right....right?

    And they were right, he just has a very gruff nature and way with customers and as far as cleaning goes he 'says' he does everything right. Its just how he is.

    Anyway - it was interesting to see someone else grooming. All the dogs were done with a #7 all over, belly and all - short stout little scissored faces. As he calls it "clean, tidy, smelling good...I am a groomer not a pet stylist".

    Perhaps I need to ask the vet nurses what the customer complaints are? But its really none of my beeswax and I prefer to stay out of it all but I would like to know so I don't make the same mistake...what ever that is??LOL.

    Funny, I kept thinking back to a blog you wrote about all your grooms USED to be like that.

    Then all of a sudden this morning I was thinking - cow - should I be just doing #7 all over, short pointy faces, same blade for all dogs then bath tethered so tight and growl at them if they misbehave then blast em with the highest HV blower, leave their feet to dry in the cage with no towel or water. OMG lucky the complaining customers cant see that!!

    The light bulb just went off - that's NOT how I want to groom, I've been trying not to groom like that ever since I spotted your blog and read, and read and watched video after video, taking notes in my little pink grooming book.

    So, many, many thanks again. And I watch Joel Osteen too here is OZ and I also get strength that helps me get thru the day.
    Teddy :)

    1. Hi Teddy,

      I can't tell you how many times I found myself crying and rethinking my new grooming career the first couple of years after I started to groom. I was lucky that I worked alone a lot of the time, because if anyone had overheard some of the conversations that I was having with myself they would have put me in the funny farm. I have to say that a lot of those lectures and pep talks that I gave myself helped get me through many days too. Keep having those pep talks with yourself, they really can help keep you sane in this crazy career we call grooming. lol

      As for the other groomer....I have found, over the years, there are several types of groomers. The Snob Pro Groomers: the groomers who groom 'by the book' every dog MUST be groomed to show/contest standards. These groomers tend to hate mutts. They also are not very friendly to other groomers and like to criticize other grooms and groomers..... The Caring Pet Groomer: a groomer who cares about the dogs and works with the owners. Grooms the dogs the way the owners want and continues to learn as much as they can.....The Clip Joint Groomer: This groomer could care less about the dogs feelings or the owners. Every dog is money. Shave as many dogs a day as they can and collect their pay.
      I was taught 'shave and collect your pay'. Thankfully I followed my instincts and found that there was a better way of grooming...a more rewarding way. :)
      Don't let this other groomer make you question your grooming skills. He may have been grooming 10 years, but I have a feeling that your skills already far surpass his. Sadly, grooming and those poor dogs are just a pay check for him. I KNOW that pet owners want more than just a #7 blade shaved down. In our shop we rarely ever do a #7 full body clip.
      If I were taking my dogs some place to have them groomed, the way the groomer talked to me and treated my dogs would be very important. The skill of the groom would come in second.
      Hang in there. It sounds to me like you are doing a great job. You can only get better and better as time goes on. Stay confident. The most important thing is that the dogs are happy when YOU groom them. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  6. Lisa .

    I am a groomer of 14 years and a 4 year business owner. I absolutely love your blog. I have read alot of your posts (only recently discovering you!) and have always found it hard to find groomers who post blogs that I agree with. It's very nice to see a groomers who is exactly like myself. I just wanted to say that I am really in awe of your energy and devotion to making this blog. after a week if work I am exhausted! It is clear that you love the business. :) keep up the awesome work and the site here and happy grooming to you!!