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Safe DIY Dog Clipping at Home

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 20 May 2012 | comments*Discuss
Safe Diy Dog Clipping At Home

If you own a breed of dog with a coat that grows continually – such as a Poodle or a Schnauzer – and needs to be clipped to maintain its shape, then regular monthly trips to the dog groomer’s may make a big dent in your wallet. For this reason, many people decide to learn to clip their own dogs at home. As well as saving money, the activity can become a way for you to strengthen bonds with your dog.

Clipping your dog’s coat yourself may not be as hard as you think – however it is vital to follow certain precautions to make sure that the experience is a safe and pleasant one for both you and your dog.

Clipping Tools

Having the right tools for the job goes a long way towards ensuring success so don’t be stingy about investing in some good clipping tools. Certain breeds may require specific tools for their coat type but in general, here are the common clipping tools used:

  • Clippers – while you can use human hair clippers, you will get a better result if you invest in a pair of pet clippers especially designed for dogs. In particular, if you own a breed that is going to need a lot of clipping on a regular basis, then investing in a durable, high quality dog clipper is well worth the money spent. Cheaper clippers are often not durable enough to cut through thicker coats.
  • Clipper lubricant – clippers can become very hot with use, particularly the metal parts without their plastic cutting guards, so it is a good idea to spray the metal sections with a cooling lubricant first.
  • Clipper disinfectant – to keep things clean and prevent infection, it is wise to spray the cutting blades between use with a good disinfectant to kill off any bacterial or fungal residue.
  • Scissors – many dogs will still require some areas to be cut with scissors to look their best and you will want a pair of proper hair cutting scissors which can deliver a sharp, clean cut.
  • Brushes – before any clipping is done, the dog should be brushed thoroughly to remove all tangles and dead hair from the coat. Again, investing in good quality combs and brushes are well worth the money. Different breeds and types of coats will require different brushes – such as slicker brushes, strippers, pin brushes, combs and de-shedders - consult a pet groomer or knowledgeable staff at your local pet store for advice.
  • Grooming Table – it might seem a bit excessive but if you have a breed that requires a lot of regular grooming and precision to achieve the desired look, then a grooming table will make a big difference as it not only elevates your dog to the appropriate working height but also helps to secure your dog while grooming him.

Safety During Clipping

Don’t be too concerned about making mistakes with regards to the shape or style – even if your dog ends up with a “bad hair day”, it will grow out again in no time. It is far more important to consider safety when using your clippers.

In general, it is always best to start with minimal clipping until you feel more confident of what you’re doing. Remember, you can always take off more but you can’t put hair back again! So use a guard blade that takes off less hair to start with and only switch to a shorter blade as you get become more skilled and confident.

First before you start, make sure the blades are sharp. This might seem counter-intuitive but dull clippers will actually pull on the hair more. Be sure to clip in the same direction as hair growth, rather than against it, otherwise the clippers may pinch or cut the skin folds that come in the way. In fact, it is best to hold the skin taut with one hand while clipping with the other.

Also, be careful to just move the blade lightly across the dog’s body – if you apply any pressure on the clipper while you’re clipping, you can cause “clipper burn” which will turn into a red, scabby area after a few hours. This is particularly likely in sensitive areas such as the stomach, groin and face. In fact, when working around these sensitive areas, take extra care – such as watching out for nipples on the tummy, both in boys and girls.

If you come across a tangle or mat, don’t just try to clip your way through it! Your clippers will invariably get stuck and pull against the skin. Always brush out any tangles or mats first before starting the clipping process.

Lastly, don’t forget that the metal parts will get hot during the clipping process and can easily burn your dog. So always use a plastic guard on the blades and if you really must use the clippers without them in certain areas, do those areas first while the blade is still relatively cool. Then during the rest of the process, continually stop to test the temperature of the metal with your hands. If it is getting too hot, it is best to take a break to let them cool down again before continuing.

Tips for Success

One of the most important things you can do is to socialise and prepare your dog for regular clipping sessions. This removes the risk of your dog struggling to be free and possibly hurting himself or you in the process. So start clipping your dog as early as possible – from early days as a puppy – even if it just a “pretend job” just to get him used to the sensation of clippers on his coat. Try to choose the quietest clipper you can as this can go a long way to making it a more pleasant experience for both your dog and yourself.

Check out some breed books with good illustrations to see what the standard for your dog looks like, so that you have a good starting point as your guide. Finally, let your dog be groomed by a professional groomer at least once – and ideally watch the process if you can. This way you get the chance to see how it should be done and the professional cut will give you a base outline for you to follow which will make things much easier when you come to try it yourself.

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