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Groomlish: A Dog Grooming Glossary for Beginners

When it comes to grooming your dog, do you know the difference between a puppy cut and a lamb trim? If your groomer refers to your dog's pants or skirt, do you know that they’re not commenting  on the newest doggie fashions? Groomers sometimes defer to the dog grooming terminology they learned during their training, so while asking for an explanation to ensure you know what kind of haircut your dog will be getting, knowing what you like and being able to speak the lingo may have you feeling a little more confident when you arrive at the salon.

To bring you up to speed on “Groomlish” (or the language of groomers), here are a few common terms and phrases that are used around professional grooming salons to explain everyday procedures and coat trims. You, too, will soon be speaking the “Groomlish” language.

Common grooming procedures and terminology

  • Blade/clippers: Clippers are a razor-style tool used to take length off a dog's coat. While blades are part of the overall clippers tool, you may hear these terms used somewhat interchangeably.
  • Carding: A process that removes the loose, dead undercoat using a blunt-edged tool.
  • Cat feet: This is when the hair between the toes is scissored short to the same length as the hair on top of the feet. The nails can be visible.
  • Clean face: Shaving the face, muzzle and cheeks with a shorter blade.
  • Clean feet: The feet are completely shaved, exposing the nails and the entire foot up to the ankle.
  • Clipper blade sizes chart: Clippers come with different size blades and snap-on combs to allow groomers to cut hair to different lengths. The lower the number of the blade, the less coat length will be removed. For example, a number 4F blade will leave approximately ½-inch of fur, while a number 7F blade will leave only about ⅛-inch of fur.
  • Dematting: The process of removing matted fur.
  • Forced-air dryer: A tool that groomers use after towel-drying a dog to completely dry the fur.
  • Hand stripping and plucking: This is a technique in which a stripping tool or fingers are used to remove the dead outer coat of wire-haired breeds (like most terriers).
  • Pants: The long hair on a dog's back legs.
  • Pom-pom: A stylistic cut of a dog’s coat typically done on poodles and other fluffy-coated dogs. The pom-poms look like balls of fur placed above clean feet and on the end of the tail.
  • Round feet: The feet are scissored to look round and fluffy without showing the nails.
  • Scissoring: This is a technique using scissors and a metal comb to complete and finish the trim. This is usually done when the pet parent asks for the dog to be trimmed longer than a clipper blade will allow. It also is used for finishing trim work on a dog's face, feet and tail areas where clippers cannot be used.
  • Shaving in reverse: This dog grooming term means that the groomer is shaving against the grain of the hair, or from the back of the dog toward the front.
  • Skirt: The long hair that falls on either side of a dog's body between the front and back legs to create a skirt look.
  • Topknot (TK): A ponytail or pigtails on top of the head, held in place with a barrette, bow or binder.
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Common dog grooming cuts and styles

  • Face, feet and fanny trim: This type of groom is done in between full haircuts to clean up around the eyes, feet and back end.
  • Sanitary trim (or “the Sanies”): A shave of the belly and around a dog’s rear end to keep this area more sanitary.

While most breeds have a “standard cut,” a few are heard more commonly around a grooming salon, including:

  • Schnauzer cut: This pattern is achieved by clipping or hand stripping the body and leaving furnishings on the front legs, knee area and down the back legs with a slight skirt. The eyebrows are sharply angled, and the ears and cheeks are shaved.
  • Cocker cut: This pattern is achieved by clipping the back of the dog and leaving the legs and skirt full. The head is clipped short with a dome over the brows, and ears are clipped to leave furnishings toward the bottom.
  • Poodle cut: There are many different trims for a poodle. By standard, this is a curly coated breed, but when they’re being groomed, the coat is dried straight to get a nice even look. Typically, poodles will have a clean face and clean feet (clipped short), and the top of the head is scissored round into a topknot. This cut can also be used on similar breeds such as the Goldendoodle.
    A few common poodle trims are listed below. Most of these basic trims can be applied to several other long-coated dogs, including Yorkies, Bichons, Maltese and Shih Tzus. Different cuts around the head, tail and feet can be done by request.
    • Puppy cut: First developed to be a poodle-specific cut, it includes clipping the coat with a longer blade or a snap-on comb, or scissoring the coat to create a fluffy look. While this was initially a more breed-specific cut, it is now becoming a more pervasive ask in grooming salons. Be sure to speak with your groomer specifically about your expectations with a puppy cut, as definitions can differ across salons and groomers. Most often a puppy cut request will be translated to a standard length for the whole coat.
    • Lamb cut: The body is clipped to a desired length at the pet parent's request; the legs are scissored longer and blended into the hair on the body.
    • Kennel cut (KC): An all-over length set either with a blade or a comb attachment with a clean face and clean feet as well as a topknot.

Now that you know some of the basics, you can determine what type of cut your dog needs based on their breed and coat type. Even better, you’ll be able to confidently ask for and understand what grooming services your dog needs.