Proper grooming techniques give a boost to your Gordon Setter’s competitive edge in the show ring. Knowing how to accentuate your dog’s best points by trimming him so they shine through can improve your win record. If you’ve seen Will Alexander in the ring with a Gordon you’ve witnessed that every dog he shows is beautifully presented, groomed to perfection. I’ve seen Will in action and have admired his skill for decades so I’m sharing the link to his course on Setter grooming with you. For a relatively low cost your subscription to the course will give you unlimited access to this self paced, visual grooming reference for as long as you like. Perfect your skillset with professional guidance!
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Click the blue link below and a new window will open taking you to the course. Don’t let the English Setter fool you – Will knows Gordons and covers them too!
This course is an introduction to the basics of trimming all four of the setter breeds.
You will learn the subtle differences between the English, Gordon, Irish and Irish Red & White Setters.
From Clipper-work, to carding and raking you will learn skills that will be valuable to you no matter what your skill level.
You will learn when and where you should use various tools such as; thinning shears, knives, stripping stones.
Knowing why we are trimming hair off in different ways is as important as how to do it. Will explains how the setter’s furnishings should be an extension of your setter’s bone structure and how to create the most anatomically correct version of your setter through trimming.
Stay tuned as we bring you each breed in greater detail.
Will’s family bred and showed Irish Setters (his father still breeds them), and as a junior Will bred English Cockers. Will made his ring début at the age of seven with one of his father’s setters, and from then on he was very active (and successful) in Junior Showmanship, and the breed ring, with a variety of breeds.
Will always wanted to be a handler, but before embarking on a handling career he worked for Garry MacDonald here in Canada, and for Bobby Stebbins in the States – gaining experience, honing his skills, and perfecting his craft…
Will started handling professionally in 1986, and in 1987, took the Irish Setter Ch. McCammom Impresario to Top Dog All Breed.
This also set a record as the youngest handler to have a Top Dog All Breeds.Will is one of only 5 handlers,
who has had more than one Top Dog All Breeds
Will has had a dog in the Top Ten All Breeds since 1991!
Will is often referred to as the “Wayne Gretzky of dog shows”, Will is proudly Canadian and arguably the most recognized professional handler in Canada!
Will is now a published author, his book “For the Love of Dogs” was published in 2014.
Will had the honour of winning Best In Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show 2015
with the beautiful Beagle bitch, Am/Can. Ch. Tashtin’s Lookin For Trouble, aka Miss P
Oster has offered many best selling grooming products for many years and are especially known for their animal clippers. Now they’re offering even more help and support for the self groomer via their website where they’ve posted very helpful video clips demonstrating how to groom several breeds. For us that includes the Gordon Setter. How wonderful is that? Here are all the links to their videos…happy tails to you all!
From pro-handler Will Alexander a You Tube video chock full of tips about prepping your Setter for the ring on show day. While Will is working on an English Setter in this video, his tips for brushing and grooming are fantastic and will help make your dog look like a million bucks! Will’s posted many more tips and tricks on You Tube for those who seek more, check it out! Thank you Will for this fabulous site.
I feel like I’ve been knee deep in black dog hair for the better part of the last four decades, and I’m not talking about those little black haired dust bunnies that whisper along the tile floor in the hallways of the house. I’m talking big, honking piles of hair that I’ve clipped, stripped, scissored and thinned off the bodies of my Gordon Setters to ready them for the ring. I kid you not, there have been times when I have built a whole other Setter out of the hair left on the floor. Good grief these dogs grow coat, acres and acres of it so that sometimes I find myself thinking “I’m gonna to get me one a them big ole John Deere mowers to tackle this petting zoo”.
Well obviously most of you own a Gordon Setter so you know what I’m talking about when I say that they take a bit of grooming to keep them looking less like a Newfie and more like a Setter. And, if you’re heading to the show ring you probably know by now that a proper groom makes a world of difference in your chances for success. Groom that dog poorly or trim him the wrong way and you can end up accentuating or creating faults you don’t want seen. Bad idea.
It is not easy to learn to properly groom a Gordon for the ring, and I for one, will admit that even after all these years I am always learning. New things come along, methods change, equipment is developed, it’s a never ending learning curve. Sometimes I feel like my grooming skill is no better now than when I was in grade school cutting doll hair with those little rounded kiddie scissors. Did you ever notice that doll hair doesn’t grow back? My sisters did. They weren’t very happy with me. Sibling rivalry I guess?
Grooming can be complicated, but it will get a whole lot easier if you start with a clear picture of the dog’s anatomy, the dog breeder’s basic knowledge, and using that mental picture of your breed’s anatomy as your guide when you’re trimming, stripping or thinning your show dog should help you sculpt that dog into a lovely picture of the standard. To give an example, sometimes we might groom what appear to be faults onto the dog by leaving a vertical line of stripped hair going straight down the dog’s side from the bottom of neck to the foreleg. In fact we want to show angles there, the angle where the shoulder and upper arm meet, so there should be a sideways V shape to that line. Leave a straight line down the side of the dog when you’re stripping out coat and the judge will see a straight front, one that lacks proper angle of shoulder to upper arm. It’s an optical illusion that can hurt your chances of winning. Or, ignore trimming the under body coat to into soft flowing lines, leaving instead shorter or longer coat in the wrong area and you destroy the flow of the Setter’s natural body contour, he looks unbalanced and a maybe a bit box or tube shaped, not the picture we’re looking for.
I found a grooming blog, Beyond the Fur… written by Melissa Verplank who published an excellent article The Importance of Canine Anatomy and it teaches about using the structure of the dog to set a pattern when grooming. This is right on the money and I highly recommend, especially if you are a new learner, that before you begin grooming your Gordon Setter, particularly for the show ring, that you take the time to read this article and review her diagrams. You absolutely must have an ideal picture of the structure of a Gordon Setter in your mind in order to properly scissor and strip and shape that body coat. And you must keep that picture in mind so that when you step back away from the dog to view your work, you are seeing all of the excellent qualities you want a judge to notice about your dog.
Here’s the link, simply point and click, a new window will open on her site:
Hope you enjoy these articles. We’re gearing up to come back from the GSCA National with some great “how to” videos of exhibitors grooming their dogs, we’re sure that we’ll find some great Gordon Setter folks who will share their tips and tricks with you.
If you’re new to grooming your Gordon Setter, whether for show or pet, owning one of these awesome stripping tools is a must. Figuring out which one to buy however, can be a daunting task if you’re new, so I’m sharing this handy dandy guide for your convenience!
Fine styles (#16 – #20 blades) for grooming heavy coats #20 Blade Stripper is ideal for finishing and carding thick, fine coats such as Cockers, Spaniels, Setter and Afghans.
Manufactured by Mars of Solingen in Germany, this is a recently introduced range of new styled stripping knives designed and precision engineered from high quality steel and fitted with a hard wood handle. They are typical of the quality associated with this German manufacturer, who is well known internationally for their traditional range of stripping knives.
The Coat King range is ideal for use as an aid for hand stripping and especially for the removal of dead undercoat prior to clipping particularly in the case of terriers. The Coat King knives have rapidly become very popular with many professional groomers, as well as individual dog owners. Coat King work well with all different kinds of breeds and coats.
These unique tools strip large areas fast! Quickly and easily remove loose hair, especially thick undercoats. Great for detangling and dematting. Leaves coats healthy and with a show quality finish. Premium quality strippers have curved, sharpened, stainless steel teeth with rounded ends for safety and comfortable wooden handles with ultra durable, solid tang construction.
Place tool on coat with light pressure and comb out in the direction of hair growth. Note: going against or aside hair growth will cause excessive cutting of hair. Only use once a week or every other week. (Too much use could result in a bald pet!)
Coarse & Medium styles (#6 – #12 blades)
for preparatory work and thinning out undercoat
#10-Blade Stripper is perfect for prep work and coarser coats such as Old English Sheepdogs, Irish Wolfhounds and Chows.
#12 Blade Stripper is ideal for heavy or double coats such as Pomeranians, Lhasas, Westies and Poodles.
Fine styles (#16 – #20 blades)
for grooming heavy coats #20 Blade Stripper is ideal for finishing and carding thick, fine coats such as Cockers, Spaniels, Setter and Afghans.
Super Fine styles (#20 – #26 blades)
for finishing and thick, shaggy coats (especially Spaniel breeds)
#20 Blade Stripper is ideal for finishing and carding thick, fine coats such as Cockers, Spaniels, Setter and Afghans.
Use coarse styles to comb out the undercoat, fine styles for finishing.
The softer the coat, the finer the gap between the blades. The longer the coat, the finer the gap between the blades. Short coated dogs use the finest gap. For Long & Wire coats first use a course Coat King and then the fine one.
For best results and to avoid removing excessive top coat,
use tool only in the direction of hair growth.
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 Needed
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.
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.
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.
Then, 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.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Don’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.
Boys will be boys! If you’re working on show coat for your boy or maybe even just trying to keep him looking nice and mat free, maintaining a male’s coat in condition is challenging because…well let’s face it…they dribble all over themselves when they lift their leg to pee…the dreaded “pee feathers”. (Now guys don’t go getting offended here, we’re not talking about cleaning the bathroom toilet, this article applies to Gordon Setters not men!)
We’re talking today about all the beautiful coat that looks so great when it’s growing evenly down from the loin area. But as we’ve all seen or perhaps experienced, if you don’t stay on top of grooming it, that coat becomes dirty, matted and brittle in a minute. Then, before you know what happened you’re missing chunks of coat or the coat looks all thin and straggly, and unless you even the ends out with scissors it looks ragged compared to the rest of the dog’s coat. Maybe not the picture you intended to present in the ring and especially if you’re headed for BOB or Group judging. To be competitive you do want to stay on top of little things.
So, proper grooming of the male does have it’s own particular quirks and there are many of you out there who may be wondering what the secret is and others who could share your tried and true solutions with them for maintaining coat.
Jodi Hurd-Cavanagh had offered her suggestions in a comment on a previous article (Thank you Jodi!) and we are publishing that again here to start the discussion…what do you do to maintain pee feathers?
And Jodi said: “The main way to grow and maintain the coat is a clean coat, bathing the dog every other day in a gentle shampoo RINSE WELL, conditioner RINSE WELL. Rinsing is imperative to the process, as you don’t want to leave any soap residue (you will get white flakes pop up) Blow dry on the table and you are ready to trim. Maintaining pee feather area is a daily routine. on the days you aren’t giving a full bath, rinse the pee coat area with conditioner and water mix about 3 ounces of conditioner to 15 ounces of water apply liberally and rinse with water, and dry.”
Type away folks, use the comment section to share your solutions or to ask more questions.
Let’s give a round of applause for guest blogger Bev Holoboff, Alberta Canada
Gordon Setter – Grooming for show
Creating The Look
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.
Clip 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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. Teeth:
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.
I have a bit of a dilemma here with the Gordon Setter grooming video I’m about to share with you. See, I have a confession, and it may shock you just a little but please remember not to gasp too loudly as you’ll wake the sleeping dog! So my confession is, while I had every intention of (1) either sucking someone into doing a video to share here or (2) having someone film me doing a foot grooming demonstration – I haven’t actually gotten around to doing either of those things yet. But wait, that’s not the confession. See the confession is, this is meant to be a Gordon Setter demonstration, but, well the truth is, the dog on the table is either highly marked for a Gordon, a red Gordon, or maybe – perhaps it’s our red-headed cousin the Irish Setter. Shhhh, I told you the dogs were sleeping!
So, anyway, this is a darn good video, the lady who’s doing the demonstration gives excellent instructions, (and her dog holds still much better than mine would). But most importantly, what I loved about this video was that she takes the time to explain about cutting the hair between the toes in straight up and down lines, rather than at an angle, and that my friends can make all the difference between whether your Gordon Setter’s feet look like the cat paws they are supposed to resemble, or like Briar Rabbit’s hare feet!
Oh, and if there are any budding film-makers out there with a pair of scissors and a hairy Gordon Setter who’d like to top this award-winning presentation please send those entries to: GordonSetterExpert@gmail.com!
We are dedicated to building a knowledge base and a sharing site for those who are involved in all of the various aspects of competition with Gordon Setters, competitions that showcase the Gordon Setter’s Beauty, Brains and Bird-Sense.