Great scissor work can hide a dog’s imperfections, and give style and expression to any pet. But getting a beautiful, velvet finish on a dog takes time and practice.
First, there are a few things to consider when preparing a dog, like picking a shampoo and/or conditioner that will complement what you are trying to achieve. Some shampoos and conditioners can be very heavy and will weigh the coat down, which is counterproductive. Another consideration groomers should make in prepping a dog is drying. I recommend always using a stand or hand-held dryer to properly fluff dry and prepare the coat. And, of course, before you can even think of cutting hair, make sure a comb can run freely through the entire dog’s coat.
With the prep work out of the way, here are eight more pointers on to achieve the perfect scissored finish on a dog:
1. Have the right tools for the job.
It is important to have sharp, balanced shears that fit your hand. Too often, I have picked up a groomer’s shears to show them something and the blade tips don’t cut, or the blades are bending the hair. Maintain your equipment! There are tons of different styles, quality and sizes of shears to fit everyone’s budget and hand.
2. Use the Proper Technique
Make sure you are holding your shears properly. Your ring finger fits in the bottom finger hole while you rest your pinky on the finger rest. Have your forefinger at the balance point of your shears, and your thumb resting on the upper finger hole. It is important that your thumb does not go fully through the finger hole. There are finger rings and thumbguides you can purchase to help with this. When scissoring, the thumb should move up and down only. Essentially only one of the blades of the shear is moving.
3. Avoid the dreaded scissor hand bounce.
Bouncing your hand will cause scissor marks. Use your whole arm to guide your scissors with a straight wrist in a fluid motion, allowing for more control of your shears. Take big scissor strokes—small ones just allow for more cut marks. Practice by just sitting with your shears in the correct position and place your scissoring hand on your lap while you just work your thumb. This will help keep your scissor hand stationary. Then practice moving your hand along the side of the grooming table while making the scissoring motion, avoiding any bounce. Not only will you get a better finish, you will also reduce the wear and tear on your body.
4. Use a scissor spray.
Scissoring sprays help with static, volume and lift, and reduces friction. I find that the brand of spray you choose is a personal preference. Personally, I like a fine mist. Spray, comb, then scissor.
5. Scissor up and down.
When learning to perfect smooth scissoring skills, I recommend scissoring straight up and down; scissoring sideways is a harder technique to perfect and will come with time.
6. Use your comb.
Use your comb often to fluff the hair up and out. Do not use your shears or fingers to do this.
7. Practice makes perfect.
If you have your own dog to practice with, great! All too often, I hear groomers say that their clients only want short cuts. Before taking the dog to the desired length, practice scissoring the hair. Try your hand on a model dog, as these dog mannequins and pelts can be great education tools.
8. Use an “eraser.”
Thinning shears and chunkers are referred to as the groomer’s erasers. If the coat is looking choppy, use either to blend out any scissor marks.
Professional groomer Anne Francis, CMG, is a grooming competitor, speaker and Andis educator. She works at The Village Groomer in Walpole, Mass. Is there a breed or cut that you’d like to see featured in the Grooming Table? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.