Tips and Tricks for Using Comb Attachments in Pet Grooming
Metal comb attachments are so useful, they truly are a professional groomer’s best friend. But you have to know how to use them properly.
How did we ever live without metal comb attachments? Not only are they time savers, they also make our work more consistent. And with the longer lengths, the latest wide blades and wide comb attachments, it just keeps getting better.
When you use comb attachments, you need to make sure the dog’s coat is clean, rinsed and perfectly brushed to get the ideal finish. Sometimes, a nice finishing spray can help condition the coat, so the attachments guide through the hair even better.
Another key to using comb attachments is to remove the dead undercoat from the dog you are grooming. If there is any excess dead coat left behind, it will not allow the attachment to feed through smoothly. Dead hair is normally what snags between the blade and comb attachment. Now, there are times when I might run a longer 1½-in. comb attachment reverse through a Standard Poodle's legs before I brush, but this is normally with a regular client of between three and six weeks. The trick to getting away with this is to condition the coat, use a sharp blade under the attachment and make sure the blade lock on your clipper is working—if not, the blade and comb will pop off.
For the majority of dogs I groom, I completely brush them out before using my attachments. If a grey hound comb goes through the coat smoothly, I am usually good to go. If it does not go through easily, I will mist the coat with a finishing spray and use an undercoat rake over the area—yes, even on Poodles and especially on Doodles.
Another key factor for a clean-cutting comb attachment is to use not only a sharp blade, but the right size blade. When all we had were plastic comb attachments, we could use anything from a #40 blade to #9 blade. With the metal comb attachments, however, you cannot use a #40 blade because the way it lines up with the metal comb attachment’s teeth will cause the teeth to break out of your blade. Use a #9, #10, #15 or a #30 blade under the metal comb attachments and you should be OK.
Stopping the Drag
There are a number of reasons you might feel the guide dragging or catching coat between the blade and comb attachment. It might not be the blade or the attachment, but rather your clippers blade drive that’s the problem. When the blade drive is worn, your blade’s cutter is not pushed as far back and forth, and does not slide as far across the teeth, making it drag or even leave track marks. I find the wear is more noticeable when using the comb attachments versus using only a blade.
When you find the comb attachment snagging, first make sure all the undercoat is brushed and combed out. Then check your blade and blade drive by switching to another clipper to see if it is cutting better than the other clipper. If there is no change, I would get a new blade and try it on the clipper I started with. If it still drags, then it is time to replace the blade drive on my clipper. This past Christmas, I was so busy that after following all these steps and realizing that all my blade drives needed changing, I pulled out the old reliable corded clipper. Sad but true!
Making Life Easier
Using comb attachments makes life easier in many ways, including helping you accomplish what the breed standard states or what will make the dog you are working on look more proportionate when clipping the body. For example, when working on a slab-sided dog that should have a well-sprung rib, you are going to want to create the well-sprung rib with hair. This doesn’t require a lot of thought; you know you need more hair on the sides of the dog than on the back or on the chest. In this case, I will go over the body with the longer (let’s say 1-in.) comb attachment first, then I will come back and use a ½-in. comb on the topline and on the underline or chest to blend into the side coat.
In fact, I have now incorporated steps to minimize my blending and finish work. I start by clipping the body with the longer blade to add or create rib spring. Then I clip the legs normally, leaving one or two comb attachments longer than the body. I will go reverse first, then use a finish spray and comb up and through the coat. Then, the second time over the legs is with the lay of the coat or down. Now I have been over the entire dog with my comb attachments. I will then use my 10-in. poodle comb, mist again with finishing spray and comb all the coat up at one time. I put on the shorter length comb attachment that I used on the chest and topline, and remove coat from my angles, down the inside of all four legs and the arm pits, blending to create straight parallel lines.
This pass over the dog is to finish and blend. When I am done, the dog needs very little scissor work to finish it. Just remember one important thing: you must always follow the growth pattern of the coat, whether you are going with or against the lay of coat or growth pattern. This is important to prevent track lines.
Going Backwards First
Another great tip I use daily for many breeds with straight flat laying coat types is to use the comb attachments in reverse first. Start by taking a comb attachment a size or two longer than the desired length you planned on when clipping with the lay of coat, and go in reverse. This prevents you from having to comb the coat up multiple times to achieve your finished product. It is faster to go in reverse first with the longer comb attachment than using the original blade length choice with the grain. Remember to mist the coat with a finishing spray or water, then comb up and against the lay before you make your second pass. I typically only go over the dog twice using this method. The finish is normally very clean and natural looking.
If I feel any drag when going reverse, I will grab an undercoat rake and go over it once. It lays better and the dead coat I get out that day is one less mat tomorrow.
An example would be a #4f blade teddy bear trim with comb attachments on the legs. I would use a ⅝-in. or ½-in. comb attachment in reverse/against the lay of coat once and use a #4f blade with the lay of coat. This leaves a clean, even finish, that lasts longer because you are lifting the coat going reverse instead of going with the lay and smashing it down over and over.
Another tip is to clip the dog’s legs after you finish with the comb attachments in reverse before you use the #4f blade to go over the body with the lay of coat. Having them combed up before making your second pass will give you a great blend and a quicker finish.
One more favorite trick I use for some of my pet Poodle lamb trims is to use a longer comb attachment. For example, I will use a 2-in. comb attachment over a perfectly brushed out topknot, or the 1 ½-in. comb attachment on smaller dogs. I normally blend all the way down the neck, only going with the lay of coat. When doing this, make sure the head is parallel to the ground. Then scissor your topknot as usual. This speeds things up.
I also use the longer attachment to deal with long-coated tails, including a Poodle’s. An example might be using a 2-in. comb attachment with the growth of coat, then scissor. Another great example is a Shih Tzu teddy bear trim, where I clip the bottom two-thirds of the ears with a #3f blade on the outside, and a #10 blade on the inside. Then I round the head with a ¾-inch comb attachment with and against the lay of the coat. For the body, I will use the ⅝-in. against, then a #3f or #4f with the lay of coat. I normally use the same comb attachment that I used on the head and run the comb attachment I used on the legs over the tail, with the lay, leaving a pipe cleaner affect.
As you can see, metal comb attachments can be incredibly useful in a variety of situations you will run into in the salon. If you haven’t already, you need to try them. And remember: practice makes perfect. PB
Chris Pawlosky is a Certified Master Groomer, professional handler, breeder, grooming show judge and successful pet store and grooming shop owner (The Pet Connection) since 1985. For 20 years, she served as national training manager for Oster Professional Products, where she developed new initiative educational material to educate at schools and conventions all over the world. Pawlosky is currently working with Judy Hudson to produce the Grooming Professors—a service through which the two industry veterans share their many years of grooming, competing, dog show conditioning and handling with groomers across the country via Facebook and through an interactive website where visitors can access webcasts and videos about everything grooming-related.