Grooming your dog’s face and head is the most important aspect of the entire groom job. After all we spend most of our time looking at that cute little face! It may be the most intimidating part of learning to groom but fortunately it is also fairly easy once you get the hang of things. A puppy will need his face trimmed up before he requires a full body groom as well, so practicing on your pup’s face and head will likely be done once or twice before you attempt a full body groom on a new puppy.
The face and head is, unfortunately, the part of grooming that most professional groomers seem to get confused about. They don’t seem to know what type of head to cut on a cockapoo. The answer in the USA is usually the “round” or “teddy bear” face and head shape. Well-trained and practiced groomers will know what you’re talking about if you request this shape. Even if using a professional groomer it is very helpful to understand how to do the cut because you can do your own small trims in between grooming sessions to stretch out the amount of time between full grooms (and large price tags). Grooming a beautiful cockapoo face and head is really super easy and not very time consuming at all, so don’t be too nervous.
What seems tricky is getting your dog to relax and behave during the grooming session so that you don’t miss a cut and wind up with a half-bearded cockapoo or poking an eye, so we’ll discuss this little bit before we delve into shape and equipment.
(This is part I of this tutorial. Part II can be found here.)
Patience is Key
This cannot be stressed enough. Patience is absolutely critical when it comes to cutting and shaping your pup’s facial hair (and grooming in general). You do not want to slip and poke an eye or cut a lip or tongue. I am very fortunate in that I have never (to date) injured a dog’s face while grooming but I attribute that good luck to having considerable patience.
Hold your dog’s face and if she is not completely still do not try to make a quick cut to get it over with. You must hold and wait and wait (and wait some more) for her to get totally still. If you have to employ help to hold her still for her safety the first few times you cut then you will need to do just that. If that means completely immobilizing the pup in gentle but firm hands – over puppy protests – then so be it.
We want to make grooming a positive experience and part of that is ensuring that it is not a bloody and injurious one! It is far less traumatizing to hold a struggling pup still for a haircut than to have a dog need a trip to the vet because you accidentally sliced a lip.
Read over how to train a puppy or dog to accept grooming (This post coming soon and will be linked here when posted) and make sure you’re taking your time with your dog to ensure everything goes smoothly for you both.
The Right Equipment
This can vary depending on the type of coat your pup has but all you really need to cut a great face is a pair of curved shears and a metal toothed comb. You’ll want a pair of clippers for the neck, throat and chest. So that’s all you need; three tools.
Curved shears have a gently curving shaft that allow you to cut a nice rounded line beautifully. I suggest new groomers purchase shears with blunted safety-tips to avoid any dangerous accidents. I’ve poked myself with expensive, top quality shears and lemme tell you, those suckers draw blood.
For beginning home-groomers or one-dog homes you do not need a $200 pair of curved shears. If you can afford the splurge I will not tell you these scissors aren’t better (or great, even) but you can get amazing results for years with a $30-40 pair of curved shears with a safety tip. I did for years and years before spoiling myself with a gift of fancy shears.
Clippers can be helpful for the head and face if you’re doing a job on a very long coat but most of the time I avoid using clippers on the head and face (unless using clippers to cut the entire body short, in which case you’ll want your skull to match). You will use your clippers for the neck and throat. You can use your clippers to make the job on the skull and beard a lot faster but trust me, you’ll get better results using only shears. And shears are easier to use, too, believe it or not.
Blending or thinning shears are also useful for the face but definitely not a necessity. The finer and silkier your dog’s coat is the more useful blending/thinning shears become. These scissors don’t leave obvious cut lines/marks in the hair. Coats that have more curl and coarse texture are so forgiving that you won’t see these lines unless you really make a mistake. Silky-haired dogs (like my Bluebell), on the other hand, show every single cut. If your cuts aren’t perfect (or you’re super picky like I am) you’ll want blending shears around.
Cheap blending shears are a waste of money. They don’t work. If you’re considering buying a pair of blending shears for under $100 just send the money to a charity instead. Or throw it directly into the garbage and save yourself the headache. Trust me on this one; you need to spend the money on good quality blending shears. Since they only have one blade working against a comb the material and engineering must be great or they simply won’t work at all. But again, this tool is not a necessity and is always something you can add to your collection of tools as time goes on.
When it comes to the face and head it is all about the shape. Understanding the shape is critical to cutting the face easily and correctly so we’ll spend the remainder of this post discussing the shape of the face and save the step-by-step how-to for the second installment of this tutorial. We’re going to clip your cockapoo into the teddy-bear or round face shape. Here is an example of this round shape:
I will get more descriptive about this face shape later, so don’t stress on that just yet. You’re the boss so you can do any variation on this shape to suit your ‘poo and your personal tastes.
Anatomy of a Cute Face
When learning to shape your pup’s face I am going to reference some parts on the face. It would be helpful for you to know what I am talking about so that you can use these “landmarks” while shaping as well. So here is the anatomy of a cockapoo face:
The jawline: the line you create when grooming that runs parallel to the bottom jaw of the muzzle up to the base of the dog’s ear.
The chrysanthemum: this is the little poof of hair that is characteristic for a bearded dog. This hair fans out away from the nose/end of the muzzle and resembles the mum flower in the way it fans out and looks.
The skull: the top of the head.
The eyebrows: the ridge of hair and fluff that are above the dog’s eyes.
The Teddy Bear Face
So we have our anatomical features down so let’s have a few more examples of what a round or teddy bear face shape looks like. It looks a bit like this:
Simple as a Circle
You’ll notice that most of the pictures above (whether the dogs are freshly groomed or about to get groomed) show some variation of a round or globe like shape. Hence the name “round” for this face-haircut 🙂
If you look closer you’ll notice that there are three distinct circles that you can follow when clipping your own cockapoo’s face. The outermost circle (or the largest circle) is encompassing our skull and ears. The middle circle is marking our eyebrows and the cheeks and sides of the face and the innermost circle is marking the little puffy circle that surrounds the muzzle of the cockapoo; the chrysanthemum.
If you can look at your ‘poo and visualize these circles then you’ll be able to snip a cute teddy bear face in no time. The only other smooth, curving line you need to visualize is the jawline. It is really as simple as a couple circles and a swooping jaw. Look here at these pictures and see the various lines that you’re going to follow when you cut your own cockapoo’s face and head:
Clipping your dog’s face into this cut involves visualizing these circles and following the naturally present curves with your curved shears to cut back the hairs that are sticking out beyond the circle. That really is all there is to it.
You will comb the hair into the direction you want it to lie naturally, clip with your scissors, and repeat until you are satisfied with the shape you’ve created. There are certainly a few more tricks and tips than just this so read the second part of this tutorial to get step-by-step instructions with photos to make this snip a snap.
How to Groom a Cockapoo Face and Head Part II – step-by-step guide.
You can also get back to the main article about grooming the whole dog by clicking the link: How to Groom a Cockapoo.
Hope this has helped!