Cocker Spaniels have long, fine hair. A lot of grooming is needed to prevent their coats from getting tangles and mats. They are typically high-maintenance dogs when grooming, and you should plan to spend a lot of time, money or both to keep yours beautiful. This page will help you do that!
The Cocker Spaniel coat is thick, silky and long. The hair grows quickly, and along with its density, this means very frequent grooming. There is not much shedding and brushing will help greatly reduce what little hair they do shed. Not brushing can quickly result in a lack of circulation as well as tangles, mats, sores, odors, infections and health concerns, not to mention a very unhappy dog. You can learn how to groom a Cocker Spaniel at home, especially the brushing and other aspects of coat care. Don't look at this responsibility as a chore but as a time to bond, a bit of quiet time, a period of meditation for you and your dog. You will need to invest in a fair amount of good Cocker Spaniel grooming tools and to get a detailed grooming guide. If you plan on having him in a dog show, however, you really should get a pro groomer and watch some videos for Cocker Spaniel grooming tips.
Brushing a Cocker Spaniel is done by long, careful strokes from front to back and from top to bottom. Because the hair is thick, long and a bit curly, you will want to be gentle even as you do make sure to be thorough. The type of Cocker Spaniel brush you use will help you be both. It's ideal to have a collection of specialized brushes for the different stages, and you may want to consider getting a stripping comb for Cocker Spaniels too.
There is no single best brush for Cocker Spaniels. A good slicker brush is recommended for your Spaniel. This will remove a lot of the dead hair while getting any mats and tangles out. To help get all the way down to the skin without harming it, a pin brush is recommended.
Many people say it's best to brush your Cocker Spaniel daily, but you should do so at least 3-4 times every week. If a lot of hair is coming out, you may want to increase the brushing.
Here are some tips for brushing:
- Don't hesitate to buy the best brushes
- Set aside a quiet and un-rushed place and time
- Be sure to get into all the nooks and crannies
- Have a good de-tangler
- Work out the tangles and mats with your fingers
- If he gets fidgety, trying "cooing" and a snack
Cocker Spaniels are well-known for the easy tangles and mats that can develop. They have hair that is more microscopically barbed than most dog breeds, and this is why they are more susceptible to matting. Most daunting are the ears, which can get matted quickly. You will want a good de-tangler before you start combing, and one such spray is Coat Handler Anti-Static Detangler Spray. Whatever de-tangler misting spray you choose, however, be sure to use one as you should never comb (or brush) a dog's coat while it's dry.
Some people say the Furminator is the best de-tangling tool available, and others say it may damage the coat. It's best to get advice from your groomer on this tool. Many groomers say that a wide-toothed comb is best for Cockers. One that is recommended is the Bass Brushes Wide Tooth Metal Pet Comb with Bamboo Wood Handle. No matter what, be sure to invest in a very good comb. The last thing you want is a matted Cocker Spaniel!
Here are some tips for getting out tangles:
- Make sure the coat is misted first
- Use your fingers to find and loosen tangles
- Once the hair is moist and loosened all over, start combing
- Be sure to get the most mat-prone areas: ears, feet, under the tail
- Always be patient and gentle
- Talk quietly so as to keep him calm
- Have some treats when the combing is complete!
Hand-stripping Cocker Spaniels is largely preferred over trimming or cutting the coat. Stripping is how you get that luxurious, colorful, and silky look. (If even once the coat is trimmed, it will never recover.) It can be expensive if a groomer does the hand-stripping, and it is certainly a big task if you decide to do it yourself.
There is also carding, which is a more advanced aspect of hand-stripping. This is using a dull blade or rock to remove the undercoat. This allows the coat to lie flat on the dog's skin.
If you want that show coat, it's recommended to hand-strip your Cocker Spaniel once every 3-4 months. You'll want to maintain the coat constantly between then, of course, with combing and brushing. You can also hand-strip different parts of the dog too, instead of the entire coat each time.
Hand-stripping is all about patience and stamina. You'll need to set aside a good chunk of time and be in a calm, comfortable place. It's a process of literally pulling out the dead hair by the roots with your hands and in small batches. It may sound cruel, but the dead hair will come out easily, and it shouldn't hurt the dog. You'll use your thumb and forefinger on one hand to pull out the hairs. The other hand is used to press on the skin so that only the dead hairs come out. Because the hair is oily, you may want to use chalk or flour so that you get a good grip and don't have to pull hard.
Cocker Spaniel bathing is typically one part of a full day's grooming. Frequent bathing is not necessary. This is a breed that is notorious for seeking out water and mud, however. If this happens, then it's time for a bath. Otherwise, a bath is needed only once every 2-3 months. There are many Cocker Spaniel shampoo and conditioners out there, so be sure to find one you feel is the best.
If your Cocker Spaniel has smelly ears, it may mean there is a bacterial infection. While Cocker Spaniel ear odors may be unpleasant, it often means some localized hygiene is in order rather than a full bath. It is easy to learn how to clean Cocker Spaniel dog ears with a cleaning solution along with some cotton balls, cotton swabs and paper towels. Wash your hands before this so that no new bacteria gets in their ears. Use the cleaning solution on the cotton balls and gently clean out the ears. Dip the cotton swabs in the solution and then run the swab along the edge of the ears. Use a lot of swabs if the first few are very dirty. Once done, be sure to dry the ears.
To bathe your Cocker Spaniel, you'll first want to comb and brush out any tangles and mats. Invest in the best shampoo for Cocker Spaniels. Have sponges, a chamois and plenty of towels on hand as well as place a non-slip bath mat inside the tub. Bathing is also much easier if you have a long-neck spray nozzle. Start with the top of the head almost behind the ears when you wet and then shampoo. Use a sponge for the face and ears to keep soap out of the eyes and mouth. Thoroughly rinse all the shampoo and conditioner out afterward. Don't forget the feet and the area under the tail too. Use the chamois to press as much water out of the coat as possible. Use towels after that to gently soak up more. Finally, blow-dry the coat while brushing.
Cocker Spaniels are more prone to dental issues and tear-staining than most dog breeds. While a lot of these problems can be partially prevented with a selective diet and daily, hands-on care, they can sometimes be the result of problems that only a vet can resolve.
Cocker Spaniel teeth come in two basic stages: puppy (or "milk") teeth and adult teeth. Around 8 weeks or so, the adult teeth start growing in. The puppy teeth will get pushed out and the entire new set should be full by no later than 28 weeks. When they are teething, you should have chew-toys lots of chewy snacks ready.
Because Cockers are highly susceptible to dental diseases, you should learn how to properly brush and clean your dog's teeth. Meat-flavored dog toothpaste, proper doggy toothbrushes and a bit of patience will go a long way in keep your doggy's breath decent-smelling and her teeth in good shape!
Cocker Spaniel tear stains may be a small or big problem. It may be something as simple as a change in diet that helps resolve the issue. It might also be a blocked duct, an in-grown eyelid, or foreign matter under the eyelid. Be sure to research what a tear stain's color means as well as the conditions of the eyes. Don't hesitate to make a vet visit if the stains cause the fur to smell bad or fall out.
Unfortunately, Cocker Spaniel ear mites, ticks, fleas and other critters can be a problem. Owners will need to examine their dogs regularly for signs of pests--particularly inside the dog's ears, where tiny black dots can appear which are signs of ear mites or flea droppings.
The best defense against pests on your dog: see a veterinarian. Here's more info on prevention and treatment:
- Put a flea collar on the dog
- Use a flea comb once a week while brushing
- Keep yards free of organic debris (grass clippings, leaf piles, etc.); pests like to live in moist vegetation
- Wash the dog's bedding once a week
- Use commercial sprays, powders, shampoos, etc.
- See a veterinarian!
- Commercial shampoos, sprays, powders
- Clean the home thoroughly, including vacuuming floors, upholstery, and bedding
- Wash the dog's bedding in hot water
- Extreme cases require the use of indoor foggers or sprays, and outdoor lawn treatments
Cocker Spaniels that spend a lot of time hunting tend to be trimmed instead of hand-stripped because it is easier to groom a short-haired dog who gets into water and mud. Those whose silky coats are maintained for show are typically hand-stripped so that the striking color and texture is kept at its best.
There are two basic Cocker Spaniel cuts. While neither has a formal name, they are known as the "cockery" and "gundog" looks. If you opt for a shaved Cocker Spaniel, however, that can work too. This is one of the dog breeds whose coats grow back basically the same.
The cockery look requires a lot of hand-stripping and constant care between sessions. The Cocker Spaniel show cut is obvious: the ears will be long and luxuriant, the skirt will be extensive, and the entire coat will lie flat on top and be slightly wavy where it hangs freely. If you have seen the photos of a Cocker Spaniel sitting and she looks like a pyramid with massive triangles hanging off her head, this is that style.
The gundog is also called a sporting cut. You get this by trimming the feathery parts and ears, and you cut the skirt. That distinctive Cocker Spaniel domed head will stand out, but the rest of the dog will look generic: the hair will be short all over. Some people might want a cockery hint with a gundog trim by leaving the feathering on the front and back of the dog's legs and maybe the tail too.
The labor-intensive show dog style is best done by professional groomers. You can learn how to do this if you have time and patience and get all the best tools. It's easy to learn how to trim a Cocker Spaniel for the gundog look, and you should get the best clippers for Cocker Spaniels. No matter how you cut it, you should get a Cocker Spaniel clipping guide.