Cocker spaniels are wonderful dogs that make loving and loyal family pets. They also are very attractive dogs. Anyone who has watched a dog show has no doubt marveled at a cocker spaniel’s coat, especially the silky, flowing fringe of fur that sweeps across the floor as he prances around the ring. Maintaining this kind of coat, however, requires a lot of work to stay beautiful. In addition to regular brushing, a cocker’s coat must be clipped often. If performed by a professional groomer, this can become quite expensive, particularly if you have more than one dog. People who show their cocker spaniels in the ring likely would not consider anything but the services of a professional groomer. However, people who keep cocker spaniels simply as family pets could benefit by learning to clip a cocker spaniel’s coat.
Begin by choosing a good clipper set specifically made for dogs. Hair clippers for people usually aren’t powerful enough to handle the thick hair of a cocker spaniel. Make sure the clipper set includes three sizes of combs, which attach to the blade and adjust the closeness of the cut. The set should have a comb with short teeth that are spaced closely together for clipping close to the skin around the head and ears, a medium comb for most of the body, and a longer comb with wide teeth for the long hair on the legs. You also will need a regular comb and a hair-cutting scissors. In addition, you will need clipper oil. During the clip process, the clipper blade must oiled frequently. Do not use regular household oil. If the clipper becomes hot during the clip, take a break and let it cool down. Your dog will probably appreciate a break partway through the process anyway.
Prepare an area for clipping your dog. This should be a table that your can stand beside comfortably while working on your dog. Put an old sheet or tablecloth over the table to catch most of the fur that will fall during the clipping process. You might want to wear a smock to keep the fur off yourself, too. Clipping tends to get messy, so you will want the table to be located in an area that can be easily swept up. It should be a quiet area away from distractions that might upset or irritate your dog. If you choose to clip your dog outside, make sure it is in an enclosed area. You will be taking off your dog’s collar and identification tags, and if he should decide to jump from the table and run, it could be a disaster. Although a well-behaved cocker will tolerate clipping, most don’t seem to particularly enjoy it. And some dogs, particularly those who have a skittish personality, are downright terrified of their first few clips.
For this reason, you should always let your dog get used to the clipper. Before turning it on, lay it on the table and let him sniff it and otherwise check it out. Then pick it up, and holding it several feet away from the dog, turn it on. The noise might startle him, so make sure you keep a calm air about you so that he knows there is nothing to fear. Bring the clipper toward him again and let him sniff it. Now, he will notice the vibrations. When he is comfortable with this, put your hand holding the clippers on your dog’s side and let him feel the vibrations on his skin. Now, you should be able to proceed with the clip.
Your cocker’s fur should be clean and dry. Comb out any tangles and use a scissors to clip off burrs and any large clumps of matted hair. Be very careful not to clip his skin.. Then, put the medium-sized comb on the clipper and run the clipper along his back and upper sides. Cut from his neck area to behind his tail. Go slowly and let the clipper do the work. Do not push it faster than it can cut.
Using the longest comb, run the clipper in a downward motion from his upper to lower sides, trying to blend in the cut line that separates the medium and long hair. As you cut the lower sides, you will be clipping off some of the fringe. If losing the long, sweeping fringe is concern, clip only a very short distance down his sides. Still using the long comb, clip the fur on his legs and tops of his paws. Use a scissors to clip a neat circular line around the paw fur that touches the ground and along the bottom of the fringe.
Use the medium and long combs to clip his chest in the same fashion as his sides – shorter near the neck and longer as the fur nears the bottom of his body.
Now, switch to the shortest comb and clip the fur on the back of his head and face. (Because dogs are more sensitive to the noise and sound of the clipper when it is around their head, this area should be done after the dog is comfortable with being clipped. Do not start with this area.) Closely clip the fur on his ears, but only about halfway down. On the lower half of his ears, use the medium or long comb, depending upon how long and floppy you want his ears to appear. For the long hair that hangs off the bottom of the ears, use the scissors to cut either in a curved line that follows the shape of his ears, or cut straight across for a boxier look.
When you are done with the clip, bathe your dog to rinse off the loose hairs and to remove the remnants of clipper oil.
The first few clips you give your cocker spaniel may be far from perfect. It will take practice to achieve the look you want. Remember that if you made a mistake, the fur will grow back. Learn from your errors and don’t be afraid to try again. With practice, you can keep your family pet looking neat and attractive without spending a small fortune on professional grooming.