Q. I want to short clip my two Australian Shepherds. Can you recommend a good pair of clippers for this? What’s the minimum number of blades I will need? They are a little skittish, so I think the quieter and more vibration-free, the better.
A. The Australian Shepherd is a double-coated breed whose dense undercoat varies according to the season. If you keep your Aussies well-brushed and get rid of that undercoat as it sheds, most profusely in the spring and fall, it really will not be necessary to give them a haircut. When the Australian Shepherd’s beautiful and colorful coat is kept free of matting and packing, it has “loft,” allowing air to circulate to keep the dog cool.
To maintain your Aussies in tip-top shape, brush them thoroughly once a week, one section at a time from the skin all the way out. Since you plan to groom them at home, by all means, invest in a grooming table to make the job easier on your back.
At the grooming salon, we use a slicker brush with curved wire bristles plus a wide-toothed stainless steel rake to remove that fine and fluffy undercoat. Another tool called the FURminator helps “card” the coat, pulling out great amounts of fuzz as you use it in the direction the hair grows.
Check your work with the rake or a stainless steel comb to make sure you have done a thorough job. When you are done, your brush should pick up little or no shed hair as you go through the coat.
If, on the other hand, you are determined to trim your two beauties, invest in professional-quality electric clipper. Some of the newer models are fairly quiet and won’t spook your skittish pals. Battery-powered rechargeable clippers will probably not be able to handle their thick and tough coats on a long-term basis.
Clip-on combs that attach to the clipper blades can cut through a thoroughly brushed coat like butter. Also called snap-on combs, they work best with a #30 blade and come in many sizes. Stainless steel combs are particularly effective. I recommend one that leaves the hair no shorter than one inch in length, so the dog still has some protection provided by his coat. I don’t recommend shaving Australian Shepherds down to the skin because sometimes the double coat does not grow back properly.
You will also need a #10 blade to clean between your dogs’ footpads, and #7f to trim their hocks and the pastern area behind the front paw. I recommend two of each size, so you would need a total of six blades.
And, remember: always clip in the direction the hair grows. To give your Aussies a nice finishing touch, remove the tufts on top of their feet with thinning shears and trim the front leg feathers a bit to match their spiffy short trims.