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Coat prep guide: What to do before you clip any dog

Before you use your clippers for the first time, read the manufacturer's operating instructions, included in the box. 

As well as the 4 steps to successful grooming below, which will get you started, there are also grooming schools in New Zealand who offer hands-on courses for home groomers to professionals.

The book Theory of 5 is a great resource also for not only how to achieve all the most popular trims, each with step-by-step photos and instructions, but also covers coat prep and how to use your clippers, blades and various grooming tools if you're less experienced - and of course there's also YouTube for how to groom tutorials.

Before you clip your dog...

STEP 1: Brush & Wash First 

Brush or comb out all tangles and knots that you can before bathing. Washing a knotted coat can otherwise make it much worse. Shampoo and rinse, condition, and rinse, to remove all sand, dirt, debris & any uninvited guests! Double-shampoo if needed.

STEP 2: Dry

The coat must be completely dry before clipping. Soak up excess water with a towel or pet chamois, then use a pet dryer to very quickly get your dog completely dry. Use the choosing and comparing dryer models guide.

STEP 3: Check for knots  

Remove any remaining tangles and knots before you clip. Run a brush through the coat first to find any missed knots (a line brushing technique is recommended). If you don't find any knots, next run a grooming comb through the coat to look for finer tangles. Removing tangles can be done with a comb, but removing knots is often best done with a slicker brush (with detangler spray on hand if needed).

Important: If a grooming comb cannot get through the coat without snagging, a blade or comb attachment are likely to get stuck also, even with the right clipper and a new, sharp blade. 

For knots or mats you can't remove

If there are badly knotted areas you can't remove using a brush, you can cut, rake or clip them out. Cutting them out needs a lot of care taken to avoid cutting the dog's skin. Blunt-end safety-tip scissors are recommended if you want to try this option. To rake out a mat, use a dematting rake to break the mat in to smaller sections to then remove. However the safest and kindest solution for a matted dog is often to clip the coat short. Put a short blade on your clippers and go under the knots / mats to remove them. Remember longer blades and comb attachments cannot cut through a knotted or matted coat, they have to go under, close to the skin.

Keep in mind a knotted / matted coat will dull or blunt a blade faster than a recently washed, knot-free coat.

A badly knotted or matted coat can cause discomfort and infection. If badly matted it's best to seek a professional's help as skin can get pulled up in to the knot and clipping must be done carefully to avoid injury to the dog. 

STEP 4: Clip!

If you followed those 3 steps, you're ready to clip. However if you haven't brushed, washed, dried and combed before clipping - you can still clip - but do expect your blade to become dull or blunt a lot faster. Good coat prep results in a smoother, easier clip and helps keep blades sharper much longer. If you're using a standard, full steel blade, you can get them sharpened rather than needing to buy a new one every time.

Before you use any blade, upskill yourself on correct blade care 

Remember to always oil your blade before every clip (even the very first use of a brand new blade), after you apply coolant, and oil again after cleaning the blade. Only stored an oiled blade. 

Important reminder about blades

Failure to wash, dry & comb out knots prior to clipping may prematurely blunt your blade, and the blade you get free with most clippers, is not covered by the clipper warranty. Please follow the advice above.

About your warranty

Most products we sell (including clippers), come with a 12 month warranty protecting against manufacturing defects or faults. We stand by the products we sell. If you're concerned a product bought from us may have a defect or fault, stop using it, and contact us right away. For more details about returns and warranty claims, search Returns in the Help section, otherwise get in touch and we'll assist.

Keep in mind a clipper's warranty doesn't cover blades, accessories or wear and tear. For corded clippers, take care not to damage your cord as this can be a common yet avoidable wear and tear part on any clipper. Corded clippers must be hung up securely by the metal hook provided on the clipper (if yours has one) - or laid down with the cord extended. Never bunch, wrap or fold the cord over/around the clipper, and never bend the cord where it connects to the clipper housing. Incorrect storage may result in internal damage to the cord which is not covered by warranty (however we may still be able to assist with a cord repair or replacement).

PS: Avoid the shampoo mistake

A common shampoo mistake (that matters more with longer coated, knot-prone dogs), is skipping conditioner. For a dog with a knot-prone coat, using conditioner in step 1 of coat prep will help close the cuticle after shampoo use, smoothing the hair, making it easier to brush, and less likely to tangle and knot.