By Michell Evans
“Hi Mrs. Evans. I had the opportunity to attend your Speed Grooming with Style class at Groom Expo West. You mentioned proper dog clipping technique but did not elaborate. I am a new teacher at a local grooming school. I find it difficult to explain proper clipping techniques to the students. Do you have any words of wisdom?” – Rhonda L.
Hi Rhonda. Proper clipper technique is taken for granted. Even advanced groomers have learned bad habits that cost them time and, therefore, money. There are many different ways to use a clipper. My suggestions in this column will relate to keeping the blade on the skin and applying your strokes in the direction that the coat lies. I will not describe skimming, blending, or using a vacuum-system in this column.
There are several pitfalls to good clipper work: poor coat preparation, poor hide manipulation, not cutting in the direction that the coat lies, inconsistent pressure, not overlapping each blade stroke, uneven lateral pressure, inconsistent stoke speed, and blade angle to name a few.
First a good bath and blow dry is critical. Reference my column in the February issue of Groomer To Groomer for more information on coat preparation. Comb and/or brush the entire coat backwards when you are finished clipping the coat. Examine the results and ask yourself what, if any, prepping and clipper techniques could be improved.
Hide manipulation, simply put, is gently pushing or pulling the skin taught with one hand in the opposite direction of which you are clipping with the other hand. This keeps a constant resistance on the cutting blade from the hair. It keeps the blade from pushing the skin around which may cause choppy clipper work and possible injury to the dog. It also helps you avoid gouging fatty and bony areas. From now on, think of clipping a coat as a two handed job. Be careful not to pull mats up and get the skin caught in the blade.
Try to cut exactly with or exactly against the lay or growth of the coat. It is true that you can take liberties when it comes to a stand-off coat type, like a Poodle or Bichon Frise. You will have more consistent clipper work if you practice always cutting in the direction that the coat grows. Find a picture of a smooth or short haired dog and memorize the lay of the coat. This means crossing the ribs nearly horizontally rather than in a downward stroke.
Often groomers are afraid to keep the blade in contact with skin at all times. Not only does it need to be in contact but it needs to have a consistent light pressure during the stroke. This takes practice. If you have areas where the length is inconsistent you may be “floating” in some areas instead of keeping a constant light pressure.
Be sure to clip the coat in overlapping strokes. Because different lengths and thicknesses of coat feed through the blade differently, randomly clipping stripes into the coat makes it difficult to get an even cut. By overlapping each blade stroke by one-third to one-half you avoid the ridges of coat that develop from the spaces between strokes. These ridges are difficult to blend out so they cost time and, therefore, money.
Uneven lateral pressure is when one end of your blade is touching the skin but the other end is not. This happens a lot on ribs. It seems most groomers are good at applying consistent pressure and speed on the topline/back of the dog. Try to maintain those good techniques for every stroke.
Inconsistent stroke speed is when a groomer starts off with good speed and technique and then whips the clipper through the end of the stroke. This often happens when a groomer is blending into a longer area but it can happen anywhere. Checkerboard type clipper marks come from moving the blade through the coat faster than the blade can effectively cut.
Blade angle is very important. Depending on the length and thickness of the coat and the design of the blade, you will lift or drop the back of the blade. The blade can range anywhere from full contact with the skin to only the cutting edge of the blade touching the skin. The goal is to know and/or find the angle that best suits the coat and be consistent.
Finally, your clippers must be in good working order. Service your clippers every month or more, depending on use. Also keep your blades clean and well oiled. The life of your clipper motor depends on how easy it is for the clipper to move the cutting mechanism back and forth. Also, make sure that your blades are in good condition, are not missing teeth, and are sharp. These efforts will give you a smoother finish.
I hope this helps you teach better clipper techniques. ✂
I am a multi-Best-In-Show and Best-All-Around groomer. I am the recipient of many Barkleigh Honors Awards. I am a Silver and Gold medalist for GroomTeam USA. I am the winner of Show Dog Groomer of the Year. I am an educator for Andis Clipper Company. I have been teaching as The Grooming Tutor since 2000. And I groom to make a living, just like you. Please send questions to [email protected]