Helpful Hints On Grooming

Helpful hints on grooming your pet OES

These notes are provided as an aid, particularly for novice groomers and are based upon the experiences of the UK show scene in respect of show grooming and ring presentation. Readers should be aware that continental variations might apply, particularly with regard to ring presentation and grooming preparations.

There are many ways of grooming the OES and clearly everyone adopts their own style as they gain experience over the years.I have indeed been fortunate to learn from several fellow exhibitors over my 25 years of experience with the breed, which I now hope to share with you through the following hints/tips.

For convenience I have divided the notes in to 4 main sections covering:-

1)      Puppy grooming and hygiene tips

2)      Pet grooming

3)      Show grooming

4)      Ring presentation

Hopefully by dividing the notes in this way you will be able to extract the relevant section to suit your needs. Diagrams have been included to help illustrate the techniques described, and I am grateful to Bertie Pennie for drawing them.


Dogs should be taught from an early age to lie down whilst being groomed, both for their own comfort and that of the groomer. In preference a grooming table should be used, although any table top with a non-slip surface or cover would suffice.

Alternatively, if this is neither practical nor convenient the dog should be taught to lie on a blanket on the floor whilst being groomed.

Grooming sessions are better if they are shorter and perhaps more frequent rather than too prolonged, in order to prevent frustrations and rising tempers if a lot of grooming is required.







Puppy grooming and hygiene tips:

Perhaps rather obviously, in the early stages of puppy development it is particularly important to ensure that the coat is kept clean and free from knots. Additionally, it is helpful to accustomize the puppy to being washed and dried so that it is part of their normal routine.

From personal experience, I have found that regular combing of the puppy’s coat has had a twofold benefit. First and foremost, this regular combing process helps the puppy to become used to a slightly heavier grooming session than just brushing, whilst ensuring that the coat is completely “knot free” to the skin. The second benefit is that the regular combing process helps to remove the older puppy coat and stimulate the growth of the coat generally, as well as helping the change towards the next stage of coat change which is commonly recognised as the “Junior” coat. Some years ago, I focused more upon the dark coat for this combing process as that is where the change is seen, but again on a personal basis, I have found that by “total” combing of both the dark and white coats, a balance of coat growth is achieved across the whole of the puppy’s coat.

During these early familiarization processes, the puppy should also start to experience some of the regular hygiene processes that will continue throughout their lives. The coat should be carefully trimmed around the anus and genital areas, taking great care not to cut the puppy (rounded end scissors are best, not sharp pointed ones!).

The trimming around the anus should not be excessive and should be proportionate to their size, with an adult dog requiring approximately one inch (25cm) of trimming around the anus. The hair between the pads should be carefully checked and combed to ensure that there are no knots between the pads and the hair either trimmed flush with the pads, or trimmed out completely depending upon personal preference. Whilst working on the pads, the nails should be checked and when necessary cut and filed to an appropriate length.

The attention to the nails is particularly important during the puppy period due to the limited exercise and the sharpness of the young claws. Next, you can check the ears to ensure that they are clean, carefully wiping the flap with a moist tissue but never inserting anything in to the ear canal. In the event of excessive build up in the ears, or a strong smell developing, you should consult veterinary advice. Finally with regard to the ears, as the fine brown hairs begin to develop in and around the ear canal, you should begin to pluck them, taking great care not to pluck too much (only a few hairs) at a time until the puppy becomes used to the procedure.

A final aspect of hygiene that should not be overlooked is that of the teeth, which should be regularly cleaned to avoid the development and build up of tartar.



Many people who own Old English Sheepdogs as pets, often end up clipping them off because they are unable to maintain the level of grooming required.

Clipping is not necessary under these circumstances and hopefully the following tips will help to maintain an apparent fully coated dog.

Basically by using a comb to strip the undercoat from the dog, the coat can be maintained at full length or part length if trimmed periodically rather than stripped.

For this purpose I personally find a smaller sized medium toothed comb with a handle being the best for the job.

The technique is quite simple, and as explained in the general comments above, it is more convenient if the dog is laying down preferably on a grooming table or alternatively on a blanket on the floor




PET GROOMING.....Continued

Pet grooming diagram Click To EnlargeReferring to the “Pet Grooming” diagram opposite, starting with the outside edge of the rear leg, lift the coat to expose the lower 1-2 inches of coat just above the pads, now begin to gently comb through the hairs to ensure that this section of coat is free of tangles. If the coat is heavily knotted then this should be eased before combing by gently using both thumbs and forefingers to tease the knot apart so that the comb will not pull too heavily against the knotted coat (remember how you feel when you get a small tangle in your own hair and try to comb it). From this starting point, gradually work your way up the outside edge of this leg and around the rear quarter of that side. Then following the same process, recommence from the inside edge of the other rear leg, gently lifting or moving forwards/backwards the other rear leg to enable you to comb the coat up to the underside of the dogs body.

Having worked so far with the legs you should then commence with the main body of the dog starting from just in front of the rear leg and working in convenient strips upwards and along the body to the front legs and shawl. By this point if you have not dealt with the underside of the dog between the front and rear legs then it should be done at this stage.

Next you will need to start to work on the outside edge of the front leg, remembering that most dogs in this breed have a great deal of sensitivity along their front legs, particularly up the front edge - so take extra care and be gentle. In the same way as you worked up the back legs, start again with the front working from the bottom up, and then repeat on the inner edge of the other front leg. Care should be taken to ensure that the chest area between the front legs is also gently dealt with to clear any knots from this area which tends to be prone to severe knotting.

From here you should work upwards through the shoulders and chest to the neck, until only the head remains on this side.

Sometimes for personal convenience at this point, I start the other side of the body leaving the head to be dealt with completely at the end. However, for the purpose of these notes I will deal with the side of the head at this stage.


PET GROOMING.....Continued

The head itself is not particularly easy to comb and also includes many sensitive areas. It is probably easier to start from the neck and chest working from the lowest point upwards towards the mouth and ear. Leaving the ear flap for now, continue to work upwards around the head to the top gently working around the side and top of the nose and then carefully around the eyes, being particularly gentle at this point. Now for the ear flap, starting at the top of the ear on one edge, very carefully work your way around the edges of the ear flap, you must be very gentle at this point and tease out as much as possible before using the comb, as bleeding can easily occur from these areas if you are too heavy handed. You can then work upwards across the outside edge of the ear flap, then turning it over to carefully deal with the inner edges. Whilst the ear flap is turned over, it is a useful opportunity to check the ear making sure that it is clean, and that any soft brown hairs are gently plucked from the ear.

The dog should now be turned over and the whole process repeated for the other side.

By now the whole body of the dog has been groomed and some final finishing points can be carried out. The hair between the pads should either be combed carefully and trimmed flush with the pads, or carefully clipped away altogether, depending upon personal preference. The genital areas of the dog/bitch should also be trimmed carefully around the edges to reduce the opportunities for knotting and infection. The hair around the anus should be trimmed away back to the skin for approximately one inch all around it. Finally, the opportunity should be taken to check that the claws are not in need of cutting, if they do, then in preference use guillotine type nail cutters to trim them back, cutting small amounts regularly and not cutting back to the “quick”.

Having taken the trouble to clear the dogs coat in this way, weekly brushing with a stiff brush will help to maintain the appearance between these major grooming sessions. On average if you comb the coat once a month, with a good brush each week, you will probably find that it will be sufficient. However, you should remember that all dogs are different and you will need to learn and respond to what is right for your dog.

In concluding these notes, I hope that they will be of help to you, and would encourage you to copy them and pass them on to others who may benefit from them. All that I ask is that you ensure that they are attributed to myself as the originator and that Bertie Pennie is given the credit for the graphics. As I have previously said, I do not consider myself to be an expert, just rather fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from fellow exhibitors, and I am indebted to them for their tuition, help and support over the last 25 years. 

Bob Martin

March 1992
1st update April 1996
2nd update April 2001
3rd update March 2007

Ring Presentation  

This particular section of these notes will enter into areas of controversy and debate. Currently there is tremendous effort to achieve a high level of finish to the ring presentation of the Old English Sheepdog. However, it should be remembered that in previous years this was not the case and many people hold differing views regarding the style of presentation and it is up to each person to develop their own style and to suit the particular judge under whom they are showing. Personally,

I feel very strongly that it is up to the judge to examine the dog for its qualities and not necessarily its presentation, only perhaps using this factor in the unlikely situation that they cannot differentiate between the qualities of two dogs.

The presentation aspect to me reflects the fact that dog shows are also spectator/public events and for that purpose are in effect almost beauty competitions. There may be many people who disagree with these particular views, but they are personal and reflect my own views and beliefs.

Overall in presenting the dog for the show ring, the intent is to create a pear shape appearance to the body when viewed from above, and to emphasise the size of the head, retaining slim shoulders and good length of neck with the front legs fluffed out, whilst the rear legs, hocks and feet are also groomed to advantage.




Ring Presentation....Continued

Grooming In The RingReferring to the "Ring Presentation" diagrams opposite, with the dog stood, commence by shaping the rear body of the dog, brushing the coat upwards and outwards to increase the base of the pear shape, this extending down the rear legs to just above the hocks. The shoulders, chest and neck should be brushed as close as possible to the body, perhaps using a find water spray to stop the coat "flying". The front legs should be brushed upwards and outwards, whilst the hocks should be groomed to emphasise their shape and size as indicated. Finally, the head, ears and muzzle should also be brushed upwards and outwards to emphasise the overall size of the head. Clearly notes are no substitute for actual practice and it may take a considerable time before you are satisfied with your efforts.

Having described the basic idea, this can be supplemented, if desired, by a degree of "back brushing". This technique is no substitute for quality of coat, but I feel it does allow for an enhancement of the final finish in relation to the appearance of the dog perhaps in the "beauty competition" element, and a judge should never be deceived by an exhibitor's clever brushwork. By using light back brushing around the rear quarters of the dog along with its head, a more professional finish can be achieved. I am sure that many of us have stood at the ring-side before and admired dogs in the ring, occasionally being deceived by good presentation rather than a quality dog. I am sure this is often the reason why we see a well presented dog which does not win and who is beaten by one who is not so well presented , a totally correct decision.

It should also be noted that there are some judges who do not allow brushes to be used within the ring and this in itself may be a statement that they will not be deceived by presentation and care more about the quality of the dog itself. Often in these situations, backbrushing is inappropriate, but your hands can be used to good effect, again achieving the basic desired shape as described earlier in this section.

There are many techniques that can be used in ring presentation and only a few examples have been indicated here. You should be prepared to look and listen in order to learn and extend your knowledge, you will never know it all, so always be prepared to learn more, consider other methods and last but not least, respect other people's views and opinions - it takes all sorts and styles in showing.

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