Spaniels in the Salon

By Brittney Valle

Oftentimes in the grooming salon we are faced with opting to clipper Spaniel coats for a multitude of reasons. In this month’s tutorial, I will offer suggestions on how to maintain the integrity of a Spaniel coat while honoring the client’s wishes for a shorter length of haircut.

My model for this article, Beau, is a Spaniel mix that has many admirers from all over. When we first started grooming him, he had a light colored, fuzzy coat all over (some know this as spay coat.) He has had a variety of hairstyles since then, but his owner loves that we were able to regain the deep, rich color on his body, no matter what hairstyle we try next!

To begin this groom, Beau has been bathed, force and fluff dried, nails ground, and had pads and sanitary area shaved.

Fig 1) Take a carding knife and lay it parallel with the skin. Pull the knife backwards toward the tail of the dog (or in the direction the hair grows). You will remove the undercoat in this manner across the whole body of the dog. I begin with a coarse carding knife and when that stops removing coat, I move to a fine carding knife.

Remember, follow the direction of coat growth and check the skin underneath for signs of redness or irritation often. It is also important to hold the skin taught as you move over the body of the dog and to keep your knife flat—this prevents you from cutting the coat.

Fig 2) This is a great example of how much undercoat can come out with carding alone. Not only does this technique help you achieve a richer color, more natural texture and appearance, but also aids in the removal of undercoat.

Fig 3) After carding out the back coat, now you can take length off of the body to the owner’s preference. Some might like it natural and some might like it a little on the shorter side. For Beau, I used a peach snap-on comb to achieve the desired length.

Fig 4) Clipper the entire body of the dog, stopping at the elbows on the front legs and at the bend of leg in the back.

Fig 5) I also like to leave his chest from point of shoulder on one side to point of shoulder on the other and up into a point just above the point of chest.

Because Beau has a bit of a saggy topline, I follow up the snap-on comb with a #4 blade on his rump to even out his back. I also take the #4 blade reverse on his belly, from the last rib forward between the front legs, to help lift his belly and make him look a little more proportionate.

Fig 6) I took a green snap-on comb over the chest to take length off.

Fig 7) To begin the bevel on a back foot, grab the hair from hock to foot at about a 45 degree angle and cut in the same direction. This helps lift the bevel while you are setting the length for the rest of the foot. Continue scissoring around the foot, holding your shears at a 45 degree angle from the table. When finished, you should have a nice tight bevel around the back foot.

Fig 8) Scissor the back leg from the rump to the bend of leg tightly to help show off the angulation in the hock and back leg. Blend off at the hock. From the rear, the back legs should be two parallel lines.

Fig 9) Once you get the back leg finished, you can connect it to the body of the dog by the tuck up. Beginning at the last rib, you can scissor (or thinning shear in the case of Beau’s coat) in a windshield wiper motion to blend the shortest part of the underline (the tuck up) to the long hair on the front of the back leg.

Fig 10) To begin the front foot and leg, cut a straight line across the front of the foot as close to the toenails as possible. I like to make this about a 45 degree angle as well to help lift and elevate the longer leg hair off the table but still allow you to have a nice rounded shape of the paw. Continue to scissor around the foot at the same angle while the foot is on the table. This allows you to have more control over the shape of the foot, as well as see the cuts as you are making them.

Fig 11) When you get to the back of the front foot, pick the foot up to finish the cut. Once you have achieved the desired shape on the front foot, you can soften the edges by using a thinning shear on the bevel.

Fig 12) Using a thinning shear, trim from the throat down the sides of the neck into the shoulder blade. This helps remove any clipper lines you might have, as well as achieve the natural Spaniel look, while making the shoulder muscles pop. When you reach the elbow, continue down to trim the front leg by blending at the elbow and creating parallel lines on your front legs, like you did on the rear legs. Figure 12 shows one leg finished with parallel lines and the other unfinished.

Continue on to the other side of the dog to create the same shape and balance. Be sure your legs are parallel to one another and your tuck up is in the same place on both sides of the dog (if you follow the ribs, it should be!)

Fig 13) To finish off the chest, comb all of the hair to one side and scissor to blend that side in. Comb the hair to the opposite side and scissor to blend. Then, comb the hair up and scissor the ends of the chest.

Fig 14) This should create a smooth, seamless transition from the shorter hair on the shoulders to the longer hair on the chest.

Fig 15) Since Beau is a Spaniel and he keeps a lengthy amount of coat on his ears and head, I like to clean out the openings of his ears with a #10 blade. This helps increase airflow and promote ear health. I also use a #10 blade in the corners of his lip or the “flew” area. This hair is usually darker, stained or appears longer than the rest.

Fig 16) To start the face, shave from the corner of the ear to the corner of the eye with a short blade. On Beau, I used a #5 blade reversed.

Fig 17) Once you get to the eye, pick up the clipper and drag the blade across the lip. This leaves more hair than leaving the blade flat but cleans up the longer stray hairs—this is what gives Spaniels those velvety kissable lips!

Fig 18) Finish the face by going over it with thinning shears to get any strays you might have missed with the clipper.

Since “man buns” are all the rage these days, Beau’s look is completed by pulling his head up into a pony or a bun. I have included two different styles he regularly leaves the salon with—a fancier “up–do” and a simple pony.

Fig 19) Then blend the back of the head.

Fig 20) Finish the groom by trimming the ears, and blending and flagging the tail.

You can also go back over the body with a carding knife when finished to remove any leftover clipper lines. I end by using a conditioning spray and a boar bristle brush to buff up the back coat.

Carding the back coat on pet Spaniels before and after clippering can help you achieve much richer color and a more natural texture on client dogs. ✂