Long-haired dogs: to clip or not to clip

Long-haired dogs can look beautiful and luxurious, but maintaining their coat can feel like a full-time job. You may need to brush your dog's coat regularly to prevent the tangles and mats that can make your furry friend uncomfortable. And that's a regimen you must dedicate yourself to during your dog's lifespan. If you don't have the time or patience to keep your dog in full coat, you may want to opt for a shorter cut.

Deciding to clip

Some long-haired dogs, like Shih Tzus, usually get their first trim at three or four months of age, and then about every four to six weeks for the rest of their lives. You can choose to take your dog to a professional groomer or learn to clip him yourself.

Clipping your dog is easier than you might think, as long as you know how the dog should look. With Shih Tzus, for example, the standard cut is simply a one-length puppy look, easily accomplished with clippers.

Tips for do-it-yourself grooming
  • Watch a DVD on dog grooming or a professional groomer first to see how to achieve the proper cut for your dog’s breed. Put up pictures of the finished cut as a reference.
  • Use the proper numbered blade for the look you want (per the grooming tips in the DVD) and hold the clippers like a pencil. Press as lightly but firmly, as needed. Sweep the dog's coat with the clippers in an even motion. Leave really sensitive areas, like the anal region and face, for clippers.
  • Use positive reinforcement, verbal praise, and treats during every grooming session.
  • Remember that practice makes perfect. If you make a mistake at first, don't sweat it. In a few weeks, your dog's hair will grow back.
Doing your own grooming can save you money and may be less stressful for your dog. Over time, it can also become an activity you'll truly enjoy together.
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