Taking It All Off
Sometimes you are better off taking the coat very short all over to keep the dog cool or to start over on a very matted coat. It's not worth the agony of dematting a dog just to keep a look. It's just hair; it will grow back. The ever-versatile 7F blade is usually the blade of choice when planning to remove the entire coat. The 7F is the lawnmower of blades and it usually goes through a matted coat like a hot knife through butter.
In double-coated breeds, you do need to be concerned with clipper alopecia, which is a rare condition that may be associated with hypothyroidism, in which case the coat that you shave off may not grow back. It's usually best to card out undercoat rather than shave it all off.
The main concern when you have to remove a coat is climate at that time of year — you don't want it too cold or too hot. Sunburn is a possibility in a very sparsely coated dog or one with white hair, as is hypothermia.
Using a clipper on a wet dog conjures up all sorts of images of electrocution possibilities! However, many professional groomers do wet-shave dogs that have extreme matting to the skin. One reason to wet-shave is to save your blades from shaving down a dirty dog. Another reason is wet hair stretches; you can generally use a longer blade to cut the hair and you don't have to worry about shaving the dog so short he will sunburn. Debi Hilley, a professional groomer, has a Web site with information for wet-shaving your dog and a host of other grooming-related articles. Check out www.groomingsmarter.com.
The safety steps to wet shaving are as follows:
Don't wet-shave the dog in standing water.
Plug the clippers into a ground fault circuit.
Towel dry the dog first, so the hair isn't dripping wet.
That being said, many groomers from the old school will say, “Why should I wash a matted coat? The mats will not get clean.”
Well, it's simple — you don't wash the mats, you only wash the skin. Get the shampoo, wash the dog's skin, and don't worry about washing the hair you will be cutting off. This keeps your clipper blades from trying to cut through dirt and oil and becoming dull.
“But my clippers won't go through damp hair.” This is true, but wet hair is another story. Groomers find that wet-shaving a dog saves an enormous amount of time and is easier on the dog than trying to shave off matted hair that's dry. Wet hair comes off like melted butter! If your clippers begin to bog down, a little spritz of water on the coat from a spray bottle will wet the coat enough to get the clippers through again.
The next steps are important for your blades: Always dry off your blades when done and oil them to prevent rust. You can use a toothbrush to brush hair out from between the teeth of the blade, and be sure to move the cutting bar back and dry underneath each side. Use your hair dryer to speed up this process.
Once you've wet-shaved the dog and gotten rid of the matted hair, you can then rewash the dog if necessary and dry him and clip him in the usual fashion. You'll be surprised at the length of hair you were able to leave — no more bald dog!