Trimming The Cocker Head


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3 cockers
Trimming the Cocker Head

I typically use a #15 blade to clipper a Cocker face, especially if the dog is black or brown. If the dog is a parti with lots of white on the face, a light buff, or red/white, I might use a #10 blade. The reason is that dogs with darker coats tend to grow thicker, more dense hair all over their bodies, and that includes the face. A #15 blade provides a nice, tidy trim that lasts 3-4 weeks. On the lighter colors I find the hair isn’t as thick, and so you can run the risk of causing clipper burn by using the shorter blade. Also, the #15 simply takes their hair too short on the face, making them look almost hairless, which isn’t attractive. Also, if you’re quick at trimming the face, it works to only have one blade on hand. But if you’re a bit slow at it, especially when you’re starting out, I recommend having two blades handy, so you can switch off blades when the one you’re using gets hot. Hot blades can really irritate the skin, so once the blade gets warm, take it off and put a new blade on. Buy a single ceramic tile at a home improvement store, and use it for “quick cooling” of your blade. Place the blade face down on the tile, and it will cool more quickly.

I normally start by clipping the ear first. Trim 1/3 of the total length of the ear (including the fur, not just the ear leather itself). I trim against the grain of hair growth. I flip the ear over, and shave the entire ear leather. Please note that if you are planning to show your dogs, this is not ideal. This is only what I do for pet trims. Show dogs need the appearance of “full” ears, so do not shave the entire inner ear leather. On pets, I do this because it increases air flow around the ear canal and seems to keep the inner ear a bit cooler. It is also tidier if you are using ear medication for any length of time.

I then shave the face, always clipping against the grain of hair growth. This creates a short, tidy trim. I always clean out under the eyes really well, and also the lips. Pull out the bottom lip and trim carefully between the folds, to keep the area clean. Cockers can get lip fold dermatitis (a skin infection) in the lip folds if the area isn’t kept clean. When shaving the neck, I find the point of the breastbone on the dog, and shave up from there, all the way to the chin. I usually shave in several directions on the sides of the neck, where those little cowlicks grow. Don’t forget to shave the top of the nose too.

For the top of the head, I shave off the strip across the top from ear to ear, down to where the head meets the neck. I trim up the side of the face to an invisible line draw from the corner of the eye to the beginning of the ear leather. I use the thinning shears (46 teeth, with teeth on one blade only, and a regular blade) to blend the clipper line there. Rest the thinning shears on top of that line, and snip once. Hold the skin taut, so that you don’t catch the skin there, and hold the ear out of the way, so you don’t catch the ear leather. Use the slicker brush to clean the hair out of the area after your one snip, and see if it’s blended. If not, do one more snip. For the hair on top of the head, I leave a crescent shape between the ears, with the convex side towards the nape of the neck, if that makes sense. If your dog has a flat head, you want to leave a bit more hair in that area, to give the illusion of roundness. If your dog has a nice, round skull, you can take more hair off.

Comb all of the hair to one side of the head (like a bad comb over job). Line the thinning shears up with the non-serrated blade against the head, with the scissors perpendicular to the hair. Moving the shears forwards and rearwards, thin out any hair that is “overhanging” the side of the head. Then brush all of the hair over to the other side of the head, and repeat. Do this 2-3 times on each side of the head. That will shape the topknot to emphasize a rounded top skull. Then brush all of the hair forwards, so it’s hanging over the eyes like bangs. Trim anything that is overhanging the eyes, in a similar method. That will take care of any “sticky-outy” hairs. Make sure that the hair behind the eyebrows is well cleaned out. The key when using thinning shears is to snip no more than once or twice and then brush the excess hair out of the way with the slicker brush. If you get overeager with the thinning shears, you can leave areas that are gouged out. So when in doubt, BRUSH.

As a note, I always trim the eyelashes off when I groom. I know people think they look pretty, but the reality is that long eyelashes can collect debris, which can end up in the eye. You can, of course, do what you like, but if you leave long lashes, please check your dogs’ eyes thoroughly on a regular basis, so that nothing bad gets in there.


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Kelly these are nice detailed suggestions! (your cocker ear maintenance too). I'll make a Grooming section tonight if I have time and maybe Sticky your posts.

Thanks. :thumbsup:
I thought people might find them helpful. I am actually writing a book (more of a booklet, really) for new Cocker owners, and these are some of my "chapters"
Thanks love, great descriptions! When you are ready to sell your book, put me on the list! I want one!:D
It's a looooong way from being ready . . . but thanks for the support guys!
Thank you Kelly! I am going to try this on Noodles tonight..I've always just shaved my babies down, slick and clean, but now that our human kids are grown and I have more time to dote on my puppers, I will try to make them look extra purty! I want to take Noodles up to Canada visit Kim one of these days so I want her to be looking beautiful.
Thank you!
I gave this a try last night. I think Noodles looks pretty swell! Thank you, I will try to post a picture of my little princess..but you can't laugh! :p
I wouldn't laugh,

the first dog I ever groomed was our family poodle. OMG, I was 14 years old

And when I did my first buff cocker, good gawd, looked like I had farmed his back, looked like rows of corn (crappy clippers & blades).

And then there are times when I zig and they zag. That's always fun, Woops!
ok guys and gals here is my "attempt" at the head grooming..Noodles hair was pretty short to get that cool "poofy" looking top knot thing-a-ma-bob but I will keep whittling at it as her hair grows out, tried to remember to leave the cresant moon hair shape, Kelly promise I did~Noodles sat like a champ for me.


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She looks beautiful Shelly! What a nice job you did, and she looks like a princess just sitting there so regally! She's a beauty!
Thank you Kelly, I have so much respect for you pro groomers, it is defiantly an art..I've always just shaved my old Star down but with no human kids here to brush out rooster tails and braid pony tails on any more, Noodles is going to have to learn to love being "beautified" and yep she gaining confidence she is "all that" :)
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I look at Noodles and see a wonderful cut. I am in so much awe of anyone who can clip their cocker spaniels.
awww you are all so sweet!
Next on my list to do is the stripping knife..I better find the post on this one though and s-t-u-d-y! :)..I want to feather the shoulder area, and hips, so she doesn't look like she has a hula skirt.
I live so far away from a groomer so it is easier for me to learn this myself.
This forum is SO educational!!! Thank you again Manuel
! :):)
How should the back of the ear be groomed for a pet? Is the fur clipped at the back or allowed to grow?
Good instructions Kelly. I was going to try to learn to groom as money will now be tighter with retirement. I have since changed my mind. I clipped Chases's face and started on his neck, I hurt him,:( He scratched at it and now I have a nasty sore on his neck I have been trying to clear up for 2 weeks :( I'll leave the grooming to someone else I think, even if I have to have him clipped shorter so it lasts longer. My poor boy :(