As I have said before, my answers are based on my 27 years of Professional Pet Grooming.
Some groomers may disagree with some of my answers, but that is okay, I am open to comments from groomers who have found other, or easier ways of grooming.
The answers below are what I have learned over the years.
Some, unfortunately, from trial and error.
They work for me.
I hope that some of the answers can work for other groomers also.
Okay, lets go...
True or False Answers:
~ 1) Every dog can be clipped.
False: I should have clarified this question more...Every dog can have a clipper used on them.
Well, if you want to get technical, every dog could have a clipper used on them, if you sedated some of them, or held some of them down. I don't care for doing either of those things. I have groomed on sedated dogs, at a Vets office. I understand that in some cases that sedation is the only way to clip a dangerous dog, but for me, that is a very last resort.
I also don't agree with pinning a dog down to clip it. If the dog is that afraid of the clippers, I scissor them.
This little Maltese utterly hates the vibration of the clipper going down his legs, front and back.
He will fight to the point of hurting himself. In the summer he gets a clip down #5F, and in the winter he gets a 3/4 blade cut.
He will let me clip his body, but wants nothing to do with the clipper on his legs.
Why fight it, and make him and myself miserable?
So what do I do?
I scissor the legs to match the body even with the #5F length. It really does not take any longer to do this. Actually, it takes less time, because the dog does not fight for the scissoring. Anytime a dog does not care for the clipper, to the point of hurting itself, see if they will except the scissors instead. If that still does not work, then it is time to send that dog on to a Vet Groomer where the dog can be sedated and monitored by the Vet during the grooming.
Don't be afraid to educate an owner if their dog does not except the clippers.
Some dogs can be worked with over time. Each time they come in and build up a trust with you, you can use the clipper a little more each time till they are no longer scared of that noisy, vibrating object that keeps trying to run all over their body.
It is not fair to the dog or to you to force clipping on a dog that becomes dangerous when a clipper come near it.
~2) Clipping a dog with a clipper is the safest way to clip a dogs hair.
False: This question goes along with question #1. Clipping is only a safe way to cut a dogs hair when you have a dog that does not mind having a clipper used on it. A clipper blade can do some serious damage to a dog that is fighting to get away from a clipper. A clipper and blade can also cause damage when used by a person that is being careless or does not know what they are doing.
~3) You should only use clean, sharp blades to cut a dogs hair.
True: This one is a no brainer. The only way to get a nice cut on a dog is to use clean, sharp blades. A blade that is dirty and or going dual will drag and pull the hair, slowing you down and causing discomfort to the dog.
~4) It is best to start clipping a dog on the back of the neck, 2 to 3 inches below the occiput.
True: When clipping, it would be best to start clipping at the same place every time you clip the dog. The top of the neck behind the head is a good place to start each time you clip a dog. This gives the dog a routine so that they know what to expect each time you start grooming them.
Place the clipper on the neck below the occiput.
Clip down the back.
It is also a good habit to make your first clip a few inches below the occiput so that you leave enough hair to blend the head into the back of the neck.
I heard that!
What the heck is an occiput?
Occiput: the back part of the head or skull.
Sorry about that. I was taught the term 'occiput' in Grooming School, and it always stuck in my head.
~5) Fine tooth blades are safer to use then skip-tooth blades.
True: I truly believe this. Speaking from experience, it is one of the worst feelings in the world to be clipping along and have one of those skip tooth teeth crab onto a dogs skin and cut it before you can pull the blade away.
Once I got my first fine tooth blade (F blade), I rarely ever touch a skip tooth blade anymore. As a matter of fact, the only time I ever use the skip tooth blade now is for skimming.
~6) Skip-tooth blades work well for skimming off excess coat.
True: It is about the only thing that I feel the skip tooth blade is good for. Why? Skimming is to lightly run a blade over the top part of the coat without touching the skin. The skip tooth is good for this because the teeth are widely spaced and will lightly comb through the hair easier than a fine tooth blade.
As I have stated many times, I bathe all of my dogs before clipping, but there have been a few times when I have had a very overgrown, matted dog come in and I have used the #7 skip tooth blade to skim the top part of the coat off, down to the mat, so that I can get the shampoo down into the matting so that I can loosen that matting up and away from the skin for a safer clip.
~7) It is okay to clip a dog with a warm blade.
False: A slightly warm blade will not hurt a dog, but you should get into the habit of switching out a blade when it starts to become slightly warm. If possible invest in at least 3 of each blade length. (3-#15, 3-#7F, 3#5F, ect.) Ideally, you would like to have two blades to work with, and one spare for when you have to send one out for sharpening. When a blade starts to get warm, lay it on a piece of ceramic tile, sheet metal, or in a medium size stainless steal dog bowl so that it can cool quickly while you are using the second blade.
Can't afford that many blades right now? No problem. Keep a blade coolant on hand. Find one that you like. I personally use Cool Lube.
There is a trick to using coolant. To cool your blade, follow these steps:
~Turn the clipper off.
~Spray the front of the blade liberally for about 15 seconds.
~Shake the excess coolant off of the blade.
~Now, very carefully, hold the blade, pointing away from you, so that you don't blow it in your eyes, blow the coolant out from between the teeth.
~Wipe the blade clean.
~Repeat the last couple of steps if needed.
You want all of the coolant off of the blade so that it does not get on the dogs hair or cause hair to get caught up in the teeth because there is still wet coolant between the teeth.
I know, it sounds like a lot of work to cool down a blade, but after you get used to doing it, you get pretty fast at it.
Another way to try to keep your blades cool, is to clip one side of the dog, stop clipping and do the finish work on that side while your blade cools, then clip the other side of the dog. Of course this only works if you are fairly quick at clipping.
~8) It is okay to clip a belly or armpits with a #7F, #5F, #4F blade.
False: Yes, technically you could clip the belly and the armpits with the blades in the above question, but I do not recommend using them. You could skim with the #7F, 5F, and even the #4F blades if you did not want to take the belly and armpit too short, but it would be much safer to use a #10, or #15 blade instead. There is less chance of getting a nipple or flap of skin from the armpit caught in the blades teeth. If you use a very light touch when clipping with the #10 and#15 blades, you can also get that fuzzy skim affect on the belly and armpit.
~9) Clipping the pads of a dogs feet with a #15 or #30 is safer than scissoring the pads.
True: For the first few years that I groomed, I scissored the pads of all of the feet I groomed except Poodle feet. I got really good and fast at it, but I also had my share of close calls, and nicked a pad or two. Thankfully nothing bad. Then one day I had a light bulb moment. You know, those moments when you not only wonder why in the world you hadn't thought of it before, but you also feel like a complete idiot because you didn't think of it earlier. After all I had been shaving the pads of Poodle feet for three years. Why in the world didn't I do it with all of my feet? My only excuse?
That is how I was taught in Grooming School, scissor the pads of the feet.
I rarely ever scissor pads anymore. I use a #30 blade to clip out the pads of all of the dogs. Even though I use a #30 blade, I am careful of the pressure that I use. Each dog is different. If it is a white dog with pink skin, I skim over the pads just enough to clean them up, leaving a little hair between the pads to protect the sensitive skin. If the dogs skin is tough and can handle it, I use full pressure and make the pads nice and clean.
Whether using scissors or a blade, there is always the danger of nicking a pad or toe webbing. I feel that there is less of a chance with the blade.
~10) A #7F blade can be safely used to clip a face.
True: My grooming teachers would be having a fit if they could see me now. Use a #7F blade on a face!? They would think that I was out of my mind.
I use the #7F blade on faces all of the time.
This Poodle's skin can not handle having the face shaved with a #10 or #15 blade. Her skin is too sensitive, but the owner still wants a short face. So, I use the #7F blade against the grain. I am very careful around the lip line and eyes. I would never try this with a skip tooth #7, I only use a #7 fine tooth blade. It still looks like a clean face, but it does not irritate the dogs skin.
I use a #7F against the grain on Cocker faces also. On some Cockers I use a combination of the #7F and the #15 blade. On other Cockers I only use the #7F. Once again it depends on the type of hair they have. I think that the #7F leaves a very nice, velvety finish on some Cockers.
I hate seeing blade tracks on a Cockers face.
When using the #7F blade on a face, always work carefully around the mouth and eyes.
~11) Armpits are to only danger spot that you have to be careful of while clipping.
False: Technically clipping a dog is like working on an unpredictable, moving target. You could easily cut a dog almost anywhere, but there are at least 10 danger spots that are more susceptible to being nicked if you are not careful.
1~ The Nipples on the belly can be nicked even with a #10 or #15 blade.
2~ The Tuck-up can be sliced open with a blade or scissors. To help try and avoid this, clip downward off of the tuck-up, do not run the blade parallel with the tuck-up.
3~The Hamstring, above the hock. My teachers petrified me about this area. They had me convinced that if I cut this area with a blade, I would paralyze the dog. To this day I never take a blade straight down the back of the hamstring in fear that the dog will jerk its leg upward into the teeth of the blade. I gently pull the skin around to the side of the leg to clip the hair. When clipping down the leg I also put my fingers on the hamstring so that if the dog does jerk upward, the blade will slam into my fingers, and not the skin.
4~ The Dewlap. The loose skin on the neck. Always take care when running a blade down the neck. Some dogs have very loose skin in this area that can get caught between the teeth of even a fine tooth blade. I also use a very light pressure or skim this area, and follow up with scissors.
5~ The Lip/Gum Line. Be sure to pull the lip line taught before you clip. Also watch for the gum line on the bottom jaw that sometimes flops over out of the mouth on some dogs.
6~ The Tongue. This has to be the part of the dog that scares me the most. That tongue! How many times have you had a dog that insisted on trying to lick your blade will you clip, or your nail clippers while you are trying to clip the nails, or my all time favorite...flick their tongue up into your scissors while trying to scissor around the eyes.
7~ The skin under the arm. See question #8.
8~ The Rectum. This is another area that can be easily nicked because the dog moves or sits at the wrong time. Try to up one arm under the dog, holding the tail to the side, while scissoring or clipping to keep the dog from sitting suddenly. Do not use full pressure when using the clipper around the anus, lightly skim with the # 10 or #15 blade.
9~ The Toe Webbing. There is really no trick, that I know of, to keep from nicking the toe webbing other than being careful.
10~The Tri-fold inside of the ear. When clipping the inside of the ear, take a second to find this little fold in the ear and make sure that you clip straight down, off of the fold. Do not clip parallel with the folds.
Of course a dog could be cut on any part of it's body for any number of reasons. After all, you are working on a moving target that has a mind of it's own, and does whatever they want, whenever they want. You must always be on guard when clipping and scissoring. When you are not paying attention, or you start to rush...that is when an accident is most likely to happen.
~12) Each number blade will leave the same length of coat on every dog.
False: Any blade will take a thick, plushy type coat a lot shorter than it will take a thin, fine, silky coat. A #4F blade, for example, may make some white, thin coated dogs look shaved, while the same #4F blade will leave some thick coated Cock-a-Poo's looking thick and plushy. Even though blade makers may tell you what length their blades will leave, the length the blade really leaves depends on the texture and condition of a dogs coat.
~13) You should not use a blade against the grain on a dogs coat.
False: It is perfectly fine to use blades against the grain on a dogs coat. Example: Most faces, feet, bellies, ears, ect. I use a #7F against the grain on Schnauzer heads. I love the finish it leaves. I think that using a blade against the grain really depends on the dogs coat, and the finish that you are looking for. The Schnauzer head on the right was clipped with a #7F against the grain. I have heard a lot of groomers talk about using blades and clip combs against the grain on bodies also. I personally don't go against the grain on the body, I just use the next blade down, but that's me. :)
~14) A Poodles feet can only be clipped with a #10, #15 or #30 blade.
False: Over the years I have had a number of customers ask for the poodle type feet, but they did not want them shaved. I have also been asked to clip the feet on a couple of Cockers and a Shih-Tzu like a Poodle, only don't shave them. This is again where skimming comes in handy. First take a #4F or #5F blade (depending on thickness and color of the coat) and run it against the grain on the top of the foot. (be careful of the area where the toenail and toe connect) Once that is done, use a #15 or #30 blade to skim and scoop out lightly between the toes. I wrote about doing this on a Poodle in another post.
~15) You need to use a lot of pressure when clipping the body to get a smooth cut.
False: Once again it comes down to the type, and thickness of the coat that you are working on. When leaving a coat on the longer side, the pressure is up to the length you want to leave. If you are taking a thick coat fairly short, you may need to use a fair amount of pressure just to get a nice smooth look.
Wow, that was fun.
Now I have to proof read to make sure that my answers make sense.
If an answer does not make sense to you, or you have a better answer, let me know by commenting.
I love to hear how other groomers groom.
More questions next Tuesday. :)
Happy Grooming, MFF