Trimming and shaping your Terrier

Trimming the FeetTrimming the Feet

Learning to trim and shape your Terrier is demonstrated in detail on the DVD below[1]. It is a skill that is not only extremely satisfying to learn, it rewards you in that your chosen breed is easily recognized and distinguished from all the other breeds trimmed to a terrier outline. This section relates not only to those being trimmed to compete in dog shows, but also those who like to see their pets correctly trimmed and shaped.

Trimming the Feet

Commence the trimming and shaping process with the feet. Firstly, clean the hair from between the pads underneath the feet as well as around the edges of the pads themselves. It is most important open up the dog's foot by placing your thumb on one side of the foot and pull the nail back, opening the other side of the foot with your fingers. To lessen the risk of cutting into one of the pads, place the blades of the scissors across the foot rather than pointing them towards the pads.

After you have cleaned out underneath the pads, put the foot onto the table and, with the scissors cutting in a vertical position, trim around the outside of the foot, making it look cat like.

Trimming to Suit your Dog

Trimming to camouflage faults is a large and varied subject. For example, if your clog dips in the back, obviously you will try and leave the coat longer there. But this presents its problems. It has to be most carefully graded into the rest of the body coat, or it will defeat its purpose and actually announce to the judge the dog has a poor topline. Filling a low-set tail presents a worse problem, because this coat, if longer, will blow. However, a novice should try hard to master the difficult skill of blending.

Blending versus Stripping

Blending Front LegsBlending Front Legs

When stripping, it is necessary to hold the hair as close to the roots as possible before pulling it out. However, when blending, hold the hair half-way along its length and pull more gently. Then fewer hairs should remain.

Blending the Front

When blending shoulders to foreleg furnishings, comb the legs down (to remove knots), up, then lightly down again. The idea is to get a perfectly straight unbroken line from the top of withers to the outside of the foot, that is from chin to toes, no matter from which angle the terrier is viewed.

Trimming finger and thumb.Trimming finger and thumb.

Then, either with finger and thumb or the blending action of the knife, remove those hairs which interfere with this line. From the side, the line should be straight from the front point of the shoulder to the toe. Again remove that hair which is not within this line, at the same time being careful not to dip the dog at the junction of the foreleg and the body.

Blending the Rear


The back legs are blended to make a maximum curvature at the stifle, when viewed from behind or in profile. The tummy and around the personal parts should be stripped quite bald and the length of hair increased to central thigh. This is extremely difficult, especially as the hair lies so many ways at the back thigh. Never blend with scissors, always use a blunt knife or finger and thumb. The amount of hair left on the thighs depends on the dog's quality of hindquarters.

If your dog's hindquarters are good, show them off! If a small amount of hair is removed from the point of the hock, then the rest of the hock should be combed well up, this will shorten the hock. Comb the hocks up and blend, but the thighs should be combed up and down again to blend those. From the side, blend the flank to a maximum at the point of the stifle. You can hence make a lovely turn of stifle with sufficient leg furnishings!

Trimming the underlineTrimming the underline

Blending the Underline

The underline should never look like a curtain, but rather it should be trimmed so it enhances the natural outline of the body of the terrier.

Blending the Head

Lastly strip the head. The ears are stripped inside and out without using scissors around their edges! Strip the ears completely by knife and hand as the effect is so much bitter. Broadly speaking, a Terrier's head should be in the shape of a boot-box! So we are aiming at a straight line from occiput to nose, from inside ear to the end of the beard.

Trimming the eyebrowsTrimming the eyebrows

The fine grooming on each different Terrier;s head varies. For example, an Airedale and a Lakeland is not scooped out in front of the cheeks as much as a Wire Haired Fox Terrier and an Irish Terrier. Sometimes you may have to sacrifice a little length of head so you can retain the "punishing jaw" effect and eliminate that "cheeky" look!

The trimming of the eyebrows can be responsible for a myriad of different looks! Long eyebrows can camouflage incorrect light or large eyes, while correctly trimmed eyebrows should enhance that marvelous terrier expression. The placement of the eyebrows on the skull can similarly alter the apparent length of the head.


The following is a quotation from Holland Buckley's book "The Airedale'", published in 1905:

Canine history abounds itself with instances of novice exhibitors showing really great dogs in right down bad condition with the result that a perfectly prepared and trained dog in the pink of condition, but inferior on aggregate show points has pegged the other back[2].

Jane with 3 Airedales.Jane with 3 Airedales.

How many times have we seen this happen?

Note: This section has been written as an adjunct to the DVD below where this whole process is demonstrated over three hours of close-up vision. But best teacher of all is experience and every novice will make mistakes. But hair grows! At the end of the day, trimming is a most satisfying experience and an art you can develop to suit your individual eye and your individual dog.

References and Further Reading

[1] Jane Harvey, DVD "How to Groom an Airedale" Rangeaire Vision, Victoria 1985, 2004 ISBN 978-0-9804296-0-2

[2] Holland Buckley, "The Airedale Terrier" Published by "Our Dogs" Publishing Company Limited, 4 Albert Square Manchester UK 8th Revised Edition c 1905, Page 73


We have now published a unique Terrier book 'Terriers Unveiled' Available at our sister site: