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Grooming a Curly Coated Retriever

Keeping up the Curly coat for every day or hunting use is fairly simple: comb or brush the coat when the dog is shedding, usually twice a year, in spring and fall, and bathe him at that time as well. You may also choose to bathe him at other times as you see fit. A clean dog is a healthy, happy dog and the Curly-Coated Retriever benefits from frequent baths, at least three times a year. And from combing or brushing when he is heavily shedding.

From The Curly Coated Retriever

By Audrey Nicholls; Darelyn Curly Coated Retrievers

Trimming and Coat Preparation

Equipment: - Sharp scissors, thinning scissors, sponge, wide toothed comb.

The correct coated dog requires very little preparation, a light trim about once a month is sufficient to keep him in perfect shape, but many curlies need weekly preparation for show purposes.

Before moving onto descriptions of the necessary tasks in preparing your dog for the show ring it may be interesting to read a couple of quotations from almost ninety years ago.

One from the early twentieth century about the preparation of the curly coated retriever’s coat states "The use of curling irons continues…… the exuberance of superfluous curly showing off the offending ringlets. It is therefore very advisable for intending purchasers unless they know a vendor to be above such practices to examine a dog of this description thoroughly before they conclude a purchase or possible disappointment may be in store for them".

Then, L.P.C.Astley, writing in 1907 likened the curly’s coat to the close fitting tightly curled beautiful head of hair on the African people opining that this was the only
"true and proper one …. Of which every knot is solid and inseperable. A coat of this quality is not capable of improvement by any methods of grooming for the simple reason that its natural condition is itself perfect. The little locks should be so close together as to be impervious to water and all parts of the body should be evenly covered with them, including the tail and legs. A bad class of coat and one that readily yealds to the faker’s art is the thin open coat, which by careful manipulation can be greatly improved!"

Ears
Trim along the edge of the leather to give a neat outline. Cut the curls on the ears to make them short, especially the ones on the top of the ears, but not so short as to lose the curl.

Head
Trim the hair from underneath the ear towards the throat. This must be done at least a fortnight before a show so that the cut edge does not cause the dog to "Fly his ears". Some dogs do not have the desired flat hair on the top of the skull – a tendency for a top knot. If there are waves or curles here, trim them back with thinning scissors. Trim the curls to give a smooth line to the top of the head

Throat and Neck
Curlies do have a tendency to grow very long hair in this area. Just cut back to give a neat outline down the brisket.

Forelegs
Trim hair round elbow. Trim curls on the back of the legs to give a neat outline. Don’t cut too close unless you have a heavy boned dog.

Pasterns
Cut hair close to the skin to make a neat foot

Body
Trim curls to give a neat outline but do not cut too short

Hindquarters
Trim any long hair on legs. Cut hair on hocks very short. Some dogs do not grow surplus hair here.

Tail
Cut hair on underside of the tail fairly short. Trim curls on the rest of the tail but not too short – starting with the root and working toward the tip. Trim round the tip but not too close as this is the place that is often caught by wagging against sharp objects. The tail should be wide at the root and certainly not a "rat-tail".

Feet
Some curlies may grow hair between the toes – if they do, pull the hair upwards and cut downwards towards the nails. Push remaining hair back between the toes.

Show Preparation
I have heard of many different "secret" preparations that have been used on the coat – glycerin and Jeyes fluid, to name just two, but plain water, preferable rain water, is quite adequate.

If you are in a position that the dog can swim then this is the ideal way of wetting the coat. To keep in perfect show condition the coat needs to be thoroughly wet once a day. If the facilities for swimming are not available really soak the coat with water, with the aid of a sponge. After the dog has shaken the surplus water away, use the fingers to massage the coat in small circular movements – getting right down to the skin. All of the body, including the tail and the backs of the legs need this treatment. This will get rid of any dead hair. Pat the coat down with the flat of the hand. Any coat that is shaggy needs to be trimmed off. For a pet dog the above treatment can be done fortnightly.

A male often casts his coat once a year – a bitch after each season or false season. The easiest way to get rid of dead hair is to comb the coat out. Use a wide toothed comb (Not steel). Comb in small sections back towards the head. This is an ideal time to wash the coat with a good medicated shampoo. You can also comb out any dead coat while the shampoo is in the coat. Rinse the coat well. The Curly’s coat should be dull, but if you have a dog with a very dry coat, it will benefit from being soaked in coconut oil periodically. This treatment is particularly useful for the liver colored variety.

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Some of my personal grooming tips:

For a show coat dressing, I use the old stand by. A bottle of beer dumped in a bucket of water. Sponge, dump or spray over the coat. Let dry before ring time.

This is not only a good show dressing, but if you loose in the ring, you have 5 more beers to fall back on and console yourself! (actually, this is a coat dressing that was passed down by my mentor)

It may not help me out in the showering, but is sure gets interesting comments in the grooming area!


For every day or every week care, I use Avon Skin So Soft mixed half and half with water, put in a spray bottle and spritz on the coat.

This conditions, moisturizes, deodorizes. It also repels fleas, ticks and mosquitos.



Exert From Grooming & Preparation of the Curly-Coated Retriever for the Showring
Submitted by Sue Tokolics


Bathing – Curlies rarely require bathing, unless living indoors and leading outdoor lives as well. Frequent bathing deprives the coat of natural oils. I try to bathe my dogs 4-5 days before a show, suing a liquid shampoo as mentioned in the beginning. If close to the sea, very little can equal a swim in salt water just prior to the show to wash out dirt and grit and to harden the coat. The trick is making sure he doesn’t roll in the sand before you get him home. However, if you can’t get to the beach, shampooing is often necessary. DON’T rub your dog dry. Put him on a lead an dlet him shake most of the water off and then if necessary and you don’t have the energy to take a 1 or 2 mile walk, place a towel over his coat and pat it down hard to flatten the curly and absorb the moisture. Every day from then until the show I gently massage the coat in a circular motion with a wet hand or dampen the coat down with water and slap it in. Once again, a shower of rain does wonders. On the morning of the show a light coat of oil rubbed onto the hand and massaged onto the coat brings up a shine. Never overdo this or you’ll produce an oily greasy coat that looks terrible. I prefer to spray the coat with water about 10 minutes before judging to lift off the dust and show off the curl. Again – don’t overdo it, a fine mist of spray is all that is needed.

Trimming – Very little is required, but I’ll begin with the head. The ears should be trimmed to a neat outline, removing all hair protruding beyond the "leathers". The curls on the ears will become much curlier if kept short. Remove all the bulky curls and hair under the ears so they lie close to the head. The line of curls on the top of the skull can be tidied up by trimming and accentuation a neat line where the smooth hair begins.

Feet – Remove the hair between the toes and on the pasterns.

Tail – The tail should be covered in curls and taper to a point. Remove the excess straggly hair, always pointing the scissors towards the tip. Pull the hair on the underside of the tail down so it can be easily cut off. (Early show training will have helped you get your dog used to his tail being handled.)

Some dogs develop worn spots on the elbows. A little Vaseline will darken them and also help the hair to grow by keeping the skin sort.

If it is necessary to put a collar on your dog when free, I prefer a rolled leather collar as it doesn’t flatten the hair. I also prefer rope choker leads to chain ones for training as chain ones tend to pull the hair out.

Despite the length of this article, curlies are very easy to groom and prepare. It is important to remember that the diet requirements for all dogs vary as do various ways of preparations suit one dog better than another. Generally speaking, most curlies are best bathed a few days prior to a show, while others look best bathed the night before. On this aspect you are the best judge. When in doubt there are always others ready to offer assistance.





From Ms Viki Knowles, Blazeaway Kennels, Australia,

Originally published in the Curly Commentator

EQUIPMENT

Scissors - sharp round tipped
Steel comb
Nail Clippers
Stripping knife
Shampoo - Preferably liquid and for black curlies, special shampoo for black poodles. Leave lanolin in the coat and produce excellent results.
Vaseline
Coat Tonics or coat oils
Towels
Leads - Quite a variety available and these need to suit your dog. I prefer black for black curlies and brown for liver curlies so the outline of the dog isn't broken.

EARLY PREPARATION
Diet, exercise, and outdoor life play important roles in producing healthy dogs, with thick healthy coats. If dogs tend to be frizzy a couple of swims in the sea or river
do wonders as does a run in the rain. Diet can help improve a normally dry coat by supplements such as linseed oil, safflower oil. an egg or two a week, comme conditioning tablets or meat with higher fat content than lean beef. Don’t expect to raise your future champion on canned food, in a concrete floored (or dirt floored for that matter) pen. I'll tell you now you're wasting your time. On the other hand, if you are achieving desirable results on the diet you feed now - don't meddle.

Some curlies shed coat more severely than others. I've seen some go almost bald, while others coat changes are barely noticeable. When your curly does shed coat, then and only then you may need to take a comb or brush to it to remove the dead hair. A few weeks before showing it may pay to massage a little baby oil or linseed oil into the coat to restore luster and condition. Once a week should be sufficient, or before a swim.

Some curlies have a more open coat than others which is quite probably hereditary and little improvement can be made. I find curlies kenneled outdoors and swum in all seasons have a definite advantage over those that live in the comfort of central heating, the same as I find curlies kenneled outdoors and swum in all seasons are better specimens coat wise than those bred in warm tropical climates. Of course one always finds the exception.

I have read that poor coats can be improved by completely stripping it out and starting from scratch. I've never resorted to this so I can't comment 'for' or 'against'.

NAILS
Length of nails varies from dog to dog. Some curlies nails never require attention while others need regular attention and again I suggest you only trim nails when your dog needs it. Never take too much at any one time as you can easily cut the quick and this is quite painful and produces in the future a dog that resents the very sight of nail clippers. Plenty of exercise on hard surfaces should eliminate the need to clip nails.

TEETH
Right diet, raw bones and hard dog biscuits will keep teeth white and gums healthy. Stained teeth and poor gums usually reflect on diet, which will show itself on more than teeth.

BATHING
Curlies rarely require bathing, unless living indoors and leading outdoor lives as well. Frequent bathing deprives the coat of natural oils. I try to bath my dogs 4 to 5 days before a show, using a liquid shampoo as mentioned in the beginning. If close to the sea, very little can equal a swim in salt water just prior to the show to wash out the dirt and grit and harden the coat. The trick is making sure he doesn't roll in the sand before you get him home. However, if you can't get to the beach shampooing is often necessary. DON'T rub you dog dry. Put him on a lead and let him shale most of the water off and then if necessary, and you don't have the energy to take a 1 or 2 mile walk, place a towel over his coat and pat it down hard to flatten curl and absorb the moisture. Every day until the show I gently massage the coat in a circular motion with a wet hand or dampen the coat down with water and slap it in. Once again, shower of rain does wonders. On the morning of the show a light coat of oil rubbed onto the hand and massaged into the coat brings up a shine. Never overdo this or you'll produce an oily greasy coat that looks terrible. I prefer to spray the coat with water 10 minute before judging to lift off the dust and show off the curl. Again don't overdo it, a fine mist is all that is needed.

TRIMMING
Very little is required but I'll begin with the head. The ears should be trimmed to a neat outline, removing all hair protruding beyond the "leathers". The curls on the ears will become much curlier if kept short. Remove all the bulky curls and hair under the ears so they lie close to the head.

The line on top the skull can be tidied up by trimming and accentuating a neat line where the smooth hair begins. Some dogs lack a nice even line, even show a tendency to a 'top knot', which is quite undesirable. Use of a stripping knife will help to exaggerate the line and smooth the skull coat to give the desired effect.

In some dogs, especially puppies, you may need to tidy up uneven curls to give a smooth topline in profile.

Tail curls should be short and close and the tail tapers to a point. It is not a 'rat tail' and should not be shaved free of curl as it unbalances the dog's appearance.
Remove all underside curls and they gently fray out the curls and along the tail and trim to a clean sharp line, working towards the hindquarters.

Hindquarters should be trimmed to a neat line, removing any signs of shagginess.

Elbows and forelegs - remove the tufts on the elbows. Some curlies grow little or no feathering on the rear of their forelegs so they need no attention. Others grow up to an inch of coat so comb this hair out and trim it to a neat line. You can make good use of this coat to improve the appearance of bone, so don’t cut it flush unless your curly is heavy in bone. Some curlies develop worn spots on the elbows. A little Vaseline will darken them and also help the hair grow by keeping them soft.

Remove the hair between the toes. Trim nails short. A nice clean foot is desired. Trim clean and close on the pasterns to make the dog show himself to be up on his pads. From the hock to the paw, remove any feathering so you have a smooth close covering and a clean outline.

Underline - Remove any shagginess. Some curlies grow profuse coat here while others have a "smooth underline". Comb coat down and trim to an even line.

Throat and neck - Remove shagginess to give a clean outline. Stop at the brisket.

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If you let it, your curly's tail may grow a flag, or grow bushy hair. This is fine. You may or may not want to trim it.

Untrimmed tail, and same tail after just a few minutes work.

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Curlies that are shown in conformation are trimmed to neaten up the dog’s outline. The excess hair on the back of the front and rear legs, between the toes is removed or cut short.

Before and after trimming legs and feet.