How To Cut Your Dog’s Hair, According To Experts
No more shaggy hair 💇♀️
If your dog starts to look really shaggy between trips to the groomer, you might want to give him a little trim every now and then.
And if you do, it’s super important to know how to safely give your pup a haircut so you don’t accidentally hurt him (or yourself).
The Dodo spoke to Dr. Corinne Wigfall, a veterinarian spokesperson for SpiritDog Training, and Helen Schaefer, a national certified master groomer and a certified canine esthetician with Heart + Paw, to find out how to cut your dog’s hair at home.
What to know before cutting your dog’s hair
Before you cut your dog’s hair, make sure you know what you’re doing and that you have the right tools so you don’t injure yourself or your pup.
“Trimming your dog's hair at home should only be done if you have experience or guidance in doing so,” Dr. Wigfall told The Dodo.
So ask your vet or groomer to show you the best way to cut your dog’s hair before you trim it for the first time.
What you need to cut your dog’s hair
Here’s what you need to give your dog a haircut:
When to use clippers vs. grooming scissors
Clippers are best for dogs with long, thick hair and double coats.
There are a few different types of grooming scissors, and they’re used for different purposes. Straight edge scissors are the main type used by groomers when cutting a dog’s hair, and they’re typically used to cut the hair’s length.
“Straight shears do the bulk of the work, as they can be used to evenly cut large expanses of coat,” Schaefer told The Dodo. “Generally, they are used to set the [hair] length on the body and legs of a pet.”
Curved edge scissors are good for trimming sensitive or curvy areas (like your dog’s legs) because they’re so precise. “Curved shears, which can range from a subtle bend 2–3 inches [out] from the tip of the shear to an extreme, almost C shape, are generally used for faces and feet,” Schaefer said.
There are also thinning shears, which thin out thick fur. “Thinners, which have rows of narrow, fine teeth on one or both sides, are used to soften areas without taking additional length off to thin out areas,” Schaefer said.
How to cut your dog’s hair step by step
Here are the steps to take to safely give your dog a haircut.
Bathe your dog
Before you trim your dog’s hair, give him a bath. Clean fur is easier to cut, and bathing will get rid of any dirt or debris stuck in your dog’s coat which could get caught in clippers.
Also, let your dog fully dry or blow dry his hair before you cut it. Like human hair, dog hair shrinks up when it dries. If you cut your pup’s hair while it’s wet, you could end up cutting his hair too short, which could leave him exposed to the cold or the sun (or he could end up with an uneven haircut).
Brush your dog
Dr. Wigfall recommends brushing your dog’s fur first to remove any knots that could get stuck in the clippers, which can hurt your pup and cause damage to your clippers.
For dogs with curly hair, brush in the opposite direction of the hair growth to make it poofier and easier to see the length.
Get your dog comfortable
Make sure your dog’s in a comfortable position, and pick a place without lots of distractions so your dog won’t move around a lot or be tempted to run after things.
“If you are worried your dog may move around during the grooming, use distraction techniques, such as peanut butter (xylitol-free) on a LickiMat or [something] similar, to keep your dog occupied whilst you groom,” Dr. Wigfall said.
If you do a lot of your own grooming, a grooming table or grooming hammock can be super useful to keep your dog still and safe while trimming his hair. These are also helpful for dogs who are squirmy when being groomed.
You should familiarize your dog with the clippers and scissors before using them so he’s less scared. Let your pup sniff them, and for clippers, turn them on around your dog to let him hear the sound.
If your dog won’t stay still or seems to be getting anxious, stop grooming and finish another time. “You may find that you have to do the grooming in stages, and this is OK if it keeps everyone safe,” Dr. Wigfall said. A bad haircut is way better than an injured pup.
Trim with clippers
Go in the direction of the hair growth with clippers. “Use clippers with a guard, and clip in the direction of the coat,” Dr. Wigfall said.
Keeping the blade flat against your dog’s body (not angled), start on his back going toward his tail, then move on to the rest of his body. When you come to his legs, start at his hips and move down toward his feet.
If you angle the blade, you could run into your dog’s skin and accidentally cut him, so try to keep it as flat as possible. And be sure not to cut the fur too close to your dog’s skin, or you could injure him.
“You should always clip with the grain of the pet’s hair, and pay special attention to sensitive areas or ones with extra folds, such as the neck, behind the ears, the groin and the legs,” Schaefer said.
When you’re done using the clippers, it’s important to keep them clean so they’ll be effective at trimming, which will make the experience easier for you and your dog.
“It's important that your clippers are cleaned after each use and the blades are changed regularly, as they become dull over time,” Dr. Wigfall said.
To clean your clippers, use the blade brush that most clippers come with to remove anything stuck on the blade, then dip the teeth into the cleaner. “Dip just the teeth of the blade into the jar while the clipper is running on low,” Schaefer said. “Wipe the excess cleaner off of the blade with a paper towel and apply a drop of oil on the blade before turning the clipper off and removing the blade.”
Trim your dog’s face
After using the clippers, you can use grooming scissors to cut hair around any sensitive areas, like your dog’s head. Rounded-tip scissors are useful for trimming around your pup’s face because the round edge is safer.
“Use sharp grooming scissors to trim around the face and feet,” Dr. Wigfall said. “Use care, and take things slowly to avoid accidental injury. Be especially careful around the eyes.”
And if your dog doesn’t like having scissors near his face, then leave that to your groomer so no one gets hurt.
Trim paws, legs and tail
To trim hair around your dog’s paws, pull the fur up between his toes and clip it with scissors rather than trying to cut underneath his paws, which can be tricky (and your pup probably won’t like it).
You can use scissors to cut feathering on your dog’s legs and tail, too. You can do this by pulling the fur away from his body to see how long it is and cutting it to the desired length. Curved scissors can be good for trimming your pup’s legs because they’re precise and can fit to the shape of his legs.
Can I cut matted dog hair?
If your dog has severely matted hair, the mats may need to be cut out. But you probably shouldn’t try to cut them out yourself — save that for your groomer. Mats form close to the skin, which makes it easy to accidentally cut your dog when trying to get the mats out.
If you know the right way to cut your dog’s hair safely and the proper tools to use, you can trim your pup’s hair in between trips to the groomer. Just be sure to ask your vet or groomer to give you some tips, and follow the steps above.
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