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How to talk to your groomer to get the haircut you want

As a groomer one of the most difficult tasks I have is correctly understanding what type of haircut clients are asking for.

Almost daily I hear terms such as "short but not too short", "not like a poodle" and "just a trim". These phrases are popular but don't actually give me any information. Clear communication can be the difference between a good or bad haircut and is a two way street.


Here's some tips below to help verbalize what your expectations are:


  • Be prepared to describe how you want the body, legs, head, face, ears and tail to look. There are literally 100's of ways to groom a Shih Tsu so don't say "groom him like a Shih Tsu"
  • Short is not a length!! It is the same as going to a builder and asking him to build a fence. What type of fence? Tall short, picket, wood, metal etc. Your short and my short could mean two very different things. Use numbers to describe the length you want (preferably not in inches), or better yet use your fingers on the dogs coat to show me the length you want taken off. Just take the tips off, half of coat off, leave 5cms on etc.
  • Do your research and have an idea of what you like/ dislike before you walk in the salon. We write notes on what we have done every time so if you have a haircut you really like/dislike, make sure you let us know so we can keep it on our records. We are more than happy to let you know what we used for you to keep a note of as well. Remember sometimes it can take a couple of haircuts to get it right.
  • Photos. The saying a picture says a thousand words is true for dog grooming. If you have had a haircut you really like in the past, try to take clear, full body pictures of it to show us. Just remember if using photos from the internet make sure they are photos of dogs that are the same breed and with a similar coat. There is also a big difference between a show dog and a pet dog.
  • Forget the number system! I am not a hairdresser and have no idea what a number 2 length is. Dog grooming blades are different starting at a number #3 which is the longest and ending at #40 which is the shortest (with a LOT of numbers missing in between). Additional to the blades we have comb attachments for the longer haircuts and some groomers use numbers to describe these and others like myself use colors instead. It all depends on where you learnt.
  • Have realistic expectations. Let us know if your dog has any matts or knots. We commonly hear " the last groomer just shaved him off". We as groomers never just shave off a dog for the fun of it, there is always a reason, either the dog was matted and couldn't be brushed out or that's what the groomer understood you wanted. If your dog is matted, we have no choice to go short so please don't ask us otherwise.
  • Make sure the haircut you want is realistic with both your dog and your own lifestyle. Do you live on a farm? Does your dog spend lots of time outside getting dirty? Can you spend 2-3 hours each week brushing your dog? These things can influence what style haircut is best for your dog.

Phrases that drive groomers (me) crazy

A Puppy Cut

This gives us no information at all and can mean different things to different groomers. Generally it means one length all over for body and legs but doesn't specify the length.

It originally refers to a fluffy trim given to poodles in the show ring before they are old enough to get the adult continental clip.

Not like a poodle

We have no idea what you are talking about. Be specific- is it the clean face or clean feet you don't like? Or the fluffy head? Remember that the Oodle part of your Cavoodle, Doodle, Retrodoodle, Spoodle etc is half poodle. Nothing I can do to change that.

Teddy Bear Cut

The only thing that I understand from this is that you want your dog to look cute. Usually it means a rounded head but gives no information on the body, legs, ears or tail.

Just a Trim

" Just a Trim", " Short but not short", "short but not shaved". As talked about earlier these phrases leave so much to interpretation and my short and your short could be two very different lengths. 

Just do what you think, you're the groomer

I can't get too mad for this as I usually say the same thing to my hairdresser. But just remember I see your dog for an hour every 6 weeks, I don't see where it lives, what it does and don't have to maintain it in between grooms.

I am a creative person so left up to me it will have some form of drastic haircut that I don't get to do often. Dogs have left with lion manes, mo hawks and mullets. If you are happy for me to do this, then I am happy to do it.

The clearer the communication, the better the haircut. Please don't think you will offend us if you give specific instructions or show us photos, it definitely makes our jobs easier!