Cocker Spaniels were originally bred as flushing dogs so their coat and trim are designed to aid them in field work. They have a natural back coat that should be carded to remove undercoat, and a natural flowing skirt that should be trimmed to neaten. They also have big, beautiful bevels that help them look like they are floating while on the move. Oftentimes, as pet groomers, we don’t get to maintain Cocker Spaniels as they should be, so it really is a treat when we get the option to work on a natural back coat.
You can use the techniques and tools below even if you have a client that gets a clippered back coat. You can also introduce the concept of bevels on a modified trim with shorter legs and underline. Groomers often discount the majesty of the Cocker Spaniel, as they have a reputation for being difficult as pets, so I hope you have the opportunity to meet some of the great ones because they truly are an amazing breed to work with.
Fig 1) Begin this groom by carding out the undercoat on the back of the dog. To do this, hold the skin with your free hand to keep it taut and ensure that your carding knife lays flat and pull toward you. Again, the carding knife should run parallel to the skin—this will help you avoid cutting the hair instead of carding it.
Fig 2) After the undercoat is carded out, use a stone to pull the extra top coat on the dog. This helps the back coat to lay flat and gives a smooth appearance. Removing the undercoat and pulling the longer topcoat will help promote growth and maintain the correct texture on the back.
Fig 3) Begin your clipper work by shaving the tops of the ears. A great guide for ears is the roll on the outside of the ear, where the ear leather stops folding out and lays flat, should be the lowest point of your shave line (this should also be around the jaw). Clip the inside and the outside of the ears to the same height. For this dog, I clipped the outside in a #9 reverse and the inside with a #30.
Fig 4) After the clipper work is finished, use shears to clean up the edges of the clipper work for a finished look.
Fig 5) Continue your clipper work by shaving the sides of the skull. The area that should be shaved is from eye corner to opening of the ear canal, level with the eye and down. I shaved this area with a #9 blade on this dog.
Fig 6) Next, clip the throat in an upward direction and shave the bottom of the chin and lip. This should also match up with the shaved portions of the cheek. I shaved this area with a #10 blade.
Fig 7) To ensure you get all of the hair from the flew, pull the lip backwards to stretch the skin and shave the bottom lip in reverse.
Fig 8) Cocker Spaniels should have a more pronounced stop in relation to their English counterpart. To achieve this look, make a small “V” with your clippers in between the eyes.
Fig 9) The lips of a Cocker Spaniel should be clipped clean, but have a “smooshy” appearance. To achieve this look, stand your blade up on its end and drag it forward on the muzzle. For this dog, I used a #7 blade.
Fig 10) Clip the back skull from right behind the tallest part of the dome down until it meets the neck.
Fig 11) Using a stone, card the top of the head and skull.
Fig 12) Finish the head by using thinning shears to blend the crown into the shaved back skull.
Fig 13) Finish your clipper work by shaving from the corner of the ear down to the point of the shoulder. For this dog, I used a #10 blade.
Fig 14) Use thinning shears to blend the shaved portion of the neck into the natural, carded neck and shoulder. On a clippered pet dog, this is when you could begin clipperwork on the back coat.
Fig 15) Begin your bevels by holding your shears at a 45–degree angle to set the length. I prefer to start on the back bevels because it is easier to set that angle and then continue around to the front of the foot.
Fig 16) Continue scissoring around the side of the rear foot. To achieve a nice, stacked bevel, you want to start with your shears flat on the table and then ease the angle up as you go.
Fig 17) Begin your front bevels on the front of the foot. You will use the same methodology as the back bevel by beginning with your shear flat on the table and then ease that angle up gradually.
Fig 18) Finish this groom by scissoring your underline. This should match the angle of your bevels, and the transition from bevel to underline should flow seamlessly, no matter how much coat the dog has.
Fig 19) Lastly, blend the underline into the front of the back leg.
If you are seeking more in–depth knowledge of the breed, I recommend finding a local breeder or handler that would be willing to mentor you. This is a beautiful, oftentimes misunderstood breed and it truly is a joy when we are able to showcase them to the best of our abilities. ✂️