Begley is 5 months old today, and I'm trying to learn to do his grooming myself. The groomer who used to do my mini poodle for me is going to give me lessons, but not until near the end of March. In the meantime, I bought a Wahl Bravura clipper and some guide combs, and am trying to do a basic puppy clip by myself. My main goal is to help Begley get accustomed to grooming, keep him tidy looking, and keep his coat easy to maintain. I'm not doing terribly, I hope, and each time I try to clip him I get a little bit better with his feet, face, and tail. No injuries to either of us so far! Twice now I've used the combs to clip the rest of his body.
My question has to do with the fact that the fluffy puppy fur on his body is sooo difficult to cut! It just keeps getting pushed over under the comb instead of getting clipped off. It takes multiple passes over the same areas to get the hair down to the length of the guide comb. It honestly took me HOURS on the weekend to use the clippers to cut Begley's hair down from about 1" long to 1/2" long on the weekend (accomplished as he actually fell asleep on my table). I should mention that we started off with a dry dog who'd been bathed about two weeks ago (he wasn't dirty as far as I could tell, but maybe natural oils in the skin/hair count as dirty?), I'd brushed out his hair, we weren't working with any mats anywhere, and I let him air dry after baths.
Is this normal, or is there something I'm doing wrong? I'm wondering if the blade on my brand new clippers could possibly have come to me already dull (but then it seems to have no problem clipping hair on feet and face with no guide combs attached)? Or am I using guide combs wrong and therefore not letting the clippers function very efficiently (is it even possible to use guide combs wrong? They seem pretty self-explanatory)? Is it just that he has a lot of hair and therefore takes a lot for the clippers to work through? Or is there some secret trick to clipping puppy fluff that I just don't know (if so, please share!). Or, if this is normal for puppy hair, PLEASE tell me it gets easier after coat change!
Yeah puppy fluff!!!! I miss it! I am by no means an authority on poodle grooming but I think the problem may be the way Begley's hair is dried. It sounds like you let him air dry after baths and then fluffed him up by brushing with a slicker. Is that right? I think you may need to blow dry him directly following his bath to get super straight and snarl free hair. Even if his hair is tangle free from air drying each hair shaft is going to be a different length which will cause un-even cutting with the clippers.
You can try using a human hair dryer on cool setting (which will probably be time consuming on a wiggly five month old pup) to achieve the desired effect. It may be worth it to get him used to the feel and noise of drying so that when you get some one on one time with your groomer friend you will be ahead of the game. Hope this helps some! When I was learning to groom my spoo I broke down and took him to the groomer once for f.f.t. but have been grooming him at home since then. Puppy fluff is harder to 'style' than the wiry adult coat, I don't think it's the clipper/blades fault and it sounds like your technique isn't at fault and it will get easier after coat change!
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For a nice finish using snap on combs, you need the hair to be clean and blow dried straight. Are you using the plastic guide combs that came with your clippers? I would suggest getting the Wahl Stainless Steel combs. They flow through the hair A LOT better. Because you have the Bravura, make sure you get the stainless steel combs that fit over the 1-5 adjustable clippers. They sell two sets - a set that fits over adjustable clippers and "normal" corded clippers.
Remember to always back brush, back brush, back brush! Fluff up the clean hair and run your comb over the hair. Make one pass over everything. Then go back and brush the hair going against the growth, and then clip the hair again. Keep back brushing and clipping until nothing comes off. Be careful in loosely skinned areas, the loin, hock, toes, and any dew claws that may be present because those can get caught in the snap on comb.
I just re-read your post and saw that you air dry him. You need to blow dry the hair straight. Nothing wrong with air drying, but since you are complaining about the clippers not cutting well - that may be why, especially when using snap on combs. You want each hair to be the same length. Many times poodle puppy hair looks straight but are wavy at the roots, combine that with dirt and oil, it will cut jaggedly and drag the clippers. If you are using adjustable clippers under the comb, make sure it's on the #40 setting (click the knob all the way to the right). If you are using corded clippers, make sure you use a #30 underneath the combs. If you use a #40 you will snap off teeth off the blade.
Last edited by tokipoke; 02-20-2013 at 08:55 PM.
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Thanks Meg and Tokipoke for your replies! I have been air drying him, yes, mostly because I don't own a blow dryer (hair styling even on myself is not my strong suit... pony tails are where it's at!). It sounds like I may need to invest in one of those, or at least borrow one and see if a blow dry makes a difference for our clipping.
I have been using the stainless steel combs, yes. Being a newbie I'd ordered the wrong combs (for competition series blades) right off the bat, and had to order the set for the 5-in-1 blade. Incidentally, I'm the proud owner of two unused stainless steel guide combs for a competition series blade that I'd be happy to give to someone who could actually use them! I'm not sure that I've had the blade set to the #40 setting under the combs, so I'll try that next time. I also wasn't brushing the hair in between clipper passes (only brushing it out before starting the clipping process), so I'll try that, too.
I think I'll give a clip another try here on the weekend just to smooth out last week's clip a bit and try my new techniques! Thanks for the advice!
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