About Us    Available Puppies    Breed Information    Puppy Request Form    Choosing A Puppy    Puppy Picture Gallery

Our Boys    Our Girls    FAQ'S    Grooming    Care    Training    Medical    References    Congratulations 


Pet Clip Instructions


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! 

Remember that 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. 

  1. 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).
  2. 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. 
  3. Keep 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.
  4. 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 the eye.
  5. 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.
  6. Check your blade temperature often to be sure you don't clipper burn the dog.
  7. 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 in there!
  8. 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. 
  9. Shave forward to the end of the chin, being sure to get up under the upper lip.
  10. 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 bleed profusely.
  11. Next, you will shave the top of the nose from the stop (between the eyes) forward to the end of the nose.
  12. 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 side.
  13. 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.
  14. Now 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.
  15. 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 ear canal.
  16. 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.
  17. 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. 
  18. 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 the head.
  19. 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. 
  20. Continue 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.)
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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. 
  24. 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. 
  25. 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. 
  26. 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 the tail.
  27. 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. 
  28. Check your blades again for heat build-up and spray, change or take a break if necessary.
  29. 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 with feces.
  30. 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.
  31. 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).
  32. 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.
  33. 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.
  34. 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.
  35. 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.
  36. 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 skirt.
  37. 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 #30.
  38. 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.
  39. 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.
  40. 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.
  41. After you get the pads cleaned out, your next step will be trimming the hair around your dog's feet. 
  42. If you haven't done so already, you will need to clip the dog's nails before you can finish trimming his feet. 
  43. 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. 
  44. 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. 
  45. 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 back down!
  46. 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.
  47. 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 trimmed.
  48. 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.
  49. When trimming around the feet, 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.
  50. 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 can't trim.
  51. 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 minutes.
  52. 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!
  53. 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 (the first 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 feathers!
  54. The next part of the grooming is the topknot.  ALL American Cockers should be left a topknot!  Bald headed Cockers are atrocious looking! 
  55. It takes 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.
  56. Keeping the topknot groomed regularly will help train it to lay correctly.
  57. 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. 
  58. 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! 
  59. 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 head.
  60. 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. 
  61. 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. 
  62. 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.
  63. 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 head. 

I hope these instructions have helped you accomplish a satisfactory grooming on your Cocker Spaniel.  Thanks and Good Luck with future groomings! 

Copyright Sandcastle Kennels 2004

For a PRINT PAGE of this article CLICK HERE.


If you have any questions or would like more information about our Cocker Spaniels,
E-MAIL ME.    Thanks,


Copyright Sandcastle Kennels 2004

Last revised: December 30, 2005