Dog Grooming in Houston – Terminology and Blade Uses

Here at Hot Shot Dog Grooming in Houston, we realize the average pet parent might not understand what to ask for when they go to the dog groomer.  That’s why I have created this compilation of different dog grooming patterns, blade uses and lengths, as well as a brief look at groomer terminology.  This guide will help you decide what to ask for before you even leave your home.

Blade Lengths and Uses @ Dog Grooming in Houston

There are many different blades that dog grooming professionals use when cutting hair.  If you’re shopping around for blades to use at home, you should be aware that they come in both steel and ceramic materials.  Ceramic blades stay significantly cooler for longer periods, but are not very durable.  They break easily if dropped and not all blade sharpeners will sharpen them.  Steel blades are much more durable, but they get hot if used for long periods.  You should always check the heat of your blade to your own skin anyway.  If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for the dog!  Steel blades are cheaper and easily sharpened.  I always recommend steel blades to beginner dog groomers.  Whether you choose ceramic or steel blades, they all have different purposes depending on the dog and what cut and style the customer is looking for.  The higher the number on the blade, the shorter it leaves the hair.  Here’s a breakdown on the blades typically used in most dog grooming salons from shortest to longest in length:

#40 Blade Dog Grooming in Houston  #40 blade – this is the shortest blade most dog groomers use.  It is also one of the most dangerous blades to use because it cuts so close to the skin.  The #40 blade should ONLY be used to remove the hair in the pads of the feet and the inside of ears if requested.
 #15 blade – This blade is safer to use and is typically used for the sanitary areas.  If a dog has sensitive skin, this blade will also work well on the pads of the feet.
#10 Blade Dog Grooming in Houston  #10 blade – This is the safest blade to use anywhere.  It is also used on the sanitary areas (the belly and around the anus) and for dogs that get a clean face.  Because of how safe it is, this blade is the best to use for spot shaving out mats and tangles.  The #10 blade is the shortest blade used for shave downs, leaving the hair short and smooth.  It is typically the blade used to set schnauzer and cocker patterns.  *leaves hair 1/16″*
#7FC Blade Dog Grooming in Houston  #7 (FC) blade – This is another blade used for shave downs and setting slightly longer patterns.  It can be a tricky blade to use because it’s teeth are so wide they can catch skin if not used carefully.  The FC behind the #7 stands for finishing cut.  There is also a #7 skiptooth blade that some groomers use to break open tangles.  I never use this blade because it is the most dangerous blade to use because of it’s extra wide teeth that are designed to pull mats through the blades to split them apart.  The problem with that is it can pull the skin into the teeth as well and cause major lacerations if used by someone inexperienced in dog grooming.  *leaves hair 1/8″*
#5FC Blade Dog Grooming in Houston  #5 blade – This blade is great for short cuts, but will not show skin.  It is perfect for sensitive skin or dogs with white hair because those dogs typically show skin when shaved too short.  The #5 blade can be used to set any pattern like the blades listed previously.  *leaves hair 1/4″*
#4FC Blade Dog Grooming in Houston  #4 blade – This blade is the longest blade typically used by dog groomers, though there are a few others that are slightly longer.  Every dog grooming salon has this blade.  The #4 blade achieves that short, but fluffy look that many of our pet parents love.  *leaves hair 3/8″*

Using Blades in Reverse: An Overview and Translation of Lengths When Shaving Against the Hair

Dog grooming can be a trial and error process for those of you that are just starting out.  We have been grooming in Houston long enough that it has become second nature and we can tell the process that needs to happen for each individual dog and each haircut/style.  Some dogs with undercoat or even those that have straight or wiry hair require a different techniques for shaving than other fluffier haired dogs.  To create a super smooth look you sometimes need to shave with a blade in reverse.  “In reverse” is a dog grooming term that simply means you shave against the grain of the hair, or from the back of the dog toward the front.  The great thing about shaving thick coated, straight, or wiry coated dogs in reverse is it picks up each hair and sends it through the clipper blade evenly which ultimately gives you a much smoother look when finishing.  It also allows for you to get under that thick undercoat that Chows, Shepherds, Pomeranians, etc. have.  There are a few things to remember when using your blades in reverse: because you are lifting the hair away from the skin when it moves through the clippers, your haircut will be shorter than you may have anticipated.  Using clipper blades in reverse results in twice as much hair taken off.  The same pretty much goes for comb attachments in reverse for fluffy dogs.  It can vary slightly depending on the brand of combs you have and the type of hair you’re dealing with.  Here’s a quick and simple translation of forward versus reverse blade lengths:

Blade Used in Reverse Length of Hair Remaining Equals This Blade
#15 blade 1/125 inch #40 blade
#10 blade 1/100 inch #30 blade
#7 blade 1/16 inch #10 blade
#4 blade 1/8 inch #7 blade
#2 comb 1/4 inch #5 blade

Comb Attachment Lengths and Uses @ Dog Grooming in Houston

If you prefer a longer hair cut on your dog, there are also comb cuts available.  Combs are attachments used on top of the blade to set a general length before the groomer can scissor the rest.  It’s basically a template for the overall cut.  There are scissor fees for this type of haircut because of the extra time involved in scissoring after the initial cut.  The lengths for comb cuts are as follows:

• #5 comb – leaves hair 1/8″ #5 Comb Top Dog Grooming #5 Comb Side View Dog Grooming
• #4 comb – leaves hair 1/4″  #4 Comb Top Dog Grooming in Houston  #4 Comb Side Dog Grooming in Houston
• #2 comb – leaves hair 3/8  #2 Comb Top Dog Grooming in Houston  #2 Comg Side Dog Grooming in Houston
• #1 comb – leaves hair 1/2″  #1 Comb Top Dog Grooming in Houston  #1 Comb Side Dog Grooming in Houston
• #0 comb – leaves hair 5/8″  #0 Comb Top Dog Grooming in Houston  #0 Comb Side Dog Grooming in Houston
• #A comb – leaves hair 3/4″  A comb Top Dog Grooming in Houston  A Comb Side Dog Grooming in Houston
• #C comb – leaves hair 7/8″  C Comb Top Dog Grooming in Houston  C Comb Side Dog Grooming in Houston
• #E comb – leaves hair 1″  E Comb Top Dog Grooming in Houston  E Comb Side Dog Grooming in Houston


Typical Dog Grooming Patterns @ Dog Grooming in Houston

There are actually very few patterns in the dog grooming world.  Every cut is either one of these patterns, or a variation of them.  Groomers hate hearing “I want a puppy cut” and other such vague requests.  There is no such thing as a “puppy” cut.  Terms like these mean so many different things to different people that it can be frustrating as a groomer to figure out exactly what the pet parent wants for their dog.  Likewise, it can be just as frustrating as a pet parent to try and get across what kind of cut they want.  Of course, we want to make all of our pets and pet parents happy so we’ve put together this little guide to help explain some of the typical cuts.

  • Schnauzer cut – This pattern can be put on any dog, really.  I love to explore and be creative with schnauzer patterns because of their sharp angles and eye catching lines.  Schnauzers, of course look great with their typical breed cut, but yorkies and other breeds look super cute with it too.  The pattern is set with a #10 or #7 blade on the back, neck, and top of the head.  The legs, skirt, are left long and full.  The eyebrows are sharply angled, ears and cheeks shaved.
  • Cocker cut – This is another pattern that can be put on most dogs and look great.  It’s very similar to the Schnauzer cut, but without the sharp angles.  The straight lined pattern is also set with a #10 or #7 blade and the legs and skirt are left full.  The face is shaved and some pet parents like to leave the head furry, while others prefer it to be shaved along with the top 1/3 of the ear.
  • Poodle cut(s) –  There are many different poodle cuts to choose from.  We recommend an in person consultation when selecting one of these cuts so that one of our skilled groomers can asses your dog’s coat and determine which is the best for that particular dog.  Typically poodles have shaved feet and faces.  They have rounded top knots and fluffy hair.  Only dogs with fluffy hair will be able to have one of these cuts.
  • Lamb cut – The lamb cut is great on fluffy dogs like poodles, bichons, and even shih-tsus and schnauzers.  The body is cut at the pet parent’s desired length while the legs are left fluffy, but are scissored to be neat and blended into the body.
  • Lion cut – The lion cut really only looks good on dogs that have very full, straight hair like pomeranians, chows, and collie type dogs.  The rear end of the body is shaved close to the skin while the top part is left long to attain that lion look.  The lion cut can be left natural looking with whispy fly away hairs or scissored to be neater and blended in appearance.
  • All Over cut – The dog is cut to one length all over it’s entire body (not including the head, ears, or tail).  This can be done at any length depending on the coat type and if the dog is tangled or not.

Again, all of these cuts can be varied to suit each of our clients individual needs.  If you prefer a schnauzer cut with short legs and skirt for easier maintenance, for example, we can do that.  We encourage you to think outside the box and challenge us with more unique cuts.  The company dog, Louie was a perfect candidate for a mix of a lion cut and a lamb cut.  He looks amazing that way!  As always, feel free to bring in pictures or ideas for us to use as a template or a way to communicate your likes and dislikes with our team of Houston dog grooming professionals.

Dog Grooming Terminology

There have been many occasions where a member of our grooming team has blurted out some kind of dog grooming terminology to a pet parent only to have a blank, confused look in response.  To help clear up any other confusion, here is a list of a few of the most common terms in our dog grooming language:

Dog Grooming – Head Terminology

  • Clean Face – Typically done on poodles, this just means we are to shave the face clean and very close to the skin.
  • Topknot (TK)- A topknot refers to the top of a dog’s head.  It should be round and blended into the body seamlessly.  A topnot can be a fluffy poodle head or a ponytail or pigtails at the top of the head on other dogs.
  • Teddy Bear Head – This is a rounded face and head typically given to shih-tsus and other small dogs.
  • Bichon Head – A bichon head is almost always exclusively done on the bichon frise because it requires full, fluffy hair to scissor properly.  This is a rounded or sometimes triangular (with the corners rounded off) head.  The ears are trimmed short and blended into the rest of the head so that they don’t stand out away from the rest of the head.
  • Tipped ears – Some breed cuts have what we call tipped ears.  This just means the top 1/3rd of the ear is shaved leaving sharply pointed ears.  Yorkies and Westies usually have tipped ears.
  • Leave Lashes – Some pet parents ask us to leave the eyelashes long on their dogs.  I would just like to explain that any dog groomer that guarantees they will leave the eyelashes long is a very foolish one.  Dogs are living, breathing, moving things that can twitch, jerk, sneeze, or get startled.  When we have scissors around those eyelashes to set, for example a schnauzers eyebrows or rounding a teddy bear head, it can be difficult to avoid cutting the eyelashes.  We will always do our best to keep those lovely lashes long, but it’s never a guarantee.

Dog Grooming – Feet Terminology

  • Clean Feet – Just like the above mentioned clean face, clean feet are completely shaved exposing the nails and the entire foot up to the ankle area.  Clean feet are usually done on poodles.
  • Round Feet – Round feet are fluffy feet that we scissor neatly without exposing the nails.
  • Tight Feet – Tight feet are kind of in between clean feet and rounded feet.  They expose the nails, keep the feet free from matting, but are not shaved close to the skin.

Dog Grooming – Body Terminology

  • GI cut – a GI cut is a full strip all over the body including the head, ears, and tail.  EVERYTHING gets shaved.  Many pet parents choose the GI cut for their dog if it is badly matted, sheds a lot, or if it has a dense undercoat.
  • Kennel Cut (KC) – Many of you out there use this term broadly to mean an all over shave down.  In the dog grooming world, a kennel cut is an all over length set either with a blade or a guide comb, but with clean face and clean feet as well as a topknot.
  • Pom Pom – Pom poms are typically done on poodles or other fluffy coated dogs.  They are usually cut above clean feet and on the end of the tail.  Only curly or thick coated dogs have hair that can be scissored into round pom poms.
  • Potty Path – a strip shaved from the anus down to the belly area for those dogs that are extremely hairy around the backend like pomeranians and chows.  If your dog has problems getting waste stuck in their hair, this is an excellent solution.
  • Sanies – This refers to the sanitary areas on dogs.  We always shave the sanies, or the belly, top inside of the back legs, and around the anus.  This keeps the potty areas clean between grooms.
  • Shell Out – A shell out is when the belly area is shaved all the way up to the arm pit area and includes the arm pits.  This is done on dogs with lots of tangles underneath their arms or on their tummies or for dogs that have a lot of undercoat.

We hope this little guide helps all of you pet parents out there when you’re deciding upon the perfect style and cut for your four legged fur baby.  We encourage you to mix and match the head, feet, and body for a unique look.  Our job is about making your dog as happy and gorgeous as possible while achieving the look you want.  For any other questions or to set up an appointment with one of our stylists, please contact us!

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