There are a great number of different types of dogs that are normally clipped or trimmed to help keep their coat manageable and help them stay cool in the hot summer months. Although many people think of clipping only for the small and toy housedogs, throughout history many of the hunting and working dogs have also been clipped. Clipping a dog correctly can result in a great experience for your dog and something they look forward to as a pleasant event, or it can become a real disaster, leading to problems each and every year.
If you have never clipped a dog before, you may wish to take your canine companion to a groomer. Choosing a groomer is not something that should be done lightly, as after all they will be responsible for caring for your dog and for ensuring that the grooming and clipping is as positive as possible. It is highly recommended that you plan to visit in advance and take a look at the facilities before actually bringing your dog. The saloon or grooming facility should be clean, professional looking and well maintained. You should also ask about safety issues such as how different breeds are kenneled or kept either together or apart as this can be a real concern.
Most groomers are very willing to have you observe the bathing and grooming process, and it is really a good idea to stay, at least for the first time. This will allow you to see your dog interact with the groomer as well as ask any questions you may have. Be prepared to explain how you want your dog's clip to look, consider bringing a picture so you and the groomer are very clear on your expectations. Different breeds have different cuts and if you are showing or planning on showing your dog you need to know what clips or cuts are acceptable in the show ring. Don't count on the groomer to know each and every breed standard.
Groomers typically offer other services besides just bathing, grooming and clipping. They will often empty the anal glands, clean your dog's teeth and nails, clean the outer ears and they should report any concerns they have with your dog's coat or skin conditions. Groomers are not vets however they still have a great deal of knowledge about what is normal and healthy and what is potentially problematic.
If you decide that you want to clip your own dog for spring and summer, you do have options on getting some advance training. You may wish to consider attending a dog grooming class or workshop, often they are held by different dog associations and clubs. Professional groomers come in and provide demonstrations on bathing, grooming and clipping as well as give tips and practical advice. There are also DVDs, CDs, books, videos and online websites designed to walk you through how to clip a dog of virtually any breed or coat type.
Watching a video or demonstration of clipping a dog is a lot different than doing it on your own, no matter how well trained and calm your dog is. Ideally you need to have at least one other person to help you, at least the first few times, so you can focus completely on the clipping and let them manage the dog. Having this extra person means you don't have to try to hold the dog still and run the clippers or use the scissors, taking a lot of the pressure off.
Use only professional quality dog clippers. Don't use human hair clippers or trimmers as they are not designed the same and for the same volume of hair. The human models are often much louder and not as sturdy, resulting in more pulling on the dog's coat and increased discomfort for the dog. Only use sharpened blades and be sure to oil and cool the clippers as per the instructions. It is possible to actually give your dog clipper burn if you clip the same area repeatedly or if you are using dull blades or not cooling the clippers properly.
Start by giving your dog a full wet bath. This is important to remove all the dirt and debris from the coat that can cause excessive dulling of the blades as well as irritation for the dog. Dry the dog completely either allowing him or her to air dry or use a dog hair dryer or a human hair dryer on the coldest setting. Never use a human hair dryer on hot as it is too hot and can lead to skin sensitivity and dry patches that will be irritated by the clipping process.
Clipping is done against the direction of hair growth, so it is always done from the bottom of the dog towards the spine or the head. If the dog has a very long or thick coat you will have to move very slowly over the body, never pushing the clippers into thick clumps of hair. If the blades become jammed it is going to pull on the dog's skin, creating pain and discomfort. Taking it slow and ensuring that the amount of hair going into the clippers is being effectively cut is the best option. Set the blades at the appropriate length and continue to check for any signs of dullness or damage to the blades as you clip. If the blades are nicked or dull, immediately replace them and don't try to just finish the job.
Never use clippers around the sensitive areas of the dog. This includes the ears, around the eyes, on the muzzle or around the genitals and anus. Blunt ended scissors are the best option for these areas, always cutting parallel to the skin's surface, never into the skin. Clipping around the eyes and ears is particularly dangerous so always take your time and move slowly and never clip these areas if the dog is fidgeting or restless. It is far better to let the dog have some exercise time and then finish up when they are willing to stand still.
Make sure that you give your dog lots of praise and rewards during the grooming and clipping process. Plan a walk or a fun time for the dog afterwards and don't forget to give a few treats as well. Making grooming positive for both you and your dog will only ensure that it goes even better the next time you decide he or she needs a trim.
Other articles under "Spring Health Concerns and Dogs"