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Bichon Grooming: The Pet Cut

Bichon Grooming: The Pet Cut
Part 2

Leaving the Neck Coat: The Oster Bichon Video shows Cut #2 in which the head hair is blended from dome of the head down the neck, and neck sides to the withers, all blending into the body hair. This is all hand-scissored. I only leave the neck coat when doing Clip #2.

If you leave the neck coat start clipping the body hair from the withers down to the tail. The withers start where the end of the neck meets the body. Be careful where you decide the withers are. I can use my dog's elbows as a guide to follow from that point over to the withers. If you start too far up on the neck you may end up having to clip it all off. If you start too far onto the back you can still cut some off later.

Start clipping from about 2" under the ear and just above the shoulder, down to about 1" above the elbow on the front legs. Then starting at the same spot (2" under the ear) clip horizontally along the side of the neck slanting to the withers. Clip the hair on the other side the same way. This ends up being somewhat wedge shaped. You will hand-scissor the neck hair when doing the head. Clip the rest of the hair along the rib cage stopping half way into the tuck up. Clip hair from Adams apple down to the breast bone. This chest line should match up to where you stopped 1" above the elbow on the legs. The line should be even from one leg across the breast to the other leg. Do not clip between the front legs. Note: You may also clip all the chest hair, but do not clip between the front legs.

Raise the dog up by the front legs with rear legs still on table. Clip hair underneath starting from elbows and clipping down the belly.

Second pass. BRUSH THE HAIR AGAINST THE LAY OF THE COAT and reclip same areas. Continue brushing against the lay of the coat and clipping until no more hair comes off.

Hand-Scissoring: Once you're satisfied with your clipping work, you can begin scissoring the leg coat. Hand-scissoring is an art. It can take a long time to develop this talent. Practicing will certainly help. Your grooming book pictures and especially a video on grooming Bichons would come in handy at the point of hand-scissoring the leg coat. You can see in the video how the groomer stacks the hair with the comb and how the scissor is held. The video also shows in what direction the hair is cut.

The proper way to use your scissor is to put your thumb in thumb hole (rubber insert, if needed, for a snug fit) and ring finger in the other hole (rubber insert if needed) and small finger resting on finger rest. The index and middle finger rest on the shank for control. When scissoring move ONLY the thumb. Practice scissoring around a ball or something curved. Move only your thumb to open and close the blades. See Scissoring by The Groomer Professional - Marion Wampler.

The front legs should look tubular and the rear legs tubular but softly following the leg angulation right above the hock. Do not cut angulation to the skin, only angulate slightly. Look at your dog in profile to see how much you're scissoring. Do not press into the hair with the scissor, it should just ride on the hair. Don't use your brush now use only your comb. As you scissor, your scissor will be pushing hair flat, so you have to continuously scissor, comb hair up, scissor, comb hair up, etc.

Note: You may be tempted to pull at hair that is hard to reach with your scissor. Do not do this because you will pull the skin too and may cut it.

I start with the rear legs, you may decide you want to do the front first. Before you start to scissor you must "stack" the hair (see Using Your Comb). Start stacking the hair from the bottom of the leg right up the leg to the thigh. You can hold your scissor parallel to the leg coat, and begin scissoring. When you are finished look at dog from the rear. Are your dog's legs poofed out away from the body? They shouldn't be. The hair should flow from hips, which are blended into the body coat, down legs in a natural line. Comb hair up in the inside of the legs. Scissor taking a little off at a time. Stand back and look, the inside space between the legs should appear to be "A" shaped.

On the front legs, the line should flow from the shoulder right down the side of leg. Remember the legs are cylindrical. Make sure your dog is standing when scissoring the legs or you will not get the proper line. Always, and continuously stack the hair. You can scissor the rear of the front leg without picking up the leg, the same for the inside and the outside (remember to think of the legs as having four sides but without corners). If you wish, you can pick up the front leg to scissor the top. Hold the leg with your thumb and first finger at the side of the large foot pad. Stack the hair on the top of the leg, scissor a little at a time, stack hair, scissor some more. You may have to bend your head and look at the leg in profile to get it even. Be careful not to scissor the top of the paw flat or your dog will look like it's wearing slippers. You can also scissor the hair horizontally without holding the leg. Scissor whichever way you can do it the easiest.

Once you think you are done with the legs, study them, one against the other. Are all the legs in proportion to each other? The front legs aren't skinnier than the rear ones are they? Make any adjustments that are necessary. If you did cut them too small, make a note of it for next time.

With dog standing scissor across at the front of the paw. Scissor around paws with scissor slanted at a 45 degree angle. Scissor all hair hanging on table. Round off the corners created when scissoring across the front of the paw. Do not scissor up the side of the foot. Paws should be like cat paws, tight, no nails showing.

Stack the hair between the legs. Lift one front leg and look underneath at chest hair. Scissor chest hair underneath even with body (always know where the dog's skin is). Scissor or blend with thinning shears so it is even with body hair. See Doing the Head at the end of Cut #3.

Using a Snap-on Comb

Cut #3 - Using the #40 or #30 blade put a snap-on comb over it. In this cut your dog must be mat free as the snap-on comb can get caught in a mat and come off leaving the #30 or #40 blade which cuts very, very close. Clip hair as in Cut #1. Clip over entire body including legs. See how this leaves hair longer? On second pass, do as before. BRUSH the hair AGAINST THE LAY OF THE COAT, clip, brush hair against lay of coat, clip, continue until there is no more hair that can be clipped off.

Clipping with a snap-on comb leaves the hair a little choppy, so when you're done clipping, COMB hair up and out and scissor lightly just over the coat for an even appearance. Look at your dog in profile, you can see all the uneven hair. Scissor any uneven ends that are sticking up. This cut would be a good style to practice scissoring on. Do paws as in Cut #1. Clean up any other stray hairs. Continue on to Shaping the Head.


There is very little scissoring on the head, but keep it in proportion to the length of the body coat. If you decide to do a short body you will need to trim the head shorter to keep it in proportion to the body. You would not want a huge head and a short body coat. The Michael Kemp video is excellent for learning how to scissor the Bichon head properly.

Shaping the head, as in shaping the legs, takes a lot of practice. Don't get discouraged if your dog doesn't look exactly like a Bichon. Use a picture of a Bichon head so you can refer to it while scissoring. NEVER, NEVER use the clippers on the face.

Eye Area: To get the Bichon deep-set look around the eye you don't want to scissor the hair flat at the stop (the forehead). Comb head hair up and out from the stop through the top of the head, letting the head hair fall over the eye area. At all times be sure you know where the point of the scissor is at. Trim the hair between the eyes where the stop meets the muzzle. Leave a distinct thin line here, but don't trim to the skin as this will lengthen the muzzle. Keeping the rounded look in mind, trim away any hair that hangs too far over the muzzle from the stop. You want to leave a rounded visor here. Carry the roundness from over the eye area at the stop on up to the top of the head. Take a little off at a time, stand back take a look. Continuously comb the head hair up and scissor. The length of the head hair should be about the same length as the chin hair, this will give the roundness of the face.

Cut away any hair hanging into the eye to expose the eye cleanly but still leaving a little visor. Using your thinning shear trim off a very little hair just above the inside of the eye to expose the darker halo, notice that the skin is darker in this area. Do not cut any hair beyond the outer corner of the eye. Study a picture of the Bichon head and eye area. Kiyomi's web site for trimming the Bichon is an excellent source for how a hand-scissored Bichon should look. Look at the pictures at the end and see how the eye area is trimmed.

NOTE: If you do not want the full amount of hair hanging over at the stop just trim it all shorter. My dog has a wavy coat, not the typical curly coat, so at the eye area it's hard for me to get the Bichon look around the eyes. The wavy coat tends to lay flat instead of standing up so I trim this hair shorter but still keep the Bichon style head.

Trimming the Head and Neck: The head and neck hair is one piece (if you did not leave the neck hair see the next paragraph). There is also no division between the head and ears. Comb hair on top of head up and out. Comb through hair on sides of face. Begin scissoring the top of the head. Don't cut straight across. You can start on the top and go down the side or start at the ear and go over. Whichever way you choose, trim with the domed look in mind. Continue from the top of the head down the back of the head gradually sloping to the withers. Continuously comb hair up looking for any unevenness. Lift ears out of the way and scissor coat on the sides of neck and then blend the hair at the sides of the neck and at the withers with your thinning shear so it blends into the body coat. There should be no definite division between the neck and body coat, or neck and head piece, or head and ears. You can also thin out sides of face, top of muzzle or the hair at each side of the muzzle with your thinning shear if it sticks out unnaturally.

Trimming the Head Only: If you did not leave the neck hair you just have to blend the back of the head into the neck. Don't cut the back of the head flat. Trim from the dome of the head down the back of the head keeping the back nicely rounded. Where the end of the back head hair meets the neck you can blend with your thinning shear. Stand back take a look. Do a little at a time.

Chin and Ears: You may need to trim some chin hair if the head looks too huge. The length of the chin hair should be about the same length as the head hair to create roundness. Do not trim an even line across under the chin. You can shape the chin using your thinning shear for a more natural look. Ears should not be longer than chin hair. Make ears lay flatter by flipping up ear and using your thinning shear, take a couple of cuts out of hair at the sides of the face and then comb out hair. Let ear drop again and see how it lays, you may need to thin even more hair. Use your thinning shear to trim any uneven hair off the bottom of the ear or hair sticking out at the sides of the ear. Stand back take a look.

Some Finishing Touches: Scissor off any little stained hairs at the mouth. Using your thinning shear carefully, trim away any stained hairs at the corner of the eye. Shape the tail by trimming off any straggly hairs. Do not cut the tail shorter. Also, on the underside of the tail, at the base, scissor the hair off for about 1". Spray some good smelling spray on the coat, add a bandana or bow. Walla, you're done!

Are you satisfied? Does your dog's head look rounded? Does the top of the head look domed, not flat or pointed? Does the back of the head have a rounded appearance, or did you flatten the back of the head too much? Does the top of the head flow nicely into the ears with no division? Do the ears look too bushy? If, so, don't forget to use your thinning shear at the sides of the cheek to make them lay flatter and take a little off the side of the ears. Look at the pads, did you get all of the hair trimmed off and did not leave any long pieces hanging over onto the pads? Look at the body are there any straggly hairs that need to be trimmed? If you have left the neck coat, does it blend neatly into the body coat? Comb completely through the body, head, ears, tail, looking for anything you've missed.


If your dog jumps around or pulls it's leg away from you when doing front legs, hold up one leg while doing the other.

If your dog does not hold head still while doing the head, grab hold of the chin hair with one hand, keeping a firm hold, begin scissoring.

If you get blood on a clean coat use a cotton ball that is wetted with peroxide and water.

If your dog will not stand when you need him to, put something under his belly.

To get a good perspective of the scissored head, hold the dog up in front of a mirror.


Refer to a picture of the dogs anatomy and a Bichon head.

Brush hair up and out against the lay of coat for a powder puff look.

The higher the blade number the shorter the cut.

Always know where you are clipping and scissoring. Clip only with the lay of the coat, never against.

Older dogs overheat faster than younger dogs. Make sure your dryer does not get too hot.

Bathe one day, clip the next to avoid stress. Make sure your bath water is not too hot.

You can tell when a blade is dull simply by it not being able to cut hair anymore. If your blades should get dull, you can get them sharpened by sending them to a shop that specializes in doing this. You can find such a business in the back of dog magazines or even on the internet. Blades usually last a long time, especially if you have only one dog.

To clean you blades. Put blade on clipper, pour a little wash in a bowl, with clipper running, put blade in wash only to cover blade. You will hear the blade running faster as it cleans, do this for about 15 seconds. Take blade off and put on a piece of paper towel. Wipe it off, put a little of the blade oil (1-2 drops) that came with clipper on it just where the blade slides back and forth.

Use Cut #1 or #3 for an older dog. It's faster, and they don't have to stand so long. Scissoring requires that the dog stand. Practice scissoring on Cut #3.

In the end, these instructions are guidelines for you to follow. You may prefer to clip your dog very short with a #7 blade (Kennel Cut). You may also prefer a shorter face and ears. It's up to you to give your Bichon a haircut you will be able to maintain with ease. You will develop your own style of grooming as you go along.

We have the greatest resource for different styles of cuts in the dogs that are on our Bichon List. Look at all the different web sites.

Be sure and check out these grooming Web sites and links

If you decide to go ahead and groom your own dog, have patience and have fun doing it.

Questions? E-mail me at