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Tips for Grooming A Show Dog

Updated on December 18, 2009
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney has over 10 years of experience in dog training, rescuing and dog healthcare.

Dog Show

Show dogs have a special trait about them that 's pretty simple- they are the ideal specimen for the breed in regards to coat, body, teeth, stance, and even personality. But even still a naturally gorgeous dog may still need a little help calming a few straggly hairs or cowlicks.

When showing your dog, you want to make sure that your dog is on top of his game. Make sure that you have properly groomed him, and make sure that there isn't any foreign substance in his coat. Many shows and judges will dismiss a dog that has something in his coat, such as chalk or baby powder, which is commonly used to enhance the white on a dog's face or legs. If you opt to try it anyway, you want to make sure that you use great caution and that you make sure that you brush out any traces of the powder or chalk out of the coat before your dog enters the ring.

Make sure that you never use powder that contains talcum because when inhaled by your dog it can be very dangerous.

If you opt to use a gloss to make your dog's coat shiny, you'll want to make sure that you apply it sparingly and brush or rub down the coat with a towel or shammy after you've applied the gloss.

So given the basic coat tips, you'll find that the basic tips below can be applied to many different dogs, especially that which has a short coat.

The Head

  • Use round tipped scissors to cut off the long whiskers on the side of the cheeks, over the eyes, and under the chin. Then cut the whiskers on the muzzle and chin. Be careful when working near the eyes.
  • If you're dog has cropped ears, take the same round tipped scissors and starting at the base of the ear, cut the hair from the base to tip along the outer edge flush with the edge of the ear. Now, hold the ear inside out and cut all the fuzzy hairs at the base of the ear and inside the ear. Stand back and look; cut off and blend together hair that may stick out in a little tuft at the outer edge of the ear.
  • Clean tartar from the teeth with a damp washcloth or a soft toothbrush dipped in a little baking soda. Check with your veterinarian if the deposits of tartar are so heavy that they cannot be removed in this manner.

The Neck

  • If your dog has a cowlick running from the back of the ear on down the neck, you can blend it nicely with thinning shears. Hold the shears vertically and carefully follow the cowlick line down the neck. You will be able to see when you have it blended well enough. Some people use the scissors to just snip the ends of the hairs in this area, but the thinning shears is safer because there is less chance of leaving a bald spot.

The Chest

  • If the dog has a cowlick in the middle of his forechest, the thinning shears should be used here as well.

The Body

  • Many dogs have straggly hairs under the belly, toward the rear of the body, especially around the nipples or penis. If you own an electric clipper, use it here. If not, your scissors will do. Be sure that you have good lighting, and handle the clipper or scissors with caution when working near the nipples or genital area.
  • Check the hair at the bottom of the flank, by the tuck-up. If it is long or uneven, this area can be tidied with the clippers or scissors, as well. Avoid nicking the fold of skin or cutting the hair too short that the area appears bald.

The Rear Legs

  • Many dogs have a little round cowlick on the back of each leg on either side of the base of the tail. Work your thinning shears around this little circle to blend it evenly with the surrounding hair.t
  • If the hair running down the center of the back of each rear leg sticks out, this is best groomed with the thinning shears. Go slowly, because the line must be kept straight and even. Some groomers successfully use scissors here, but the thinning shears give a more natural look and hides the occasional grooming error.

The Tail

  • The easiest way to make the tail neat is to clip the underside with the electric clippers in the direction of the growth. Do this from 10 days to 2 weeks before the date of the show. By show time, the tail will look natural again but will not have any straggly hairs. If you don't have a set of clippers, or if you forget to clip the tail at least 10 days before the show, then use your scissors. Holding the tail either straight up or out, look for the broken hairs on the underside and cut them off- practically one hair at a time. When you finish, the tail should not have a shaggy appearance, but if it does, you can use your thinning shears to re-shape the tail in the necessary places- usually the underside.
  • Never groom the top of the tail except to trim any protruding hairs one hair at a time.
  • As for the tip of the tail, this can take some practice, but in most cases using the thinning shears will help smooth out any straggly hairs or curls. Start about a half an inch below the end of the bone and cut across a few times in the same place; then begin thinning all around the sides of the end to create a natural look.

The Feet

  • It takes two cuts on each toenail with your nail trimmer to achieve a shapely nail. The first cut should be a blunt one- up and down- as close to the quick as possible without cutting into the quick. For the second cut, angle the trimmer forward just a bit so as to make a diagonal cut that removes just the tip of the top section but none of the bottom.
  • Lift the foot by the pastern and bend it back gently so the pad is facing up. Use your scissors to cut the hair  that is sticking out from between the pad so it's flush with the pad. Separate the toes and cut the hair between them even with the pad, staring by the toenail and working back. This give a tidy appearance to some dog's feet, but makes no difference on others.


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    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      7 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      I've only attended a few dog shows but loved the exciting atmosphere and the talents of the groomers and of the competitors. Your article reminded me in a pleasant way what goes on behind the show. Thanks!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      Excellent information, well presented. You obviously know your stuff. Thanks.


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