Dog Grooming | Lion Cut with Natural Mane
Throughout my years of dog grooming in Houston, I have fallen in love with some breed patterns more than others and many of their variations. I love the sharp lines and angles of the schnauzer cut, the soft, fluffy lines of a lamb cut, and the fun and free look of the lion cut. Each of these patterns can be varied in many ways to look however you want. My own four legged baby, Louie has volunteered to model and demonstrate how a lion cut with a natural mane is done. He loves his spa time!
First thing’s first! Don’t forget the very first step of dog grooming!
The first step to any dog grooming is brushing out your pet! It helps them relax a little if you have a nervous dog. Pet them, reassure them, and brush them to calm them down and get the hair ready for the grooming process. For fluffy dogs you’ll want to start with a slicker brush and gently brush all over the dog’s body, legs, tail, chest, ears, etc. Then use a metal comb to comb out any remaining little tangles you may have found. This is also a good time to shave the sanitary areas (#10 blade), pads of the feet (#40 blade), clean the ears, and clip the toenails. All of these things are steps of prepping your dog for the overall grooming process. Now we’re ready to set the pattern!
Have a plan before you pick up your clippers and start shaving away!
It's a good idea to decide where you want your mane line to be before you start shaving away. The mane should be in a V pattern leaving the front legs fluffy. There are many variations depending on what look you are going for and how far down the back you like the mane to be. I have clients that prefer a collar mane where the mane is up above the shoulders and the front legs are shaved along with the rest of the body. There are some that prefer a fluffier, fuller lion mane half way down the back. It really depends on your personal preference. Louie has natural stripes in his mane that provided me with an easy template to work with. I do tend to like the mane half way down the back so it blends nicely with the front legs while maintaining it's characteristic V pattern
Dog grooming using clipper blades in reverse
Louie has a medium thick undercoat so I decided to take his back down pretty short to get underneath most of it and give him a smoother look. Another way to achieve the smoother look is to use a blade in reverse, or against the grain of the hair. It is important to remember that when you are shaving against the grain of the hair your remaining length after shaving will not be the same as if you shave with the grain of the hair. For example: I am using a #4 blade (3/8") in reverse which takes the hair down to the same length as a #7 blade (1/8'). For another look at blade lengths, using reverse blades, or other blade information, visit our dog grooming terminology and blade uses blog post.
Setting the pattern for a natural lion mane look
I always like to start at one end of the dog and work my way to the other. If I'm shaving with the hair I tend to start around the neck area, but when I use a reverse blade I tend to start at the back legs. Again, every pet groomer I have ever worked with has set patterns differently. This just seems to work for me. So, starting at the back ankle area shave against the grain up the leg and toward the back with your clipper blade flat against the skin (gentle pressure). Be careful of the thin flap of skin on the hock, or inner hip area because it can be easily nicked.
Continue to shave up the back and sides until you reach your desired mane line. If you are setting a natural mane, simply push the hair back so that you can see a line forming where you want your mane line to be. This way, when you let the hair fall it will look natural while having the V pattern. If you are going for a more tailored look and plan to scissor your mane, it's not necessary to be as careful with the remaining hair that flops over since you will be scissor blending it later anyway. Typical lion cuts have a lion tail or painters tail. This is where you shave all but the end of the tail and leave the end fluffy and natural or trim it to look like the tip of a paintbrush. Many people vary this to their personal preferences also.
Always the most important step in dog grooming, it's bath time!
Now that you've completely brushed out your dog's coat and set the pattern and overall length, it's time to bathe your dog! When you shave a dirty dog, the natural oils and dirt particles can hold some of the hairs together and create a choppy, unfinished look. Bathing is the most important step in grooming and the only way to achieve a great look for your pet and get them all fresh and clean. It's also another great bonding experience. Select the best shampoo for your dog's skin and coat type. For itchy skin, try a medicated or oatmeal shampoo. If your dog has yellowish hair, try a whitening shampoo. There are many to choose from, of course we are partial to the green shampoos because of their harmlessness toward animals and the environment alike.
Dog grooming finishing touches!
Once your dog is completely clean and dry you can start on your finish work. Begin by brushing out the mane again to make sure there are no new tangles from bathing or drying. Because I used a reverse blade in the prepping process, Louie's hair was pretty much the length I wanted it and even all over.
To get the rest of the extra little bits of fuzz sticking up I took a #7 blade with the hair, not against it this time. Remember to move the mane out of the way so you don't chop off the natural looking ends. To get neat looking feet simply hold your dog's paw in your hand and gently brush from the nail area back with your slicker brush and trim the hairs that stick up. Round off the edges with your curved shears and the feet are finished.
If you choose to, you can comb out the backs of the arms and legs and scissor to neaten the edges.
You can leave the tail brushed out and natural or trim to neaten this look as well. I also used thinning shears around thicker parts of his mane as well as for the fly aways around his ears. Always use caution when scissoring around your dog's ears. Even a tiny cut with thinning shears is painful. Using thinning shears is a great way to play with the lines, smooth or roughness you desire, and it will create a natural lion look while also looking neat and fun!
For those of you who are more comfortable with your dog grooming tools: the scissored mane
For a more tailored look you can scissor blend the mane into the body using either your thinning shears or other shears to create a seamless mane with neatly scissored legs. This is for those of you who have had some experience in the dog grooming world with scissor work before. When I do a scissored mane I visualize where I want my blend line to be and blend gradually with my blade into the overall length of the back. This creates less scissor work later and a better idea of where you're going with your pattern. After the bath, make sure you comb out the entire mane completely and blend all the way around the back, sides, and chest of the dog, keeping it nice and round and fluffy. Now you're done!
There is also a still-frame short film showing the entire process on Louie if you are a more visual person like myself. Enjoy!