Before You Start
First of all I think it`s important to understand how the coat grows and in which direction it wants to take. Then you will have some idea as to what to remove or not whichever the case may be. So with that in mind I have jotted down below how I achieve what I would call the Cocker Show Trim.
The Breed Standard does not say how and with what you achieve the end result but leaves it up to each individual`s own preference as to how this is best achieved. Everyone has his or her own techniques.
The Breed Standard under "Coat" states "Flat, silky in texture, never wiry or wavy, not to profuse and never curly. Well feathered forelegs, body and hind legs above hocks." You will not please everyone, it`s impossible, and you would be sticking hair back on for one and taking it off for another. Seek advice, yes, but make your own mind up as to how you wish your dog to look.
"Hand Stripping" is by far the best method to remove coat on the majority of the dog. How do I go about that? Well this is achieved by using thumb and finger or a combination of fingers, simple as that. However you could use rubber gloves (Marigold`s), post office rubber thimbles etc. or chalk. This will allow you to get some extra grip. If you are doing it correctly then your fingers will become sore. Take your time, and it`s not huge amounts at each pull we are aiming for.
Don`t worry if you leave a "bald" bit because they say it grows back in better. Try telling Kojak or Yul Brenner. Remember Rome was not built in a day, we are probably talking of hours and more than likely in the beginning days. The difficulty arises in knowing when to STOP. If after all that you still want to show your dog all I can say is - HAVE FUN.
Give the dog a thorough brush before you start, which includes the hidden bits. It`s a good idea to give yourself plenty of time and to finish the trimming at least 4/5 days before the show. This gives the coat time to settle down and any mishaps the opportunity to re-grow. Remember every dog has different pain thresholds, some areas are very sensitive and require care and patience and different techniques so as not to distress the dog and put them off.
Here are just a few items that are essential to have at hand before you start.
1. Good firm non-slip surface, Grooming table or rubber mat etc.
2. Sharp scissors.
3. Single sided thinning scissors, (This is my own preference, you may prefer Double sided)
4. A good sturdy hairdryer.
5. Chalk, I must stress this is NOT for the coat but for your fingers to gain a better grip.
the head is hand stripped but be careful not to overdo it. Remember the head is one of the first and last parts of the dog the judge looks at. Long hairs can be removed from between the eyes to give a defined stop.
Hair around the muzzle can be carefully hand stripped. Long whiskers and eyelashes can be trimmed with sharp scissors. This is mt own preference.
I know, what`s this have to do with trimming, I thought it should be mentioned, make sure they are clean. There is nothing worse than dirty teeth.
Using thinners, trim in a random motion, try not to concentrate on any one area to long. you could end up with an uneven finish or bald. The area that joins onto the front chest feathering should blend in as a continuation of the neck.
This is shaped with the scissors into a gentle curve. If you leave this part too long it flaps about and can be distracting to a judge who is trying to assess movement. Start taking a little of at a time.
the front legs are generally lightly hand stripped at the front. Try not to leave a line down the side. What I mean by that is a distinct "Line" giving the appearance of a seperate front and back portion. The hair should sweep around from the front to the back as one. The inside of the legs are shaped with the thinning scissors. Too much left on the inside, when moving, can obscure the movement. Likewise too much length left on the feathering has the same result. Add the two together and we have a lot of flapping hair.
If the feathering requires to be trimmed this is carried out by using the scissors. The thinners can remove bulk from the feathering. To achieve this you place the thinners beneath the outside feathering roughly half an inch from the leg, and then one cut at a time lightly thin. Remember and always brush any surplus hair out after every cut. This way you will not take too much out. It`s easy to take it off, but much harder to stick it back on again. Finally the shape from the foot os cut using scissors at an angle. This also cuts down on the hair flapping when walking.
For many the hardest bit to get right. Using scissors trim any hair at or near the pads. With the foot placed on the table cut the shape parallel around the foot using the scissors. Once you have achieved this lightly thin the top so as to have a slightly rounded finish. No hair should be removed from between the toes as this will give the wrong appearance.
As a rule the length of the ears should never need altered. However the ear requires to lie flat to the head so some trimming is required to achieve this. The tops of the ears require to blend into the head and ear and by using the thinners lightly you should achieve this.
Hand stripping is the answer. The coat prepared this way will always look at its very best. Carried out in any other way may make the coat difficult to manage in the future. Again try and not to concentrate on one spot as you inevitably end up with an uneven coat. Pick up the coat and pluck out the long hairs first. The areas that should be tackled in this way are behind the head, neck, along the back, down the sides a bit and finally finishing of at the tail.A lot of time and effort is required but it is worth it in the end.
10. Below the Tail
In this area we are looking for a flat, square finish achieved with the thinners. The feathering is shaped to form an inverted "V" shape.
11. Below the Hocks
We are looking to form a tube shape. Scissors or thinners will do the trick. Hold either the scissors or thinners straight up and down to the hockarea and take small amounts off at a time. Take to much off and you will be left with spindly hocks. Leave too much on and it interferes with movement.
Feathering on the back legs can be trimmed with scissors at an angle to show of the angulation. Tummy feathers if left too long can in certain circumstances make the dog look as if its lacking in height. See "Legs" for information on feathering.
I haven`t spoken about puppies. I think it`s important to take time and add some comments. This is quite an important time.
1. The puppy coat will come out when it is ready, roughly start at about 5 months. do not force it. It will come out when it is good and ready.
2. However leave it too long and you will be amazed at how quickly the puppy changes from being recognisable to un-recognisable. All you see is this mass of hair running around and trimming has suddenly become less fun and more of a problem.
3. Try not to be tempted to use any impliments such as thinners or in particular stripping knifes at this stage. Used the wrong way and instead of pulling out the hair they will as the name suggests it will cut the coat. I know there seems a lot of coat and you do not seem to see much improvement in all that time you have spent but there is a great risk you may permanently damage the coat if you use these items at this stage.
4. You may see with regular combing or brushing some hair coming out. Be Patient.
5. Most importantly only have the puppy on the table for short periods. You may put them off at this stage.
6. Remember he or she is only a puppy and judges will take this into account.
If the dog is dirty a bath will be the order of the day. This should be done 2 or 3 days before the show. There are several shampoos and conditioners available and is each individuals own preference as to which one is best for their dog.
1. Rinse of thoroughly.
2. After drying off excess water with the towel, comb or brush them through and finish off using a hairdryer brushing all the time in the direction the hair grows and how it would eventually lie.
3. the hocks are brushed and dried upwards first to give a more full appearance, then lightly downwards. Point to remember, not all dogs like the sound a hairdryer makes so be careful not to frighten the dog. One hand on the hairdryer and a gentle hand on the dog initially till you feel the dog is OK.
4. Once dried secure a dry towel around the dog and keep them in a warm area until completely dry. Ensure the coat is lying flat before you put on the towel or you may find when you remove the towel several sticky up bits. These are particularly hard to get flat again without some form of soaking at the very least. So hopefully, when the towel is removed ha presto a flat coat.
5. Give the coat a good brush the next day and tidy any bits that require trimming.
6. Try and not to trim the dog too much at this stage as the coat length can shrink by a quarter of an inch. It may not seem much but it could be the differencebetween being neat and too short.
7. Lastly don`t forget to trim long nails and check teeth for tartar.
It is worth getting someone to move the dog so as to see if there is any hair that sticks out which could cause distraction or give a wrong impression of movement.
Unfortunately I have only touched on the subject. With practice and after making plenty mistakes it should take less time as you progress. As I have said earlier, everyone has a different approach on how to achieve a good standard, this is mine.