Once your dog is clean and dry, it's time to get out your clippers and decide what length you want the hair to be. Attach the correct blade or snap-on comb to the clipper and start at the withers, or shoulder blades, and go in the direction of hair growth. You may need to go over the area a few times to get it smooth. After you clip the body, finish the neck, head, and down the legs if necessary, or trim with scissors.
There are many different clippers available for grooming dogs. The professionals mainly use clippers that take A5 clipper blades; those are interchangeable between brands. Oster, Andis, Laube, and a few others use the A5 blades that you can buy in different sizes depending on the length of hair you want to leave on the dog. You can buy snap-on combs to fit over the shortest blades to leave even longer lengths. There are many sizes of blades available, and depending on what breeds you are grooming or how short or long you want to keep your dog you may not need all of the sizes available. The higher the number on the blade, the shorter it will cut the hair.
These brands are available online at various retailers and sometimes at farm supply stores. You may even find them available at tack stores (for horse supplies) or feed stores. Your groomer may even carry them. Every groomer has their favorite brands of clippers. If you are grooming many dogs or groom often, you should buy the best clipper you can afford. Many people opt for the lowest-price clipper and find that it isn't powerful enough to get the job done. Professional clippers usually range over $100 for the clipper and from $10 to $30 for each size blade.
Many groomers use a clipper vacuum system that attaches to their clipper and sucks up the hair as you clip it. These useful systems lift the hair as you cut it and it will leave hair a bit shorter, just as clipping in reverse does, so use a longer blade. This is a very useful item for today's grooming shop, as it cuts down on floating hair, clean up, and breathing in dander and hair.
Then there are trimmers that are not meant to do major body clipping, but are for feet, faces, and tail areas of dogs. Trimmers usually have an almost surgical-sized blade on them and leave the hair very short. They may come with their own snap-on comb attachments to leave the hair longer. Some trimmers are even adjustable and you can flip a switch to leave the hair as long as a 9 blade or as short as a 40 blade. There are choices of corded or cordless. Some come with batteries that attach to the clipper, and others have to sit in a recharging base.
Regular-sized blades are 3 or 3ﬂ, 4, 4F, 5, 5F, 7, 7F, 8ﬁ, 9, 10, 15, 30, 40, and some have size 50. The 40 and 50 blades are considered surgical blades, and they are meant to take the hair to the skin. You need to be very cautious when using these surgical blades. Do not apply pressure, and keep the skin taut. The 40 blade is commonly used on Poodle faces and feet, but not every Poodle can take a blade that short; some are susceptible to clipper irritation. For pets, a 10 or 15 blade usually leaves a nice result.
The “F” next to the number means finishing blade — after the bath and drying, these blades will leave a smoother finish. These are safer to use than the regular skip-toothed blades. Skip-toothed blades are sometimes used to get off very heavy matted hair before the bath, but they can also be used to leave a little more texture on a Terrier coat, for instance. They have very wide-spaced teeth, and as a result can leave a terrible nick if you aren't careful.
The 10 or 15 blade is best for a sanitary trim around private areas. The teeth are spaced a little closer together and are less likely to nick the dog. You have to pay special attention when clipping areas of the tuck-up, which is where the rear leg joins the body, and the armpit areas under the front legs, as these areas are easily nicked.
This groomer is carefully shaving the dog's underside and pulling up a front leg to tighten the skin and avoid nicks.
Snap-on combs are usually fitted over the 10, 15, 30, or 40 blades. They come in a variety of sizes to leave the hair as much as 1ﬁ inches long. If you want hair longer than that, you'll have to use your scissors.
Another way to clip your dog is to go against the direction of growth or clip in reverse. This will leave the dog's coat shorter because you pick up the hair from underneath. This usually leaves a very smooth, even finish that seldom needs repeat strokes of the clipper. Just be aware that if you are clipping in reverse and you are following a pattern, you will have a very distinct line and it won't be so easy to blend it in. Make allowances for the differences in length as well; clipping in reverse will make the hair shorter, so use a longer blade.
When you are clipping a pattern on a dog that flows into a longer section of hair — one example is clipping a Cocker Spaniel's back down to the skirt — it's important that you apply a very light touch to your clipper. As you go down the sides of the dog, just float the clipper off the sides to leave a naturally blended look.
There are many great grooming books to teach you how to groom your breed of dog. Some of the books that professional groomers use include: Notes from the Grooming Table by Melissa Verplank, The Stone Guide to Dog Grooming All Breeds by Ben and Pearl Stone, and The All Breed Grooming Guide by Sam Kohl. These books are available online at many retailers. There are well over 100 different breeds — too many to give in-depth descriptions of all of them here.
The sanitary trim is an important part of most dogs' grooming. Be very careful clipping around this most sensitive area. If your dog has a lot of hair under his tail, take your clippers and lightly skim from the anus outwards. Hold the tail straight up and prevent the dog from sitting down while you trim this area; sitting down on the blade is a sure way to get a nasty boo-boo. You can trim a narrow line from the anus down to the vulva or scrotum, then carefully clip around this area, being sure to remove any matted hair with your clippers using a very short blade with closely spaced teeth or small, blunt-tipped shears.
Don't get carried away shaving around the rear; you can make the path too wide and end up with a baboon butt on the dog — not a pretty sight! Keep the sanitary trim just wide enough to keep the area under the tail clean.
Then lift up one leg, look under the dog, and shave down the insides of the hind legs and down the tummy area, a bit further in front of the prepuce (sheath of the penis) for male dogs to keep them cleaner. You may need to leave a wick of hair to direct his urine stream so he doesn't urinate on himself. Be sure to use a light touch — this is a very sensitive area — and make sure to keep the skin taut so you don't nick your dog.
The groomer holds a leg up to keep the skin taut to prevent nicks.
Some dogs are sensitive to having the area under their tail trimmed. If you see your dog scooting or licking, apply a soothing salve to the area. Try Preparation H®, Vaseline®, or Desenex® diaper rash cream.
If your dog has hair in between the paw pads, you can either clip it with scissors so it is flush with the paw pads or you can shave it out with a fine-tooth short blade so you don't nick the area. This area tends to collect mats in some dogs. If your dog has a thick mat in between the pads, carefully shave all around the mat until you can clip it out. Keeping the hair short there will prevent mats. This is another sensitive area, and you need to spread the toes out to prevent nicking. Be sure to brush the hair up between the toes and snip it off to leave a neat foot.
The groomer, after back-brushing hair up between the toes, snips off the excess hair, being very careful not to cut too close to the skin and nick it or leave bald spots.