Achieving a Flawless Finish

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How to achieve a Flawless Finish

Whether you have a show dog or pet dog, there is nothing more stunning than seeing a beautiful, smooth, plush finish on their coat. Achieving this however, is easier said than done. I'm Amy Triezenberg and I have been a groomer for over 18 years. I have been ranked in the Top 10 GroomTeam groomers for over 5 years and I'm going to give you some tips and guidelines to help you achieve a Flawless Finish.

Shampoo and Bathing

Believe it or not, the start to getting a flawless finish on your dog’s coat is with your shampoo and conditioner. Each breed’s coat type has a different need, but to simplify, here are some guidelines. I like to use Clean Start Shampoo for almost all coat types. It works great for getting the coat extremely clean without stripping the coat of its natural oils, or making the coat dry and brittle. It’s extremely concentrated, so a little goes a long way. I use Clean Start in a 32 oz mixing bottle diluted 20:1 (water to shampoo) with warm water for dogs that are very dirty. I use a 15:1 dilution for dogs that have very thick, dense hair or an overly greasy coat. I always give two baths. The first bath is to break down the dirt and grease. After rinsing, I give a second bath with very—very diluted shampoo (about 50:1 dilution) just to make sure the dog is squeaky clean.

+Helpful Tip: Always pay special attention to areas like the face, feet, and around the beds of the toe nails. Here’s why:

With dogs running around outside, dirt tends to accumulate around the beds of the toe nails. When washing the feet, make sure to scrub around the toenails with your fingers. If not cleaned properly, it could affect the finish while drying the dog.

Making sure not to get soap in the eyes the dog. The face is another area you want to make sure is really clean and smelling good but needs special attention while bathing.


After rising the dog very well, always follow up with conditioner. The strength of the conditioner you want to use depends on the dogs coat type.

Soft Coats: For extremely soft coats (ie. coton de tulear, Havanese) or extremely thick or oily coats (ie.cocker, coated golden) I used a very diluted conditioner (in a 32 oz mixing bottle about 50:1 water to conditioner). Using too much conditioner will over soften the coat or it will become heavy and difficult to scissor which you don’t want. It's very important to rinse the conditioner well on a soft coat. If you use too much conditioner on a soft or a greasy coated dog, the hair will be difficult to get dry and still look and feel damp, even though it is dry. The coat will also look greasy and almost clumpy when you scissor or clipper it.

To avoid these problems, you must not over use conditioner.

Moderately soft coats: For a healthy moderately soft coat (ie. poodle, bichon, with no skin issues) I use diluted conditioner 20:1 ratio. Rub it through the coat spreading conditioner evenly over the dog. Pay special attention to areas that commonly have broken coat, like ends of the ears, hocks, long tail hair and beard / face hair. Rinse the coat well with cool water. Cool water keeps the coat stronger.

Brittle or Dry coats: For dogs with really dry skin and brittle coat, put the conditioner on full strength paying special attention to areas with commonly broken or damaged coat like ears, tail, and hocks. On full coated dogs, make sure to rub conditioner on the ends of the coat as well.

If the dog's coat is extremely brittle and dry, I rinse out most of the conditioner, leaving a small amount in to give the coat moisture but not too much as to leave it greasy.

+Note: Remember these measurements are only guidelines. Use your judgement for each dog according to the type of coat it has and the condition the dog comes in.

Not all conditioners are created equal. Some conditioners are very thick and heavy while other are thin and easy to rinse. Each has their own purpose. Depending on the dog’s coat, you can pick whichever conditioner is right for you by following my guidelines. Most of the time I use Day to Day Conditioner because it softens and seals the coat without leaving build up or leaving the coat greasy. Very thick conditioners have their place but need to be used very carefully as not to leave the coat greasy.

Recommended by Amy

  Clean Start Shampoo

Day to Day conditioner


Once the coat is rinsed, you can towel dry then begin blow drying the dog. With a force dryer, start drying the coat with shortest hair first, then moving the dryer slowly to get the coat as straight as possible. As you move to the legs, you can hold a dry towel on the opposite side to catch to water and prevent it from blowing onto the other legs. Once the legs are dry you can move to drying the head and ears. Turning your dryer to a lower speed or taking the cone nozzle off the dryer, you can start fluff drying your dog.


Moving to a lower speed with your dryer or using a fluff dryer, you can start brushing your dog. With the dryer blowing on the coat, you can start line brushing. I use a short pin slicker brush for shorter coat, making sure to get all the curls out, start at the base of the hair, brushing all the way to the end. I use a long pin slicker brush for areas with longer coat such as legs and head. To make sure you’re getting the coat straight, start from the skin and brush all the way to the end of the coat. This part is very important to getting a nice finish. If you leave curls in the coat near the skin when you start to scissor and clipper the coat off, it will reveal all the areas you didn’t pay attention to, resulting in a less than flawless finish.

Brushes recommended by Amy

Chris Christensen-Big K and Big G long Pin Slicker

Chris Christensen Mark VIII Round Head Slicker Brush Large

Finishing Spray

Another thing that is essential in a beautiful finish, is spraying the coat. Spraying the coat before you brush, will help protect the coat from damage while brushing. I prefer a spray bottle that sprays a very light mist on the dog. This helps keep the static down, but also keeps the coat from getting too wet when scissoring.

Recommend by Amy

Crown Royale- Magic Touch

Chris Christensen Fine Mist Sprayer Bottle 16oz


After the dog is brushed out and you have all the curls out of the coat, you can check your work with a comb to make sure the dog is free from mats. I prefer to use a wide tooth comb for combing areas on the dog that have long coat. A comb with wider teeth is also useful in combing dogs with very thick hair. I find the wide tooth comb feeds the perfect amount of hair through the teeth to lift the hair to be scissored. Using a fine comb is helpful for checking for mats in areas like, behind the ears and in between the toes.

Recommended By Amy

Chris Christensen Buttercomb # 002 All Coarse

Chris Christensen Buttercomb #000 Fine/Coarse

Clipping the Coat

Once you have combed through your dog, making sure it is mat free, you can start clipping the coat. Start clipping your dog using your clipper and desired comb attachment. Spritz your dog with your finishing spray followed by brushing the spray into the coat. Be sure to brush the dog against the grain of the hair, running the clipper over the coat repeating at least three times following the pattern of spray, brush, clip, spray, brush, clip. Continue to do this until you achieve a smooth finish. This technique will help you consistently achieve a smooth finish.

+Helpful Tip: If you run the clipper though the coat faster than it can cut the hair, the blade will pull or drag through the coat causing lines or marks on the dog’s coat.

Instead, use a clipper that runs at a high speed to avoid the blade from dragging through the coat, resulting in a smoother finish.

Recommend by Amy

Andis-Excel 5 Speed Clipper

Andis #10 Show Edge Clipper Blade( under comb attachment)


I recommend using a few different types of shears when scissoring. When scissoring thick coats and removing a lot of hair, I recommend using shears with a thicker blade meant to cut off a lot of hair. When scissoring soft hair and finish work, I recommend using a pair of shears that is meant for finish work. I also recommend using two different size shears, having at least one set of small shears (straight and curved ) and one pair of large shears (straight and curved).

The large shears will help you set the shape of your dog and take the hair off to the desired length. The smaller shears will give you more control scissoring helping you get a smoother finish.

+Note: Large shears 8-9” or larger. Small shears 6-7” or smaller.

Beginning with your longer thick shears, start scissoring to get the bulk of the coat off to the desired length. Once the coat is scissored down to the to the desired length, you can switch to your smaller finishing shears to get a smoother look.

When using your finishing shears begin spritzing the coat with your finishing spray. After spraying the coat, take your wide tooth comb and start combing the hair from the bottom of the leg, up to the top of the leg in one smooth motion. Tap the leg with your hand a few times to get the hair to fall the way it would naturally lay. Taking your finishing shears, scissor off the desired amount of hair.

Repeat these steps at least three times until, no matter how much you move the hair, it remains a plush, smooth flawless finish.