A Beginner’s Guide to Buying and Using Dog Clippers

From my own research, I’ve compiled this dog clipper buying guide for beginners. But things didn’t go as planned with my own dogs!

Petful is reader-supported. As an affiliate of platforms, like Amazon, we may earn a commission when you buy through links on this page. There is no extra cost to you.
This is Luke, before and after his summer cut.

Two of my dogs are Lagotto Romagnolos. Lagottos have hair, not fur, and it grows into ringlets.

There are considerable upsides to hair versus fur. They don’t shed. People who are affected with fur allergies can often tolerate a Lagotto. The downside of a hair coat is it becomes a veritable dust mop, which means frequent trips to the groomer for a bath and haircut.

These dogs are still pretty rare in North America, so many groomers are not familiar with the breed standard. The Lagotto is a working dog, and the coat is supposed to look “rustic.” You don’t brush the coat; you finger-comb it into curls. If the hair isn’t too out of control, I can scissor-cut it into a neat trim.

So for the summer ‘do (which pretty much means shearing), I thought I would tackle clipping my dogs’ coat. I could save some money and stress on the animals, because they aren’t too keen on going to the groomer.

First step: the right tools.

I like to research ahead of my purchases — especially when I am not sure exactly what I need. From my own research, I’ve compiled this quick dog clipper buying guide.

Buying Guide

One quick search online, and the vast selection pops up with features, benefits and price ranges of available products.

Before purchasing clippers:

  • Regardless of brand, choose a clipper kit specially designed for your dog’s breed (or the breed closest to it).
  • Choose a unit that makes the least amount of noise.
  • Select a comfortable weight and grip.
  • If you prefer battery-operated, choose the longest battery life.

Two brands I recommend:

1. Andis

The Andis brand of pet clippers provides assorted options for blade sizes, voltage, amps and speeds. This company thinks of nearly everything, and even throws in a Euro plug with the deluxe 110-volt clipper kits. Andis proclaims to be the clipper choice of most veterinarians. Prices range from $150 to $300 for kits.

2. Oster

If Andis is the vet choice of clippers, Oster claims to be the industry standard for groomers. Oster, too, offers a wide variety of clippers. Their kits come with several adjustable blades, combs and instructional DVDs. Retail prices range from $60 to $200.

Beginner’s Guide to Using Dog Clippers

I have learned with all my pet ventures that the best start is planning.

Read about your dog’s breed standard. While you may not be interested in competing for “best in show,” these breed guidelines are written to indicate the appropriate grooming for your dog’s specific comfort, health and lifestyle.

Observe the professionals. Your vet, groomer, breeder or trainer will discuss certain details that will be important to your success in clipping your dog. They may even share some “tricks of the trade.” Watching a professional groomer work with your dog will prepare you for what to expect and help you overcome potential anxiety.

Before you use clippers on your dog:

  • Read the operating and safety instructions.
  • Practice holding the clippers in both the “off” and “on” position to determine your most comfortable grip
  • Acclimate your dog to the device (you and your pet will benefit if he is desensitized to the hum).
  • Bathe your dog.
  • Remove tangles and mats from his coat.
  • Make sure he is completely dry before clipping.
  • Prepare an environment that is safe and free from distractions.

Tips on How to Use Clippers

You’ve read the instructions, air-practiced your techniques, and the dog is clean and dry. You are ready!

  • Have all tools within your reach.
  • Use sharp blades — dull blades will tangle and pull.
  • Use the guide comb for a consistent cut and to keep from nicking the dog.
  • Use coolant to keep the blades from overheating and burning your pet.
  • Wipe excess coolant from the blades before touching the coat.
  • Check the blades frequently to make sure they aren’t overheating.
  • Switch blades if they get hot (you can cool the blades quickly on a metal surface or baking rack).
  • Do not use water to cool the blades.

When you begin clipping, work on an inconspicuous area first. Test your skill and your dog’s tolerance. Make slow, short cuts at first, then work up to a professional level as you (and your dog) adjust to the process.

For some more tips and tricks, watch this video:

YouTube player

How My Own First Experience Went

I bought clippers; read the instructions; watched videos; prepared my DIY “salon”; bathed, dried and detangled the dogs. Everything was at the ready.

I started with Luke, the male Lagotto (he is a bit less skittish). Luke was calm even with the slight noise of the clippers. As soon as I touched his leg with the clippers, he jumped — and so did I. Luke obviously had some kind of issue with his legs, so I decided to go to the tail. Same result.

I tried sneaking up on him. Coaxing, calming and holding the nape of his neck as the video instructed, I managed to get a few clean strokes down his back and sides. Feeling more confident, I tried his legs again. Same deal; he was simply not cooperating. I tried his face, and he freaked out — he pulled and jerked and tried to escape the vibrations, noise and me!

Hair was flying everywhere. I had more on me by now than Luke did! My hand ached from holding the clipper and trying to hold Luke. He became agitated, and I was frustrated. I finally took the scissors and tried to “even up” the cut. Luke looked like a disaster.

When my husband came home and saw the results of our day of grooming, he shook his head. He told me Luke looked like an unmade bed! He was right. The next day, I took both dogs to the groomer. In a few hours she had them looking great.

Lesson Learned

To maximize your strengths you must recognize your weaknesses.

I am not a trained dog groomer. In my opinion, the best clippers for my dogs are the ones in the hands of the experts. There is a reason groomers are members of a professional group of practitioners, and I salute them!