The Cocker Spaniel is a breed that requires grooming to remain happy and healthy. The typical trim is designed with certain purposes in mind. Cockers vary in amount and type of coat but all will require brushing and trimming. The Cocker coat offers choices for the owner. A dog may be kept with the coat grown all the way to the floor, trimmed short like a greyhound or anywhere in between. If left long, there is a great deal of brushing involved. Either way, the dog should be trimmed every 4 to 6 weeks or even more often to maintain a look.
The following will describe the basics of a show trim. This can be adapted for any look desired by a pet owner. The show trim is very precise in its methods and appearance.
To keep a cocker healthy, the owner should brush and comb it regularly. Some tools that can be used are defined below. Use whatever works best for you.
Pin Brush- good to keep a dog detangled
pictured at right
Slicker Brush- good to get mats and tangles out.
Comb- good to maintain long hair and to get
tangles out, as well as to find those tangles that are left when you think your dog is all brushed out.
Mat splitter or mat comb- good to cut mats into smaller more manageable sections. It will shorten the hair where used.
Straight shears - used to trim long coat.
Curved shears- maybe used to aid in trimming feathered legs.
Thinning shears- used for blending the short hair into the long hair for a more natural look
Stripping blades- used to strip the back coat to leave a shiny flat look, by removing undercoat.
Bathing a dog is not as difficult as it often seems. Nearly any good pet shampoo will work well on a Cocker with healthy skin and coat. Wet the coat thoroughly, lather the shampoo through the hair (try not to rub against the grain as it can cause tangles), and most importantly, rinse the shampoo out completely. Using a good conditioner will help to prevent tangling. Also, brushing the dog's coat while it is drying will help to train the hair to hang straight.
The top 1/3 of the ear is kept trimmed short with clippers in order to maximize air flow to the ear canal. Trim both the inside and outside of the ear leather, thus increasing the overall health of the ear. The importance of keeping the ear hair trimmed is often overlooked by pet owners resulting in painful, chronic ear infections. The hair on the lower part of the ear is left long, although it can be trimmed some to keep it neat.
HEAD and NECK
The muzzle and underside of neck are also clipped using a #10 or #15 for similar reasons. If hair is left untrimmed in the lip area of the lower jaw, the Cocker can become prone to lip fold dermatitis (lip fold infection). Keeping the neck and thoat area trimmed decreases the likelihood of skin irritation in those areas.
Picture an invisible line between the outside corner of the eye and the top of the ear. Everything below that line should be trimmed short using a #10 or #15 blade. The backskull can also be trimmed with the clippers but is more pleasing when done with thinning shears. Keeping the face and ears trimmed aids in allowing the circulation of air to the ears and keeps hair out of the eyes, as well as giving a well-groomed appearance.
The feet are kept trimmed short between the pads to keep clean of debris and tangles. This can be done with either scissors or clippers. If tangles have developed, carefully trim them out. You may need help to get a young or uncooperative dog to hold perfectly still for this. Also remember to be patient and tolerant of their wiggling. After all, you are tickling to bottoms of their feet. Keeping the feet neat also aids in preventing your dog from tracking dirt and water into your house after going outdoors.
The back should be kept neat with the use of stripping blades. I like the Classic stripper which comes in coarse and fine. Some Cockers will have a "natural back" that does not require much stripping. After stripping the back, then use thinning shears to blend the hair smoothly from the back into the side coat. Ideally there should be no visable line between back and sides.
The tail should be treated as an extention of the back. The top should be stripped and the underside clipped or neatened with thinning shears.
LEGS and FEET (belling)
In the show Cocker, the belling of the feet and underskirt has become an art. The precision involved can take years to perfect. Start by brushing, brushing and more brushing. The legs and body must be completely free of tangles. Stand dog squarely on grooming table. Run a comb through all hair to get it to lay smoothly. Gently slide the back of your scissors down the side of the leg and rest them against the table and the dogs foot. The hair that is outside of the scissors should be cut. Only cut a small amount at a time. Continue around the foot and then on to the other three. You should now have the basic bell on the feet. Carefully continue to trim and neaten until desired look is reached. Remember to keep both sides evenly trimmed and to keep front and rear in balance. When the feet are finished, then neaten the underskirt to blend the front and back legs.