Guide: Choosing the right clippers to match your dog's coat type

Different clipper brands use different terms, but in general there are 4 clipper levels > light use, medium duty, heavy duty and super duty. To choose the right level of clipper for your dog, you need to match them to your dog's coat type and condition, and the areas of the body you want to clip. This guide helps you work out which level of clipper you need.

Areas of the body

The difference between trimming and clipping

Trimmers and clippers are not the same. Trimming means to tidy up areas of the body that tend to naturally be shorter and thinner, such as keeping fur between paw pads trimmed short, the inside of the ears, fur around the face such as the eyebrows and around the mouth, the genitals and for some coats, the abdomen and armpits (depending on how thick the coat is in those areas). Those are all areas you'd use a trimmer for.

When a dog is young, they start out with a puppy coat, which is typically lighter, thinner and shorter than their adult coat will be (depending on their breed). Their adult coat may not start to come through until they are 3 to 9 months old. Until they start to get their adult coat, most trimmers can handle full body clipping for the easy, thin puppy coat. When their adult coat comes through, you will likely need to upgrade to a full clipper to match their coat type.

Clippers can be used for clipping the entire body, including all the areas above that you can use a trimmer for. However not all clippers can do all coat types, so always read the clipper or trimmer description to check before you buy. In general, trimmers are cordless, and tend to be smaller, lighter and quieter than clippers. Clippers can be corded or cordless.

Coat type and condition 

For full body clipping, a clipper that is under-rated for your dog's coat type or condition, may 'chew' or 'grab' instead of cut the coat, even with a brand new, sharp blade. Here's what the different levels are rated for...

Note: The following is general advice. Always check the product description for the exact model you're looking at buying to check it matches your needs.

Light Use Clippers

You can use light-use clippers for both trimming and full-body clipping for most breeds of puppies due to their lighter, thinner coat, at least until their adult coat comes through. Depending on the breed, a puppy typically gets their adult coat from 3 months to 9 months of age. 

For adult coats, light use clippers are normally rated for trimming only, so it's important to know the different between trimming and full body clipping. They are not the same. Some light-use clippers can be used for adult dogs for full body clipping, however that is usually only for thinner, lighter-weight, knot-free, shedding coats. In general, light use clippers are normally not rated for full body clipping for most adult dogs. 

LIGHT USE MODELS: Two light use examples include the Wahl Lithium Pet Pro Cordless Clipper and Wahl Show Pro.

Medium Duty Clippers 

Entry-level or home-use clippers tend to be described as either 'light to medium' or 'medium to heavy duty' (not many will just say 'medium duty').   

Light to medium rated clippers can be used for trimming all breeds and coat types, or for full body clipping for all breeds of puppies (before they get their adult coat). Most clippers at this level are also rated for full body clipping for adult dogs provided the dog has a lighter, thinner coat.

Medium to heavy duty clippers can be used for all breeds of puppies for both trimming and for full body clipping. They can also be used for most adult dogs with a light to medium thickness coat.

If you're unsure what type of coat your dog has, it's often best to upgrade to a heavy duty or super duty clipper rated for all coat types (especially if your dog's coat is prone to knots). 

Medium duty models: A few examples include the Andis EBC, Wahl KMSS, Codos CP-9200, Andis Pulse Li5, Wahl Creativa and Wahl Arco.

There is a difference between 'light to medium' and 'medium to heavy' duty, so even though they are listed above, always check the product description matches your dog's coat type, condition, and the area of the body you intend to use it for, before you buy. Keep in mind suppliers tend to upgrade or change models over time, so always buy based on the product description, not just based on the information in this guide.

TIP: A heavy or super duty clipper is recommended for dogs with thick, double, mixed texture, non-shed, wool, fleece, wire or knot-prone coats.

Heavy Duty Clippers

Heavy duty rated clippers are for both trimming and full body clipping for most coat types, including all puppies (before they get their adult coat), and for most adult dogs. Exceptions might include 'difficult' coats, such as double coats, very thick or dense coats, non-shed, wool, fleece, wire, and mixed texture coats (such as a softer undercoat combined with a longer, coarser top-coat). For those coat types - especially if knotted or matted - upgrading to a super duty model is recommended. 

Heavy duty models: Some example models include the Andis AGC*, Wahl KM2, and Andis EBC 2. 

*Note: The Andis AGC comes in 2 levels. The black Andis AGC Brushless 2 Speed is a high-rated heavy duty model. It is rated 'heavy to super duty' so can cope with more than a typical heavy duty rated clipper like the Wahl KM2. The pink, green and blue AGC models are different colours in the same model, all called an Andis AGC Super 2 Speed. Those 3 AGC models are full super duty rated models. Just look for the colours, or the word Super in the name. 

Super Duty Clippers

Welcome to the top. A super duty rated clipper can be used for trimming and full-body clipping, for every age, every breed, and every coat type, for puppies and adult dogs, as well as full-body clipping for horses and cats. Some at this level also come with the newer tech brushless motors. Super duty clippers are rated for thick coats, non-shed, double, wool, fleece, wire, spaniel and mixed texture coats, as well as lighter, thinner, and everything in between! Even badly knotted or matted. 

Super duty models: Andis AGC Brushless Super 2 Speed, Andis Excel 5 Speed, Wahl KM5, Wahl KM10, Andis Pulse ZR II (cordless), Andis Excel 2 Speed, Heiniger Saphir (corded and cordless models), Wahl KM Cordless, Andis Endurance. 

Breed Examples

We have full length breed guides in the Help section for the most often clipped breeds, which go in to detail about corded and cordless clippers, trimmers, blade sizes, comb attachments, shampoo, brushes and more to match each breed's coat type. These are a selection of breeds below with more specific or difficult coat types, where the wrong level of clipper could cause avoidable issues.

PUPPIES > Almost every breed of puppy starts off with a lighter, thinner, easy care coat. Until they get their adult coat, you can use light to medium duty rated clippers, or even trimmers, for trimming & full body clipping. 

SHIH TZU > Their thick, double, mixed texture coat is hair, not fur, low or typically non-shed, and very prone to knots. Kept short the coat will knot less. A super duty clipper is recommended. Read the Shih Tzu Clippers & Grooming Guide for more detail.

'OODLE'S >: Labradoodle, Spoodle, Cavoodle and other Poodle crosses may have a hair, straight, fleece or wool coat. A non-shed fleece or wool coat is typically thick, from loose waves to tight spiral curls, and knot-prone - so a super duty clipper is recommended. For the hair or straight coat - whether similar to a spaniel coat, or a wiry, wispy, mixed texture coat - a heavy duty clipper is recommended. Read the 'Oodle Clippers & Grooming Guide for more detail.

SCHNAUZERS > The Schnauzer's thick, mixed texture, double coat with soft, dense undercoat and wiry, coarser top coat, ideally needs super duty rated clippers, however you can also thin the coat first using a de-shedding rake (like the Andis Original Deshedder) to remove that soft undercoat, and use heavy duty clippers instead. If knotted or matted, super duty is recommended. Read the Schnauzer Clippers & Grooming Guide for more detail.

POODLES > With their tightly curled, thick, dense, coarser, single-layer coat; a Poodle's wool coat needs a super duty rated clipper, especially if knotted or matted.

MALTESE > With hair instead of fur, and no undercoat, their extra fine fur can be very prone to knotting. Coat texture can vary within the breed, from wavy, soft and cottony, to a lay-flat, straight, silky, super-fine coat. Some have mixed textures, such as a straighter coat around the head and shoulders, and curlier coat over their back or legs. The coat sits between heavy duty and super duty, so both levels should cope fine, however if the coat is knotted or matted, upgrade to super duty (or remove knots before using a heavy duty rated clipper). Read the Maltese Clippers & Grooming Guide for more detail.

WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIER > the Westie's thick, double coat with harsher top coat and softer under coat needs at last a heavy duty rated clipper, ideally super duty depending on coat condition and prep. This coat ideally needs dead, stuck coat removed before clipping or it can clog the blade or comb attachments. Read the Westie Clippers & Grooming Guide for more detail. 

LHASA APSO > The correct texture of the Lhasa coat is heavy, straight, hard, and dense. Definitely a candidate for a heavy duty or super duty clipper depending on coat condition. If your coat prep is excellent you can go for a higher rated heavy duty, otherwise we'd recommend an upgrade to super duty.

Coat caveat: Even within pure breeds, the coat can vary. If in doubt, or if badly knotted or matted, always upgrade to super duty.