How to Get Your Clipper Work Smooth Like a Summer Hay Field

It's been over 35 years since that first time. I still remember standing in awe, watching a talented pet groomer give a dog a haircut. She handled her clippers with ease. The long fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and gorgeous. And she was fast - super fast. She made the whole process seems so simple.

The first time I tried, I quickly discovered it was not simple. Those initial attempts were pretty pathetic. Saying my first efforts were rough and choppy would be polite. There were long tufts hanging out everywhere. I was frustrated beyond belief. I was determined to master the skill. After all, the groomer I had been watching proved it could be done. It was simple - I just had to focus and figure it out.

Fast forward a few years of practice and a couple hundred dogs later, and I could make any dog look amazing. When I did a simple haircut on a pet, the fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and appealing. I could finish dogs in no time. I'd gotten very efficient with my clippers. It took years of hard work. There were years of standing on my feet until they throbbed, working until my hands and shoulders ached. However, my pain can be your gain. Here are a few tips to enhance your speed when it comes to simple, low maintenance haircuts:

• Use the most powerful clipper you can afford and are comfortable holding. Duel speeds or variable speed clippers are great options.
• Work with the natural lay of the coat. You can work with or against the grain. If you reverse clip, the end result will leave that fur approximately two blade lengths shorter than working with the natural lay of the coat.
• For a large majority of low maintenance trims done with a #4F, #5F, or a #7F blade with the grain, you will go over the pet three times before it's really smooth.

  1. The first time removes the bulk.
  2. The second time takes out the high spots.
  3. The third time erases what you missed.
  4. The strokes are long and smooth. They overlap slightly. I often tell students to think about a hay field. The farmer wants to be as efficient as possible - but he doesn't want to miss anything, either. Most farmers work in nice, neat rows as they cut hay, slightly overlapping each row to ensure they don't miss any portion of the field. Think about the dog's body in the same manner. It's a hay field. Your clipper is the tractor. You want it done right... and you want to be done before the dinner bell rings.
  5. When clipping the legs, remember the actual contact of the cutting blade is minimal due to the shape of the surface. It's round - like a pencil. Only a few teeth will make contact with the surface as you run the clipper down the leg. Thus, on legs you need multiple passes to get the same effect as three passes on the larger flat surface of the body. You can clearly see this relationship by simply running a blade down your own finger and looking at the blade's point of contact.

Back brush. Back brush. Back brush!

You'll always get a smoother cut on a dog that is clean and the coat has been fluffed. Once you make the initial pass to remove the bulk of the long coat, it's time to pick up the brush.

Back brush the entire dog and go over it a second time. On the third pass, again gently back brush the entire area that needs final attention. Did you get that? Back brush!

When do you know you are done? You are done clipping when there is no more coat coming off the dog after it has been washed, dried, and effectively back brushed. Period.

Clipper work on a low maintenance haircut style can be extremely frustrating for new groomer. But once you master the clipper and understand how to work with the coat, it becomes second nature. It becomes simple. You become fast. And you will be able to perform the haircut safely with great precision. You can do it. It just takes focus.

Happy Trimming, Melissa


The Secret to Handling Challenging Dogs

In my years of teaching new pet groomers, I’ve seen hundreds of dogs take advantage of a new students. Dogs pull, squirm, whine, snarl… and bite. I’ve seen many students frustrated to the point of tears.

Then a miracle happens.

An instructor will walk over to the pet and gently take over for the student. Suddenly, this challenging pet turns into a perfect angel. The students’ jaw drops. A moment in stunned silence passes before the student exclaims, “How did you do that?!” The answer is simple:

Energy.

Dogs have keen senses and an uncanny ability to pick up on our energy and our confidence. They read us clearly even when we don’t think we are connecting to them. In the example above, the dog picked up on the instructor’s energy without a word having to be said.

Dogs are primarily nonverbal communicators. They have a language of their own. They are very clear in the messages that they give us. It is up to us to be able to interpret that language.

The #1 rule when working with pets is to remember the three C’s. As a professional you must remain: Calm, Cool, and Collected in ALL circumstances. The second you step out of this energy mode, the dog pet will know it.

Dogs are hardwired to think like dogs. They need a pack leader. If you do not exude the three C’s, dog language translates that to “poor leader.” The pet will not follow you. It will not cooperate with you.

So how do you gain the upper edge in this situation? Believe it or not, it all starts with your BREATHING.

I know it sounds far-fetched. How could something we do without conscious thought help in this situation?

To create a calm, cool, and collected energy, you need to be cool, calm, and collected. Deep breathing allows you body to channel that calm and focus. To make it happen, your breaths need to be deep and saturating. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Draw in the air and feel it fill your lungs. Now exhale slowly through your mouth. The most important part of deep breathing is to regulate your breaths. Three to four seconds in. Three to four seconds out.

Try it. You will feel the oxygen saturating your body. Tension begins to leave your shoulders. You will start to feel more relaxed almost immediately.

Deep breathing can release stress and provide other noticeable health benefits. You will likely feel calmer after performing deep breathing exercises, and may trade feelings of anger or fear for a focused, relaxed state of mind. Most dogs will totally gravitate to this energy in a very positive way.

I firmly believe that 98% of all dog bites are preventable by reading the animal correctly and taking the appropriate precautions to protect yourself while gaining humane control over the pet. Your hands are your livelihood. You must take utmost care not to let your hands become injured.

Every pet is an individual with different physical and emotional characteristics. Some dogs receive clear directions and boundaries at home, making them very easy to work on in a professional setting. Other pets will not have the skills necessary to be well-mannered candidates in a professional grooming setting.

The personality quirks that you’ll experience while working professionally with pets will range from dogs that are perfect angels, to dogs that are mildly annoying, to dogs that could be potentially dangerous to work on for both the handler and to the pet itself.

Whenever working with pets it is always critical to remember the 3 C’s. As a professional you must remain calm, cool, and collected in all circumstances. And don’t forget to BREATHE.

Whenever you have a dog on a table or in your grooming facility, you must use humane, respectful, and consistent training messages. The more you can learn about dog psychology and combine it with actual experience, winning the control and the respect over the dogs will become second nature.

Always remember that dogs are primarily silent communicators. Excessive talking or giving of commands is not necessary to effectively communicate with them. Much of your control can come from maintaining the Three C’s – Always remain Calm, Cool, and Collected while working with any animal.

Any time you feel you are losing control of the three C’s, it’s time to step away from the grooming table and take a break. Breathe. Only when you can totally regain your composure is it time to step back and begin your work again.

There are many videos on Pet Handling in the Learn2GroomDogs library. Also my blog on Rating Dog Personalities is very helpful when determining how to rate personality and behavior in dogs.

Happy trimming!

Melissa