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Grooming: equipment, tools, cosmetics

In respect to grooming all dog breeds can be divided in to four groups. Dogs with hair subjected to clipping and stripping take the first place of complicity as considered to show preparation. These are Poodles, Terriers, Schnauzers and Cocker Spaniels. The next group that needs regular combing can be called a long-coated breeds and include a wide range of dogs from a tiny Pekingese to a massive Bobtail. The third group consists of short-coated dogs: Boxers, Dobermans and the like. Finally, the fourth group represents hairless dogs (Chinese Crested Dog, Peruvian Inca Orchid, Mexican Hairless Dog), that need no hair care in the absence of such. However owners of these dogs have the problem of skin care.

Don't be deluded by the idea that short-coated breeds don't need grooming. Recently my neighbors become worried about their Labrador Retriever who scratched himself all the time and rolled on his back outdoors, using crushed stone as a "rubber". It turned out that the dog's old undercoat had shed. When the loose hairs were removed by a certain device the dog stopped behave in the way that disturbed his owners.

So the majority of breeds need grooming. And grooming requires proper tools.


Combs are the main instrument to work the dog's coat. The general rule is that the tips of teeth should be blunt, otherwise you run the risk of injuring the dog's skin. The teeth should be longer than the hair. Teeth should be spaced in regard to the coat density. Anyway two combs are recommended: a wide one for "rough" working - combing of tangles and mats, the second - a fine one for the final working. It is thought that combs with the gap less than 5 mm are good for combing out of fleas, however if the coat is harsh and thick it can hardly be done. Though such comb allows to effectively pull out loose hair (this is the very tool that helped the Labrador mentioned above).

For dogs with soft and long coat use a PIN BRUSH. For short-coated breeds BRISTLE BRUSHES that look very like brushes for cleaning clothes are to be applied.

WIRE-PIN SLICKER BRUSH is a tool that is in great demand while working a long and soft coat. The main requirement for this type of brushes is the same as for combs: the pins should be blunt. Check this by touching pins with the back side of hand: pins must not scratch the skin. Choose a medium-sized slicker brush with the head 5 - 7 cm long. For a large dog take the bigger one, though too big brushes are not in handy and have no practical advantage. When you decide, what brush to purchase, make sure that the pins sit tight on the head - they should not be loose.

The next sort of combing tool is MATTING SPLITTER and is purposed as to its name.

At last, there are different kinds of BRUSHES to comb out loose hair of the coat and the undercoat. For this you may also use a RUBBER BRUSH and a special GLOVE (or a MITT).


For clipping you may take either human scissors or a special dog tool. This tool can be of two types: ordinary scissors (for clipping) and THINNING SHEARS. The latter has jagged blades and are assigned to thin hair and blend the levels of clipped area. By the way, you don't need to get a tool with a famous brand name. To get a tool that acts properly, i.e. trims well is more important. Domestic trademarks can also be of high-quality and yield to the more promoted ones only in the durability. But this is compensated by a lower price.

While purchasing scissors look at the gap between the blades. Move them together slowly: the blades should keep the contact all the time. When the scissors close, only the tips of blades adjoin to each other. The effort you apply to close the scissors should be steady: no jamming or jerks. The defect can be revealed also by hearing: when you close a good pair of scissors at a constant speed the sound stays even.

Owners of the dogs that need trimming should have at least three scissors: a thinning model, an ordinary pair with long blades and a pair with short blunt-pointed blades to work ears, pads, etc.


This tool is used to pull out hair in terriers and schnauzers. Its another function is removing of loose hair, though for this purpose some other tool with long pins would be more appropriate.

A home-made product gives no guarantee of good quality, therefore it is better to purchase a labeled equipment, among which very popular are "Aesculap", "Karlie" and "Trixie" stripping knifes and other hand equipment.

The main thing you must remember is that the tool should fit your dog's coat. A stripping knife that perfectly grips and strips a coarse and harsh coat may act poorly on a thin hair and cut off the weak coat.


No matter how we'd want to, human hair-clippers don't fit. So get a dog clipper. I should note Oster and Mozer among the most well-known producers of such goods.

Clippers are divided onto amateur and professional ones. The latter is more durable, works longer without overheat and is more expensive. A single professional clipper is used on dozens and hundreds of dogs a year, while an amateur one is applied to one or two coats and is alright during many years. As a rule, professional clippers are supplied with electric motor and reducer, whilst amateur clipper has a vibration gear. One more difference: professional clippers are usually multi-nozzle, while with amateur blades are fastened firmly. Some of the latter type are provided with a device that allows modifying the length of hair to be left on body up to 0.5 - 3 mm. To increase this range one may use a set of plastic nozzles with which up to 15 cm of hair can be left on skin.

Proper maintenance makes for the nozzles life time. If you don't have a special liquid, wipe nozzles with alcohol after work and lubricate with oil (e.g. for sewing-machine) before work. Choose a better quality oil.

At a show when the net is unreachable a battery clipper will come in handy. Some of them can work for several hours without recharge.

Sometimes one has to set aside an electric clipper in favor of hand instrument with those dogs that don't admit any buzz, for example, during clipping the ears. A hand clipper is preferable in case if the dog is dirty. On a muddy coat blades of electric clipper get blunt very quickly.

Even a home-made hand clipper may seem to be rather good, but the tool must be always tried on a dog's coat before applying. No need to take a dog with you - several bunches of hair would be enough.


Special tables for grooming the dog's coat represent the equipment for professional canine barbers. Such equipment are height-regulated, provided with certain devices to fix an animal, suspended sacks for trimmed hair, stands, shelves and boxes for grooming tools according to model complexity and price.

Non-professionals most likely do not need such device. Usually a table with a non-slippery surface meets their requirements. Cover the top with a medical cloth or a rubber mat, a smooth one is more desirable, since is cleaned easier. Fasten the covering to prevent the dog slipping together with the cloth.


From the position of biology nails are nothing but modified hair, therefore the name for a nail grooming instrument completely fits its sense.

There are two types of nail clippers at sale: of guillotine style and with sickle blades. Sometimes guillotine nail clippers fail to work properly on thick, rigid nails, therefore with large-sized dogs the second type is applied.

If you don't have a canine nail clipper, use manicure tweezers. If the nails are really strong, take pliers. But in this case you must consider that in contrast to tweezers, this tool may splinter the nail. Be careful.


Today you can find various kinds of canine cosmetics at a pet shop. Along with common shampoos there are special substances: medical preparations, shampoos against dandruff, stimulating hair growth, for flea control, toning, etc. Another group is dry shampoos necessary for cleaning puppies since for them washing is not recommended. Rinsers, conditioners, gels and sprays to style the coat are available. One can hardly name all kinds of canine cosmetics and listing of them can give the material for an individual article. If no "canine" cosmetics, you can use a "human" one, but don't overdo: it may damage the dog's coat.

Stripping and clipping sometimes cause skin irritations. For these cases have a cologne or a lotion at hand (for disinfection) and a cream, e.g. a baby cream or an "after shave" with vitamin E.


A thin leather glove (seams inside out are better) protects hands against corns. Stripping will be easier with rubber fingers (stripping knives can be supplied with such - the ordinary rubber fingers are not durable). A cut finger of a surgical or a technical glove may be a good substitute, make sure it fits your finger well.

Forceps may be useful too: with them you can clench hairs in the ear duct or locks in between toes. We would also recommend to add a nail-file to your toolbox to saw the edges of nails.

In conclusion, working with an electric clipper it is desirable to have a respirator or just a gauze bandage to protect your mouth and nose. Eye protectors will not be in vain too.

Translated by Tatiana Karpova (Moscow)
(MSU, Biology faculture, Dep. zoology and ecology).