Many puppy owners assume that there is one general standard when it comes to puppy grooming: the puppy cut. After all, if you take your pet to a groomer and ask for a puppy cut, they will usually happily pick up their clippers and shave away.
But the truth is that if you take your pet to a handful of different groomers and ask for a puppy cut, your dog will likely leave with a different coif each time.
While the term “puppy cut” is widely recognized in the grooming community, and there are some very general parameters, there’s no set standard for how to do it. Subsequently, there’s a great deal of variance when it comes to puppy cuts.
Each groomer has their own unique interpretation of what it is. So while your pet may end up with a perfectly nice ‘do if you ask for a puppy cut, if you’d like a particular look, it’s best to talk to your groomer beforehand to make sure you’re on the same page.
The puppy cut originated in the dog show world. Young poodles’ coats require great care to maintain, so the puppy cut was developed in order to keep them healthy and looking presentable while transitioning to their adult look.
According to No Barks About It, a puppy cut has a medium-length torso shape and the legs are slightly fluffier. Poms are created on the head and tail, but the face and feet are shaved short. Once they’re a year old, they’re given the adult poodle look, known as the “continental clip.”
Nowadays, the puppy cut is loosely defined as having one length all over, but there is no industry standard as far as how to interpret that. After all, a dog with three inches of fur all over would meet this criterion, but so would a pup that’s been completely shaved.
Tara Pellegrino of A Million Canine Kisses writes, “Speaking with groomers all around the country, their definition of the length of a puppy cut varies from a quarter of an inch to 2 inches. That is a huge range.”
Furthermore, what parts of the body are included? Just the trunk? The trunk and the legs? Every inch of fur? Groomers generally take the basic “one length all over” rule and run with their interpretation of what that means.
According to Learn2GroomDogs.com, most groomers will trim a puppy cut to 1-2 inches all over the body.
But that’s by no means a hard and fast rule, so it’s always best to get on the same page with your groomer before they begin. If there’s a certain look you’re going for with your pet, be vocal about it. Depending on the breed, a shorter clip will likely make them look smooth and sleek, while a longer trim can leave them with a soft, fluffy appearance.
It’s also important to keep their breed and lifestyle in mind. If your pet isn’t afraid to get dirty when they play, you may want to make sure the cut includes their feet and legs. If you love your pet’s shaggy face, tell your groomer to keep the hair on their face long. They can always tidy up an area while maintaining the length.
Lastly, consider how often you brush out your pet at home and how often you take them to get trimmed. If your dog’s hair tends to get matted, tell your groomer so they know to keep it on the shorter side.
Speaking of the shorter side, always be specific about the length you want, as the word “short” means different things to different people.
Pellegrino urges people to hold their fingers up against their dog’s coat to demonstrate the length they’d like left on. “A running joke in all salons is when a pet owner says, ‘I want about 2 inches left on the body’ when their pet only has a quarter of an inch of hair!” she wrote.
It never hurts to be crystal clear about what you’re looking for, and showing the groomer what you’d like, whether via a photograph you bring in or physically showing them on your pet’s body, is an excellent way to do that.
There are many styles that are similar to the puppy cut. Variations include the “kennel cut,” “summer cut,” and “teddy bear trim.” Some groomers even adopt the puppy cut as their namesake signature special.
“Generally, the only things that change between these trims are the names and the length of coat,” writes grooming expert Melissa Verplank.
To get the look you’re hoping for you’re better off using specific descriptors in addition to—or in place of—these nicknames for haircuts.