Pet stylists should always have a variety of clippers in the salon so that they can choose the best option for the job at hand.
A groomer friend of mine once called complaining bitterly about having purchased a clipper that was advertised as having a very high number of strokes per minute, yet it wouldn’t cut through most of her client’s coats. Why? Because it was an entirely different motor type than the one she was used to. It was meant for the individual pet owner. It was faster, but not more powerful, and more torque was what she was looking for.
Clippers are one of the mainstay pieces of equipment in the pet grooming industry, yet one of the most controversial. Many articles have been written on how to determine quality, comparing which motor type is most powerful or which clipper is quietest or lightest. I’ve read these articles until my head begins to spin. I’m a pet stylist, not an engineer, and it’s hard to select a clipper based on manufacturers’ specifications.
Reading spec sheets on clippers makes my eyes glaze, and since I still won’t know if I like it until it’s in the shop, I’ve decided to let the engineers discuss strokes per and drive mechanisms. The most important piece of information I want is which clipper is the right one for the job, and does it suit my needs.
Take a look at a salon’s business. Are most of the four-legged clientele smaller dogs with regular appointments, usually clean, unmatted and pretty short-haired? Or is the salon in a rural area where spring brings in Great Pyrenees that look like the sheep they guard? There is no one clipper that’s going to be ideal for both of those situations, so the key is choosing one that is right for the task at hand.
What is the right tool for the job? A lightweight, easy-to-handle clipper that takes standard professional detachable blades is a must for every shop, and most manufacturers make one. For light work, there are lightweight clipper/trimmers–which are often rechargeable–that do not take the standard blades, only the one that came with it.
These handy little items are becoming a must-have in a lot of shops, too. I wouldn’t want to groom without one now that I have been spoiled. These clippers may come with an adjustable blade that allows short clipping on faces, feet, tummies and genital areas with ease, as the clippers are smaller and the blade is one-quarter- to one-half-inch narrower than standard blades. These are ideal to use on clean coats, as power is not what these are all about.
For even smaller jobs, there are tiny detail trimmers with blades about an inch wide that are handy for around the vent and between the pads of tiny dogs.
Big Jobs, Big Dogs
Proper clipper selection is probably most important for big jobs–the dogs I refer to as the “once a year whether they need it or not” crowd–the malamute-type coat that keeps getting thicker each year or the OES, standard poodle or doodle that comes off in an entire pelt. For these jobs, some groomers use a clipper originally intended for equine use. Use these with caution, as these clippers often have sharp blade heads that can be dangerous. Clippers for large animals are usually heavy to use one-handed, but they really do get the job done, and done quickly. These clippers don’t allow a groomer to choose length, since most cut to the length of an 8.5 or 10 blade.
Groomers that don’t usually face the extremes of spring-cleaning clients opt for the easier to handle standard detachable blade professional clippers, just ones with more torque to the motor.
I work at a salon that provides all tools, including clippers. This leads to a lot of sharing and trying out of different types of equipment. If a new product looks interesting, the shop will buy it and everyone gets to try it. If the consensus is that it’s good, more will be purchased. This means that, ultimately, the shop owns the right tool for every job that comes along.
An artist doesn’t work with just one brush, and a pet stylist shouldn’t try to do it all with just one clipper. Handle clippers at shows, listen to feedback from other groomers and make sure you have the right tools for all the jobs you do.
Carol Visser is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer and Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Formerly a pet product expert for PetEdge, she and her husband Glenn now own Two Canines Pet Services in Montville, Maine, which provides grooming, boarding, training and day care services to Waldo County.