At first glance, your dog groomer's clippers might seem just like the ones the barber uses for trimming your hair. A closer look shows differences, such as a different blade design to prevent pulling a pet's hair. Pet clippers have motors and blades designed to cut a variety of fur types. As a result, their price can be nearly 1.5 times as high as human hair clippers.
While humans have one type of hair on their heads -- known as terminal hair -- pets have several types on their bodies. Bristle is the durable layer of guard hairs that make up the exterior of a dog's coat, protecting an undercoat known as wool. Whiskers and other coarse long hairs on the face are another type of hair known as vibrissa. Some dogs such as Yorkshire terriers have hair similar to humans.
Pet clippers accommodate these different types of hair with variable-speed motors and interchangeable blades. High speeds up to 5,000 strokes per minute give a smooth sheen for finishing the cut. Lower speeds allow the groomer to work on tender areas such as face and feet while creating less heat and vibration.
A haircut with human clippers can take just a few minutes when executed by an experienced barber. The clippers are then shut off and cool down before the next customer takes the chair. Clipping a pet's entire body can be a much longer endeavor, so pet clippers are designed for longer use without overheating or getting hot in the groomer's hand. The motors have baffles to help reduce both vibration and sound. This not only reduces the fear factor for skittish dogs, but keeps the groomer's hand from tiring as easily.
Clipper blades for human hair have finer teeth. Many clippers come with a standard blade in size No. 000, which clips hair 0.2 millimeters -- 0.008 inches -- away from the scalp. Such a fine blade would get caught up in a pet's hair, pulling it. Many pet clippers come with a No. 10 blade, which leaves hair 1/16 inch from the pet's body. Both hair and pet clipper blades come in fine tooth or skip tooth varieties. For pets, skip tooth blades have wider teeth for cutting through mats without pulling the fur. Skip tooth blades for humans texturize the hair. Fine tooth blades leave a smooth texture on pets when finishing the coat and have the letter F after the blade size. Human clipper fine tooth blades do not have the letter F.
Grooming combs fit over the blade to deliver an even cut. Pet combs designed to cut from 1/16 inch to 2 inches are common in your groomer's clipper kit. Combs designed for human clippers generally are 1 inch or less.