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Our Best Tips for DIY Dog Grooming

If you're short on cash but the fur needs to go, here are tips from a pro groomer for dog haircuts.

Heather Marcoux  |  Oct 6th 2014


When household expenses need to be scaled back, salon visits are often one of the first things to go. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a head full of hair or a body covered in fur.

Before my husband and I bought our first home, I was in the habit of paying oodles of money to maintain my mane of blonde highlights, but after we became homeowners and added a second cat and a dog to our family, my hair costs kept moving further down the budget spreadsheet.

As a new roof, some vet visits, and pricey pet food bumped my hair right out of Excel, I eventually I just stole my husband’s hair clippers and decided to take a DIY approach to my own hair. As a result my Lab mix GhostBuster has been on the grooming table more recently than I’ve been in a stylists chair, but according to his groomer Jenn Shaw, owner of Tall Tails Grooming in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, dogs can also benefit from a bit of DIY hairdressing.

“Even as a professional groomer I don’t necessarily discourage people from cutting their pet’s hair at home,” explains Shaw. “I definitely encourage regular maintenance between grooms.”

As a Lab mix, GhostBuster’s beautiful double coat requires brushing, not haircuts, but for dogs who need frequent trims, the at-home haircut can be good for both the animal and the bank account.

“Some people’s financial situations don’t allow for professional grooms and it’s more important for the dog to be comfortable than to look professionally polished,” says Shaw, who stresses that owners need to educate themselves on appropriate grooming techniques and tools beforehand. She says the tools I use on my own hair wouldn’t work on any dog’s coat. “Clippers used for human hair don’t have the power or speed to cut through pet hair and can actually pull the skin into the blade causing nicks and cuts,” she says.

“Human clippers usually only have one length of blade which can often be too short on pets and cause razor burn. Also, the heat of these blades must be closely monitored or it can literally burn their skin.”

Shaw says that if you plan on clipping at home, it’s imperative to invest in a decent pair of pet clippers. This can mean an initial investment of more than $100. “You get what you pay for, so spending more on clippers will mean that they run cooler and more effectively, actually working properly and painlessly for your pet’s hair,” she explains.

Owners also need to take extra care and caution in areas where the dog’s skin is thinner. These areas include the underside of the neck, face, eyes, ear edges and flaps, armpits, belly, sanitary areas, toes and tendons on legs.

When cutting or brushing the hair in these areas, there is a higher risk of bruising or cutting your pet as the thin skin pulls up quickly from the body when the fur is handled, making it easy to catch with grooming tools.

“A small nick on this thin skin can turn into a bigger problem since it can be prone to tearing like tissue paper, especially if using scissors instead of clippers.”

Shaw recommends supplementing DIY grooms with professional quick services for the face, feet and sanitary areas to avoid the risk of cutting those sensitive areas. She says some professional groomers do offer these trims as walk-in services.

I’m thankful that GhostBuster’s coat isn’t the kind that needs shaving — I have enough trouble clipping my own head!

Do you groom your dog at home? Tell us some tips in the comments!

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About the author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but Specter the kitten and GhostBuster the dog make her fur family complete. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow Heather Marcoux on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.

Woman bathes Terrier by Shutterstock.