Grooming is a very important aspect of dog ownership. Not only does it smarten a dog's appearance, improve cleanliness, and prevent issues such as matting, it also provides owners with the opportunity to spend some quality time with their dog. Grooming also gives owners the chance to check their dog more closely for signs of fleas, ticks or skin irritations.
With puppies, the concept of grooming should be gradually introduced in very short sessions. Owners must ensure that they brush their puppy slowly and gently, especially over sensitive areas, so that they do not get irritated and start to resist future grooming sessions. It is also important for owners to establish and stick to a regular grooming routine. A good time to groom a dog is after their walk, while they are relieved and calm.
The information provided in this section is for practical and aesthetic purposes for a dog kept as a pet, not for show dogs. If you want to learn how to groom for showing, you need to speak with a professional groomer and get them to show you how to groom your Springer to show standards.
Check that no mats are forming, paying particular attention to the feathers on their legs and the fur around their ears.
Brush or comb out any mats or dirt.
Check ears for dirt or discharges, and clean them if necessary.
Check for dirt accumulating between the pads of each foot, and remove if necessary (use scissors for any difficult lumps).
Check the length of claws (especially dew claws if not removed) and trim if necessary - see below.
Check teeth and gums for cleanliness, decay or infection.
It is important to ensure that hair around the entrance to the ear is kept short, as the ear hangs close to the opening and excess fur can reduce the amount of air circulating at the ear opening, which provides the perfect conditions for bacteria. Using a pair of blunt-ended scissors, start with the underside of the ear flap and around the entrance to the ear canal, and trim the fur to keep air circulating and prevent infection.
It is also a good idea to keep hair on the outside of the ear flap trimmed to avoid matting and accumulations of dirt.
A small amount of wax is normal but if the ears smell musty, show signs of large amounts of dark wax,
or your Springer is scratching or shaking their head a lot, then there could be an ear infection that will need treating with drops from your vet. Regular cleaning of your Springers ears should avoid this. Use cotton wool and water or dog ear cleanser - do not use cotton buds which may damage the inner ear. Very gently, using the damp cotton wool, clean the outer area of the ear opening.
2. Leg Feathers
All Springer Spaniels tend to be mud magnets and yours is unlikely to be an exception. One place where mud always seems to collect is on their leg feathers. Leg Feathers however also perform the function of keeping your Springer's legs warmer in the colder months.
From Spring to Autumn, trim the feathers quite short, but never remove them completely, as they are part of the Springer trade mark. Use a pair of blunt end scissors to reduce the length and tidy up the line of the leg feathers after a thorough brushing and combing of the leg hair.
During colder months, leave the feathers a bit longer to help maintain leg warmth.
3. Belly / Rear End
Over time, the fur on your Springer's belly will grow out to a considerable length and attract dirt, so it should be trimmed regularly.
Use a pair of blunt end scissors, or an electric hair trimmer at the longest setting, to trim the belly hair to a manageable length. Get your Springer to lie on their back and trim from the outside in, taking care to avoid any sensitive bits like nipples.
Also closely trim your dog's rear end to maintain good hygiene and to avoid any matting or
accumulations of dirt. During colder months, leave the hair a bit longer to help maintain warmth.
Springer Spaniels can grow rather long hair in and around their paws, which should be trimmed using a pair of blunt end scissors. Aim to make each foot look tight and rounded. Also trim flat any hair growing up between the toes and underneath the foot - this is important to prevent your dog slipping and sliding on smooth flat surfaces such as wood or tiled floors.
Most dog's claws will naturally remain reasonably well trimmed if they get a significant amount of exercise on hard surfaces, e.g. by being walked on hard pavements, or playing ball in a car park. But you should still check your dogs claws on a regular basis and trim any that begin to get too long. Also, if your puppy has not had their dew claws (on the side of the leg) removed, then these claw will need regular trimming as they will not be naturally worn down.
Use a pair of dog claw trimmers, not ordinary scissors or human nail clippers, and trim claws down to about 5mm from the end of the "quick" - the live part on the underside of the claw containing blood vessels and nerves. Clean in the underside of the claws beforehand using an old toothbrush, and use a bright light to help you see where the quick is - it can sometimes be difficult to see on dark coloured claws.
If you are unsure where the quick ends, trim the nail by removing multiple thin slices, starting at the tip, and stop when you start to see an oval shape on the cut end, or your dog gets "jumpy". If in any doubt, ask your vet, breeder, or groomer to show you.
Always cut from top to bottom rather than side to side to avoid splitting the claw. After trimming off the excess, it is a good idea to round off the sharp edge with a nail file - you will soon find out just how sharp the edges are if you don't do this. Never use an electric nail file or hobby sander to trim a dogs claw as these can cause painful or damaging heat.
Accidents happen and you may cut the quick of the claw. If you do, stay calm and gently reassure your dog. Give them a treat right away to distract and pacify them and press styptic powder onto the end of the claw until the bleeding stops - this may take a few minutes. If you do not have styptic powder, corn flour or ordinary flour also work. After a bleed, try to avoid letting your dog walk around for at least 15 minutes to avoid causing the bleed to start again.
Spaniels tend to be attracted to mud - a muddy Spaniel is a happy Spaniel - so you will need to bath them every now and then.
In warmer months, a quick hose-down outside, followed by a good rub and dry with towels, will take care of most dirt, even without shampoo. In colder months, or if your dog is really stinky (perhaps after rolling in something unpleasant), a "bath" will be needed.
Ensure that you prepare your bathroom before bathing your dog. Put towels on the floor, remove any objects you don't want to get a soaking, and make sure that you wear something that you don't mind getting wet. Use a non-slip mat in the bath if possible. If you do not have a shower hose, fill the bath about a quarter full with tepid water and use a jug to pour water over your dog instead.
Get your dog into the bath (expect some resistance). Wash them down with the shower/jug. Then add shampoo and work it through their coat all over. Use only a specialist puppy shampoo, or diluted baby shampoo, to wash their coat. Ordinary human shampoo can cause skin reactions and will definitely irritate a dogs eyes. Finally, rinse them down, cover them with a large towel (you will regret it if you do not do this now!). Then lift them out of the bath and towel them dry.
Spaniels do have glorious coats, but these coats can be less fun when they start to moult. Moulting is a normal, natural process that helps your Springer deal with the seasons and the changing temperatures that they bring. Heavy moulting usually occurs twice a year with a lower level of hair shedding happening all year round.
The most effective method to remove shedding hair is a shedding comb (I find the Mars brand particularly good), or rubbing their coat with rubber gloves (I find these particularly effective and very good value). Either method will get rid of lots of dead hair very quickly and easily and your dog will probably enjoy it. Simply comb your dog, or put the gloves on and rub your dog's coat vigorously all over, both with and against the direction of hair growth. Best to do this outside.
Regular brushing of your Spaniel will also help to get rid of a lot of shedding hair. There are a variety of dog brushes out there that you can buy to help you with this. You can also try running the vacuum cleaner hose over your Springers coat to get the shedding hair out. Some dogs don't mind this, others will absolutely hate it.
If you are keen on recycling, collect the hair in an old fruit net and hang it up in the garden for birds to line their nests with.
Springer Spaniel grooming should be focussed on their feathers, belly, paws, and ears. Should it get too long or too matted, you may choose to clip it as a quick way of remedying things. If you are at all worried, take your dog to a professional groomer for advice.
© 2016 Ian Thomas.