The Dog grooming clipper is the essential tool for grooming a Shih Tzu or other dogs with long coats that continue to grow. Are you one of those folks who dreams of saving money each month by grooming your own dog? It makes sense if you have two or more dogs. The savings can add up fast.
For the DIY, who has never purchased a pair of clippers, or the more experienced home groomer choosing one that will work best for you and our breed can be a challenging task.
Even those who go to the groomers every couple of months, a pair of dog hair clippers can be used to keep your dog neat and clean. For the first time groomer, the task of purchasing your first dog grooming clippers and all the accessories can be daunting.
Since this article is intended for Shih Tzu owners, I will just mention that the Shih Tzu breed like many other dogs (Maltese, Yorkies, Lhasa, etc,) have hair, not fur. Any clipper you purchase should be appropriate for clipping dog hair. There are four things to consider before making a purchase.
Clippers differ in weight, size, and sound so each deserve an explanation.
Sound of a Running Clipper
You may not care how loud or soft the clippers are when running at high speed, but I’ll bet your puppy or dog will notice. A quiet clipper is ideal. Dogs have sensitive hearing and the hum of clippers can be an annoying sound. This is especially important if you already have a dog that doesn’t like to be groomed.
Not too Heavy, Not too Light, Just Right
Weight is another issue. The lightest weight clippers may not be the best, but don’t assume the opposite is true. Some lighter weight clippers can be very powerful. Heavy clippers can cause you fatigue, your arms, wrists and hands can be affected. The ideal weight may differ for different people so it is best to experiment before purchasing. The weight of the clipper is usually provided on the specs or on the packaging.
Size and Shape of the Dog Grooming Clipper
If you plan to do much clipping, you will want to have a clipper that fits comfortably in your hand. Manufacturers in the past have not addressed ergonomics of their products, but that is changing.
A comfortable clipper will fit in your hands – You will be holding the clippers like you would a pencil, but pointed down towards the floor. People with large hands may be able to manage a larger clipper and not feel comfortable with anything else.
But if your hands are smaller, a smaller size clipper will feel better. Assuming it is likely to take you about 30 minutes to do a complete clip, longer if you need to stop for breaks or interruptions. Dogs also appreciate breaks.
Look at the specs which are usually provided if purchasing on line, or on the packaging if you buy in the store.
The most popular brands of dog grooming clippers (and blades) are Andis, Oster, and Wahl.
Assuming you are going to be doing the majority of the grooming in your home, you will want to purchase a professional style clipper. Grooming needs to be done every 6 to 8 weeks and depending on the number of dogs you own, a cheap clipper will not last.
The initial cost of the clippers and accessories can be high, but calculate the eventual cost savings. For example, if you invest $300 in a pair of clippers, grooming supplies and accessories, and you normally pay $50 a visit, your tools will have paid for themselves in six months.
There is a bit of maintenance that goes along with owning your own clippers. Blades need to be cleaned and oiled and clipper parts can break. Take that into consideration as some brands are better than others in the need for maintenance.
Most clippers have the same amount of maintenance so this is normally not a factor in choosing the one for you.
Eventually, with heavy use your dog grooming clipper can last for years. You will find that most of your time is spent on cleaning, disinfecting, sharpening and lubricating the blades.
Some clippers come in a kit that includes the clippers, a blade, some clipper oil and perhaps a comb or two. Don’t be misled by the flashy boxes that boast how much more you get if you purchase their brand. These clippers tend to be inexpensive and you will not be happy with the results.
Better, professional clippers do not need to brag, normally comes with one blade and a small sample of oil.
At a minimum, you will want to purchase:
Clipper blades come in different sizes and numbered. They are numbered so that the smaller the number, the longer the coat when finished. The higher the number the shorter the hair. For the Shih Tzu, I recommend a number 3, 4, or 5 for short cuts. Remember the number 3 will leave the most hair, but if your dog is matted, a number 5 or even a 7 may be necessary to get through the mats.
Badly matted dogs
will require a number 7. A number 10
blade often comes with most clippers and this size is good for sanitary clips,
armpits, and under the eyes if you choose to use the clipper instead of a pair
of scissors. You can also trim paw pads with a number 10 blade.
Blade Number 3 leaves about ½ to 1 inch
Blade Number 4 leaves about 3/8 to ½ inch
Blade Number 7 leaves about ¼ inch
If you plan to use snap on combs, you will also need a Number 30
Blade 15 is a good alternative for close clipping between toe pads and under the eyes.
When you shop for blades you may also notice that blades come with a letter next to the number.
Finish Cut or FC is the most common and means it gives a smoother finish. An F behind the number means the same thing. The opposite of FC is skip tooth. These aren’t recommended for beginners and work better on curly coated dogs. Stick with the FC for Shih Tzu.
Stainless Steel versus Ceramic Blades
Clipper blades can made with stainless steel or ceramic. Ceramic blades will break if dropped, so unless you are extremely careful, ceramic blades may not be a good choice. The stainless blades can also have other materials infused into the steel. Manufacturers who infuse carbon into the steel claim the blades stay sharper longer. Stainless blades that contain chrome may rust slower.
New blades slide through the hair effortlessly but as they age, they may begin to pull the hair. If this happens, you will need to replace them or get them sharpened. If they rust, they should be discarded.
You are also going to be faced with what blade edge to purchase. There are three common choices.
UltraEdge Blades are those that use carbon which helps extend the blade's life.
Ceramic Edge blades are made with ceramic which helps keep the blade cooler.
ShowEdge Blades will create a smooth finish with no tracks in the hair.
Oil is used to lubricate the blades which allows them to function at the right speed. The blades will cut better and can help the clipper stay cool longer. Clippers tend to heat up quickly if used too long. If the clipper you choose does that you will want to purchase a blade coolant.
You wouldn't expect that one of the most inexpensive oils for clipper blades is also one of the best. I've used this product for years.
Some brands of clippers run hot, meaning that the blades heat up quickly and you must constantly stop to assure the blade is still comfortable to the dog. A hot blade will burn the dog’s skin.
Coolant is sprayed onto the blades to give them an instant cool. To use the coolant, keep the clipper running and spray directly on the blade teeth. You can use a cloth to wipe of excessive coolant. Touch again to assure they are cool enough to continue. A coolant sprayed on the blade will also do double duty as a cleaner.
There are quite a few blade cooling sprays on the market. This is the one I use and like the most. I normally use an Andis Dog Grooming Clipper, because they are better at staying cool. When needed though, there is an instant cool to the blade when sprayed. It also cleans, disinfects and lubricates at the same time.
This product is good for keeping blades clean and disinfected. The product comes in a jar, but to use, I recommend pouring a small amount into a separate bowl. With the blade still attached to the clipper, turn on the clipper and dip just the blade into the solution for a few sections. Remove and wipe off the solution with a soft cloth.
This is the blade wash I use most frequently. Remember to pour some out into a small bowl so you don't contaminate the entire container.
Dog Clipper combs or guards are ideal for first time groomers because they provide a bit of space between the blade and the dog making it much harder to accidentally nip the dog's skin. These combs come in a variety of sizes and are made of many different materials. The combs clip onto a regular clipper blade, usually a number 30.
Normally combs come in a set, but I rarely use more than a couple of sizes. Just like clipper blades, the combs are numbered according to the amount of hair left on the dog after grooming. The larger the teeth in the comb, the more hair that will remain on the dog. A Number one comb will leave about 1/2 inch of hair whereas a number 5 will leave only 1/8 inch of hair.
They can be made of plastic, stainless steel or chrome. The Stainless has an edge over the plastic because they tend to stay on better and not fail off if you hit a mat.
Clipper combs are interchangeable between the three manufacturers of dog grooming clippers (Andis, Oster and Wahl).
This is my favorite set of combs. They fit well on both my Oster and Andis blades and slide through the hair easily, making grooming easier for me. Click on the link or Picture to the left for more information.