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How To Cut Dog Hair Correctly

Cutting your dog’s hair is an important grooming task. Whether you want to become a professional dog groomer, or just cut your own dog’s hair, it’s important to clip safely. Here are some simple tips on cutting your pup’s hair with clippers.

Cutting or clipping a dogs hair can be one of the more daunting grooming tasks. Not all breeds need to be clipped of course, but if your dog has a single coat then the hair will end up looking a mess if left unattended.

Before we get to the tips, if you don’t feel comfortable clipping your dog’s hair then hire a professional groomer to do it for you. Groomers usually aren’t too expensive – and good ones have the tools to do it safely.

If you want to save money, however, then learning how to trim your dog’s hair can be a great investment of time.

Preparing Your Dog for Grooming

Before using clippers you need to make sure you’re properly prepared. Here are some simple tips to make sure grooming goes smoothly:

  • Start clipping from a young age. You can be fairly sure your dog isn’t going to leap at the chance of having its hair cut, so try to start clipping from as young age as possible. Older dogs often find it more difficult to overcome a fear of clippers.
  • Take a look at what your breed should look like. You can cut your dog’s hair any way you like, but most people like to follow breed standards.
  • Choose a quiet clipper. The quieter the clipper, the less likely your dog is to be scared.
  • Get your dog used to clippers. If your dog has never seen or heard clippers before, he’s much more likely to react to them. Practice turning the clippers on near him and moving them gradually nearer to his body. Praise him or feed him treats at the same time to create a positive association.
  • Read grooming tips on your breed’s club website. Many club websites have excellent information for your dog’s specific type of coat.

If your first grooming session doesn’t go as planned, don’t panic! As long as you use clippers safely, the worst case scenario is your dog has a few months of bad hair days. Here are some tips for using clippers safely:

  • Only use sharp clippers blades. If blades are dulled they are more likely to pull hair. This is probably the top reason why dogs become scared of having their hair clipped.
  • Use lubricant or coolant. This keeps the blades cool and is vital for preventing burns. You should also regularly check the temperature of your clippers. If they are too hot, either spray coolant on them or switch the blades. You can also cool them by leaving the blade on a metal surface (such as a baking tray).
  • Research the best blades for your dog’s coat. Different types of coat work best with certain blades.

Starting to Clip

The first step to cutting your dog’s hair is to brush out any mattes or tangles. If you don’t do this first, you’ll find the clipping process much more difficult. It’s also a good idea to wash and dry your dog to get rid of any dirt.

We recommend starting by tidying up a patch of fur that’s not too long but is starting to look messy. This is especially important if you aren’t sure which blade to use. Once you’ve clipped a small amount of hair, switch to a more appropriate blade if the hair is too long or short.

Keep in mind that the higher the blade number the shorter the hair will be cut. This is the opposite of human clipper blades, where a “number 1” is the shortest.

The next stage is to move onto deeper (and more visible) fur. By this point, you should have a good idea of how long the hair will be and how easy it is to cut.

You’ll need to firmly hold your dog when cutting. Most groomers recommend starting at the neck and working down the side, before repeating in the opposite direction on the other side.

Here are some tips for clipping:

  • Move slowly through the hair to cut it evenly and safely. If you clip too fast you’ll often leave lines.
  • Clip in the same direction as the dog’s hair. This also prevents harsh lines.
  • Be patient. If your dog is being difficult, remain calm and gently put him back into the right position.

Grooming your dog safely should take around 20 minutes – although this depends on the size of coat and length of hair. Remember, try to make hair cutting a positive experience for your dog!


Richard Cross

Richard is a journalist who specialises in dog behavior. He's written hundreds of articles and books related to dogs, including for the Continental Kennel Club, Dog Fest (the UK's biggest dog festival) and various veterinary surgeries. When he's not spending time with Jess and Rudy (his beloved Labrador and Golden Retrievers), he enjoys reading, hiking and watching sports.
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