There are many reasons why owners may choose to groom their dogs at home. Grooming your dog from home is a cost-effective way to not only make him look and feel great, but also help your dog feel comfortable around the home. Routine grooming sessions also provide opportunities to examine your pooch’s coat, teeth, eyes, ears and nails, and allows him to get used to being groomed in a familiar space. For first-time groomers, the idea of clipping your dog can seem daunting. So we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to clipping your dog.

Choosing the Right Clippers

When choosing the right clippers, it’s important to take your dog’s breed, hair type and your desired cut into consideration. With so many different styles, blade lengths and accessories, buying clippers can be daunting. To help make an easier decision, here are a few aspects to think about:

Required level of grooming

When shopping for clippers, it’s important to ask yourself what you need your clippers for. If you only need them for touch-ups in-between professional grooming sessions, a lighter, inexpensive pair could be a great option. If you’re grooming and styling your dog for shows, you may want to invest in a pair of professional dog clippers. These are often available with a range of attachments for a higher level of styling.

Your dog’s hair type

Your dog’s coat and hair type will affect the amount of grooming he needs. Dogs with long or wiry coats will require a higher level of grooming than breeds with short, fine hair, so look for a heavy-duty model. Dogs with significantly long or thick coats will likely need a clipper with attachments. This allows you to adjust your grooming routine based on the seasons. For example, you could cut their hair shorter for the summer. If you’re unsure what type of coat your dog has, it’s usually best to opt for heavy-duty clippers or clippers rated for all hair types.

Finish-cut and skip-tooth blades

Every novice groomer should know that blades come in two types; finish-cut and skip-tooth. Skip-tooth blades are dangerous for a novice to use, so always buy a finish-cut blade if you’re not a professional. In skip-tooth blades, every other tooth is short. They are designed to cut through matted, tangled or very thick coats, and the spacing of the teeth means it’s easy to accidentally cut your dog.

Aside from looking at the teeth, you can also tell the difference between a finish-cut and a skip-tooth by looking at the numbers. Finish-cut versions will often appear as an abbreviation of the name alongside the number. For example, a #5 blade will be written as #5FC or #5F, while a skip-tooth is simply written as #5. Finish-cut blades should only be purchased if you have years of experience or if it’s necessary for a double-coated breed.

For more buying help, check out these amazing dog clippers for professional and home grooming, and make sure you go for quiet trimmers if your dog is a bit anxious due to the vibrations.

Your dog’s temperament

As many pet owners will know, dogs don’t often enjoy being groomed. They can often become anxious and have trouble standing still. If your dog has a tendency to wriggle, choose cordless clippers for full flexibility while grooming. It’s also not uncommon for dogs to become stressed by loud noises, so opt for quiet clippers if this is the case. It can also be worth incorporating some relaxing grooming products into your routine, such as aromatherapy fragrance sprays specially formulated for dogs.

Blade length

When choosing a blade length, it’s important to remember that blade numbers go backward. The general rule to follow is the higher the number, the shorter the cut. For a short cut, aim for #5 or lower. Longer cuts often require #4 or below. Dog grooming expert Willow Mattox recommends #5 blade length for a great all-purpose blade. She says, “It cuts through hair well, is short enough to cut underneath most mats, and is a very safe blade to use. It also is not too short and leaves a fuzzy, instead of shaved, look.”

Tips for Grooming Your Dog with Clippers

Once you have the right clippers for your dog, read on for some techniques to help you groom your dog like a pro.

Be mindful of delicate areas

When working around sanitary areas, armpits or around the eyes, always use a #10 blade to avoid nicking the skin.

Know how your breed should look

Even if you have no interest in competing in shows, it’s still helpful to know how your dog’s breed should look before starting. While there’s nothing wrong with some creativity, knowing the “correct” trim can serve as a useful starting point.

Clip along the lay of the hair

Going along the lay of the hair results in a natural-looking cut. Going across will result in lines or chop marks. Begin near the head and work your way across the back and down to the legs. You should generally only go backwards if your pooch has especially thick hair, or if it lays very flat.

Make sure the blade isn’t too hot

Over time, your blade will heat up so it’s important to touch it routinely to make sure it doesn’t reach an uncomfortable temperature for your dog. This can cause “blade burn” which will cause pain and discomfort in your pet.

Keep the tip of the blade pressed firmly against the skin

While holding the back up at an angle, make sure to keep the tip of the blade down against the skin. If you let the blade skip along the skin, this can nick your dog. Make sure to pull the skin taut if the blade isn’t travelling smoothly.