In grooming, time is money. Using your clipper efficiently will help improve your efficiency, thus improving income. With that in mind, let’s look at finishing clipper work. When clipping any pet, be aware of skin flaps or growths. First and foremost, we must have the dog’s hair as squeaky clean and dry as possible.
Choosing the Right Clippers
There are numerous clipper choices on the market these days. Choose the best fit for you. I prefer a cordless clipper with a lot of speed and power. I tend to work at a fast pace and need a clipper that can keep up. Make sure your clipper is in top running condition by keeping the hinges and blade drives refreshed. You can choose to send your clippers out for an overhaul or do your own maintenance at home.
I also keep a five-in-one adjustable blade cordless clipper on hand, as this light-duty clipper is great for puppies, elderly dogs and touch-ups.
Use well-oiled, sharp, undamaged blades. Dull blades will pull at the hair and cause track lines—plus, they will be uncomfortable for the pet. If a blade should lose a tooth or get damaged in some other way, it is no longer safe or usable, so throw it away! Learn the lengths each blade will leave in order to choose the best blade or snap-on comb for the coat you are working on. I also have separate blades for clean and dirty coats.
Hold the clipper like a pencil, as this will allow for the most control. Clippers work best when the tip of the blade is pressed against the coat, keeping the clipper at a slight angle. The rule of thumb is the shorter the blade, the higher degree of the angle. Maintain a constant speed when clipping through the coat.
To ensure I get a smooth, even finish all over, I back-brush after my first swipes through the coat. I use my slicker brush to lightly brush the hair in the reverse direction and repeat the clipping with the grain. When clipping, make sure to apply the same pressure throughout the groom.
Many pet terriers and spaniels get clipped, rather than stripped, causing their undercoat to stay in place. The dense undercoat will cause clipper work to look choppy. I recommend carding, combing or raking out as much undercoat as possible before clipping. Carding again after clipping will also help smooth the coat out, as well as help keep the harshness in the coat.
Blades can get hot on clippers fairly fast. I check the temperature of my blade on my inside wrist of my left arm. Have extra blades to switch out or a coolant on hand.
Which Way to Clip?
Generally, we clip with the natural lay of the coat and with the grain. Cutting across the coat will cause track lines. However, clipping against the grain is also an appropriate technique, where needed. Remember when cutting against the grain, you double the length of the blade. For instance, if I use a #4 blade in reverse, it will be close to a #7 blade.
Where’s My Eraser?
When all else fails, use a fine thinning shear to erase any remaining track lines.
Professional groomer Anne Francis, CMG, is a grooming competitor, speaker and Andis educator. She works at The Village Groomer in Walpole, Mass. Is there a breed or cut that you’d like to see featured in the Grooming Table? Send your suggestions to email@example.com.