About Me:

I am a professional Pet Groomer. I have been grooming for 28 years. This Blog is a kind of diary of my work. I wish I had started years ago, writing some of the experiences I have had while grooming. Most days are fun, some can be sad, some can be just down right crazy. If you are a pet owner and come across this blog, I hope it helps you understand how your pet is groomed. If you are a Pet Groomer, I hope you can relate to some of the stories. Maybe even learn a grooming tip or can leave a friendly grooming tip for me. There is always something to learn, no matter how long you have been grooming.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Using Clip Comb Attachments in Reverse

I have used most of my blades in reverse while grooming.

~The #30 in reverse on poodle feet.
~The # 15 and #10 in reverse on poodle faces.

~The # 7F in reverse on Cocker and Springer faces and heads to get a nice smooth  #10 blade looking finish.

~The #7F in reverse also on Schnauzer heads to get a nice smooth #10 to #15 blade looking finish.

~The #7F in reverse again on poodle faces, where the owner wants a shaved face, but the skin can't handle being shaved with a #10 or #15 blade. 

~The #5F in reverse on Schnauzer heads that have very thin hair, where I want a nice smooth finish, but I don't want to make the top of the head look bald.

Remember that using a blade in reverse will make the blade cut shorter, usually the next blade length down.

I rarely ever use my blades against the grain on the dogs body.
I personally don't see any reason to use them against the grain on the body, or legs, because I can just go to a shorter blade if I need to.

Now, I could see using, lets say, a #4F blade against the grain if your #5F blade was not working, your #5F against the grain if your #7F wasn't working.
Personally, I would only do this if I really needed to.

I use attachment clip combs a lot...everyday actually.
I have always clipped with them, going with the grain, then I scissor to finish.
I absolutely love my Wahl Stainless Steel Attachment Combs.
They slide onto my 5-in-1 blade on my Wahl Bravura and Chromado cordless clippers.

(**Note: I am not a spokesmen for Wahl. I just love these clippers and Comb Attachments so much that I highly recommend them)

I have a pile of other clip combs, from plastic to stainless steel, that I have tried over the years.
I hated all of them.
They would either pop off of the blade as you were trying to cut.
Especially if they got caught on the tiniest snag.
They would clog up with hair and stop cutting.
The 'other' stainless steel combs would also pop off the blade, or brake the teeth on your #30 or #40 blade.
Or raddle something fierce.

The Wahl stainless steel combs slide onto the blade.
I have yet to have one pop off.
They rarely clog with hair.

Okay...I got side tracked...sorry about that. :)

Using clip combs in reverse.

Believe it of not, I have never used my clip combs in reverse.
I have read about other groomers using them in reverse on the forums.
Most groomers seem to recommend them when another groomer is complaining about getting lines when they clip.
I have been meaning to try it out for a while now, but I always forget about it till I am almost finished the dog.Then I think; 'oh, I could have tried the clip comb in reverse on this dog...oh well.'

I finally remembered to test it out on a couple of different coat types.
And, of course, I took pictures to share with other groomers who may not have tried this yet.

I tried to go into testing this without any particular expectations other than maybe  getting a smoother finish. 

**NOTE: For best results when using clip combs, the dogs coat must be clean and totally mat free.
If you your comb does not smoothly glide through the coat, the clip comb will not glide through the coat. 

One of the dogs that I tried was Lhasa/Poo with soft, slightly wavy hair.

First, I clipped one side with the growth of the coat with a 13mm comb attachment.

 The clip was as it always is, a little rough, but I always go over all of my dogs with scissors.

How rough the combs leave the cut determines how much scissoring I have to do.

It is usually not that much scissoring to get a smooth finish.

I decided to take the comb, in reverse, over the coat that I had already clipped with the growth of the coat.

The clip comb, used in reverse, took the coat shorter, to about a little longer than a #4F length.

The #4F is what this dog normally gets on the body.

I didn't really see much of a smoother cut.

It actually seemed a little more choppy in some places.

I was still able to scissor finish quickly.

As you can see, I didn't have to scissor a lot of coat off to smooth things out.

My next test...a Cock-a-poo.

This coat was thicker, more dense and wavier than the last coat.

First, I used the clip comb with the grain on one side of the dog.

Not bad.

A fairly smooth cut that will not need much scissoring.

This is the leg clipped with the grain with the clip comb.

Fairly smooth there too.

Now the other side, clipping with the clip comb in reverse.

*Note: I didn't like how it seemed to pull the hair.

It did okay, but I didn't think that it was as smooth as the other side.

This is the other leg clipped only in reverse with the clip comb.

I could see that there was going to be more scissoring on this side.

I decided to run the clip comb back over this side, with the growth of the hair.

It made a much smoother cut.


I went back over the leg too.

This coat scissored up nice and quickly.

 As you can see by the hair on the table, I did not have a lot to scissor.

One more coat type.

A St. Poodle with a very thick, curly coat.

This was using the  clip comb normally.

 Then I clipped the coat in reverse.

I found no difference.

Most likely because most Poodle coats are so curly that they don't have a growth direction on their coat.

So no matter whether you clip forward, or in reverse, you will get the same result.

I actually used the clip comb in both directions on this coat and had very little to scissor after clipping.

My conclusions?

I did find something new.
I think that I will use the clip combs both forward and reverse on most Poodle coats, but I will most likely continue to clip with the growth of the hair when using my clip combs on most other breeds.

As I always say...every dog/coat type is different.
So, I will clip  in whatever direction will do the best to get the look that I want to achieve.

I would love to hear about any other tips that other groomers have found when using clip combs. 

I like trying new things. :)

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. I have found that the only type of dogs I feel that I should try going against the grain are ones with very fine yorkie type hair because sometimes the hair just goes right through your blade and doesn't even clip. Also sometimes on some spaniel type hair. Say if you were shaving their back with a 7F and it gets choppy and you see a line then I will take a 4F against the grain and it smooths it out.

    1. Hi Peggan,
      I hear you with the very fine coated Yorkie. It's funny...I never thought of using the comb or blade on reverse on those Yorkies. I just give up and scissor. lol
      Thanks for the tip.
      Lisa, MFF

  2. Just a side note for you... when you use a blade or clip comb in reverse it is actually TWO blade lengths shorter. For example, a 4 reverse is the same as a 7, a 5 reverse is a 9, 7 reverse is a 10. Same with clip combs - 1 inch reverse is 3/4 inch, 5/8 reverse is 3/8 etc.

    1. Hi,
      I used to believe the same thing that you have written above, till I started testing the blades. Sometimes the blades do as you say above, but other times, depending on the coat type, they do not. With one of the Poodles from my post, the same amount of hair came off in reverse and when clipping normally with the clip comb. The length left all depends on the type of hair and or the thickness. I have found, in some cases, that the reverse cut was not two lengths shorter.
      Thanks for the information. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  3. I agree with the fine coats. Yorkies, Cairns (that are getting clipped), etc. If the owner requests a shorter cut (but not shaved) I will use a #0 or #1 wahl comb in reverse. It looks natural without having to handscissor and thinning shear the whole thing. A number of my Yorkies got this trim, mostly boys so I started calling it my "Dapper" trim haha. Love your blog!!

    1. Thanks Lynn,
      'Dapper' trim...I love it!
      Lisa, MFF

  4. I like scissor finishing, it seems like it's much easier to control (for me) since most of the dogs I get in are not accustomed to grooming and won't accept the clipper on their legs. It's a bit choppy (I'm still practicing :)) but it looks much nicer. I love your back legs, I've started copying you at work hehe, customers love it!

    1. Hi Zhitong,
      I like scissoring too. I find that most Yorkies and Terriers, for that matter, do not like having a blade run down their legs. So scissoring is much easier.
      It is a very nice compliment when someone tells you that they copy your work...thank you very much!!
      Lisa, MFF

  5. I've used a reverse clip comb on a golden that had previously been shaved (please don't ask why) and it turned out nicely. Yesterday I did a 7reverse on a black lab (WHY?). The owner said she liked the way she looked like a weimaraner when shaved...smh. Those were the only times when a reverse worked for me, but I'll be trying it on my next Schnauzer face. I love your blog...I think I've learned more from you than I have from my manager at PetSomething!

    1. Hi,
      Thanks! I think that you will really like the reverse #7F on the Schn head. Just remember to be careful around the base of the ears with those #7 teeth. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  6. Finally, someone who advocates bathing a matted dog! Your blog is amazing! I've not long started grooming and am finding some of the ways I was taught a little time consuming. I was never taught to use comb attachments and love your blog on that. Thanks for the tips

    1. Thank you Karen,
      I am glad that my blog is helping. Good luck with your grooming career!
      Lisa, MFF

  7. Hi what shampoo do you use and do you use conditioner,or any other products. When I bath dog with a regular dog shampoo I still have a slightly greasy coat its all washed out, do I need to maybe change my shampoo to a better one?

    1. Hi Dude,

      Hmmmmm....Are ALL your dogs coming out slightly greasy? If so, I would say 'yes' try another regular shampoo.
      Are you conditioning every dog? If so, it could be your conditioner that is the problem. I have found that a lot of the conditioners seem to leave a film on some coats.
      A baking soda rinse can also help to make sure that all of the shampoo residue is gone and at the same time leave the coat light and fluffy.

      We use DoubleK Dynamic Duo 15:1 as our basic shampoo. It is a shampoo and conditioning rinse in one.

      Lisa, MFF

  8. Hello, I do have a question for you. I have been grooming dogs for 5 years now and I love my metal clip combs! But I just quit my old job and I am working in a privet salon now. They do things differently there. What I would like to know is do you back brush with Clip Combs or not? I have always back brushed at my old salon and now the new salon I work at says never too. A lot of the customers have said the haircut looked too short. But I tried not to back brush and the haircut looked uneven. Have any ideas on this and what I should do? I was thinking about going up a length to satisfy me and the customer.

    Thanks so much,

    1. Hi Theresa,
      I usually only back brush on curly coats. I rarely back brush on drop coats when using clip combs. I love to scissor and only use the combs to set the length that I want. I do use my comb to comb backwards, or comb the hair up to even out the clip with my scissors.
      When I am using a clip comb and it is not taking the dog quite as short as I thought that it would I will back brush to get a little more length off.
      It is not surprising that some shops groom a differently. I used to have groomers that I hired tell me all of the time that I groomed differently. So, before I would hire anyone I would ask them if they had a problem grooming the way 'I' wanted them to. My customers were used to MY way of grooming, so my groomers needed to groom the same way.
      If you would rather back brush, I think that your idea of going up a length is a good idea. I would think that that would work to keep you and the customer happy. Sounds to me like the customers of this shop like the grooms on the longer side. Good Luck. :)
      Lisa, MFF

    2. Thank you so much for the advice and replying so fast! And I agree with you on how the customers are used to the way their groomers groom their dogs.
      I am glad I talked to you about this. I was feeling a little bummed out cause I felt like I was not a great groomer as I thought I was. We all just groom differently. =)

      Thanks again. =)

    3. Theresa,
      No matter how long you have been grooming, I think that when you move from one shop to another and see other groomers grooming differently than you do it always makes you question yourself.
      I think that my grooming is pretty good until I go to Hershey every year. lol Some of those competition dogs are just absolutely gorgeous. Then I have to remind myself that the dogs they are using for competition have great coats and that as long as I know that I am grooming the best that I can, and treating the dogs as if they were mine, I am doing a great job.
      You can learn new things from working with other groomers. Some great grooming tips, and some things not to ever do.
      From reading different grooming groups I find that a lot of groomers have very strong feelings on how dogs should be groomed and are not the least bit open to new things and new ways to groom.
      I strongly feel that no two dogs can be groomed exactly alike because of coat type, body type, dogs personality, and owners likes and dislikes. Every dog should be treated as its own grooming masterpiece. (okay getting way to deep here lol) I'll shut up now. :)
      Lisa, MFF

    4. You know, I am also an artist off to the side and that is what I tell a lot of my friends that feel like their artwork is bad in their eyes. Each artist has their own way of drawing and the same goes with dog grooming. That is why I love grooming dogs so much. Even though I do not have a true graphic design job yet, (went to college for graphic design) I am glad to work with pets and make them look beautiful so the owners can show them off. Hehe thanks so much you made me feel better about my work and make me feel less doubtful. <3

  9. I've only been in grooming school for a few days and while I am still so excited to get up in the morning I'm already getting frustrated. Since I'm a newbie, the "reverse vs. with" issue is so confusing to me. I still don't know what direction I'm supposed to do on any dog unless my teacher tells me. :/ In addition to that we are required to use a clipper vac (each station is equipped with one) and my teacher claims it cuts grooming time in half (I don't see how). With the clipper vac apparently the regular "reverse vs. with" rules don't apply because it is sucking the hair to the blade, therefore getting a closer cut (or so I'm told but that does kinda make sense) and I also have to factor in the regulator on the clipper vac (knowing whether to keep it open or closed). Maybe I'm being too hard on myself for not getting this after a few days but I want to try to find ways to make my job easier, not complicate things. Also, my instructor says ALL drop coats and wavy coats should be cut in reverse but I hate cutting in reverse. I think it makes it look more choppy and I don't have the scissoring speed yet nor do I want to spend that much time scissoring in the future if I don't have to. Are they ways to simplify this? Do you agree all drop/wavy coats should be in reverse? Or does that only apply when using a clipper vac? Do you think the clipper vac reduces the time and how? I won't be able to afford a clipper vac immediately after school so I feel like I'm being taught one way and having to re-learn the way I will be working. Sorry I'm so long-winded lol. I just don't want to get discouraged and I'm already getting frustrated but I've barely even started! Btw, it would be so awesome (imo) if you compiled all your great tips and knowledge and wrote a book for groomers...and actually charge lol. I would so buy that! ;)

    1. Hi Kasi,

      First of all, you ARE being too hard on yourself. Give yourself time. There is a lot to learn.
      Now, what I am going to say next is my own opinions. I am not trying to say anything against the grooming school you are attending or the instructors.
      IF I had a grooming school, you would not be clipping dogs yet. You would also not be using a ClipperVac before you even got the basics down on regular clipping.
      I would start the first week or two of grooming school with teaching, brushing, de-matting, bathing, and fluff drying. You need to learn what shampoos and conditioners work well on what coats. Whether or not you should even use a conditioner on a certain coat. The difeerent types of medicated shampoos, and bathing safety. As far as I am concerned, bathing is one of the most important parts of the grooming process. If the dog is not bathed and dried properly, you can not get a nice cut whether you are just clipping or scissoring.
      The next couple weeks would be spent concentrating on learning blades, clippers, comb attachments, and the basic clipping, such as the amount of pressure to use when clipping, and the danger spots to be careful around on the dogs body. Adding a ClipperVac into the mix at this point would be terribly confusing and unnecessary.
      Next would come practicing scissoring. Don't be afraid of scissoring. The more that you scissor, the easier it gets and the better you get at it. Whenever I had a dog come in that was going to get a short hair cut, I would let my daughter practice scissoring all over the dog. It did not matter if she scissored uneven, or messed up, because the dogs coat was going to be clipped short anyway. She got very good at scissoring.
      The first 4 or 5 weeks of grooming school you shouldn't even have to worry about speed. Speed is not important at the beginning. Being careful, taking your time and getting comfortable with your tools and handling the dog is more important than speed. Speed comes naturally over time. The more comfortable you are with what you are doing, the quicker can you work.

      I had to split this reply in two parts because I talk too much. :)

      Lisa, MFF

    2. Here is the second half.....lol

      Of course, this is the way that I would teach. Is using the ClipperVac mandatory for you to graduate? I personally think that if you don't want to use a ClipperVac you shouldn't have too. I have a ClipperVac and have used one for many years. I do not use it on every dog. It does leave some coats choppy no matter whether you clip with the growth, or in reverse. I also rarely clip a dogs body in reverse. I have found that most dogs do not care for the clipper running over their body in reverse. I also personally think that clipping in reverse damages some coats.
      I am a fanatic about getting a nice even and smooth finish on my dogs whether I am clipping them short or using only scissors. I do not need to clip in reverse to get a nice finish. Why use a #4F in reverse when a #7F with the grain will achieve the same smooth length?
      Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions. YOU are paying them to teach you. Also, keep a small notebook by your table. Make notes about which blades you are using on which type of coat so that you can refer back to it when grooming a different dog. I would think that the school would be giving you specific instructions ( what blade and how to use them...with grain, in reverse, or with the vac) for each pet that you groom. We always record what blade we used and how we used it on each clients file.
      As for the ClipperVac saving time.....yes and no. It really depends on the dog. It does save on some clean up.
      Don't get discouraged. If the ClipperVac is confusing you, or you don't like using it, ask if you can skip using it. I really do not see why you need to learn about the ClipperVac if you do not intend on using one after you graduate. When I was hiring, I did not make my other groomers use one if they did not want to. As a matter of fact, my daughter does not like it and does not use the ClipperVac.
      Thank you for the compliment. You are not the first person to ask me to write a small book about my grooming tips. I'll have to think about that one.
      Hang in there and don't be so hard on yourself. There is so much to learn and try to retain. It is going to take time. Have fun in grooming school. Pick your instructors brain. Ask as many questions as you can.

      Lisa, MFF

    3. Lisa,
      I already tried posting this but I'm not sure if it worked the first time so let's try again, lol...

      First, I want to thank you for your words of encouragement. It meant so much. I posted my original message on a particularly stressful day. I forgot how many times I was "caught" going in the wrong direction (on the body) or using the regulator in wrong position. Thank you for letting me vent and confirming that I should ease up on myself a bit.
      Thankfully, I am feeling much more comfortable grooming as the days go by. I'm still working on getting the reverse/with/regulator thing down, as I have been taught by my teacher, but I fully expect the way I groom will change a little once I graduate.
      Also, I did talk to my teacher about the ClipperVac. She encouraged me to clip without the vac occasionally so I could get used to how it feels without it. Although, I am required to use it for my grooming evaluations as well as pass tests on my understanding of the vac, proper regulator use, and knowing when to go in reverse as she instructed. It's not ideal but as long as I can get an understanding if how if feels to clip without the vac, I can deal with the rest temporarily. ;)
      One more thing, I have Andis blades because I was required to purchase those for school and I can't afford to buy all new blades but I would love to have a cordless clipper. Are there any cordless Andis clippers you would recommend or have tried?


      P.S. When I'm at school and I am dealing with a difficult dog or one that just doesn't want to cooperate, I think to myself, "How would Lisa handle this?" and I try to remember some of the tips I have read in your blog to help me get through the groom with the most positive outcome possible. Thank you so much for writing this blog!

    4. Hi Kasi,
      I am glad that things are going better for you in grooming school. I am still very surprised that they push the clippervac so much. I am sure that there is a more than 50% chance that most of their graduates will go on to work someplace that does not have a clippervac system. I would take your teacher up on that offer to clip without the vac occasionally. Clipping with the vac and without are very different.
      Take your time. There is so much to learn. The best thing that you can do for you and the dogs, is try to stay relaxed. If you get tense and worry, your feelings will transfer to the dog.
      When I was a new groomer, (I still do this today if I get a very difficult dog on the table) I would stop grooming for a minute, take a few deep breathes, look right at the dog and say 'okay kido, it is just you and me, and your owner is paying me to groom you. The sooner you be still, the faster I can get you done and go home.' The whole time I am talking to the dog in a gentle, reassuring voice, I am slowly massaging its face and ears. It helps to relax me and the dog. (yes, other groomers that worked with me thought that I was crazy) BUT it really helped me, and still does. AND I would swear that most of the dogs understand and are better after I talk to them.

      As for a cordless clipper, I highly recommend the Wahl Bravura. If possible I would also invest in the 5 in 1 Stainless Steel Attachment Combs. These combs are specifically for the 5 in 1 blade that comes with the Bravura. I love these combs, because they slide onto the blade and don't accidentally pop off or clog up like all of the other clip combs.

      Have fun grooming. :)
      Lisa, Mff

  10. I don't see any reason to use blades in reverse either. I think the same. Why bother shaving against the grain when you can just use a shorter blade. I do believe it causes skin initiation shaving the coat backwards