Yesterday I was talking about a possible lockdown – and today we woke up in one. The rules are simple, but they do mean that the grooming salons are closed leaving every cocker spaniel parent without appointments.
So I am going to share a few simple tips of looking after your cocker’s coat before you can finally make it back to your groomer.
Brush your dog every day. If you have a particularly fluffy cocker – do it twice a day. You need to use a medium slicker brush (the soft slicker will not brush the rich spaniel coat properly and a very tough one can damage the silky hair). Brush in the direction of hair growth, from the top of the head, down the neck and back all the way to the tail. Then brush the sides downwards paying particular attention to the skirt (the longer layers on the body) if your dog has it. Then brush the legs making sure the brush bristles get all the way through the layers. Brush each ear, both the outer and inner side moving the brush from the top of the head to the tip of the ear, then lift the ear up and brush around the base because that’s where the matts tend to form. If your dog has a long coat and you want to make sure all the knots and matts are brushed out, you can run a comb through the skirt and feathering, all the way from the roots to the tips.
Check inside of the ears daily. Clean them weekly with a cotton pad and a few drops of your usual ear cleaning solution.
If your dog is usually hand-stripped, you can let the hair grow for now and simply brush daily without using any other tools.
If your cocker is clipped, your safest option is to get a Coat King and use it to get the excess undercoat and keep the coat free from matts. You can use the Coat King all over the body and on legs. Remember to always run it in the direction of hair growth.
Bathing your cocker is not essential unless he rolls in something horrible or goes for a swim (which is not very likely considering we are mainly at home at the moment). What is vital for you to remember is to blow dry your spaniel’s coat whenever it is wet. This will prevent matts and even skin problems due to moisture getting trapped close to the skin. Use your own hair dryer and always blow in the direction if hair growth. You can brush the dog once the hair is almost or completely dry.
Keep an eye on dew claws. The other nails should be fine, especially if you do have that daily walk. Dew claws do need to be trimmed monthly. Use nail clippers with a guard and go slowly trimming about 1mm at most holding the clippers at 45 degree angle. If your dog has light nails, you can see the quick (the bunch of nerves and blood vessels inside the nail), so cut as far as you can from that part. If the nails are black, look at the back of the nail for the dry ridge that runs through the nail. You can cut 1mm of the part that does not have it – you should end up with a nail that has white’ish end with a black centre. If you cut too short and the nail starts to bleed, use a little paste made with white flour or corn starch and a few drops of water or have some styptic powder at the ready (but do not let the dog lick it!)
Little trims may need to be done around the ear canal, paws, around the bottom and, for the fluffy cockers, in the corners of the lips (the lip folds) You can use basic straight scissors, but if you feel nervous, get a pair of small ones with rounded ends.
Groom your dog in a table that is non-slippery (rubber bath matts are good for that). If your pup is nervous, get your other half to help you by holding him and feeding treats whilst you brush.
Take it slowly. First, introduce the dog to each tool (tool -> let dog sniff it -> treat -> “good boy”) and the surface (again, lots of treats and praise) before you even start grooming him. If he gets stressed out during the process, return to the area of the body where he is happy, then casually return to the “problem” area for a second or two, then back to the “happy” area. Eventually he will learn that everything is ok. Make sure that you are calm and relaxed because dogs can sense any tension and react to your emotions.
I have a full grooming routine and more tips in my book, Perfect cocker spaniel, so if you would like to learn everything beyond the basics, get a copy. And if you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll answer as soon as possible.
Image credit: Fred photographed by me