Your pet looks his or her best with a freshly washed and groomed coat. Trips to the groomer can get expensive and sometimes it’s just more economical and practical to give your dog a quick cut at home. In order to ensure that your home grooming goes smoothly, safely and successfully it’s important to understand how to cut dog hair evenly. We’ll walk you through step by step.
Have The Right Tools
First things first. You need to have the correct tools to do the job. Each breed has a different coat and could require a different set of clippers. Do a little research on how your dog is supposed to look after a fresh haircut. Once you have an idea, it’s time to invest in the tools of the trade!
Make the investment in a good pair of clippers. This is not an area to try to cut corners. Cheap clippers could give your pet a bad haircut, or worse yet, even hurt them. Always choose clippers over scissors, which can be dangerous and hurt your pet’s sensitive skin when you’re going in for a close cut. Spend a little more upfront and you’ll be rewarded with a neat, even haircut.
How do you find the best clipper for you? Think about the end result you want to achieve. In the grooming world, the higher the blade number, the shorter the cut. For short haircuts, it’s advisable to go with a #5 blade or higher. You’ll get a nice long haircut with blades #3 or #4. For certain breeds, you might need a mixture of several blades. Some higher blades even do double duty of cutting underneath mats, alleviating you the responsibility of removing them with scissors.
- Comb: You need a comb to unsnarl the fur prior to clipping your pet. Just like humans, dogs need their hair combed out before you start cutting it. If you find any mats, you can always (carefully) cut them out with scissors, unless you’re using a high numbered blade (see above).
- Slicker Brush: Slicker brushes dislodge any errant hairs while you’re clipping. They help ensure that you’re cutting all areas of your dog’s coat and also give it that desirable glossy shine after you’ve finished grooming. It’s advisable to use a slicker brush often between grooming sessions to maintain that beautiful coat all the time!
- Treats: This isn’t a ‘must have’ for grooming, but as dogs respond to positive reinforcement, why not make grooming a time they look forward to? You’ll encourage good behavior and your pet will respond to the rewards.
Let’s Get Started!
Make sure you have all of the tools you need in one place. You don’t want to be scrambling to find your clippers or comb in the middle of the grooming process. Once you’ve set up your grooming area, it’s time to get started.
Give Your Dog A Bath
By giving your dog a bath, you’re starting the grooming process with a nice clean canvas. Also, any mats that have accumulated on the animal will soften up while wet, making them easier to comb out. A lot of dogs don’t like baths, so make sure you have plenty of reinforcement ready on hand. Toys treats, and lots of praise will make bath time a treat for your pet! Here are some things to keep in mind while bathing your dog.
- Watch The Ears: Dogs’ ears are super sensitive so try your hardest not to get any water directly in them. It could be uncomfortable or even painful for your pet and may cause health problems in the future.
- Use A Good Shampoo: This comes down to breed again. Talk to your vet to find the best shampoo for your dog. You’ll want one with a neutral scent that won’t dry out your pet’s coat.
- Start At The Head: Work from the head down, wiping off the dog’s face with a slightly wet washcloth. Again, be very careful to keep water away from the ears. Make sure you rinse properly so all of the shampoo is washed out of the dog’s fur. Residual shampoo could cause irritation.
- Dry Off Properly: If your dog started getting baths as a puppy and is used to a blow dryer, by all means, use it until the fur is only a little damp (more on that later). If not, remember that loud noises can scare a lot of animals, so you might be better off using a towel for drying. Also, if used improperly, blow dryers can burn your dogs’ skin so take extra precautions if you’re using one.
Comb It Out
Comb out your dog’s fur while it’s still damp from the bath. Mats will be much easier to detangle and remove if the fur is wet. Start at the head and get tangle heavy spots, like the belly and tail. If you find a mat try to detangle it gently. Repeated brushing or combing in the same spot could cause major irritation. If the mat is stubborn you can cut it out with scissors or a higher level clipper blade. If you need to cut out a mat, make sure you cut parallel to the natural hair growth to blend it in better with the natural coat.
This is also a good time to check your dogs’ skin for any strange lumps or mats that have grown too close to the skin. Sometimes mats left unattended can cause infections. Common signs of an infection are red, rashy areas or pus. If you suspect that your pet has an infection, take them to the veterinarian right away.
After you’ve finished combing your pet, give him or her a good once over with the slicker brush! Now you’re ready to begin the cutting.
Time to Start Grooming!
Your dog needs to be fully dry before you can start grooming. If they are not, you risk cutting the hair unevenly or too short. Make sure your pet is completely dry, including under the belly and leg joints, before starting.
Make sure your clipper blades are sharp. If they are dull, they could pull your dog’s fur, resulting in discomfort and an uneven cut. They also need to be well lubricated. There are plenty of lubricants on the market that are used in dog grooming, such as Andis Cool Care, Wahl Total Care Blade Lubricant, and Oster Blade Lube. You can always consult your groomer to find out what they use. A lubricated blade will stay cooler.
Make sure your dog is relaxed and sitting still. A squirming dog could result in a bad haircut or worse, an injury to you or them. Make sure your dog is calm and anchored in one spot. Use restraints if necessary.
Let’s Begin! Here are some things to keep in mind
- Always Clip In The Direction Of Your Dog’s Hair: Follow the natural growth of your dog’s hair to create smooth cuts that blend in seamlessly.
- Manage The Clipper Heat: Clippers can, and do, heat up regularly. When this happens, your dog could suffer irritation and in worst case scenarios, burns. Touch your blades often to manage the heat and remember to keep them well lubricated. Lubricated blades are much cooler.
- Watch For Stuck Blades: Sometimes blades can get stuck in a dog’s fur. This can cause pulling and results in an uneven cut an annoying situation for your pet. Always keep lubrication on hand to wet down your blades if this happens.
- Keep Your Pet Calm: Some dogs panic at the sound of loud noises and your clippers could be jarring to them, especially if you’re trimming around the face and ears. Keep your pet calm by constantly reassuring and rewarding for good behavior.
You’ve finished up with your clippers and it’s time to give your dog a nice, thorough brush with the slicker brush. Check for consistency and make sure that the haircut is even, correct and what you were looking for. It’s better to catch any big or small mistake now while the dog is still in ‘grooming mode’ than to realize them later!
Now you know how to cut dog hair evenly. You and your dog will both love the look of a freshly groomed coat between appointments with a professional and by following the steps outlined above you’ll wind up with a beautiful coat and cut every time. All you need to remember is to have the correct tools, know what you want to end product to look like, start with a clean and brushed pet and watch out for danger signs. Make grooming a positive experience for your dog through rewards and you’ll have a ‘good boy’ with a great haircut!