So you have your dog needing a haircut, your scissors and all your patience ready to go. Now it is time to get to business! Your ‘poo should have clean, dry hair and will preferably be on a table or some other elevated surface so that you don’t strain your back.
The first part of our face-grooming tutorial (found here) talked about the shape of the cockapoo’s clip and the tools we’ll use to groom. So now that you have a good idea of what we’re trying for let’s get to work!
Start by looking your dog directly in the face at eye level. Try doing this without getting kisses. It is hard. We must comb the hair into position. We will be following the natural growth pattern and direction of hair growth. This will mean combing hair into position to obscure your dog’s vision. Resist the urge to part the hair off to the side. Comb it into natural position so we can snip away the hair obscuring vision.
Using the metal toothed comb you should brush all the hair on your dog’s head/skull back, away from the face, toward the body. Start from right behind (closer to the body) the eyebrows and comb straight back. Do the same on the cheeks and the beard, combing the hair from the nose tip back toward the ears, parallel to the lips. Everything centers on the nose and is combed backwards toward the eyes/ears and around. Comb out the chrysanthemum in a circular or cone like shape moving back toward the face, skull and neck.
The only part of the ‘poo you comb in a lateral manner meaning to the sides or from the center toward the ears are the eyebrows. You comb them, following their natural direction of growth, in the direction that eyebrows grow. Start at the center between the eyes and comb outward for each eyebrow toward its respective ear/side of the head.
Snipping for Vision
Visualize the chrysanthemum circle on your dog’s face. Look at the hairs that are clearly outside that circle in your mind as well as in the way of your dog’s vision. We also want to cut a tiny valley in between your dog’s eyes to help with vision as well. This should be ever so slight and not easy to notice. Just something to help with vision but not an obvious style-statement.
Pay attention to the inner corners of your dog’s eyes. Those are where a little snipping makes a huge difference in how your baby can see! And we want to see those pretty eyes, too! Visualize the lines you will be following to remove those vision impeding curls.
Hold your curved shears so that the curve is shaped like the letter “U”. Using the shears cut the hairs that are obscuring your dog’s vision in the corner of each eye at the base of the dog’s muzzle. Use the tip for more accuracy unless you aren’t positive your dog will sit fully still. If you’re worried you might have a squirmy dog then use the center of the shaft to cut. That will reduce the chance of poking your dog in the eye. No matter how calm a dog is I will always use the safer center shaft on a new puppy’s first couple of cuts (like Penny here). It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Hold your dog’s muzzle firmly but gently. If you squeeze too hard your dog will get annoyed at feeling restrained and may balk at the position. It always takes a bit to get them to accept grooming but you want to have lots of patience, consistency and firmness. You’re the boss here and you need to do this but you also are not interested in having a wrestling match with your dog on the table! Happy, calm compliance is much nicer for everyone involved. Take breaks and be patient and soon your grooming trainee will be as calm and polite as Penny here.
An alternative to holding the muzzle (in case your dog becomes tired of this hold) would be to wrap your hand around a collar or the collar part of the grooming restraint right under the dog’s chin. It gives you and the dog the right amount of balance without making the dog feel super restrained. This hold gives the dog a break from having her muzzle held but should not mean the dog is never required to tolerate having her muzzle gently held.
Easy does it here. Just clip a little bit. You don’t want to cut too much. Remember you can always cut more but you can’t put cut hairs back. Cut a little then sit back and look. Visualize the lines and circles on your dog’s face and snip some more. The first couple times you do this will be time consuming as you look, consider, snip and repeat. But trust me soon you’ll be a pro and this will be an easy job.
With the shears still in a shape like a “U” shear the hair down – just a little – between the eyes (where the bridge of the nose would be for a human).
Now take a step back and look at your pup’s face. If you think a little more can be cut away flip the scissors over, no longer a “U” shape but into a hump shape where the point of the scissors in towards the floor, the center of the shaft of the shears is a peak and the handles are lower, toward the floor again.
Now you can carefully clip away any hair you think might still be obstructing the vision of your pup without risking damaging the shape of the face too much. The scissors flipped like this will limit how much is clipped and will keep what is clipped in a good shape.
Taking too much around the eyes will result in a face shape that you won’t like. You don’t want to mow all the hair flat or put “goggles” on your dog and you don’t want your dog to wind up looking like a schnauzer. Less is more here.
Shaping the Skull
If you have decided to use clippers to cut the top of the head/the skull then now is the time to pull them out and have it done. Buzz away. Try your hardest not to buzz off the eyebrows. Start from behind the eyebrows and cut toward the body with the length comb you happen to like. Don’t go any shorter than 1/2 inch to start and you can go down as low as 1/4 inch on subsequent passes if you like.
Try not to cut too short or you won’t have the height needed to have a round, balanced face. You do need some height on the head. Just avoid that buffont type look that seems to be so common in American show cockers these days. I don’t know who thinks it is cute but… well… it isn’t. (Someone should tell them.)
After clipping briefly go over the cut with a set of curved shears to ensure everything is falling evenly and in the right shape. Generally clippers will miss a bit so you’ll still want to go over the dog with the shears to perfect the shape of the cut.
And if you choose to use shears alone you’ll be following these same steps.
Start by holding your pup’s muzzle in your hand (or in this case allow the dog to lie down), eyeball the skull and head and start carefully shearing off the hairs that don’t fall within the shape you have in your mind. It is sort of like mowing a lawn with a pair of scissors.
Start near one ear and work across the skull to the other ear. Let the curved shape of your shears do all the work for you. Make sure that your shears are in an arch shape or upside-down U shape (if that description helps). Essentially you want the curve of the blade to follow the natural curve of the skull.
Start with the handles of the shears over your pup’s eyebrows and the tip of the shears pointing toward the neck and body of the dog. Carefully clip any hairs that are standing too tall from one ear to the next. Cut as much or as little as you feel you need to. As you can see in the photo below I cut a good amount of Penny’s hair (as evidenced by the pile of hair next to her body). If you let the dog lay down be sure to stand or sit them up to evaluate them with their neck and head at a different angle and position. But no need to exhaust them! I do want them to be comfortable and enjoy their grooming session.
After shearing a bit you can turn your scissors so that the handle is near an ear and the tip of the scissors is pointing at the other ear if you want to. The curved shaft works in your favor in that position as well. And again you cut, sit back and assess and then cut some more until you’re satisfied with the results. It’s all about what looks good to you.
If you want to cut the hair on the skull short (vs taking a more conservative approach but grooming more frequently) then comb the hair on the skull against the natural growth pattern (or “against the grain”) and shear or use clippers. This will cut the hair shorter than if you clip while the hair is lying down naturally on the head.
If your dog has very silky hair and is showing scissor marks on the skull (not something that happens very often with cockapoos, to be honest) you can follow up this shaping and length reduction with a little blending with a pair of blending shears. This type of shear will not take a lot of length off but will make scissor lines magically vanish.
Shaping the Jawline, Cheeks and Face
Hold your dog’s muzzle in one hand and lift her ear up and away.
Look at the side of her face and head. See the line in your mind; a semi-circle that runs along the jawline of your dog from ear to chin. You’re going to snip right along this curve. Do you see it? Maybe not?
Unless you have a third hand you won’t be able to hold your dog’s muzzle, hold the ear up and away and snip with your shears all at the same time. So fold your dog’s ear to look sort of “inside-out”. Lay it back against the skull and over the head. Hold the ear there with the same hand as you’re using to hold your dog’s muzzle gently in place. Now you can use your free hand to cut the jawline with the curved shears.
Your curved shears will be sort of in a “U” shape. Just put the curve at an angle that matches the curve of the lines you’re cutting. Cut a little, sit back and look, cut a little, sit back and look. This is the way to shape the jaw. Remember this is about what looks good to you so don’t think there is a magic amount to cut. Just go until you like what you see. Now do the other side the same way.
Clip under the muzzle in the same way you clipped on top of the skull except with the scissors inverted, as you’re still following the natural shape of the round face. Shape and smooth the roundness and the transition from one cheek to the other around the underside of the muzzle. Don’t release the ear until you’re done working close to the neck and there isn’t danger of snipping a velvet ear.
Shaping the Ear
Hold the ear up and comb the fringe out.
Evaluate the shape and length of the fringe alongside the new, neat lines you have for the jaw. You’ll want to stay with these same flowing lines. Using your curved shears cut the hair growing longer than the actual ear leather.
Cut the hair by following the natural border of the ear. You’ll make the ears look nice and neat. You can opt to leave the fringe as long as you like, making the ears look longer than they actually are. I prefer to cut the ears short. This gives a fullness to the face. Like Rosie here. She has a long muzzle and face and tends to look like a schnauzer because of it (and her coloring doesn’t help). In order to give her a nice wide, full, round face I ensure her ears are clipped short. See?
So I like to leave just a little less than a fingertip of hair length from the end of the ear itself. I use my fingers to pinch the edge of the ear so I can feel where the ear ends. This gives me a bit of buffer space to ensure I do not snip the ear itself while still taking enough off to keep the ears looking neat and tangle-free. Shorter ear fringe and hair means less hair in the food dish as well, which is always a plus.
That is my personal preference but both short trimmed ears and long fringe are lovely. Again it all depends on what looks good on your particular dog and what you personally like.
You may choose to use clippers on the ear leather at this point. That is completely up to you and based on personal preference. If you’ve got a very short clip all over the body you may choose to buzz the ears too. This is fairly simple. Hold the ear leather gently in your palm and follow the direction of hair growth with your clippers. Usually this is completely unnecessary.
Trimming the Eyebrows
In most cases you want to leave the eyebrows as they are apart from slightly cutting back the far outside edges of the eyebrows it should only be to clear a little vision if the hair has grown down over the eyes and is obscuring the dog’s view of the world. Otherwise try to leave them be. If you clip too much off the eyebrows (especially the edges nearest the ears) you will wind up with a dog that looks like it has a pronounced moustache. This is a common mistake that professional groomers make with cockapoos.
If you’d like to work near the eyebrows and above the eyes to give your dog more vision you should consider cutting the eyelashes short. Many cockapoos have very long eyelashes that slope downward into the dog’s vision and obscure their view. But sometimes these eyelashes are so pretty that it is just too sad to cut them short. In some cases there is no real great reason to keep the eyelashes and snipping them short helps a lot.
To clip the eyelashes put a thumb above the eye on the eyelid and pull gently upwards. This will pull the eyelid up and away and make the lashes stick out at an angle easy to safely cut back.
Trim and Clip the Neck and Throat
Comb out the coat on the face, head, neck, throat and chest. You’ve already given the throat and neck a good preliminary cut at this point with your clippers but it is a good time to go over everything and ensure it is all even and blended in with your head and face.
Grab your clippers and clip the hair on the neck behind the skull where you hand trimmed. Clip the hair going in the direction of natural growth moving from the back of the skull down to the body and shoulders and all around the sides to the throat and chest.
When clipping the throat and sides of the neck you’ll want to angle your dog’s muzzle toward the ceiling and hold ears up out of the way to avoid injury.
The length blade (or comb guide) you choose for your clippers is going to depend on a few things: the tightness of the coat curl and your personal preferences.
The tighter the curl in the coat the shorter you should clip. It will make your life easier. For a puppy that has a very tight curl I would recommend a length of ¼ inch. If you’d prefer to keep the coat longer then a length of 3/8 inch will also work beautifully.
For a puppy/dog with a medium curl with a coarse or fuzzy/cottony texture you won’t go wrong with ¼ inch as long as you know that it is a very short length. You may be more pleased with a 3/8 of an inch. You can also keep the coat shaggier with a ½ inch and the shaggiest I would go would be ¾ of an inch. This length will be fairly long and so you will be clipping the dog more frequently but it does keep the coat long and lovely.
Once you complete trimming the neck and throat you can use your shears to blend the longer coat on the head with the neck itself in case there is a large difference in length. If you have blending shears you can use these.
Now you can step back and take a look at the whole face and head. You can be picky and snip that one stray hair here or the funny cowlick that is annoying you there… do as you please. Comb everything or smooth the face and head with your hands so that you can see what it looks like.
At this point I will put my dog blow dryer on low power with no heat and very gently blow out the face, head and neck. This will remove any small hairs that might otherwise irritate your pup’s skin or get into her eyes. This also fluffs the coat up quite nicely. Then I finger comb the coat into position again (if it needs it) and snip anything that is offending me.
And voila! A perfect cockapoo face.
You can get back to the main article about grooming the whole dog by clicking the link: How to Groom a Cockapoo.
Hope this has helped!