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Dang, My Dog Looks Like a Stray Tumbleweed! How Do I Cut Its Hair?

Well, you can start by mentally preparing yourself for one of the most frustrating chores ever

Holy shit! I just saw a large hunk of balled-up shag carpet saunter across my living room! 

Oh phew, that was just my dog, Tucker, who, like me, has gone without professional grooming since the start of quarantine and now looks like a stray tumbleweed.

Clearly, I need to take matters into my own hands and give Tucker a proper snip. Seeing as many people — and more importantly, their dogs — are also in quasi-quarantine and probably without access to professional groomers, I invite you to come along with me as I run through the steps of grooming your pup at home. 

Tucker! C’mere!

Step #1: Analyze the Situation

No matter how eager you are to make your furry angel more handsome, you need to make a plan and do some research before diving into the cut. For one, I definitely suggest exploring the annals of YouTube, where you can find all sorts of insightful videos from professionals. However, while these videos usually dispense fantastic advice, some of the more expertly edited ones can lead you to believe that grooming your dog is easy peasy (which is absolutely not the case). Still, you might as well check out a few so you can at least see how the professionals get it done.

You should also consider your specific dog and their specific breed. Broadly speaking, short-haired dogs require a lot less work than long-haired dogs. In fact, if you have a short-haired dog, you can probably get away with only using a metal slicker brush — rather than actually trimming their hair with clippers — to prevent knots and matting, while brushing out any shedded fur lingering in their coat.

One last warning before we get started: I’ve been told by professional groomers that, while giving your dog a full-on shave might seem like a smart move during the hot summer, dogs — and especially furry dogs — actually need their thick coat for insulation and sun protection. So when you do finally pull out the clippers, use a longer guard than you might think you need.

Step #2: Prepare for War

Preparation is absolutely key when grooming your dog. For one, you need to choose where you want to perform the grooming: I recommend putting an old towel or bath mat in your bathtub to prevent your dog from slipping around (if you decide the bathroom is the place). Then, you need to secure your pup in place with some sort of leash to prevent them from jumping about and running away when you get to trimming (because they almost certainly will otherwise).

Next, you need some grooming tools. As an amatuer home groomer, you should never ever use scissors — even secured, your dog may be inclined to jump about, and using scissors is a good way for someone to get hurt. Instead, grab yourself a decent pair of electric clippers — the hairier your dog, the more you may want to spend, because high-quality clippers can make your job significantly easier (extra points if they’re quiet, which is less likely to startle your dog).

Step #3: Get to Trimming

This step is fairly straightforward: Again, use a somewhat lengthy guard to trim down most of their hair, keeping your dog calm with treats all the while (you could try this handy treat dispenser that suctions to the wall so you can keep your hands free). Then, when you run into any tricky areas — like around the ears, paws or butt — you can pop off the guard and switch to a #10 blade, which leaves approximately two millimeters of coat and is a relatively safe blade for shaving especially sensitive spots. Rather than getting all up in those areas, though, try to just carefully clip off any straggly, matted hair.

During this step, your biggest hurdle is probably going to be patience, both from you and your dog. Even for professional grooms, the average full cut can take an hour or longer, so expect to take some time doing this (and don’t get too down on yourself if the end result is less than amazing).

Step #4: Step Back and Examine What You’ve Done

By now, you’re probably sweating, frustrated and have a much greater appreciation for what professional groomers do. You may even be looking at your dog and thinking, What the hell have I done? But everyone needs a few trial runs, and as long as you avoid trying anything too fancy, you should be able to accomplish your goal of getting your dog cleaned up at least a little bit.

Now all that’s left is to give your pup a good wash, which, unfortunately, is a whole other mission.