A well-groomed dog looks healthy and attractive, but many pet owners don’t know how to shave a dog. However, grooming is more than a way to keep your dog looking good. Regular grooming maintains dog health and is vitally important for long-haired breeds. If it’s hard to get to the groomer, it’s beyond your budget, or social restrictions prevent access to your regular groomer, you can shave your dog yourself.
Before you start, remember to take your time. Make sure your dog is well rested, fed and exercised, especially if he’s not used to shaving. You want to create an environment designed for your success and that of your dog.
How to Shave a Dog: A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Gather your dog’s grooming tools
Once you’ve started the grooming process, you don’t want to stop to find a comb or scissors. Prepare yourself by gathering your tools before taking the dog. You will need:
- Dog shampoo
- Hair dryer
- Brush and/or comb
Dog grooming clippers with a #10 blade (Human clippers overheat easily and can pull the dog’s hair.)
- Dog grooming scissors
- Leave alone
- Grooming table or table/counter
A few optional tools you may want are a short pair of scissors for the hair between the paw pads, curved scissors to create shape, and texture scissors if you’re feeling fancy.
2. Wash and dry the dog
Before you start shaving, your dog needs a thorough cleaning. Shampoo the dog with warm water and a mild dog shampoo to remove mud and dirt. A bath removes debris that can snag or clog clippers. It also makes hair brushing easier.
Take care around the eyes and ears. Use a towel to gently soak up the water and pat the dog dry. Use a hair dryer on the cool setting to completely dry the hair while gently brushing out the initial knots and knots.
3. Remove knots
Place your dog on the grooming table or counter. The dog should be about waist height. You may need to make some adjustments depending on your dog’s size. If the table has an arm, attach its leash to the arm to help hold the dog in place with its head up. The goal is to keep the dog at a comfortable height for you while giving you access to the angles needed for a good shave. Make sure the leash is not too tight and that you never leave your dog tied to the grooming table unattended.
Remove tangles and knots with a brush or comb, moving in the direction of hair growth. Pay particular attention to the legs and tail, where knots tend to form.
4. Cut the hair between the pads
After combing the body, comb the hair between the pads, moving the hair outward where it is more easily accessible. If you have a pair of small scissors, use them to cut these hairs just below the height of the pad. You can still cut this hair even if you don’t have small scissors, but you’ll have to be more careful.
It’s a sensitive area, so be gentle. Sharp scissors allow you not to pull the dog’s hair. However, keep an eye on the tip so you don’t nick the skin.
5. Cut around the rest of the paw
Place the leg on the table surface. If you are working with multiple pairs of scissors, you can use a larger pair to cut the hair around the sideburn, shaping the hair at the sideburn as you go. Cut off all four legs.
6. Shave the belly
It’s time for dog grooming clippers and a shave. Most groomers get the best results with a no. 10 blades. These blades leave hair about 1.5mm, which helps reduce bacteria on the skin compared to shorter blades.
If you don’t have a no. 10 blades, choose too long rather than too short.
Start at the back of the belly, leaving the rectal area for a bit later. Move forward from the belly, starting each stroke forward, moving backward in the direction of the hair growth.
The belly easily receives urine or feces, so it is important to prevent hair from growing too long. Feces can stick together, tangle hair, and potentially obstruct normal bowel movements. As a hair mat, it can also pull on the skin and trap bacteria that cause irritation or infection.
7. Shave the dog’s back and sides
Always moving in the direction of the hair, shave from the front of the back, near the neck, towards the tailbone. The hair grows from the back towards the tail, then begins to curve towards the belly. Follow this natural curve to keep the results even and attractive.
Do both sides of the body, continuing to follow the direction of hair growth and the curve of the dog’s body. Be very careful in areas of thin skin such as the armpits and the crease where the hind limbs meet the trunk. These areas can be easily nicked, especially in older dogs, so go slowly and carefully in these areas.
8. Shave the chest
Use the same method, following the direction of hair growth and the curve of the dog’s body, to shave the chest. Use your hand to gently lift the dog’s chin, so you can start at the top of the neck and work your way down the chest. Hair in this area can grow in different directions. Adjust the angle of the trimmer to continue shaving in the direction of hair growth.
9. The Tail
Comb the hair on the tail. Use scissors to trim tail hair, around the base of the tail and the rectal area. It is important to keep hair short so that feces do not accumulate.
Comb the hair on the head, removing knots around the eyes and over the ears. The ears and eyes are sensitive areas, so you will need to use scissors. Cut the hair around the eyes where the tears collect using small scissors if you have them. Try to keep the dog’s mouth closed while you trim around the mouth. Also lift the ears to trim the hair at the entrance to the ear. Again, be very careful trimming the hair around the ears and eyes. If your dog is easily excitable and exuberant, it may be best to leave these areas to a professional groomer.
One last word
Dog grooming takes time and patience on your part and that of the dog. Try to keep the experience positive for both of you. If either of you are struggling or frustrated, try another day. However, with a little practice, you will feel more comfortable and able to take care of your dog’s grooming needs on your own.