Some things I whish someone would have told me about grooming a Cocker Spaniel


By Nancy Moore

When I brought my first Cocker Spaniel home in 1993, I had no idea what I had just started. I also had no idea how to groom a long haired dog. Determined to learn, I went out and bought a grooming book, some brushes, and a set of clippers,I thought I was good to go. I was so far off. The more I learned the better I got at it and the more I wish I would have had a place to turn to that explained things, so I could have done a better job much sooner. While I definitely do not claim to be a pro, I hope I can at least get you started, and give you a better start then I had. I'm sure there will be those that say "No, you shouldn't do it that way", everyone has their way of doing things, as it should be. Feel free to do or not do any or all of what I tell you.

Where to begin

I guess I would start at bathing. After all, you wouldn't start painting on a dirty canvas would you? The breeder you got your puppy from should have started your new puppy on baths, if they haven't you're going to have one squirmy puppy (You still might anyway). I give my puppies their first bath at around six weeks and then again at eight, when they are ready to go to their new families. This helps them get used to it and helps them feel more calm and secure in a bath it makes for a better time had by all participants.

These are a few things I am sure to have ready before I start a bath.

  1. A plastic apron.
  2. Shampoo and conditioner if using.
  3. At least two towels.
  4. A metal tooth comb.
  5. A sprayer or a cup.

If you have a plastic apron, Now would be the time to get it on. Otherwise, you will be needing the two towels on the list and a third one for yourself. You dont want to be trying to tie an apron on after you realize your getting wet, while trying to hold a wet squirming puppy in the sink or tub.

The Shampoo you use should be determined by the coat of the dog. If they scratch a lot, they may need a soothing oatmeal shampoo. Some shampoo is for white coats. Only you know the needs of your puppy.

I use conditioner to help me brush out mats or any stickers or debris that has been picked up by the coat. This dosen't usually happen to puppies because their hair is relatively short. However, as their hair grows out it tends to pick up every bush they run through, and some of the stuff they pick up is impossible to get out any other way. I put a good amount of conditioner on and use the metal tooth comb to comb out the stickers. A close tooth comb works best for this.

Cocker Spaniels are prone to ear infections due to floppy ears that don't let their ears get enough air. The last thing you want is to add to the problem by getting water inside of them. The way I prevent this is by putting my thumb over the ear canal and doing my best not to get the water even close. If a Cocker's ear leather isn't cleaned properly he will get extremally matted directly under the canal. Wash the ear leather until the rinse water comes out clean. A sprayer is useful for getting the underside of the dog and would be my tool of choice if I have it, if not, I use a cup to wet the hair and to rinse out shampoo and conditioner as quickly as possible. Now that you and your puppy are done with your baths, it's time for the towels. No the second one is not for you. I have found that one towel doesn't get the dog dry enough. before you take the dog out of the sink, squeeze as much water out of his feet and ears as you can. Then take the dog out of the sink and set it on the floor use the first towel and squeeze his ears and feet again moving the towel to a dry spot on each one. when you have squeezed as much out of the fur with the first towel, use the second towel to rub vigorously over their whole body until you feel you can't get any more water off. This is when I Wrap them in the driest towel and put him in his kennel while I gather the stuff for the second round.

A clean canvas

Now that we have a clean canvas the real work starts...the grooming. Here is a list of some of the tools that I use, that will make grooming much easier. I didn't always know what to use nor did I have all the tools that I have now, and I've found that I can't groom without. I gather these before I start. Above is a picture of all of these items.

  1. Blow-dryer
  2. Undercoat Rake
  3. Pin Brush
  4. Shedding Comb
  5. Long Tooth Matt Breaker
  6. Dog Nail Clippers

If you are using your home hair dryer be very careful to keep the dryer away from the dogs skin as it will burn him. Blow dry the dogs hair while brushing the direction you want the hair to lay. If you don't, you will have a little puff ball, or your dog will have hairs standing up in places it shouldn't, and sometimes those hairs wont go down again until the next bath.

When I get the dog as dry as I want him, I use my hands and go over the whole dog feeling for stickers or matts. Sometimes matts are hard to find even with your hands. The biggest problem area is right where the leg meets the body, but matts can form anywhere.

The biggest reason for matts is not getting the dead hair out. That's where the undercoat rake comes in. If you only comb with a pin brush you will only get the surface of the hair. Combing with an undercoat rake will pull the old dead stuff out from under the surface of the hair, clear to the skin.

If you find a matt you can use the long tooth matt breaker to comb through it. Be careful it's sharp, I found that out the hard way. I was just taking the hair off of the front of it and it cut me pretty good. The back is not sharp but the front is. It literally cuts through the matts, so if you need to take the hair off, do it from the back. After you cut through the matts use the pin brush or the comb to get the broken up matt lose from the rest of the hair and get all the matt out. Or, instead of one big matt you'll have a bunch of little ones. Don't be afraid to pull the dogs hair and get the matts out with your fingers, most of the matt is lose hair anyway.

Once you're sure you've gotten all the matts and possible stickers out, you can use the pin brush to separate and fluff the hair. Now, you'll need your clippers. Clip with a number 10 head, down the ears inside and out even with the bottom of the jaw. Make sure you do a good job clipping around the opening to the ear canal without letting any hair fall in the canal. Clip all the muzzle, making sure to get in the folds of the lips, down the bottom of the jaw and into the chest area, stop even with the top of the shoulder blade. Clip under the tail, making sure you trim the end. You now have a beautiful Cocker Spaniel....But wait your not quite done, dont forget the feet.

The Feat

I have had to take dogs to the vet a due to a fox tail working it's way in between the dogs toes, into the skin then up into the leg where it had to be surgically removed, if they were lucky enough to find it at all. Check between every toe! All the way up to the top of the crease. Clip any matts or stickers out from between the toes. Then, trim the hair on the feet so that no hair touches the ground. If the hair dosen't touch the ground that should help some in not picking up as many stickers.

You are now ready to clip the nails. The hardest part of clipping the nails is being sure where the quick is. If you cut the quick he will bleed, from what I've heard a lot. I have never done it so I don't know first hand. But I am prepared for it anyway, I have some quick clot, blood stopper it makes the blood clot which makes it stop bleeding. I usually play it safe and dont go near the quick if I can see it. If you're lucky enough to have a dog with white nails you can see the end of the quick, cut just above it. I have found that if you put the nail clippers flat across the pad you can usually cut the nails even with the pad and you will miss the quick. It is important that you cut his nails frequently because the longer you leave them without trimming them, the further up the nail the quick will grow. You should never be able to hear the dogs nails when he walks. That's not to say that my dogs nails are never too long. I would be lying if I said they weren't.

Keep it up

If you will brush your dog at least once a week that should be enough to keep the matts down and help you stay on top of any problems that should arise. If you keep it up, it will make both of your live much easier.