Remember to take
your time grooming. You can avoid mistakes by taking your time
and checking your "pattern" as you go. However, don't get
upset if you make a mistake. If you take off too much hair,
it'll grow back!
these are instructions for a PET clip, not a SHOW clip. While
most of the facial and foot grooming is similar to that of a show
dog, the back coat of a show dog is not shaved! It's
hand-scissored with thinning shears,
hand-stripped with a stripping knife or a combination of both.
Holding the dog's nose up
towards the ceiling, measure one finger
width above the breastbone. Place the clipper
at the measured spot above the breastbone
with a #10 blade attached (try a #8 1/2 for dogs
with sensitive skin). The blade should be flat against the skin with
the teeth pointing up. Shave the entire front of the
neck all the way across the chest going up (against the grain of hair growth).
To trim the sides of the neck
behind the ear, pull the ear up
out of the way on the side you're working on. Holding the dog's head and ear, shave DOWN the
sides of the neck/shoulder to a point almost
level with the shaved line of the chest.
the blade flat on the skin until almost down to
the shaved line at the chest. As you approach
the shave line at the chest, you need to slowly
"flip" the leading edge of the blade away from the body
to blend the shaved line into the longer
feathering that will be left on the sides.
With the ear still flipped backwards and held
out of the way, shave up the cheek (against the
grain) to a point just above the front of the
ear and even, or slightly above, the corner of
After cleaning the cheek, shave the muzzle
(against the grain) forward to the end of the
nose. To get the muzzle truly "clean" of
unwanted hair, you must stretch the skin of the
cheek and muzzle backwards and keep it pulled
tight as you shave against the grain with the
blade flat against the skin. This will probably
take several passes to get the area really even.
Check your blade temperature often to be sure
you don't clipper burn the dog.
Under the eye is a tricky area and one many dogs
don't appreciate having shaved. You must hold
the dog firmly and insist he behave himself. You
will need to pull the skin of the face tight
again to get all of the hair shaved from
underneath the eye. You can't use the entire
width of the blade in this area, so you will
only worry about keeping one edge of the blade
in contact with the dog's face.
Be sure to keep the blade pushed into the hair.
Even though this is a sensitive area, you can't
get the job done if you're timid about getting
Under the chin is another area where you'll need
to stretch the skin to get to all the hair you
need to clip. You're still trimming against the
grain and keeping the blade pushed into the skin
for a short, even clip.
Shave forward to the
end of the chin, being sure to get up under the
Cockers have a "pocket" in the lower lip that it
is very important for you to keep the hair
clipped out of. This area can be prone to
nasty, smelly infections if not kept clean.
The easiest way to get into this area with the
clippers is to insert your thumb into the corner
of the mouth and pull the lower lip backward
till taut as you
clip. Be sure not to catch the little nodules that
grow on the edge of the lip. These little skin
bumps can be difficult to avoid, and while the
dog won't die if you accidentally clip one, it
is painful for the dog and if cut, this area can
Next, you will shave the top of the nose
from the stop (between the eyes) forward to
the end of the nose.
Turning the clippers towards the dog, hold
the dog's nose firmly, slightly pull on the
skin at the end of the nose and using one
corner of the blade, trim towards the inside
corner of one eye in the area where the eye
drains. Repeat on the other
To finish out the grooming of your Cocker's
face, you will clean out the stop. To
do this, you will make an inverted
"V" between the eyes. In other words, you will
use the edge of your clipper blade to trim
slightly back into the space between the eyes
(at an angle) from each direction.
it's time trim the tops of the ears. Start
by trimming the outside ear leather from
approximately 1/3rd of the way down the ear
(including the long hair at the bottom of the
ear) up to the top of the head. This is about
1/2 of the length of the ear leather (the skin
of the ear). Be sure to keep a straight line
across the ear. This must be judged with the
ear hanging in a natural position, so check your
work as you go.
Trim the inside of the ear leather all around
the opening of the ear canal. Hold the ear up,
with your fingers behind the ear leather for
support and shave the same amount of ear
leather that you did on the other side of the
ear (about half of the leather). You will start
above the ear canal and shave down (against the
grain) to the ear canal and then all around the
Trim the back edge of the ear using your fingers
to support the ear leather so you get a nice
even trim. Do the same with the front edge of
the ear. When doing this, be careful not to
catch the ear leather between the teeth of the
clipper blade or you could cut the dog.
At this point you're going to tidy up the hair
around the top of the head. Starting on the
side of the face, trim UP to the corner of the
eye and around the sides of the skull about half
an inch above the top of the ear.
Shave UP the
back-skull from about half an inch down on the
neck to about half an inch above the curve of
the back of the skull. This will give you about
an inch wide total area of shaved skin that
falls between the top of the neck and the top of
Next you will shave the EDGE of the long
topknot hair from the sides and above so that
it's somewhat blended into your shaved area.
You do NOT want to shave the topknot, just trim
the long edge that hangs over the shaved area.
This will really save your scissoring hand when
it comes to finishing the topknot! Try to just
clip the long topknot hair that hangs over the
shaved edge. Don't apply pressure to the blade
or try to shave the area down to the skin. Just
skim the long hairs so that they blend in a
little more evenly around the edges.
trimming the excess topknot hair all the way around
the head. (This is where anyone wanting to show their dog
in conformation classes will need to stop.)
For pet owners, the next step is to shave the
dog's back. Shaving the back is an acceptable
clip for obedience, agility, or field trial dogs
and is almost always done on pets. You will still be using a #10 blade (switch to a
cool blade, use some Kool Lube or take a short
break to let your blade cool if hot). If you
don't like the completely shaved look of a #10
blade, you can try a #7F or #5F on your dog's
back. The longer blades (#7F & #5F) are
sometimes a good choice for dogs that have
really straight coat down their backs. Be sure
you get a "finish" blade though - #7F or #5F,
not a plain #7 or #5 blade.
To begin, start at the top of the neck and shave
straight down the dog's back.
You will shave about 3 blade widths straight
down the dog's back. Pull the skin slightly to
the side of the back bone on each side so you
aren't bumping over the ridges in the dog's
backbone as you clip. It also sometimes helps to
pull the neck skin forward as you clip through
the shoulder area.
As you work down the back and are ready to clip
down the sides of the back, you will need to
gradually turn your clippers towards the dog's
feathering until they are pointing down towards
the table as you come down the sides of the dog. You
don't make a straight clip sideways down the dog's
body (from shoulder to hip) or it will leave a
funny looking line that's impossible to blend.
As you shave from
the neck down to the height of the shave line of
the chest, you will "flip" the blade out from the
skin, just as you did when shaving the sides of
the neck. This will help blend the shaved area
into the feathering.
Up till now you've been working more from the
front of the dog. As you work your way down the
back, shift to a position that's more to the
rear of the dog and continue shaving and
blending the back/sides of the dog.
As you get to the rear of the dog, pull the skin
slightly forward and shave all the way down the
dog's back to (and slightly around) the base of
Now pick up the tail and hold by the
long hair on the end of the tail or by the end
of the tail itself if your dog won't stand
reasonable still. Shave the top and sides of
the tail from the base to the tip.
Check your blades again for heat build-up and
spray, change or take a break if necessary.
With a cool blade, holding the top-side of the
tip of the tail, shave the underneath of the
tail down to the rectum.
Still holding the tip of the tail, shave just to
the left, right and beneath the rectum, taking
off any long hair that might come in contact
Next, you need to shave the groin/belly area.
Start by picking the dog up by the front legs,
supporting his body and asking him to stand on
his rear legs.
Begin about the middle of the
belly (2-3 inches in front of the end of the
penis on male dogs), and shave down the belly
(to the vulva on female dogs).
As you shave down
through the flank area, be careful not to catch
the edges of loose skin where the leg joins the
belly. You must also take care not to catch the
dog's nipples or genitals as you shave down
through the belly.
To more easily clip up the inside of the back
legs and into the genital area, lift each rear
leg and shave from the inside of the thigh down
towards the belly and genitals. Be sure not to lift the leg too far and
don't let the dog yank the leg excessively while
you're holding it up.
To get all of the hair in the hollow between the
belly and leg, it may help to pull the skin
tight and hold it there as you shave the area.
In the summer, or just for convenience of
brushing and hygiene, you may choose to shave
out the "arm pits" and/or some
portion of the belly/chest hair. To
shave the armpits, pick up a front leg and
gently rotate the elbow out to stretch the
skin tight. If necessary, use your
fingers to pull the skin tight as it's easy
to clip skin folds in this area.
If you want to
strip the chest and belly, shave from the
armpits straight down in a line from the
elbow to the front of the rear leg, leaving
a narrow strip of long side coat as a false
The next job is to clean out the hair between
the pads of the feet. You can continue to use a
cool #10 blade or you can switch to a #15 or
While holding a foot backwards off of the
ground, you will need to "hook" the inside and
outside toenails of the foot, with the fingers
of one hand, pulling the two outside toenails
towards the front of the foot. This will help
spread the pads of the foot so that you can get
the clipper blade into the hair that grows
between the pads.
The hair between the pads can get very matted
and can catch small rocks, twigs, or other yard
trash that can injure your dog's foot. Matted
hair can also retain moisture between the pads
of the feet and this can lead to fungus or
bacterial infections of the skin. Due to these
health risks, it's important that you trim the
hair between the pads regularly.
You will probably have to try several positions
for holding the feet as, like many other parts
of your dog's grooming, this is not one where
he's likely to stand perfectly still. Do your
best to make him behave and don't reward a dog
that fights by stopping.
After you get the pads cleaned out, your next
step will be trimming the hair around your dog's
If you haven't done so already, you will
need to clip the dog's nails before you can
finish trimming his feet.
The first part of trimming the foot, is to trim
the hair around the bottom of the foot. Trim
all hair that hangs past the pads of the foot
when holding the foot backwards off the ground.
Trim the hair around the edges of the foot pads
very close. This will also include the long
hair that hangs down from between the toes.
It's important to make your dog behave during
this portion of the groom job, as it's quite
easy to catch the pad of the foot in the
scissors if he should fight you.
There's no wrong position for holding the foot
to get to long hair. Just remember not to take
too much off at a time when holding the foot off
of the table. The hair will lay differently when
the dog is standing on the foot and if you trim
too much while holding the foot up in the air,
it may look totally bald when you set the foot
Once the hair around the bottom of the foot is
trimmed back, you will set the foot back on the
table (work surface). Brush and comb the coat of
the leg and foot that you are working on, down
towards the foot. Slanting your scissors as
pictured in the slide show, trim around the
entire foot. Brush and comb the foot again and
scissor around once more.
Continue to the next foot and repeat the
procedure. Be sure you trim the hair around the
nails very close. This will go a long way
towards making your dog's feet look neatly
You will have to adjust the angle of
your scissors for each portion of the foot you
are trimming. You will also have to comb the foot down
again and again as you are working your
way around each foot.
When trimming around
be sure the dog is standing up square on the foot
you are working around. Use your grooming
arm and noose to keep his head elevated and
to keep him standing "up" on the front feet.
The key to learning how to trim feet is to trim
a little, comb the foot and trim again. Continue
trimming and combing and trimming again until
you're satisfied with the way each foot looks.
By going slowly and constantly checking your
pattern, you will soon learn what you can and
The most common mistake made when trimming the
feet is not combing the long hair out from
between the toes. If you don't pull this hair
out as you're trimming the foot, the dog will
have long hairs popping out from the toes as
soon as he gets down and runs around for 5
I prefer to keep my dogs feet trimmed close and
"tight". This helps keep the dog's feet cleaner
and dryer when they go outside. Thus my house
stays cleaner and dryer!
Another alternative for
neat freaks and dogs that have foot problems is
to do "poodle feet" when you groom. This means
shaving the foot (toes and all!) up to the ankle
joint in the leg just above the foot).
This keeps the dog from tracking in so much
dirt and the feet don't stay damp, but it
looks pretty silly on a Cocker that has leg
The next part of the grooming is the topknot.
ALL American Cockers should be left a topknot! Bald
headed Cockers are atrocious looking!
some work to get a topknot groomed right, but
the end results are well worth the time. For
starters, always brush and blow-dry the topknot
towards the back of the head.
topknot groomed regularly will help train it to
To begin, use your thinning shears to trim the
sides of the head even with the corner of the
eye. The hair at the corner of the eye should be
as short as possible.
Continue using the
thinning shears to trim unnecessary bulk out of
the topknot so that it will lay flat around the
skull. This is done by going around the back
of the topknot with the shears inserted from
back to front and thinning out excess hair.
Keep the shears
close to the skin. ONLY CUT ONCE IN EACH POSITION!
After you've gone around the
back of the topknot, brush out the cut hair and
touch up any areas that still seem thick. You cannot rush
blending a topknot as taking too much hair off
in one place will ruin the look of your Cocker's
After brushing the topknot again, use the
thinning shears from the front and top to blend the long
hair into the shaved area around the head. You
will want to trim excess length, bulk and
anything scraggly. This is NOT done with the
shears pushed into the topknot. You will go
around the topknot, skimming the edges off
the topknot until
you get the desired shape. This portion of the
trimming is done with the shears pointing in the
same direction as the hair.
Trim slowly until
the ends of the long hair are blended into
the shaved areas. You will trim, brush, trim,
brush until you get a smooth look.
One tip for
getting the correct shape is to trim with the
thinning shears at an angle that matches the
curve of the head so that the final
look will be a smooth, curved topknot that
blends into the shape of the head.
To achieve a
really pleasing look on your
Cocker's head, it's important that you get the
sides of the face, right at the corners of the
eyes, trimmed very close. Trimming the topknot
back so that it doesn't add width to the skull
will make your dog's head structure look more
correct, even if it's not actually all that
good. (Ideally, when you look at the dog from
the front, you would like to see that the skull
and the muzzle are the same width.)
In case you couldn't tell, I have a real fetish
about getting Cocker heads trimmed correctly. I
think grooming the head is the most important
part of the clip, so take your time and don't
rush unduly. When you're finished, the topknot
should not have anything "sticking out" and
should give a nice rounded appearance to the
I hope these instructions have helped you
accomplish a satisfactory grooming on your
Cocker Spaniel. Thanks and Good Luck with
Sandcastle Kennels 2004