Clippers - Selection and Tips For Using Them - The Grooming Series
Updated: Jan 22
I'll start this blog by saying that I am routinely humbled by clippers.
Clippers like new blades, clean hair, clipper lubrication, a toothbrush to clean hair from between the teeth, not too much hair for the power of the selected clipper, and the list goes on. If any of these things are not spot-on, the proposed clipping session can spin out in a hurry, and since most of the time I AM in a hurry, I often fight my clippers and curse them. However, most of the time, I also know better than to attempt to ask the clippers to do more than they are designed to do. And, thanks to my groomer friend Rheanna, I have learned a lot about why I run into problems even when I think I have everything set up correctly.
Did you know that brand-new blades, right out of the package, may be dull? How is that fair?! But, according to Rheanna, this is sometimes true. Also, the new blades may be tightened too much for the clippers being used. This is an easy adjustment to make, if you know to try this, but it never would have occurred to me to play with the factory set tension of the brand new blade.
Oster A-5 clipper
This is a great all-purpose clipper. I have used mine for many years; I appreciate the longevity of this brand. These clippers can't handle heavy coats well, but they do a good job behind ears, on feet, leg feathering, underbelly hair, and my triage clip area. They are also quieter than my beloved Laube clippers, so with a dog that is easily frightened by the noise, I sometimes begin my clipping sessions using the A-5 and then use the Laube clippers as needed. Not every clipper job requires the more powerful Laube clippers.
Wahl Arco clipper
These little clippers come with two rechargeable batteries and are super quiet. The blade length is minimally adjustable. I love these clippers for use behind the ears and between the toes. They are a bit fussy about some types of hair; I have trouble with them on fleecy-type coats. But of all the clippers I own, I suspect I use these the most frequently.
The short video below will show you some tips about managing clipper blades. I forgot to mention in the video how and why to change the tension on the blades.
If the blades are new and don't cut well, back off both screws just a little, equally. If the clipper blades rattle, they are too loose. Then attempt to use them. If they still don't cut well, something other than tension is your problem.
Please be really cautious in your selection of the length of the clipper blades you use. The larger the number, the shorter the blade will cut. I have never used a blade shorter than a #10 on my dogs other than between their toes. Clipping with the hair, rather than against, leaves more hair on the dog; that is usually my goal. Clipper blades that leave more hair because of their size (I have a #4 that I sometimes use) have bigger spaces between the teeth. It is easy to cut a dog's skin with blades like this. I sometimes use this blade along the top of a dog that I am doing a full body clip on, with the hair only, but I never use this blade anywhere else on the dog's body. For instance, there is loose skin just under the inside of where the front leg meets the dog's body; that needs a #10 blade only, and even then, great caution should be used.
As a general statement, here are my thoughts on clipping Maremmas:
That hair is there for a reason. Maremmas can become sunburned if their hair is clipped too short. Body clipping a Maremma can sometimes result in less hair growing back than the dog had the year before. So, if I lived in Minnesota, I probably would not take the chance of body clipping a Maremma because he needs lots of hair to stay warm through the winter in a climate such as that. Where I live, my Maremmas suffer from the summer heat, and we have temperate winters, so I have a little latitude in my decision-making about whether to body clip my dogs. Out of the sixteen adult dogs I currently own, I body clip four of them on certain years; sometimes, it isn't necessary to body clip them because the length of the coat varies every year. I clip these dogs because their coats are so profuse that their movement is hampered by the bulk and weight of their coats. Each of these dogs cavorts like fools when that winter hair comes off.
The other consideration for me is the presence of foxtails. These are stickers that can go anywhere! They get in the dogs' ears, between their toes, and even create abscesses on other parts of a dog's body, including under the chin. I need to be able to see every aspect of my dog's skin through the summer months in order to protect them. So, for all my dogs, I clip their undersides from under the chin and all the way to the tail. I clip halfway up their sides and the insides of their hind cheeks. I also clip behind and under their ears, and I clip their feet; I clip feet twice a year.
The photo below shows Lil and Yeti getting their summer clips. Lili's coat fills a 20-gallon trash can packed. It is heavy! She loves having this hair come off, as does Yeti. But there is another option for managing their heavy coats: my amazing blower. The blog about that is listed at the bottom of this blog. Please check it out. This specific brand of blower is the secret to my success. Most of the blowers on the market are not powerful enough to do the job this brand does.
Benson Maremmas Clipper Maintenance - The Grooming Series