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Grooming the Gordon Setter by Heidi Moon

Please join me in thanking Guest Blogger – Heidi Moon for sharing the grooming lessons she wrote. We think you’ll find this is the perfect thing to share, especially with your puppy buyers who just want their pet to look well trimmed and don’t want to pay for a salon grooming every time the dog gets shaggy. Best of all you don’t have to worry about printing copies, you can send them to our blog and they’ll have these at hand whenever they need them…how sweet is that? (Don’t forget to remind them to click our “follow button” so they get all our good stuff!)

Thanks again Heidi, you’re awesome!

“Please note, these grooming instructions apply more to grooming a pet than for show competition” Heidi Moon
The Gordon Setter breed standard says the coat
  – “Should be soft and shining, straight or slightly waved, but not curly, with long hair on ears, under stomach and on chest, on back of the fore and hind legs and on tail.”

Grooming Equipment NeededSuggested Grooming Tools

A pair of straight shears (at least 7 inches long), a pair of thinning shears – 42 or more teeth work best (don’t skimp on quality when purchasing your shears, you’ll only end up regretting it). A medium/coarse comb, a medium-sized slicker brush, a wire pin brush, a nail trimmer (preferably not the guillotine type) clotting powder such as Kwik Stop (for accidents when trimming nails). A quality dog clipper such as the Andis AGC or Oster A5 models. Useful clipper blades to own are a #10, #7F, and a #5F (the Andis and Oster blades are interchangeable). Other useful tools to own are the Mars Coat King Stripper (18-Blade), a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a dental tools for scraping excess tarter.

Grooming Procedure

The purpose of trimming any dog is to make it resemble as closely as possible the Standard of it’s breed. For instance, if a particular Gordon has a large head and a light body, it would be best to trim the head closely and leave the body coat thick. On the other hand, a dog with a small light-boned head would be trimmed more closely on the body and not as fine on the head. These are extreme examples, just chosen to give the idea behind the suggestions which follow. The end result of the advice is to enable you to trim your dog so it presents the appearance of a well-balanced Gordon Setter type.

In order to do a good job of grooming your Gordon, he/she must be accustomed to the routine and stand reasonably still while you’re working on him. It’s important to start with your puppy, beginning as early as possible. Place the puppy on a slip-proof table or crate top. It’s not advisable to use a grooming arm on a restless puppy as they may slip off the table and sustain injury, even if you are standing right next to them.


Clipping from under chin down the neck.
Clipping from under chin down the neck.


Using a #7F blade on the electric clipper (a #10 can be used when you become more proficient with the clipper, however the #7F leaves nice length of coat), begin at the chin and run the clippers down under the throat to a point about two inches above the breast bone.

Clean hair under and behind ear
Clean hair under and behind ear

327_finished_neck_throatThen, working back, clean out hair around and under the ears. For the sides and top of the neck, start clippers directly behind the occiput and bring back in one continual sweep, in a slanting line down the neck and across the shoulder to the top of the shoulder blade. If there are any clipper marks on the shoulder or neck after this, they should be removed with thinning shears.

Avoid pushing in on the clippers where the neck joins the body. Do not use the clippers at all on the very top of the neck. Clean entire face with the clipper. This is the best way to remove the whiskers which should be taken off to give a clean outline to the jaw.  Go over the sides of the head also, and slightly on the top to give a “nicely rounded skull”. Ears are trimmed with the #10 blade, one-third of the way down and blended into the longer hair.

Clip top of head
Ears clipped 1/3 way down.
Use thinning shear to smooth neck and back coat

Never stop a trim abruptly – always finish off using the coarser blade or thinning shears to blend into the longer hair. Thinning shears are always used in combination with a comb. Holding thinning shears pointing in the direction of the hair, thin and comb out hair as you go along. It is better for beginner to use the longer-cutting blades and advance to the closer-cutting blades as they become more proficient.

Excess neck and back coat can be trimmed using your thinning shears or removed with a Mars Coat King Stripper. The Coat King works beautifully when the dog is still wet, in the tub – but be careful not to get too carried away!

Use clipper or thinning shear to remove hair on leg

The excess hair on the front and sides of the front legs can be trimmed with your thinning shears or carefully clipped with a #5F blade (don’t clip too close to the furnishing on the back of the front legs). There should be a definitive “feather free” area on the sides of the front legs and between the fore-chest feathering and that on the back of the leg.

Feet should be trimmed with the dog standing up. Lift one foot at a time and trim hair on bottom of feet even with the pads. Do not take any hair out from between the toes as the feet should be “well-arched with plenty of hair between.” Using regular straight shears trim to achieve a rounded, high-appearing foot that is “cat-like” in shape.”

Trim hair on bottom of foot around pads
Brush hair between toes up and backward

With the  dog’s foot in one hand and your slicker brush in the other, brush the hair between the toes up and in a backwards motion towards the leg.

Trim hair between toes

This hair can then be trimmed off with your straight or thinning shears being careful not to trim down between the toes. Working with shears pointed toward the ground at a slight angle, trim off excess rough hair around the foot. Nails should be trimmed so the tips clear the floor at the very least. It may be necessary to trim a little off the nail at a time several time to get the desired length, if the nails have been allowed to grow too long. The back feet are done the same. 262_trim_feet

Comb hair on hock down.

The hair on the back of the hock is combed down, and holding your scissors perpendicular to the floor, make a nicely rounded shape to the hock.

Scissor hair on hock
Trim the hair at base of tail in half circle

Using the #7F or a #5F blade in your clipper trim the hair on the bottom of the tail about 2-3 inches from the base. This is best done in a half-circle motion moving from a point approximately 3 inches down the tail from the body back toward the body circling down into the rump area.

Trim excess hair at end of tail.
Finished tail.

While holding the tail with one hand slide your grip down to the end stopping about one-half inch past the end of the actual tail.  With a straight shears, trim off the excess feathering in a straight perpendicular cut. This gives a perfectly tapered appearance to the remaining tail hair.  Be careful not to trim too close to the actual tail as you do not want to cut into the tip.

320_Mairead2_6.21.09Don’t forget to clean your Gordon Setters ears regularly using a commercial ear cleaner and a soft cotton wipe or cotton ball. Regular teeth brushing between veterinary cleaning is also helpful in reducing tartar build-up and can prevent more serious health issues from developing.

  Heidi Moon, MN

Grooming by Bev Holoboff

Let’s give a round of applause for guest blogger Bev Holoboff, Alberta Canada

Gordon Setter – Grooming for show


Creating The Look

blunt scissors
Blunt Edge Scissor

First make sure the dog is completely free of mats. You may need to pay particular attention to the feathering between the front legs and chest.

Using the blunt-ended scissors, trim the whiskers on the cheeks, flews and above the eyes.


With your clippers, going with the lay of the hair, clip the top of the skull to just behind and below the occiput. If the back skull drops away, try not to clip too closely near the back as that will accentuate the lack of level planes.

Oster clipperClip down the throat to about 2 inches above the sternum. Clip from behind the occiput and the ear, about the width of your clipper blade around the ear, down the neck towards the sternum and slightly lower than the clipped area above the sternum. In other words, looking at the chest and shoulders from the front, there will be a reverse ‘U’ of clipped to unclipped area.

Clip the top third (front and back) of the ear, leaving coat on the front fold of the ear beginning where it joins the skull. If you are trying this for the first time, or if a show is coming up in the next couple of days, you will clip with the lay of the hair. However, you may find it more effective to do as I do, going against the grain on the upper ears. This will give a very smooth finish as the hair regrows but, for most dogs will take a full week to get to the most attractive stage.

Thinning Shear
Thinning Shear

Using the thinning shears and cutting up into the lay of the hair, smooth the seam between the clipped and unclipped areas, the rough coat along the shoulders and elbows, over the back ribs, loin, hip and outside thigh. The amount of work you will need in this area largely depends on the dog’s coat. The flatter the coat, the less it is needed. This is also the most difficult part to do well but the effort put in here will make a lot of difference in the final appearance.

Some people advocate the use of stoning to remove excess back coat. I don’t. It seems to me to be the equivalent to scraping sandpaper over the shiny cuticles of the remaining hair shafts. What you may gain in hair removal, you’ll lose in shine. An alternative to thinning shears is the use of a Mars Coat King. This gives a very nice appearance and is almost foolproof.

Mars Coat King
Mars Coat King


With the thinning shears, trim the feathering on the hock to create a rounder, cleaner appearance. Shaving the hock makes it look strange and lacking in bone but not trimming the feathering makes the hock appear to lack in strength and stability. Developing your eye to recognize what looks good may take some time.

Trim about one inch at the tail root, creating a vent and delineating the body from the tail. This area is the underneath of the tail and around the anus.

Using thinning shears, trim the tail as close to the tip as possible, creating a smooth rounded look.

To create the desirable tight, rounded, cat-foot, scissor around the outside to the foot, Scissor the hair growing on the underside, between the pads. Use your thinning shears to level off the hair between the toes with the outline of the foot. Thin the hair by the dewclaw (or area it was removed) and on the back of the pastern.

Nail Grinder or Dremel
Nail Grinder or Dremel

Clip the nails as closely as possible. Since Gordon Setters have black nails you may need to check the underside of the nail to ensure that you do not cut back into the quick. Using a Dremel can smooth the edges of the toenails and keep them looking even better.

This is a very basic guideline. Only by constant practice and watching the effects other people achieve, will you find that the process becomes second nature.

In addition to this method of getting a coat show-ready, a tool called the Mars Coat King is a wonderful way to thin out back coat. You can use it on a weekly basis to keep the coat looking almost perfect and then just use the thinning shears for a touch up.

Prefer a more natural look? If your dog needs grooming simply to make him a pleasure for you to look at and for his own hygiene, regular brushing and clipping of the feet will get the look you are after. You might also want to remove the hair around the base of the ear to ensure sufficient air circulates to the ear canal. Trimming the hair at the underside base of the tail will also be a good idea.


If you are grooming a pet Gordon, much of this information will not necessarily apply to you. In many cases, you might be better off not to use clippers on your dog as, once you’ve started, the hair will grow in curlier than before and you’ll need to continue clipping forever.

However, if you have a show Gordon or want your Gordon to look like one, this is a very simplistic description of how we groom our dogs.

There are many items you can purchase to aid in your grooming endeavors but the essentials for me are:

  • Electric clippers (I use an Oster A5 or an Andis Rechargable and, more recently a Wahl Chromadore), a #10 and #15 blade or an adjustable blade which can be set to those numbers (If you’re nervous, you might want to start out with a #10. This might also be the more appropriate blade to use if the dog is old and its coat is thinning.),
  • Thinning shears (with finer teeth)
  • Mars Coat King
  • Regular hair scissors
  • Metal comb
  • Brush
  • Small blunt end scissors
  • Dremel or nail clippers

Shampoo and Conditioning:

Contrary to common thought, bathing a dog frequently is not a problem. Only bathing them with inappropriate products seems to cause dry coat and skin. Particularly once the dog is ready for ‘competition’, more frequent cleaning with the appropriate products will make for a better looking coat. When I’m actively showing a dog, it will get a bath at least once a week with a full condition and light washes in dirty areas in between. Use a shampoo formulated for dogs and make sure it is all washed out. I use the entire line of Chris Christensen products and find them very satisfactory for regular maintenance and show preparation. However, I found another shampoo (Jardines) that’s a horse shampoo recommended to me by a handler and it’s excellent. Another brand that comes well recommended is from Summerwinds. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of finding what’s best for you and your dog but I couldn’t live without my Chris Christensen – Ice on Ice.

Ice on Ice by Chris Christensen
Ice on Ice by Chris Christensen

Coat Maintenance:

Between shampoos, just regular brushing should maintain the gloss. With my adult dogs, even the ones not being shown, I tend to maintain a regular (every one to two weeks) bath routine, finishing with a conditioner, another rinse and then a spray on conditioner. With puppies, I just use the shampoo and make sure it is really washed out of the coat.


As with all long-eared dogs, you should keep a watch on your Gordon’s ears to make sure that no problems are ever encountered. If they ever appear dirty, you can clean them with a cotton ball, dampened with Hibitol or Epiotic – Cleanser (available from your vet). Only clean the area that you can see. If dark wax and an odor are present, consult your veterinarian.


Cleaning your dog’s teeth should be part of your on-going health care. The back molars are particularly susceptible to build up of tartar. Getting your puppy used to the process will prevent difficulties later. A tooth scaler may be purchased from most pet-supply shops, dental supplies or an accommodating dental hygienist may give you her discards. Gently scraping the buildup off will be an easy job if you stay on top of it. Dog toothpastes (and toothbrushes) are available but are a bit tedious as they should be used every day to be effective. Some of the chewable solutions like Denta-bones seem to also suffice for many dogs. This same toothpaste can also be applied to a wash cloth, covering your index finger, and works just as well. Some of the chewable solutions like Denta-bones seem to also suffice for many dogs.


Keep the nails short by frequently clipping them. Dark toenails are more difficult to judge but frequently taking off a little every week or so will usually keep them short enough. Although smaller clippers may seem sufficient when the puppy is small, buy one that is strong enough to easily cut the larger toenails that are sure to come. An alternative is an electric toenail grinder but that is more expensive and, while they do a wonderful job may be more difficult to accustom the dog to its use. Personally, I prefer to do a little of both, clipping the ends off and then smoothing the edges with a Dremel. An extremely good description of how to prepare a dog for that process can be found at http://www.doberdawn.com.