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, October 23, 2013

Working With Vague Instructions

Today was a day full of vague instructions.
A few of my dog were regulars in for their regular hair cuts.
A couple had been in before, but the instructions were a little different than prior groomings, and they were vague.
Three of the dogs were new customers, and their instructions were the most vague.

The funny thing was, all but one of the instructions were the same.
When asked how they wanted their dogs groomed, they all said "short".

I have to say that I have come to the conclusion that some owners panic when asked questions about their dogs grooming.
I think that they think I am giving them some kind of test.
Some owners just stare at me like I have three heads, and seem to have no idea what to answer when I ask "how short?"
Or, "how would you like the face cut?"
Or, "do you want the ears trimmed?"

It is funny, some owners come in and they have a detailed list for you of what they want done to every inch of their dog.
Some could care less what you do, and just tell you to "do what you think, you are the groomer."
Other owners send someone else with the dog, and that person has absolutely no idea what the owner wants done, or their instructions are very vague, "just cut him short."

My first two dogs of the day were new customers.
One dog was very matted, the other had no mats at all.
They knew that the matted dog had to be clipped short.
They wanted the other dog short also.

So, did I just say 'okay' and cut them short?


To their dismay, I had to ask questions.

I had to ask, because if this had been my dog, I would have left her shaggy.

I love the shaggy Terrier look, but that is just me.

So, what were my questions?

"How short do you want the body?"
"Like shaved short, like I have to take the poodle?" (their other matted dog)
I showed them this length with my fingers. ( __ )
"How about the face? Do you want a Terrier face with the beard and eyebrows?"
"No, I don't like the long beard."
"Okay, would you like the face short all over like the body?"

The next question caused a little bit of a debate between the two owners.

"Would you like me to leave the ears, trim them up, or take them short like the rest of the body?"
Him: "You like them long, right?"  Her: "No, short."

Then I think that I surprised them by asking about the poodle.

I knew that the body and legs had to be clipped short, but I still had questions.

"Do you want her to look like a Poodle?"
"Would you like her face and feet shaved clean like a poodle?"
"What does that look like?" (I showed them a picture)
"Or would you like me to leave the face like it is, only short to match the body?
"Would you like the top of the head full like a poodle?
Him: "I like that."  Her: "No."

I had my instructions.

 The Terrier would have looked cute with a nice trim.

This is her after the bath.

 She would have looked great hand stripped also.

I stripped a little of her back while waiting to get her in the tub.

She had a really nice coat under all of the shaggy hair.

I decided to use a #5F blade to match up the patch on the back that I hand stripped.

The #5F matched the length that I had shown the owners with my fingers.

I also decided to hand strip the ears.

I love the velvet look that it leaves.

Then I scissored the face short and tight.

She turned out nice, but I still like the shaggy look. :)

Although, I think that I would have left her shaggy and still have hand stripped her ears.....that would have been cute.

 I put the Poodle straight into the tub, and then HV dried the mats to loosen them up a little.

They were very tight in some places.

The mats loosened up enough to get a #5F blade through her coat.

The legs were fairly tight, but I was able to get the #5F under most of them.

I clipped as much of her as I could safely with the #5F blade.

I got the rest of the mats off by picking at them with a #7F blade.

Then I blended the #5F and #7F lengths together.

This way I didn't have to clip her whole body in a #7F.

There were some places where her coat was really thinned out from the matting.

Then it was time to scissor her head.

This is how I would have scissored the head if it were up to me.

 But, the owner wanted the face 'short', like the body.

So, this is what I did.

I left a little on top for the guy owner.

This guy was another new customer.

A friend of the owner brought him in.

The instructions were, "take him short, just leave the ears and tail."

The person who brought the dog in was not sure exactly how short "short" was.

I had to take a guess.

My go to blade when a customer says "short" is the #4F blade.

I figure that it takes most dogs short without taking them too short.

Does that make any sense to you?

The owner did not pick the dog up, so I am not sure if I got this one right or not.

I figure, if they come back for another grooming, I will have something to go by the next time, and can ask "would you like him longer or shorter than last time, or did I get it right the first time?" :)

I have groomed this next dog several times before, but had not groomed him in almost 3 years.

"Would you like me to groom him the same as I have before?"
"Yes, short." (there was that word again)
"How short is short?"
"About this short."
(she showed me this length with her fingers (_____)

The only problem was, the length she showed me was longer than I used to take the dog, but I knew she liked him on the short side.

So I took matters into my own hands and took him to a length in between how I used to groom him and what she showed me with her fingers.

A #4F on the body and a #3 3/4 blade on the legs.

This next dogs instructions were the same as I had groomed him the last time he was in.
So, why am I showing him in this post?

Just because he is so darn cute. :)

He was a scissor all over to shape up tight.

He just has the cutest face.

Both, when it is shaggy, and.....

....especially when he is all shaped up!

So......remember to always ask those questions, because everyone's idea of 'short' is different.

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. You are so right that "short" never means the same thing! I care a small 6" ruler in my pocket and and whip it out any time the customer starts getting vague about length. I show them that they have aprox "X" and that it will probably be a little longer after the blow dry and we can take it to "Y". People seem to be good with the length that the dogs end up.

    1. Hi Dana,
      What a good idea. I never thought of that. Thanks for the tip. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  2. My go to blade is a #2 attachment comb... short but not shaved ;)

  3. Hey! Im in love with your blog! I just found it a few days ago and have been glued to the computer reading it. Im still new to grooming...was an apprentice last June and now that have me on my own at a Pet Valu in my town. I was taught different then how you describe things, such as they taught me to always grab my 7F blade as a go to...which now seems too short, also should i be going a blade size longer for legs and faces? As well as they told me to always preshave....especially if it is with a poodle to save drying time. Should I be doing differently? thanks for all the info your teaching me about :)

  4. Hi,
    The grooming school that I went to also taught me to shave everything with a #7 blade (a skip tooth, there were no F blades then.....good grief, I am showing my age lol)
    It took me a few years out of grooming school to learn about other blades. (unfortunately no internet to learn things at the time...boy, now I really feel old)
    It took me even longer to learn about comb attachments.
    In my opinion ALL groomers should always be open to continuing education. I am always willing to try something new. If I like it I continue doing it, if I don't, I don't.
    Most of my clientele do not like short cuts. We do a #7F clip maybe once a month. Most of my customers want longer comb attachments cuts or hand scissoring.
    If your customers like short #7 cuts then that is what you need to do, but I have a feeling if given a choice a lot of customers may want their dogs longer like #4F, #3F, or 5/8th blade. These blades do require a little follow up scissor work but the cuts are cute. Short but not shave. (don't you just love that saying?)
    As for preshaving.....I did that for many, many years. (that was how I was taught) I don't preshave anything now. Not sure if I could ever go back to preshaving. You be the judge. Bathe a Poodle without preshaving it. (I do still preshave face and feet) HV dry the dog straight from the tub, fluff dry and then clip. It is so nice to run a blade through a clean coat. :)
    Lisa, MFF