West Highland Terriers are great dogs, but they aren’t as trouble free as some breeds. One of the areas of ongoing expense is getting the little darlings clipped to maintain the unique Westie look.
I have no idea what it costs to have a Westie clipped by a top groomer in preparation for a show. That’s way out of my league. We have a good groomer here in Maple Ridge and she charges us $47 every time she makes Willow look great.
How often should you clip your Westie? That depends on a lot of things but a good estimate would have your little terrier dog at the groomers once every six weeks. Of course, that depends on the season and what your dogs lifestyle is. We let Willow get quite shaggy over the course of the winter, because she spends a lot of time outdoors. She always gets walked between five and ten kilometers a day. We managed to maintain that even during a winter on the west coast of Canada. When it rained she wore one of her Westie raincoats, but if there was nothing falling from the sky we often took her out without a coat, so she needed longer hair.
Anyway, if you have your dog professionally groomed every six weeks that comes to a fair chunk of change in the course of a year. At the rates we pay it comes out to about $450 per year.
Of course, you could simply say it is going to cost $1.20/day to keep your West Highland Terrier looking good and simply drop that much money in a mason jar every day. Nothing wrong with that. But if you’re a little more adventurous, want to learn a new skill and save money to boot, why not learn to clip your West Highland dog yourself? This is the course we’ve chosen and it wasn’t that hard to learn.
It will cost you some money, of course.
The first thing is to learn how to clip a Westie. The best way to do this would probably be get a pro to show you how its done. Mind you, a groomer might be reluctant to do this and lose the money they could make off you so it may not be the best course. If that option isn’t available to you you’ll have to fall back on a book or a dog grooming DVD. We managed to find a good DVD and it taught us everything we needed to know. That’s probably going to set you back around $25 dollars. We found ours on Ebay. Amazon has the same DVD for sale and the cost is about the same.
One of the best things about this DVD is that it has extra information about how to strip the anal glands and how to pluck the hair inside the ears. Many groomers don’t strip the anal glands and you should know how to do it yourself. Plucking the ears helps to keep them clean and prevent ear infections.
This is the big ticket item. You must have good clippers. The cheapies you can buy from most Pet Stores just don’t cut it. They get hot because they are underpowered and they break down in short order.
The clippers you need are two speed, professional clippers. The Andis brand is supposed to be the creme-de-la-creme of clippers. We wound up with the Oster brand, which is also very good. Amazon has both brands, and their prices are so cheap that I wish we had bought ours there. Unfortunately, we didn’t, and wound up paying almost double what we should have spent. That’s the way it goes when you want to get started NOW.
Whatever clipper you get, be sure and get a wide blade model and not the narrow. Wide blades are more forgiving and help you avoid unsightly gouges.
Besides the actual clippers, you need a couple of blades. The clippers come with a 10 blade. Thats the one you use for doing around the anus (the sanitary as its called) and around the eyes. In addition, you need a 7 blade. This is the work-horse blade used on the back and neck. Be sure you don’t get a skip-tooth blade. You just want a straight 7.
The DVD recommends a 40 blade as well. This is a surgical blade that takes everything right down to the skin. However, its only used to clip the feet around the pads. The blades at the place we bought ours cost $40 each so we decided not to get this blade and go with scissors instead.
This is another item that is really nice to have but not absolutely necessary. You’ll need to do some trimming and smoothing of the long hair around the face, the tail and the fringe. Curved blades simply make it easier to get a nice, natural curve in these areas. You can approximate this with straight scissors, but the curved ones give a much better result.
Watch the DVD. Watch it again and make notes. Then watch it again. Keep watching until you feel comfortable turning on the clippers and having at your dog.
It really isn’t that hard. The neck and the back are simply a straight shave with the 7 blade. The only thing you really need to learn that seems a bit tricky is scooping motion to taper and blend the different areas so you get a nice curve that follows the body. This is how you taper from the shaved back to the fringe on the sides. You use the same motion to scoop around the eyes and the sanitary with the 10 blade.
Finally, you trim the long hair with your curved scissors and shape the tail into a nice carrot shape.
So give it a go! Marilyn managed to get an acceptable clip on her first trial and she’ll just get better with time. We’ll probably be doing little touch ups every couple of weeks rather than go through the whole cycle of letting Willow get shaggy and then take her to the groomers. Once you have the equipment and a bit of experience its easy to keep your West Highland Terrier looking good.
Here’s a tip that’s worth its weight in gold. Its easy to change the blades on the clipper, but if you don’t know the trick its impossible. For some reason the blurb that came with the clippers didn’t explain this and it took hours of research on the net to figure it out. There’s a metal tongue in the head of the clipper that folds in and out. The blade slips onto that tongue when its folded out, then you simply snap the whole assembly back in place. This tongue is very stiff and the first time you put a blade on you’ll probably need to pry it up with a screwdriver. Once the blade is in place you simply use the blade as a handle to extend the tongue.
That’s pretty much all you need to know. Everything else comes from watching the DVD and having the courage to try it out.
So go ahead. Have fun. Save money.
Here are some links to Amazon where you can purchase this stuff. Full disclosure: these are affilliate links. If you buy from Amazon I will get a small portion of the purchase price.