Golden Retrievers are one of the most common breeds we see as professional groomers, but proper care of their coat is often undervalued. Many times these are seen as “easy” dogs that require a simple bath, blow–out and foot trim. This article will teach you how to turn your easy–money Goldens into head–turners with just a few additional steps. We will also go over how to remove the most undercoat possible—appeasing both yourself and the client.
Oftentimes, before we get to the dreaded “Will you shave my double–coated dog?” the client has asked for “shorter, shorter, shorter.” In our alternative job, as word sleuths, determining what clients actually mean, we can usually uncover that they want less hair in their homes. Instead of scissoring the outline shorter or trimming the top coat, think thinner, thinner, thinner and send them home with a dog that has had the undercoat removed thoroughly and properly. This is one of my favorite breeds to groom because a little goes a long way; the extra few minutes you invest have a huge impact on the total outcome!
The preparation of this coat consisted of a bath, raking out the loose undercoat while conditioned, and a thorough drying with a high–velocity dryer to blow the rest of the undercoat out. When drying a Golden, you want to lift the coat off the skin with the forced air, ensuring they are dried all the way through. Then, you can lay the coat back down with the dryer for a nice finish. This dog was also blow–dried with a heated dryer and a slicker brush to ensure she was free of loose undercoat before beginning this groom.
Fig 1) Starting directly behind the occiput, use an undercoat rake and rake through the neck, back and sides of the dog. This will remove undercoat that the force dryer was not able to blow out.
Fig 2) Continue with your undercoat rake and rake down the sides of the neck onto the shoulders. As you do this, make sure you support the skin by holding it taut above the area where you are raking.
Fig 3) One of the most common errors pet groomers make when grooming a Golden is on the pants area. Most of the time, groomers want to trim this to look like a rounded bloomer from pin bone to just above the hock. But what that shape does is create length on an already long dog. Instead, run your undercoat rake through the coat to thin out this area—from pin bone to just above the hock. This removes the bulky undercoat while preserving the natural shape and integrity of the pant.
Fig 4) Because this breed gets a “cat” foot, do not scoop between the pads when shaving this area. You want to leave a little support between the pads—if you don’t, the foot loses its cushioning and can flatten and spread out over time.
Fig 5) To begin trimming the foot, start with a straight line right across the front of the foot at the toenails.
Fig 6) The next two cuts should be a straight line on either side of the foot (outside and inside). These lines should be parallel—think of these first three cuts like you are beginning to make a box.
Fig 7) Using straight shears, trim the loose hair around the toenails, inside and out. This is very fine, detailed work, but has a great impact on the overall outcome of the foot. If necessary, use a slicker brush to brush the hair from side to side around the nails to get all of the “sticky–outies.”
Fig 8) Extend the “V” shape from the center of the paw pad out to reach the outside of the foot, just slightly. This step is crucial to separating the foot from the leg in the overall picture.
Fig 9) Once the detailed work of carving the toenails out is finished, use a slicker brush to brush the hair on top of the foot from the center out to one side, and cut everything outside the paw off. Then, repeat on the other side. These lines should be the same parallel lines you created in Fig 6.
Fig 10) Once the shape of your foot is set and all hair lying outside of your imaginary box is cut, use thinning shears to blend the bulk of the hair on the top of the foot off. You are barely trimming length and simply “suggesting” the direction the hair should lay. You want to leave as much height as possible on top of the foot to create a nice, arched appearance.
Fig 11) Gently blend the top of the foot into the sides and eventually wrap around into the bottom of the foot. Blend until all appears smooth.
Fig 12) An example of a finished foot.
Fig 13) Repeat the same steps on the back feet.
Fig 14) Once the back paws have been trimmed, comb everything on the pastern down and lightly blend across with thinning shears.
Fig 15) Comb the pastern straight out and very lightly thin a crescent moon shape from hock toward pastern. This is often an area that is trimmed too short, or too aggressively. Very light, subtle trimming on this area makes all the difference in the world on the final outcome.
Fig 16) An example of a trimmed pastern.
Fig 17) The front leg furnishings should be trimmed off the ground so as not to drag, but should be trimmed to as close to a 45 degree angle as possible. Beginning at the elbow, grab all of the leg coat between your index and middle fingers and glide down the hair until your fingertips are touching the back stopper pad and your fingers are at a 45 degree angle. Then, trim the hairs that fall between your fingers and the ground at that same angle.
Fig 18) Example of a trimmed leg.
The ears on Goldens are often the biggest “wow” factor for clients, when trimmed appropriately. Oftentimes, they are just left to grow, or just neatened up occasionally. Begin here with your Golden clients that “just want a bath” and ask if you can trim the ears.
Fig 19) To begin, hold the ear at the fold and use a straight shear to trim the excess hair off the back edge of the ear. Then, soften the line you just trimmed by using a thinning shear to blend.
Fig 20) Comb the hair on the outside of the ear leather up and out and use thinning shears to blend across the top of the ear. The top of the thinning shears should be further away from the ear than the bottom of the thinning shears, and your hand motion should be steady and work from front of the ear to back—this way you are blending the coat from top to bottom at the same time you are blending from front to back.
Fig 21) To add finishing touches to the ear, all of the hair should be combed forward and the front of the ear fringe can be lightly thinned, trimming more toward the tip of the ear than the top. You can round the peak of the ear with thinners as well.
Fig 22) Example of a finished ear.
Fig 23) To finish the body work, take a carding knife and thin out the areas that still have an abundance of coat. You can almost think about working a Golden’s coat in stages—each one more aggressive than the last. The first stage is the force dryer and slicker brush. Once that stops removing undercoat, the next stage is the undercoat rake. And, once that stops removing undercoat, you can move to a carding knife. You want to remove the undercoat until the top coat lays smoothly over it.
Fig 24) The area on the front of the shoulder blade, known as the return of upper arm, is often neglected on breeds like Golden Retrievers. But a quick carding of this area can make a huge difference in the overall transformation of the pet.
Fig 25) Using a carding knife on areas such as the outside of the rear legs removes a ton of dead fuzz. Most pet owners with Goldens just want them to not drop fuzz balls all over their house. Removing their undercoat properly and in the appropriate stages allows you to get more coat, and in turn send home a much less fuzzy dog. Taking the extra few minutes to card through a double–coated dog like a Golden is often all it takes to save them from a shave.
Fig 26) A pumice stone is also a great carding tool for Goldens. Here, it is being used on the head to remove extra fuzz.
Fig 27) The final touch is using thinners to clean up any small cowlicks on the face. This helps soften that sweet expression that this breed is known for. Whiskers can also be trimmed at the owner’s discretion.
I hope this article has brought you some valuable information, and showed you how you can take your Goldens from drab to fab in just a few additional steps. Taking the time to appropriately remove the undercoat instead of just taking orders and trimming the outline of this breed, or taking the extra few minutes to trim their ears to help capture that goofy Golden grin everyone loves, will help set your work apart. ✂️