Dog Grooming: Electric Clippers

Our expert helps a West Highland Terrier owner choose the right clippers to trim her dog.

Q: What are the best electric clippers to use on a West Highland Terrier? We would like to groom our two dogs.

A: The clipper I like best these days is the Oster Golden A-5 2-Speed model manufactured for professional groomers and designed to handle everything from general purpose grooming to precision clipping on any coat type. It’s fairly quiet so it won’t spook nervous dogs on the grooming table. Priced at around $135, it comes with a #10 blade and can be used with sixteen different interchangeable blade sizes as well as a full array of snap-on combs when a longer coat length is desired. 

I must add that most groomers are passionate about the clippers they prefer and many may disagree with my recommendation. For everyday use, some favor the Andis Excel 5 Speed Clipper, praising its easy maintenance, requiring no oiling of interior parts and quiet non-vibrating motor, said to cut down on arm fatigue. Using lower speeds for cooler running and shaving sensitive areas, the higher speeds are designed for finishing and heavier coat work. They cost around $200.

Your WAHL fans favor the Arco Cordless Clipper, weighing only ten ounces and featuring a blade that adjusts to five cutting positions. Most users like to keep two battery packs on hand so one is always fully charged and ready for use. It comes with four snap-on combs and goes for about $160.

I recommend a professional quality clipper because I am familiar with them and have found that many pet clipping sets sold for home use don’t measure up for performance and dependability. That said, if you take up home grooming of a pet that requiring clipper trimming, you will need to find a sharpening service so you can keep your blades in good cutting condition. Most groomers send their scissors and blades out to be sharpened but they probably would not want the responsibility of doing that for other folks. 

While show people hand strip their West Highland Terriers, it sounds like you want to a basic clipper trim on your two little guys so the blades you need would probably be the #4f, #5f, #7f for the body and #10 for clipping the top 1/3 of the ear to give those tips a nice sharp look. We also scoop out the footpads with a close-cutting blade like this. It might be helpful to buy a couple of each blade size you use most often so if one is out getting sharpened, you’ll have a spare to use.

When grooming the Westie, remember the visual effect you want to achieve is compact and neatly tailored. A good grooming job will show off this dog’s sturdy body and musculature. Today’s clip accentuates the head, left full and round like a dandelion gone to seed, those trademark shoe button black eyes and nose standing out in the center of the dog’s face. The body pattern lines should be well-blended, an effect achieved by lightly rolling the clipper off the throat, shoulders, ribcage and rump to seamlessly blend the clipped area to the longer feathering left on the chest, undercarriage and leg furnishings, which may be trimmed according to the owner’s preference. The jaunty tail should look like an inverted carrot.

To see how a correctly groomed Westie looks, consider having yours professionally groomed and following the pattern used by one experienced with this adorable breed. You might also consider purchasing a video on how to groom this popular short-legged terrier from a master groomer like Certified Master Pet Stylist Melissa Verplank, President and Director of The Paragon School of Jenison, MI, who has developed some grooming DVD’s available on her website, which features an interactive online store.

Originating from the rough and ready terrier stock of Scotland, white whelps were culled from colored pups to form two distinct breeds, the West Highland White and the Cairn Terriers. They may look like cute little stuffed toys but Westies are terriers through and through- feisty, playful, alert, ready to bark at unknown people and chase backyard critters. Delightfully full of themselves, unless you are looking for a lapdog or a couch potato, they make great family pets.

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Dogs · Grooming