Clipping the underarms on some dogs can be very simple.
On other dogs, it can be a nightmare.
Especially on dogs that seem to have underarms that are bottomless pits.
Then add some matting to the equation, and clipping the underarm can be frustrating as all heck.
Have you ever lifted the dogs arm to clip the arm pit, you have a nice clear view, it's a quick, simple clip, you put the arm back down and....there's a bald spot?!
But, you only clipped the hair in the armpit, why is there a bald spot?
Because the skin moves and stretches as you lift the arm.
In Grooming School I was taught to shave every piece of hair out of the armpit, as close as I could get it.
I am sorry to say that in the early years, I sent quit a few dogs home with bald spots behind their front arms.
Boy, did it really show up on black dogs.
Again, it was hard to get out of that mentality that I had been taught, to shave those armpits close no matter what.
Now-a-days I only skim armpits.
Of course, there are times when a dog is very matted, or there are tight mats in the armpits, that I have to shave the armpit close.
No two armpits are the same.
Some are deep, some are shallow.
Some have tight skin, some have loose skin.
Even with her armpit covered with hair, her pink skin shows through already.
If I shaved her armpit the way I was taught in school, she would have a large, pink bald spot behind her arm once I was finished.
I do not lift the leg up and out.
I just lift the leg upward, and carefully twist the elbow towards me, just enough to expose the armpit.
I do this with short legged dogs also.
I use the #15 blade setting on my cordless to start skimming off the long hair in the armpits.
I like to only skim the top layer of hair off and leave the armpit fuzzy.
I use my thump to lightly pull the skin around the arm a little, to reach the hair that is in the deepest part of the armpit.
No bald spot.
This is the easiest side for me to clip, because I clip with my left hand.
When I turn the dog around, I have to clip the other armpit a whole different way.
Again, because I am left handed, I have to approach this front leg differently to clip it comfortably.
I approach this leg from the front of the leg.
I also use my thumb to stretch the skin around the elbow, and reach the hair in the armpit.
I do lift the leg up and out for this leg, but I only clip the top of the armpit, because the skin will go back down once I put the leg down.
If I clipped the hair in the lower part of the armpit while the arm was up, it would leave a bald spot once the arm went back down.
When I lift a leg up and out, I concentrate on clipping only the upper part of the armpit.
Good grief, did that make any sense?
I know what I am trying to say.
I just don't seem to be able to describe it.
I hope that the pictures do a better job than my writing does. :)
I will also pull the leg forward to get some stubborn hairs that I can't seem to reach any other way.
Don't cringe, but I also use my scissors to get hair that is still on the underarm webbing, that I don't want to use the blade on.
I really don't recommend using scissors on the armpits.
I only use my scissors when I have a very good dog on the table, and if I really think that I need to.
The armpit is cleaned out, but still a little fuzzy, and no bald spots.
Just the way I like it.
My main tip today is; don't ever blindly clip an armpit.
No matter how you have to lightly pull the skin, or lightly twist the leg, make sure that you can see everything that you are cutting at all times.
Also, when clipping out tight mats, stretch the skin as taunt as you can so that the skin is firm and not loose when you are trying to clip under the mat.
Whenever I have to shave very close under the arms, I let the owner know.
If there were mats, I show them the mats.
I also tell them that there is a slight possibility that the friction from the arm moving back and forth, when the dog walks, could cause clipper irritation.
As groomers, we understand why an armpit may have to be shaved close, but an owner needs an explanation.
Hopefully one they will understand. :)
I try to keep my explanations short and sweet, and to the point.
I also tell owners everything that I need to say before I bring their dog up to them.
Once they see their dog, they are not listening to a thing you say. :/
Lately, I have even taken pictures of things that I want to show the owner, and I take my digital camera up with me, and show them the pictures before I bring their dog up.
Most of the time, it is insane to even try to show an owner something on the dog when it is being picked up.
I hope that some of this was helpful.
Who knew armpits could be so frustrating?
Only a groomer could understand. :)
Happy Grooming, MFF