How to Give Your Dog a Haircut at Home

For when going to a groomer just isn't an option

dog staring at the camera

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No matter what breed of dog your best friend is, grooming is as important for your dog as it is for you. Professional groomers are a great way to keep your dog's coat clean and well-kept, but they can be expensive and some groomers may book out far in advance. Here are ways that you can trim up your dog's unique coat at home in between visits to the grooming salon.

Smooth Short Coats

Smooth coated dogs include breeds such as Beagles, Boxers, Boston Terriers, Pugs, and Bulldogs. They are probably the least high maintenance when it comes to grooming, but that doesn't mean grooming isn't essential for them.

Brush your smooth coated dog out with a bristle brush, making sure that you are brushing with the direction of your dog's fur. While daily brushing is by no means a requirement for smooth coats, regular brushing can keep this type of coat free of dirt and debris. That's it! Most smooth coated dogs don't need to have their already-short hair cut.

Double Coats

Double coated dogs include a variety of breeds from a variety of breed groups. Huskies and Malamutes, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Bernese Mountain Dogs, even Corgis and Shetland Sheepdogs are all double coated breeds. A double coat on a dog is characterized by a soft undercoat for insulating and a top coat that repels water.

  1. Brush Tangles First and Use Proper Tools to Brush Each Coat

    Brush any tangles and mats out with a slicker brush, starting outward from the skin to brush out the undercoat. From there, use the slicker brush to brush with the lay of the top coat. If your double coated dog happens to also have long fur, an undercoat rake is also a handy tool to have in your at home kit. Take your time with the brushing, working in sections at a time to ensure no spot on your dog is missed. Brushing should be done regularly to semi-regularly with double coated dogs.

  2. Cut Stubborn Snarls or Problematic Mats

    If your double coated dog has longer fur, use either straight grooming shears or rounded safety tip scissors to cut out any stubborn snarls. Start in the feathering on their legs and around their tail base area first. These areas tend to get the dirtiest the fasted. Using a fine tooth comb, such as a flea comb, pull the fur away from the skin and snip the fur.

  3. Do a Sanitary Clip, if Necessary

    If your double coated dog has some particularly stubborn dirt around his rectal area, you can do what's sometimes called a 'sanitary clip'. With a pair of clippers, shave around your dog's rectal area, being careful not to actually clip your dog's skin. Working slowly to shave large mats and tangled debris out will also help to prevent you from giving your dog clipper burn.

    Warning

    If you must give your double coated dog a sanitary clip that is fine, but never, ever clip a double coated dog down to the skin all over. Both layers are vitally essential for your dog. The undercoat aids in insulating your dog from both the cold and the heat and the top coat protects your dog's skin from water and dirt. If you do happen to take a pair of electric clippers to your double coated dog, be warned that their coat might not grow back in the same way.The fur of a double coated dog that has been shaved may grow back patchy or fuzzy.

Long Coats

While some double coated dogs can also have long fur, their coat maintenance is not the same as a dog with long fur but only a single coat. Dog breeds that fit this category include breeds such as Yorkshire terriers, havaneses, malteses, shih tzus, and lhasa apsos.

Most owners of long coated dogs choose to keep their dog groomed in what is termed a "puppy cut." This is essentially a close-cropped hair cut for your dog. If you want to maintain your long coated dog's puppy coat in between grooming visits, you may want to invest in a good pair of electric clippers and snap-on guide combs. When it comes to clipper blades, there are different numbers that denote how close (or not close) to the skin the clippers will cut the fur. Generally the higher the number, the shorter the fur. Using a clipper blade in conjunction with a snap-on guide blade allows you to give your dog a longer coat than a blade alone.

  1. Brush Fur Out

    Long breed dogs can either have coarse fur or smooth fur. If your dog's coat is more coarse, ensure that you brush their fur out with a pin brush and a smooth bristle brush.

  2. Start Shaving

    Starting along the back, shave your dog moving the clippers from your dog's shoulder blades toward his tail. Slowly work your way around your dog's sides and chest/belly, clipping in the same direction. From there, shave your dog's legs with the clippers moving from the shoulder/hip down toward the paw.

  3. Adjust for Fur Between Your Dog's Toes

    For the long fur between your dog's toes, you can actually pull the fur up in between each toe so that it sticks straight up and clip it that way. This is far easier than trying actually clip in between the toes and you will be far less likely to accidentally clip your dog or give your dog clipper burn.

Tip

If your long coated dog is professionally groomed regularly, the sound and feel of a running clipper blade may be something that's familiar to them. What might not be as familiar, though, is the fact that they are at home and that might make them more unsure about the clippers. If your dog is nervous or anxious for you, pairing the sound and feel of the clippers with a high reward treat can be a great way to reassure your dog.

Unfortunately, long coated dogs can have long fur around the muzzle and eyes, too. There are round safety tip scissors that your professional groomer may use for these areas. If your dog isn't too terribly head shy, you can use a fine tooth comb, such as a flea comb, to pull the fur away from their skin and trim it with a pair of round safety tip scissors. If your dog doesn't sit well for scissoring by his face, though, this might be one aspect of grooming that you may want to leave for the professionals. If this is the case, you can keep the fur around your dog's face clean with a moistened towelette and a fine tooth comb.

Wire Coats

Also called broken coats, wire coated dogs include such breeds as fox terriers, Scottish terriers, and cairn terriers. In fact, some breeds can actually have a wire coat variety. These include dachshunds, German wirehair pointers, and Jack Russell terriers.

  1. Brush Fur Out

    Wire coated dogs require being brushed with both a stripping comb and a slicker brush.

  2. Trim Debris or Tangles From Hair

    Wirehair breeds tend to have a 'beard' around their muzzle. Using a pair of round safety tip scissors to trim out any food particles of tangles from their water bowl might be necessary. With a fine tooth comb, such as a flea comb, pull the fur away from your dogs face and snip with a pair of round safety tip scissors. However, as with long haired dogs, you want to be careful when scissoring around your dog's face. If your dog isn't comfortable having his beard trimmed, just clean it up as best you can until you can get your dog in to your groomer's.

  3. Cut Hair Using an Electric Clipper or Comb, Then Shave Legs

    If your wire coated dog happens to have a longer coat or if his coat is matted, you can clip it with a pair of electric clippers and snap-on guide combs. Start along your dog's back, working from the shoulder blades down toward the tail. Slowly make your way around your dog's sides and onto his chest/belly. From there, shave his legs with the clippers, moving from the shoulder/hip area down towards the paws.

  4. Adjust for Fur Between Your Dog's Toes

    If he has long fur between his toes, you can pull that fur up so that it is sticking straight up above his toes to then clip it off. This is much easier for you (and safer for your dog) than trying to clip in between the toes from underneath.

Curly Coats

Curly coated dog breeds include Poodles, Bichon Frises, and Airedale Terriers.

Keeping your pup's coat cut short can prevent tangling and matting. You can keep their curls tamed and in control with a fine tooth comb, such as a flea comb, to pull the fur away from your dog's skin and then a pair of straight grooming shears.

  1. Brush Fur Out

    Your curly coated dog should be brushed with a soft, curved slicker brush against the fur to fluff their coat up.

  2. Cut Hair

    If you curly coated dog's locks are much too long from a simple pair of grooming shears, a pair of electric clippers may be in order. Using these in conjunction with a pair of snap-on guide combs, begin clipping your dog along their back, moving from the shoulder area down towards the tail. Slowly work your way around your dog's body and then on to their chest/belly area. From there, shave their legs by clipping from the shoulder/hip area down towards the paw.

  3. Work Around the Face With Safety Round Tip Scissors

    For the curls around their face, use a pair of safety round tip scissors to trim the fur. Using a fine tooth comb, such as flea comb, pull the fur away from the face before snipping it.

Professional groomers are great for when your dog needs an overhaul with their coat or for fine tuning areas like around the face and muzzle. But when that's not an option, there are simple steps you can take to trim up your dog's fur in between grooming visits. Always practice safety and take precautions when necessary!