If you purchase or already own a Cocker
Spaniel, there is probably going to be a certain amount of
grooming that you will have to do. This may include a
limited amount of brushing and bathing or may encompass more
extensive procedures such as hair clipping and nail trimming.
The only way for a Cocker owner to avoid grooming completely is to
set your Cocker up with a standing weekly appointment with a
professional groomer. Since most people are willing to
tackle some portion of their Cocker's grooming needs, let's figure
out what you will be facing and how you can handle this
Before you decide to embark on a career of
Cocker grooming, let me offer you the following words of wisdom:
Full-fledged dog grooming (brushing, bathing, clipping, trimming
nails, cleaning ears and teeth) is not for the weak-willed or
anyone that is not willing to "get down and dirty"! My point
here is not to discourage anyone from trying to do all of their
own grooming but to try to give you a realistic look at what doing
so entails. Grooming your dog can be a rewarding experience,
can save you a tremendous amount of money over the life of your
pet and is a way to spend additional time with your dog.
However, it takes a considerable commitment on your part to see
the job through.
The first point you need to
understand is that, at least initially, grooming your dog will be
a lot like dealing with a "terrible two toddler". They dog
isn't necessarily going to gently submit to bathing, having his
face shaved or getting his nails trimmed. But just like you
have to make your two year old human child take a bath, clean his
ears, shampoo his hair, trim his fingernails and behave in church,
you must teach your dog that he has to let you brush, bathe and
groom him. This takes time and effort. It
won't happen overnight and it won't happen at all if you don't
make a consistent effort to work with the dog.
your dog is the key to successful grooming. If your dog is
not trained properly, you will not be able to do a thorough
grooming job. Over time, this can create health problems for
your dog. Incomplete grooming can lead to skin and/or ear
infections if mats and tangles aren’t removed from the coat.
These same problems can occur if the dog's ears aren't properly
cleaned, if the dog is not cleaned all the way to the skin, all
over the body when bathed or if you fail to rinse all of the
shampoo when bathing. The dog can also develop foot problems
if you aren’t able to trim the dog’s nails so that they don’t
constantly impact the floor when the dog walks. As you can see,
if you decide to tackle your Cocker's grooming needs, you must be
prepared to learn how to do this job correctly.
you are looking to starting with your puppy's first bath or
clipping or are making your first attempt to do your older dog’s
grooming, remember that this is a job that takes lots and lots of
PATIENCE. You should also understand that you will
probably not do everything
correctly or quickly anytime in the near future. If you’re overly
concerned about your dog looking “perfect”, you may want to have
the breeder or a groomer help you “touch-up” the rough spots after
you do the grooming. I would also recommend having the breeder or
a professional groomer “set” the clipping pattern for you so that
you have a guide to follow when clipping the dog. If you have
decided to do this work yourself, try not to worry overly about
mistakes. The wonderful thing about hair is that it grows back!
Remember to remain calm and speak with an encouraging
voice. Every minute of time spent with your dog is a
learning experience, so you need to be sure that you are teaching
the dog to remain calm and relaxed and not to be frightened or to
become stressed or nervous during grooming sessions. To help
with this, keep your grooming sessions short for puppies and
do your best to not get frustrated or angry. It's extremely
important that you try to make every grooming experience as pleasant as
possible for your pet. You don’t want your best friend
(the dog) to run and hide under the bed every time you break out
the grooming equipment!
saying "Begin as you mean to go on" is a good philosophy to keep
in mind regarding your dog's grooming. Even though a puppy may not
have a significant amount of coat or require tremendous amounts of
grooming immediately, your puppy
require a significant
amount of grooming as he gets older. Working with your puppy
to teach him to allow you to handle his face, feet, toenails, ears
and teeth (from the moment he comes home) will help you teach him
to allow you to groom him without a fuss.
Start and maintain a regular
grooming schedule as soon as you bring your new puppy home.
Puppies should have received several baths and at least their
first haircut from the breeder, so your puppy should be reasonably
used to being handled by the time you take him home. During
your playtime with the puppy, take a few minutes to handle the
feet, face and ears. Use a soft slicker and/or comb to
lightly go over the puppy. Lift the lips and check the
teeth. Ask the puppy to let you hold a foot for a few
seconds while he holds still. Gently feel between the foot
pads and around the toenails. These exercises will
help get your puppy used to you handling him and will help him
learn to trust you. You can also do the same exercises
with an older dog so that he learns to submit to you handling him.
While grooming sessions should
not be unpleasant for you or your dog, remember that you have a
job to do and you are training your dog every time you interact
DO NOT let your dog
or puppy decide that he will not allow you to perform a portion of
what needs to be done to successfully groom him. It is not
acceptable to have to chase your dog around the grooming table to
brush him, shave his face or trim his nails!
No dog is going to think that
every part of grooming is fun or necessary, but you cannot allow your dog to make the
decisions about what will be done to him. You must
be in charge and the dog must defer to your
authority. This does not mean that you should resort to physical
punishment or that you should be inflexible, but it does mean that
you may have to be persistent and creative in devising ways to
accomplish what needs to done!
Don’t take a “do or
die” stance unless you absolutely have to do
so, but do make every effort to finish what you start. A little
secret to keep in mind is that working with confidence and
authority when you handle your dog will go a long way towards
convincing him that he must behave. If you act hesitant, do not
hold him firmly or if you speak in an apologetic way, your dog
will view this as weakness. If your dog perceives you as being
weak or afraid, he will
NOT submit to you!
Use a firm, encouraging voice
and a confident, strong grip when working on your dog. If
you are confident and authoritative, it will help your dog feel
more secure and this will allow him to let you take charge.
If your dog does the wrong thing, correct him with a firm “No!”
and do not baby him, love on him or say things like “Oh, I’m
sorry!” or “You poor baby!” Be sure to positively reward
good behavior by telling the dog "Good boy!" while he's holding
still and letting you work on him. It can also help to keep
your puppy calm if you just babble nonsense while you're working
on him. (I sound like an idiot in the kennel while I'm
grooming puppies as I keep up a one sided conversation with the
dog on the table!)
encourage your dog to play or allow your dog to
wiggle and squirm constantly during grooming sessions. For
puppies, you can take breaks to reward and play in-between
portions of his grooming, but while you’re working, do your best
to stay focused on getting the job done. Your dog is never
too young or too old to learn to stand or sit still when you ask
him to do so…….AS
you remember to be realistic about how long you can ask a dog to
stay in one position!
your dog, you must make a conscious effort to only reward correct
behavior. If your dog pulls away, growls, snaps or whines
about a certain part of his grooming, and you continually stop
what you're doing, the dog will "learn" that he can make you stop
and that he doesn't have to submit to your wishes or to being
groomed. That is not acceptable. While you don’t want
to traumatize a frightened dog or push an aggressive dog
into an outright knock-down-drag-out fight (as this could lead to
you being bitten), you also don’t want to encourage a stubborn,
uncooperative dog to think that you’ll give up if he resists or
makes a scene. This means you cannot quit working on the dog
just because he doesn’t like it.
If your dog begins to fight
while you're grooming him, you need to try to go back to the same
spot and work on that area until he quits fighting. If
he’s making a big fuss about a particular area, this may mean that
you just hold the clippers at or near the sensitive location until
he quits fighting; or it may mean that you actually proceed with
clipping the hair; or you may have to slowly work your way back to
the sensitive area. The point is to not stop working on the
dog until he has stopped fighting. You can’t let the
dog intimidate you into quitting or you might as well put your
grooming equipment away and call a professional groomer!
Remember that there is no
“right” way to accomplish the grooming of your dog. If you
know your dog has a problem with a specific aspect of his grooming
routine, try to go slowly when working on that portion of his
beauty treatment. You may need to do a portion of the work,
proceed to another area and then go back to finish the part that
he doesn’t like or that you are having a problem with. If
your dog is particularly sensitive about a certain area, you may
have to do this several times to finish that area. Or you
may need to take a break and let yourself and the dog relax before
proceeding. Or maybe you can try a different approach,
technique or a different type of equipment to see if there’s
another way to accomplish what you are trying to do. Be
extra gentle and supportive if your dog has a “sensitive” area,
but do insist on getting the job done.
Puppies may really put on a
show when you start grooming them and it may help the first few
times to have someone else available to help you hold the puppy
while you groom. Just remember that you are not “abusing”
the dog, no matter how much he may cry or whine or give you the
sad eye treatment! Regular grooming is essential to your
Cocker’s health and he must get used to having this done
regularly. Remember that problem behaviors can many times be
avoided by training and working with your puppy regularly from an
If your dog is not cooperating and refuses
to settle down and let you groom him, you should check to see that
there is nothing wrong with your equipment or grooming technique.
Clipper blades can heat rapidly (to the point they may burn the
dog) and dull blades can pull the hair instead of clipping it.
Either of these problems could make the dog uncomfortable and
could cause him to fight you. It’s also possible to scratch a
dog’s skin with a slicker brush, comb or rake if you apply too
much pressure or go over the same spot repeatedly. Health
issues (skin or ear infections, hip dysplasia, parasites) might be
causing the dog discomfort when you groom him and could lead to
your dog being uncooperative during grooming. Additionally,
burrs, splinters, stick-tites or other "trash" caught in the coat
can irritate or poke the dog during grooming and might explain
For problem dogs that just will
NOT let you work on a certain area, try to gain their trust by
working your way up to the sensitive procedure or area. In
other words, get as close as you can to your dog’s sensitive area
WITHOUT him fighting.
Reward and praise the dog. Quit for the day. Try again the next
day. Try to clip 2 more hairs today than you did yesterday.
Reward and praise the dog. Quit for the day. Continue in
this way until your dog will allow you to groom the area.
If all else fails and you
cannot get your dog groomed despite your best efforts, speak with
your veterinarian about getting a mild tranquilizer to calm the
dog during grooming sessions.
IS A LAST RESORT!
Giving medication, especially
sedatives, can be dangerous.
DO NOT use medication to
general guideline for clipping Cockers is every 2-4 weeks for
puppies under one year of age and every 4-8 weeks for adult
Cockers. The amount of time your dog can go between clips
will vary depending on how he is clipped, what type and length of
coat he has, the time of year (weather conditions), how much coat
care you do in-between clippings and it can also be influenced by
health issues such as skin and/or ear infections. How much time your dog spends outside and
where your dog spends time outside (at the lake, running through
fields) can also have a bearing on how long your dog can go
haircuts. For a
picture guide on clipping and other information on grooming your
Cocker Spaniel, check out my
you first start to do your own grooming, I would recommend
grooming weekly or every other week. This will help you
maintain your clipper pattern in the correct location as the dog
won't get overgrown and the pattern won't be as hard to follow.
This can also help train the dog's topknot, back and side coat to
lay flat. This will make grooming easier for you too.
Once you're more confident in what you're doing, you can go longer
between clips if you prefer.
often your Cocker must be bathed will depend on most of the same
factors as clipping. On average you should count on
completely brushing and bathing your Cocker about once a week.
Some indoor dogs that don't spend a lot of time outdoors may be
able to go longer than this, but most dogs will benefit from
weekly bathing. Obviously you may have to do an extra bath
now and then if you take your dog to the lake, hiking, if he gets
fleas or other parasites or if he decides to play outside in the
mud instead of coming right back in from doing his business!
For more specific information on how to bathe your dog, go to my
The decision on how often your
dog needs to be brushed will vary according to the same factors
listed above for clipping. You may have to brush the dog as
often as every day if he carries a full, heavy show coat and/or if
he spends a significant portion of time outside. If
the dog's coat is kept clipped short and he doesn't accumulate
debris or mats, you may only need to brush the dog when he is
bathed. If your dog is not extremely dirty or tangled you should brush
him before he is
bathed. If the dog is really dirty and/or tangled, you
should wait to brush him until after he is bathed and
conditioned. You can check out my
page for more information on brushing your Cocker.
ears and clipping nails must be included in a home grooming
routine. Ears should be cleaned weekly, generally as you're
finishing the bath, using a good drying powder or other drying
agent. You can get more information on ear problems,
treating and cleaning ears on my
page. I usually clip nails just prior to bathing.
More information on nail clipping can be found on my
With a little time and effort,
you and your dog will learn to get through your grooming sessions
with a minimum of fuss. While grooming may never be
anybody’s idea of fun, it is a way to spend time with your dog and
will help keep him happy and healthy in the long run. Doing
your dog’s grooming yourself can save you a lot of money over the
life of your pet and you’ll never have to worry about whether your
dog is treated well by a groomer.
Good luck to those of you brave
enough to tackle your dog’s grooming and for those of you that
can’t do it yourself, please be sure to carefully investigate the
location where you plan to have your dog groomed.