Clipping is a genuine art

Coat preparation is the key to success

Getting a smooth neat finish with a pair of clippers is a real knack.  It can make the difference between a nice neat trim or one that looks tatty within a week of the dog going home.  It can also save time on blending and can skim off excess coat.

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To pre-clip or not to pre-clip?


Clipping a clean, well dried coat will leave a better finish and prolong the life of your blades and clippers, however sometimes it is worth clipping off excess coat before you bath. Ask yourself:

How much coat does the dog have?

A big thick hairy dog will take more time, shampoo and electricity to dry.

Is the dog groomed regularly?

If the dog only has between 4-6 weeks growth then it probably isn’t worth pre-clipping. You will always need to re-clip after the bath regardless, so do you waste time removing minimal coat? A slow growing 8 week trim will have similar amount of coat as a 6 week one, again it is probably worth bathing first to give a nicer finish.

Does the dog mind being dried?

If the dog is fearful of the dryers then less coat would make your job easier and more acceptable for the dog.

Can you use high velocity dryers and/ or cabinet dryers to dry excess coat?

Again if the dog is frightened of the blaster or cabinet dryer (or you don’t have either of these) then less coat to dry would be a huge advantage.

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Pre-clip techniques


If you have decided to pre-clip, start by taking a good look at the coat.

Blend areas

Concentrate on the areas that you blend as these will often be areas of thick coat especially hips on Westies and skirt lines on Cockers.

Choice of clipper blade

Always use a slightly longer blade for instance: a 5F before the bath and a 7F after. This will allow you to correct any errors when you go over the coat again. Skip tooth blades come are useful for pre-clipping as they are able to “bite” into the coat where an F blade can sometimes glide over the top of a particularly thick and dirty coat. (Remember your blade safety when using skip tooth blades as they can also “bite” into dogs skin.)

Curly coats

If pre-cliping a curly coat use a longer blade. It is much easier to straighten the coat if it has some length. Thoroughly brushing a curly coat will make it easier to straighten whilst drying.

Double coats

May benefit from carding first – this can be done with either a stripping knife, coat king or a furminator type tool (a 30 blade with the cutting blade removed is also a handy carding tool). Keep the stripping knife at a 45 degree angle and stretch the skin taut, comb the through with short sharp strokes in the direction of the lay of the coat. This will encourage the natural coat to come through leaving the coat easier to clip and quicker to dry and will retain the colour and texture better.

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The coat has to be super clean (and bone dry) to achieve a good finish when clipping. Here are a few pointers:

Make your life easier!

A quick brush through will help loosen dirt from the coat making it easier to clean.

Concentrate – don’t miss key areas!

When bathing make sure you don’t miss any clipped areas of the dog otherwise you will get a dusty finish once you have clipped, so pay particular attention to ears and faces as you generally will use a shorter blade on these areas.

Don’t soak the dog’s coat first!

Put the shampoo directly onto the dry coat, this saves time and makes the first wash less diluted.

Choose the right shampoo!

A greasy coat will benefit from a shampoo designed for that purpose and a coat needing volume should be bathed in a volumising or clarifying shampoo.

Keep washing until the dog’s clean!

Coats should be bathed at least twice, if the coat is particularly dirty then don’t be afraid to wash 3 or even 4 times to ensure a clean coat.

Condition recently clipped coats

If you are clipping a dog off and you have already pre-clipped the coat or the coat is already short then condition the coat after shampooing.

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A bone dry coat is absolutely vital – any patches of damp coat will cause the clipper lines and an uneven finish and the blade may struggle to go through the coat. When drying a dog, such as a Westie or Cocker, where you are going to clip the body short and you want it to lay smooth you will want to dry in two stages.

Use your blaster close to the skin to remove any excess coat

Dry in any direction until the dead coat is removed – then blast in the direction of the coat growth. Pay particular attention to any areas that curl up such as the shoulders or over the hips. The straighter the coat the neater the finish. A cone shaped nozzle is good for getting out undercoat and straightening curly short coats whereas the spade nozzle is better for longer coats.

Use your stand dryer to finish the drying

Dry in the direction that the coat naturally lies, on a Westie, Cocker or drop coated dog this will mean drying down the back towards the tail and then down the rib age towards the skirt or tummy. On a curly coat you can dry in any direction getting the coat as straight as possible (this can be a bit tricky if the coat is short as there is not enough length to pull the curl out).

If you are fortunate enough to have a cabinet dryer then this can be used to remove any last traces of dampness from the coat. Once you have finished drying, let the dog’s coat cool down before your final check. It is easier to check for damp areas if the coat is cool. Remember that drying cabinets are finishing dryers only and the dog should only be in them for short periods of time ie 10 minute sessions

These tips will save you time, help your equipment last longer and provide the basis for a superb finish when clipping.