This is a phrase that is thrown around about dog groomers sometimes. It is quite mis-leading and can really undermine our profession. As pet professionals we are often in the position of having to act in the best welfare interests of a dog, despite what an owner may ask for.
There are two reasons why I would clip a dog really short…actually 3 reasons;
- The owner has specifically requested it (and the coat is suitable)
- A vet has requested it on welfare or medical grounds
- A dog is significantly matted beyond what is realistic and humane to brush out
That third reason can be a tricky one. What is classed as “significant”? For me, if it takes me longer than 15 mins of brushing to get knots and mats out of a dogs coat…that is significant. Imagine having your hair brushed, or brushing your childrens hair, for 15 mins when its full of tugs, not washed, has bits of vegetation in it, possibly even food or feaces in it (yes, poo). No-one would enjoy that!
So, why should a dog go through it? The humane option is to clip the coat off under the mats and let the coat re-grow. If areas like the face, ears and tail can be saved then the dog can retain some aesthetic looks and its less of a shock for the owner. However, this isnt always possible. The face, ears and tail are often the most likely to become matted and are also the areas that most dogs will object to having brushed, especially if knots have already started forming.
So you can start to see where the problems begin.
Mats and tugs can form anywhere in the coat but are most common;
- Behind the ears
- On the ear leathers
- On and around the tail/bum
- On the legs/paws
- The face and beard
- Where a collar or harness sits
- Around joints or anywhere there is movement on the body
In other words…all the tricky bits to brush. Brushing at home between professional grooms is how a coat stays mat-free (I will do another post about effective brushing and so wont go into details here). We do understand though that life gets in the way and not everyone has the time or capability to spend time thoroughly brushing and combing out their dogs coat every day. But if you do want a dog with a long fluffy coat then that is what needs to happen.
“But my dog hates being brushed”
Yes, if a dog is being brushed after the mats have started to form, it will tug and they will indeed hate being brushed. Starting to get a dog used to brushing and combing as early as possible or as gradually as possible in some cases is the ideal way to get going. In the case of a dog who is already matted, getting a short haircut and starting again to grow the coat in is, more often than not, the best option for them.
There is a lot of thought, skill and technique that goes into shaving a dog short. Its not easy, takes time, can be stressful for an already uncomfortable dog and can be damaging to our blades and equipment. It risks catching the dogs skin; it risks irritating the dogs skin; we risk a social media backlash and being called “clipper happy” when all we have done is act in the best welfare interests of a particular dog.
Dogs do not feel embarrasment or shame. If they act differently after a shave-down it is likely because they feel totally different in their skin after having a heavy coat removed (think what its like after taking your hair down from wearing a tight ponytail for a long time) or they are picking up on the owners emotions on seeing them look different from what they did before.
From an owners point of view, learning what your dogs coat will need in terms of maintenance and doing thorough research before taking on a dog with a high maintenance coat is vital. Some breeders will say things like “dont get them groomed until they are 9 months old” but this is the worst possible advice. Instead, find a groomer who will introduce them gradually to the grooming process so that they dont end up matted and need to go through a short shave on their first ever visit to a salon. It is this kind of thing that fuels the stereotype of all groomers being “clipper happy”.
In the grand scheme of things though, given the choice between being labelled as “clipper happy” or putting a dog through an un-neccessary and potentially painful brush-out, I will choose clippers every time. Humanity before vanity!