The Clipper Game: Also known as the Decathlon of Dog Grooming


Andre before the Clipper Game

At least twice a year, I play a little game with my Brussels Griffon, Andre. It is really more of an endurance sport than a game, and is devised of several mandatory events, and a few optional penalty selections, that you can hopefully avoid. Some people try to offer the dog treats between events as a reward. I would strongly discourage this. Treats equal energy. The goal is for you to have this in abundance, not the dog.

Event One: Avoiding the first penalty starts the game off. You need to round up your supplies and prepare the game field without arousing suspicion of said dog. If you fail at this event, you’ll be forced into a delay of game while you chase him around the house, and heaven forbid—have to fish him out from under the bed. I suggest closing all doors to make the penalty round as short as possible.

Event Two:  AKA, the Marathon: This is the most difficult part of the game. The actual clipping. First of all, in your planning stages, I hope you located all supplies, and have them within easy grasp. If not, expect a few penalty rounds of Chase the Dog, and Fish the Dog from Under the Bed. Also, the actual equipment is important. Those clippers with the detachable comb things? Horrid. Interchangeable blades are the only way to go, but those clippers are on the pricier end of the spectrum.

I like to start with the areas both the dog and I hate the most. In Andre’s case, this is the paws. In between the toes? Nightmare. Trust me, much like an Olympic ice skater, you will appreciate having your triple axles and quad jumps out of the way in the first half of your program. Legs, belly, nose, and butt all use the short blade, so I get them out of the way first. Then it’s off to the races with the nice long back strokes. It’s a toss-up as to whether he really hates the face or the paws more, but since the face requires some scissor work, I save it for last. It’s always my hope he’s tired out enough by that stage of the game to give up.

Opportunities for penalty points during this stage of the game are plentiful. The bad news is that all penalty points are assessed against the clipper, not the clippee. Anything that involves blood—yours or the dog’s. Losing your grip on the dog, and having a delay of game while you once again play the Chase the Dog and Fish the Dog out from Under the Bed Game. It’s your own fault, you should have closed the door. Hair up the nose, or into the eyes. Expect at least one of those. The good news is there are only two ways you can lose this game, even with penalty points. One is if you forfeit, throw in the clippers, and cart the dog to the nearest dog groomer. The other is if blood penalties end up involving medical attention, be it emergency room or veterinary hospital.

I could go into great detail about each step of the clipper game, but suffice to say, this round was a challenge with my loss of vision and limited mobility. I still won, without any penalty rounds or blood points. Go me. While it is possible to earn style points, my give-a-shit meter was pretty low on this one. Give it a week or so, and all the blend lines I missed will have grown out enough that no one will notice.


Holy pile of dog hair!
You could make an entire second dog out of this.

Event Three: The nail care round. I prefer the Dremel tool method, myself, after a nearly disastrous episode with Andre lunging his paw forward as I squeezed the guillotine nail clipper. Unlike humans, dog toenails have a healthy blood and nerve supply. Cut too short, and you have a bloody mess, and a dog in pain. No bueno. Having styptic powder in your arsenal of tools is important to avert many kinds of blood penalty points.

Event Four: The dreaded B.A.T.H. I should note, Andre knows what this is even if I spell it out. Good news is that short hair is easier to bathe, and takes a lot less doggie shampoo and conditioner. After this event, I would suggest closing the dog into the bedroom that was off-limits earlier. Very important for the next round of the game. You want him out of the way for this one.

Event Five: Clean up the mess. It is everywhere. Trash bags for the inevitable hair pile, copious amounts of vacuuming, scrubbing the bathroom, and cleaning the Clipper Game equipment. I usually add laundry to this list, since I have to change clothes and vacuum the worst of the hair from them anyway. By the end of this, you’ve finished about half of your spring housecleaning, so there is a bonus prize—I guess?

Those dog treats I told you to avoid earlier? Once you’ve finished Event Five, you can reward the dog—if and when he decides to make his way out from under the bed. Expect it to take a while. Cuddle time is important, especially if there have been any blood penalty points. It probably benefits us as the clippers more than the clippees, but I do it anyway.

Now you can also reward yourself. Alcohol, chocolate, general anesthesia… whatever works best. Just think, you’ll have at least a good two or three months before you have to play the game again, and if you let your dog go au naturel during the winter, you might not have to think about it for six months—half a freaking year!

Yeah, I know I called this a decathlon and only listed five events, but I’m calculating for at least a couple of Chase the Dog/Fish the Dog out from Under the Bed/Blood Penalty occurrences, and the fun little after-game ruckus called Canine Revenge. If you survived without any of those, congratulations, you get bonus points, and a cookie. Canine Revenge round? I hope Andre’s digestive system can handle the full cup of Kefir I left for all of thirty seconds. Well played, Andre.

Andre after the Clipper Game
Andre’s opinion of the Clipper Game