Downeast Dog News

Grooming for an active lifestyle

By Looking good and keeping a manageable coat | Mar 22, 2013

The beginning of a groom that results in a happy pet and owner, for me, always starts with the same question: What kind of clip would you like today? Sounds simple right? (HA!) With spring on the way I am going to talk about the most popular clip for the warmer months where dogs are hiking through the brush and swimming constantly. I’d also like to note that this clip corresponds with a phrase that drives me up a wall on a daily basis: “I’d like a Puppy Cut please.”

Now to the grooming professional (and by professional I mean somebody who received formal training who studied breed clips). This term stems from the technical term ‘Contour Clip’ which very simply means ‘one length all over.’ The Contour Clip or Puppy Cut is also referred to as a Kennel clip, summer cut or shave down. Are you starting to see how this gets confusing?

I first started grooming in South Carolina where summers are HOT. Down south when a customer asked for a puppy cut they wanted the fresh off Paris Island Marine buzz cut. A #4 blade or shorter. When I moved back home to Maine I found that few people wanted anything shorter than a #4, which for those of you who don’t know blade lengths leaves the hair about as long as my first finger digit. I’m not going to use terms like ‘an inch or half inch’ because people who deal with hair, whether dogs or humans, can tell you that a client always considers an inch to be very different than stylists do. I mean go get a ruler, look at an inch - it’s not much right? However my clip comb that claims to leave 1” in reality leaves much more than that. For this reason I ask people to show me with fingers the exact length they want. So when you ask your beloved groomer for a ‘Puppy cut’ please, for the love of Dog, be specific!

With all that being said, in the summer Puppy Cuts are great. You and your family are spending more time outside and your dog is likely moving a mile a minute trying to take in all the smells and activities. Let’s admit it, after being house bound for most of the winter you may find yourself slacking on the brushing routine at a time when your dog’s hair is going to be matting fast. Now the problem here becomes that you may want your dog’s hair cut short but ‘not to the skin.’ To prevent the dreaded ‘naked puppy look’ you HAVE to keep up on the brushing. I can easily cut under a mat but not through it. So, before you bring your dog in for their spring groom make sure you have their hair thoroughly brushed out or be prepared to have a short clip. Some places will up charge you and have no problem de-matting a dog for 8 hours. I have done this enough times working under corporate management that I have come to the conclusion it is just torture. For those out there that had long hair as children and have suffered under a mother-wielded hair brush you know what I mean. We might have hated the resulting ‘bowl cut’, but it sure was easier to take care of.

I’d like to note here that I don’t approve of shaving double coated dogs like Golden Retrievers to keep them ‘cool’ in the summer. Double coats are designed to insulate those breeds against the heat, as well as the cold. Shaving them to the skin can lead to heat stroke and often ruin their coat altogether, growing back in thicker or not at all. Bathing regularly to remove the dead undercoat will prevent hotspots by allowing the coat to dry quickly. To help stop matting I clip all the ‘furnishings’ - the long hair on the legs and belly, down short. If you feel that your double coated dog is still too hot then I recommend giving them a ‘cool strip’ which is a shaved strip of hair on the belly. When they lay in the dirt or on cold floor it helps cool them down. Dogs release heat by panting which is normal but ALL dogs should have a nice cool place to get out of the heat and fresh water available.

If you have questions or want more grooming tips then you can find me on Facebook at