Dog Breed Info


Scissoring has been practiced for many years and is now one of the most fascinating technical skills in the art of canine styling. With the variety and quality of scissors available today, the art of scissoring has reached a level that the industry has never witnessed before. Coats are scissored to a velvet finish and shaped to perfection. In fact, scissoring basically separates the groomer from the stylist because the individual who is able to take a dog with an abundance of coat and within a short period of time, utilizing scissors as a sculpturing tool, turn the overall appearance of a dog into a masterpiece is truly a canine stylist.

For the beginner, scissoring can be one of the most difficult skills to accomplish, however with a thorough understanding of the tool and the proper technique, the novice will soon be a master in the art of scissoring the coat on man's best friend. The first step in mastering proper scissoring technique is to establish proper body position because it is impossible to have excellent scissoring technique and have bad body posture.

Scissoring is a technical skill that is used on the coats of dogs with undetermined hair growth to remove length of coat.

This skill is used in the prepping phase to remove excessive coat, but it is primarily used to create the overall profiles on dogs.

Scissoring is performed on the grooming and styling table in the prepping and the finishing phase.


Texturing Sprays

Blade Movement
Scissors are basically designed so that both blades can move or they can be used keeping one blade stationery. For the professional groomer or stylist, the technique of keeping one blade stationary and moving the other blade with your thumb, allows for a smoother scissoring finish. If you move the entire hand so that both blades move at the same time, you will have a tendency to bounce your scissors against the coat creating a choppy coat appearance.

The pivot point is the balancing point of the scissors and also where the blades are connected. The blades are either connected with a screw or an adjuster and this is where and how the tension is set. The tension is the amount of force that it takes to open and close the scissors. Scissors that have a screw to hold the blades together must have the tension adjusted using scissor pliers or a screwdriver. For scissors with an adjuster to hold the blades together, the tension is set by moving the adjuster clockwise or counter clockwise until the proper tension is set.

Scissors typically come from the manufacturer with the tension adjusted fairly tight, so that when the blades open and close, the edges of the blades meet, which causes the cutting action. For the professional canine stylist, this tight tension does not work for several reasons. The average professional who specializes in scissoring uses this technique all day, week after week, so the less stress on the hand, the better. Scissors with tight tension make it harder to open and close the blades. The more force needed to open and close the blades also creates a situation that makes it easier to cut the dog because you are not able to stop the action of the scissor at a blink of an eye or a twitch of an ear. Also, more tension creates more noise when the scissor is opened and closed, causing more of a reaction from the dog. Scissors that have less tension will not do as much damage because less force is used to close them. If the tension is set too loose the scissors will not function properly because the edge of the blades are not meeting, therefore the scissors are not cutting. This is often times referred to as "folding the coat" or "pinching the coat" and can be a symptom of dull scissors or scissors that do not have the correct tension set.

For proper tension, scissors should be loosened a little at a time until you reach the point that when you hold the scissors horizontally and open the blade, it should close by itself when you take your thumb out of the ring and let the blade go.

Be Prepared for the Pet's Reaction
When applying scissoring techniques, the professional must be prepared for the dog's reaction to the sound of the scissors opening and closing and the appearance of the tool itself. Scissoring around the eye area takes patience and requires great caution. Many of the breeds with special needs, such as those with large eyes and pushed in noses (brachycephalic), are very head shy due to the size of their eyes and breathing difficulties, so additional care must be taken with these breeds.


Why Apply Pressure with Your Thumb?
We have discussed the importance of the correct tension set on the scissors in order to create safe and smooth movements. Now we must address the issues of scissoring when the tension is loosely set. In order for the canine stylist to achieve the ultimate scissor finish, proper scissor technique must be utilized. The secret to making your scissors function properly with this loose tension setting is to apply pressure with your thumb so that the cutting edge of the stationary blade and the moving blade meet. As you move your thumb upward and downward, place pressure on the ring where it meets the shank, but also apply pressure outward with your thumb which will make the edge of the moving blade touch the edge of the stationary blade. Practice this movement and apply different amounts of pressure with your thumb so that you can see the role that your thumb plays and how it controls the moving blade. You will find that soft coat types will require you to place more pressure outward with your thumb in order for the blades to meet and cut fine coat, whereas you will not have to apply so much pressure on heavier coats.

Right or Left Handed
In the past, left handed scissors were not available so most left handed individuals used right handed scissors; in fact, many left handed professionals still use right handed scissors because of the larger selection of right handed scissors. The technique for the "lefty" using left handed scissors is the same as the "righty". For the left handed stylist using right handed scissors, the pressure applied to the scissors is different. Right handed individuals push their thumb toward the point of the scissors and left handed individuals pull with their thumb toward the base of the scissors, which is often times explained as "righties push and lefties pull".

How Wide Should You Open Your Scissors?
The longer the blades on a pair of scissors, the more efficient the tool will be, especially when working on larger breeds. The question is how wide can you open your scissors in order for the blades to cut effectively and for you to properly use this tool. Take an old pair of scissors and open the scissors as wide as they will allow you and then quickly try to close the scissors, watching the action of the two blades. If the scissors is opened to a maximum, the blades can and will catch right at the pivot point when trying to close them, especially if you are applying too much pressure with your thumb. This action can cause a nick on the cutting edge of one or both of your blades and throw the blades out of alignment so there is a fine line as to how far you can open your blades and when you should stop. The best rule of thumb is not to open your scissors all the way and do not close them all the way.

Do Not Close Your Scissors all the Way
Closing your scissors completely and then opening them can cause a jerking motion resulting in an uneven scissors finish, besides making the dog jump every time you close down completely on the scissors. This movement not only causes stress to the dog but also places additional stress on your hand. The proper technique is to not open the scissors all the way and to not close the scissors all the way, creating an uninterrupted motion, a rhythm that creates a sound that Nash refers to as "singing scissors." It is a sound that you will recognize once you have achieved proper scissoring technique and for the Nash Academy it is like music to our ears.

Keep a Right Angle
Keep a right angle with your arm and scissors as much as possible during your scissoring procedures. If your scissors and arm are in the same position or at the same angle, you lose control of the tool. Problems such as your thumb slipping through the ring or not being able to open your scissors as far as you would like are related to not keeping a right angle.

Keep Your Wrist Straight
Keep your wrist straight or in a neutral position as much as possible during your scissoring . Avoid reaching over the dog or above your safety zone, causing the wrist to bend in a cobra like fashion. This creates lots of stress on your wrist and will make you a candidate for carpal tunnel syndrome if you continue placing your wrist in this position day after day.

Proper Position of Your Scissors
Always place the scissors between you and the dog's coat. Never twist your wrist and place the back of your hand against the coat when scissoring. This also creates the "cobra wrist" which can shorten your career in the art of styling dogs to a few years.

Practice to Build Your Strength
You must practice your scissoring technique to build muscles in your hand. For the beginner, scissoring for the first ten minutes may cause your hand to shake, feel weak or cramp. This is typical until you build strength in your hand. It is no different than getting on a "stair master" or a "rowing machine" for the first time and after a few minutes your legs feel week and shaky. You do not need a dog to practice on; in fact, it is best that you practice to build your strength before you start to scissor the dog's coat because you will have more confidence and will be much more accurate with your technique after you have built your strength and feel comfortable with the scissors in your hand.

Using This Tool in the Right Direction
Scissoring technique is applied differently than any other technique, such as brushing, carding, handstripping and combing, that you will use while grooming or styling. When applying all of the other techniques on a dog's coat, you always bring the tool toward you and never away from you. With scissoring, you always place your scissors on the coat and work outward, away from your body.

Use your Scissors as a Paintbrush or a Pencil
For the beginner and for many seasoned professionals, the art of scissoring is still a mystery because their whole focus is just on creating a smooth finish rather than allowing your scissors to become your paintbrush to create the ultimate silhouette or profile. The secret to the ultimate finish and being able to use this tool like an artist is to step back away from your dog (not so far that you cannot keep a hand on the dog) so that you can see the overall profile. Determine the line or shape that you would like to see on the coat and draw that line with your hand, moving only your thumb as you glide your scissors along the line. Stand at an angle so that you can see the profile rather than looking straight on at the coat. Continue to move around the dog focusing on the overall finish and the silhouette or profile.

Creating Contrast
Many salons have light colored walls to create more light in the salon to enable professionals to do a better job when applying technical skills, however when applying scissoring technique on a white dog, on a white table, with light colored walls, the contrast is not enough to enable you to create the ultimate profile. Often times snow blindness sets in before the ultimate profile is achieved. Be creative and set contrast colors up, remembering that they do not have to be something stationary in your salon. The contrast can be live plants, paintings, flowers or another professional next to you in a darker colored uniform.

Never Bounce the Scissors on the Coat
Bouncing is caused by placing the scissors on the coat and with each cut, jerking outward or away from the coat. Each time you place the scissors and jerk outward you will create a "dent" or "scissor mark" in the coat. This is a bad habit and is very difficult to break. To prevent creating this bad habit, observe your hand and scissors as you practice your technique. Be aware of what to do and what not to do to master this technique. Practice scissoring holding your scissors in different positions, by using a table or a door frame. Scissor along the edge, on the top, and scissor on the bottom of the table remembering to keep a right angle at all times and proper hand position.

Hold the Scissors Blade Straight
Focus on holding your scissors straight in your hand and not at a slant, and watch your arm, hand and scissors from the very beginning to prevent creating this bad habit. Holding the scissors at a slant places the blades at an angle on the coat that results in an uneven scissored appearance. This is caused by applying too much pressure with your thumb in an outward movement causing the blade of the scissors to twist slightly. If this improper technique of holding the scissors at an angle is used over and over, a bad habit, which will be hard to break, will develop.

The Many Uses of the Scissors
The basic scissors can be a tool for many uses. It is used in the basic prep phase to take off excessive coat and is used in the finishing phase to create beautiful shapes and profiles. The type, length and weight of the scissors depends upon the coat type, the area that you are scissoring and the size of the dog.

Direction of the Scissors
The direction of the scissors depends upon the type of coat and what you want to accomplish.

  • Scissoring with the lay of coat (coat growth direction) blends the hair and gives a more natural appearance.
  • Scissoring against the lay of coat (coat growth direction) stacks the hair and builds volume.

Stacking the Dog When Scissoring
In order to create the perfect profile when scissoring a full coated breed, it is critical that you stack the dog and keep your dog stacked during the entire scissoring session. If the dog is not stacked, when the dog is placed on the floor and begins to move around, the entire profile can change creating uneven legs, body and topknots. In fact, you will look at the overall profile, balance and symmetry and wonder what happened.

Scissors Technique for Drop Coats
Scissoring drop coats is an art and is definitely a challenge to many stylists. The professional must understand the concept in order to be able to implement it on a daily basis. A drop coat can be combed up and out, but it always falls to its natural vertical position. To blend a drop coat, the secret is to scissor with the lay of coat. By this we mean keep the tips of the scissors in the same direction as the tip of the hair. To stack a drop coat, the professional must cross cut the coat which creates a stacking or a bevel. A good example is the feet on a Maltese. The style of trim will determine the position that your scissors should be held during this technical application.

Scissors Technique for Tight Curly Coats
Scissoring tight curly coats such as on the Poodle and the Bichon Frise is the easiest of all the coat types due to the texture and the natural lay of coat. The natural hair growth direction is straight out on in a horizontal position. If a dog shakes the coat stands straight out and then falls to its natural state. Tight curly coated dogs shake and the coat lays into a horizontal position and stays in that position. Scissor techniques, therefore, can be applied with the scissors tips pointing upward or in a downward position. Scissoring across the coat or "cross cutting" is a technique that can be used, but is only recommended if the coat texture is tight. This technique is not recommended for the novice. It takes an experienced stylist to get a smooth finish when "cross cutting" the coat.


Pet's Position: Standing Professional's Position: Front, Rear, Side, Front/Side, Rear/Side

Blocking is a method used to remove excessive coat before the bath. The coat on the head, neck, body, legs and tail are shaped with the scissors to create the overall basic shape or silhouette with no attention to detail. The goal is to remove as much coat as possible to prevent having to wash and dry the excess coat. Blocking is also used after the bath on coats that have not been "blocked" before the bath, in order to create the overall silhouette or profile before detail finishing.

Tipping the Coat
Tipping is a scissoring technique used to take very little coat off the overall coat and is utilized often in the salon on dogs that have a 4 to 6 week grooming schedule.

Setting Patterns Utilizing Your Scissors
In the past, many professionals used scissors as a tool to start or set pattern lines on Poodles before clippering the lines, simply because it was easier to set the line with scissors rather than clippers, an excellent example being a Poodle in a Dutch Trim. Although we do not see a lot of these types of patterns on Poodles today, except in creative styling competitions, the trend can and should change to bring this wonderful art back into the world of styling.

A sculpting technique is used to shape and create the overall silhouette on breeds such as the Poodle and the Bichon Frise, with tight curly coats, that require very long coat in order to create the proper profile. This scissoring technique, referred to as sculpting, is used to shape the head and body on the Poodle in a continental trim and on the Bichon Frise in a show trim simply because there is not another technique that can be used to accomplish such a task.

Stacking the Coat By Creating Bevels
Beveling, a technique used to stack the coat to give volume, is a scissoring technique used on many areas on a dog's coat and once understood, can be applied to just about all of your grooming and styling trims. The coat is scissored short at the base and graduates to a longer length. The shorter coat holds the longer coat out creating volume by "stacking the coat." The scissors are applied "across" the lay of the coat or coat growth direction. The only other tool that is used to stack the coat is thinning shears and they are used in the same manner as the scissors.

Beveling Tight Curly Coat Types
A good example of beveling a tight curly coat is the topknot on the Poodle. The hair is trimmed short above the base of the ear and gradually gets longer on the sides with the longest on the top of the head. This is called beveling or stacking the coat. The same technique is used to create the cuffs on the bottom of the legs where the feet are clippered short and to shape the tail where the tail is clippered at the base with a pom pon on the end. This method is used on the Poodle everywhere that the dog is clippered short, using the scissors to create a nice transition from the clippered area to the full coated area.

Beveling Sporting Saddle Coat Types
Another area that is common for beveling is the foot on dogs with long coat on the legs and feet, such as the American Cocker Spaniel or the Maltese. The hair is scissored short around the sides of the actual foot and graduates to a longer length, creating a long beveled foot.

Beveling Tight Wire Coat Types
Creating a bevel on the Wire Fox Terrier, with a wire coat type, would be an example of a short beveled foot. The coat is scissored short around the sides of the actual foot and graduates to a slightly longer length creating a short beveled foot.

Blending the Coat With Scissors
Blending is a technique used to graduate the shorter hair into the longer hair without showing a "line" at the transition areas. The transition areas are where the shorter coat meets the longer coat. Blending is accomplished by utilizing either one specific technique or a combination of techniques or all of the techniques used in the art of grooming and styling such as clippering, thinning, scissoring, carding or handstripping. The type or combination of techniques is determined by the coat type and the trim style.

Blending the coat with scissors is the opposite of stacking or beveling the coat with scissors. When blending the coat with your scissors, you must work with the natural lay of the coat or natural coat growth direction meaning that the tip of your scissors must be in the same direction as the coat growth. To clarify this more because it is important, this means that the tip of your scissors must be pointed toward the tip of the hair.

An excellent example of this is when scissoring the legs on a Maltese (a drop coat type) in a pet trim. Because the coat "falls" in its natural state, the scissors must always be pointed downward or kept in a vertical position, never horizontal, cross cutting direction.

The exception to the rule for this technique is the coat types that show no coat growth direction such as the tight curly coat and the Nordic coat types because the coat grows straight out, showing no direction of coat growth, unless the coat is trimmed short. For coat types with no appearance of a coat growth direction such as these, the scissors can be held in all directions. Examples of breeds that the coat can be scissored in all directions are the Bichon Frise and the Poodle, which have tight curly coat types.

Pets with Speical Needs
Pets with special needs such as the senior pet should not be given an overall scissored trim, simply because it just takes too long and would not be compassionate to allow the dog to stand on the table for the time it takes to complete a scissored trim. Alternatives should be taken to create a "comfort trim style" for pets with special needs.

Client Realtions: Notification to the Pet Family
Great care must be taken when applying technical skills, however, incidents do happen and when they do, the pet family must be notified. Never try to hide or ignore the incident. The professional must notify the pet family when a pet reaches the age or physical condition that does not allow for the dog to stand on the table for the required time frame to complete a specific trim that requires a lot of scissoring.

Client Relations: Pet Family Education
The professional must partner with the pet family to discuss trim style options when it comes to scissoring. Because scissoring requires that the dog stand on the table in a stacked position, the dogs that qualify for full scissored trims are limited. The professional and the pet family must discuss and consider the following:

  • The life style of the pet family and the pet, the number of pets in the household, the coat type, the age of pet, the overall physical condition and last but not least, the temperament.
  • Pets with longer coats require weekly brushing. Certain trim styles require more time during each phase of the grooming and styling, and for many pets, this is not an option due to their age or physical condition and temperament.
  • Dogs with sparse coats, puppies and senior pets are not great candidates for full scissored trims.
  • Scissoring a coat requires a lot of time, effort and expertise along with a coat that is in excellent condition in order to achieve a good finish. Dogs with sparse coats, puppies, senior dogs, or pets that are temperament challenged are not good candidates for scissored trim styles because of the time frame required for the pet to be standing, no matter if the standing is due to drying, brushing or scissoring the coat.
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