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Tidying the Tresses of the Long-Haired Breeds

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Long-coated dogs are among the most beautiful dogs, but they’re also some of the most grooming-intensive dogs to care for. Think big hair — like the double coats in Chapter Clarifying the Corded Breed’s Coif — only with long and luxurious tresses! Long-haired dogs are gorgeous when they’re in top form and a nightmare when they’re not.

In this chapter, you find out everything you need to do to get your long-coated pooch looking fantastic.

Introducing the Long-Haired Breeds

Many dogs have long hair (see Figure 13-1). If you have one of these breeds, you must be dedicated to working ahead so that you keep your dog’s coat in good condition and free of mats. The long-haired breeds include:
  • Afghan Hound
  • Bearded Collie
  • Briard
  • Chihuahua (Long Coat)
  • Gordon Setter
  • Havanese
  • Irish Setter
  • Polish Lowland Sheepdog
  • Shih Tzu
  • Silky Terrier

  • Japanese Chin
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Longhaired Dachshund
  • Maltese
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Papillon
  • Pekingese
  • Skye Terrier
  • Tibetan Terrier
  • Yorkshire Terrier

Many of these dogs differ from their double-coated cousins (see Chapter Clarifying the Corded Breed’s Coif), because they usually don’t shed the way a dog with a so-called natural coat does. They do lose hair, yes, but many don’t blow their coat — shed profusely — on a seasonal basis.
Figure 13-1: The Maltese has long hair that requires close grooming attention.


Like the double coats, brushing is a big deal with long-haired dogs. They absolutely must be brushed at least three times a week — preferably every day.
No, I’m not kidding about brushing the long-haired dog’s coat every day. The best thing you can do for a long-haired dog is to make brushing and combing a daily routine. There’s no way around this task when you have a long-haired dog, so it’s up to you to make it as enjoyable as possible (see Chapter Caring for Your Canine’s Teeth, Toes, Ears, Face, and Ahem, Other Areas). The coats of these dogs will mat if they aren’t groomed properly.

The basics

You can brush most long-haired dogs the same way with a few breed-related differences or exceptions. Some long-haired dogs have parted coats, meaning their coats are parted along the back and then brushed accordingly. Others have what are called topknots — that is, head hair gathered up in a rubber band or bow. Nevertheless, here are the basics of brushing the long-coated dog:
1. Check for any tangles or mats and remove them using detangler solution and a medium-toothed comb.

If this method doesn’t work, try using a mat splitter or mat rake (see Chapter Caring for Your Canine’s Teeth, Toes, Ears, Face, and Ahem, Other Areas for specific mat removing instructions).

2. Backbrush, or brush against the lay of the hair, first using a slicker brush and then again with a medium-toothed comb.

Some people like to use pin brushes on these types of coats. If your dog is a single-coated breed such as a Yorkshire Terrier or Shih Tzu, a pin brush probably is ideal.

3. Brush your dog’s coat with the lay of the hair.


If you have a parted-coat breed — Afghan Hound, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Skye Terrier, Shih Tzu, Silky Terrier, Tibetan Terrier, or Yorkshire Terrier — you can use a comb (doesn’t matter what size) to define and straighten the part in your dog’s coat. Slowly run the comb from the top of the nose, between the eyes, over the head, and down the spine to the tail. The part needs to be straight, so if it’s crooked, try again to straighten it out. You can also spray a bit of coat dressing on each side of the part to hold it in place.

4. If you don’t plan to show your dog, use electric clippers equipped with a No. 10 blade to shave around the anal area and the abdomen.

Be very careful not to touch sensitive areas with the clippers.

Although this step is optional and depends on the type of dog and whether you’re planning to show her, shaving around your dog’s anus is a good idea for hygienic reasons.

5. Check out your dog’s feet to see whether they need neatening.

You can use your electric clippers (again equipped with a No. 10 blade) to trim any hair growing out from between the pads and neaten the foot so that it’s in more of an oval shape.

6. Go over your dog with a flea comb to remove fleas and any straggling tangles.

You can accomplish this task with a long-haired dog by parting the hair and putting the flea comb at the hair roots and putting slowing outward.

Technical Stuff

If your dog sports a top knot — usually parted-coat toy dogs like the Maltese and Yorkshire Terrier but other breeds like the Old English Sheepdog and the Bearded Collie can have them too, if you want to get hair out of their eyes — you can easily make one by parting the hair from the top of the eyes to the ears diagonally along each side and making a part down the head from ear to ear for the back. Gather up the hair and use a rubber band, ribbon, or barrette (look for ouchless ones so you don’t rip the hair) to secure it. You can buy these accoutrements at a pet store, through a grooming supply catalog, or on the Internet (see the Appendix for sources of grooming supplies). In a pinch, you can actually use people hair accessories.

Preventing tangles and mats

Long-haired dogs tend to mat quickly, so the best way to handle tangles and mats is to avoid allowing them form altogether. Consider the following tips to keep your dog free from mats and tangles:

– Brush your dog every day. You can avoid mats if you don’t let them form.

– Keep your dog out of thick brush where he can pick up burrs and stickers.

– Always brush out your dog before a bath.

– Keep your dog’s coat clean. A clean dog will mat less.

– Always rinse your dog thoroughly after a bath.

– Thoroughly dry your dog after baths.

– If your dog isn’t a show dog, keep him in a pet or puppy cut — it’s shorter and keeps the hair off the ground (see Chapter Spiffing Up Short- and Medium-Coated Breeds).


Bathing a long-haired dog is essential, especially when he gets dirty. Most long-haired dogs need a bath once or twice a month to keep clean and sweet smelling. More baths are needed when your dog likes to roll around in stinky stuff.

Although once every two weeks sounds a little extreme, it really isn’t. Remember many of the long-haired breeds have hair similar to yours. Think about how you’d smell if you took a bath only once a month. Every two weeks sounds a little better now, doesn’t it?

Technical Stuff

Dogs luckily don’t have sweat glands in their skin, except in their paw pads, so they don’t stink after a hard day of work the way humans do. However, they still can get dirty, and a long-haired dog is more likely to pick up icky stuff than a short-haired pooch.

Prebath brushing and clipping

A prebath brushing is absolutely essential. A prebath clipping is up to you, the groomer.


Before bathing your long-haired dog, brush him out no matter how dirty he is. Doing so lessens the chances for tangles and mats to form when you wet down your pooch.

Some groomers prefer to give their dogs a prebath clipping — that’s assuming the dog has been thoroughly brushed out. The idea behind a prebath clipping is to get rid of excess hair and any damaged ends before soaking the dog down. A bonus from a prebath clipping is that you have less hair to wash. Other groomers, on the other hand, dislike the idea of giving their dogs a prebath clipping. They cite the potential for bacteria to develop in the just-clipped hair. But this is a matter of opinion, not fact.
The main issues with prebath clipping are that:
A filthy dog shouldn’t be given a prebath clip for those two reasons, but there’s no reason not to do so if your dog isn’t terribly dirty or just needs a quick touch up.
When you start clipping before the bath, make sure that your dog’s coat is free from mats. Note: The prebath clip is not the time for trying out new styles or extensive trimming — use the clippers to trim and get rid of split ends or uneven hair. Remember, you’ll be giving your dog a full clipping after his bath when he’s thoroughly dried.

Bathing basics

It may come as a surprise to you to find out that bathing a long-coated breed isn’t much different than bathing any other breed. But it isn’t. Here’s what it’s like to put your long-haired dog through the wash cycle:
1. Wet down your dog’s long hair thoroughly with tepid water in a tub that’s an appropriate size for your breed of dog.

Using a sprayer attached to the tub faucet or shower is helpful and convenient, especially for larger dogs. If you have a toy dog, like the Maltese or the Yorkshire Terrier, you can use the sprayer attachment at the kitchen sink, provided it’s clean (with no dirty dishes) and you use a hair strainer or drain trap.

2. Soap up your dog thoroughly with a good pH-balanced dog shampoo except around the face and eyes — which you must do separately with a wet cloth.
3. Rinse, rinse, and rinse again, sliding your fingers along your dog’s skin so that you get all that soap rinsed out.
4. Apply a good pH-balanced doggie conditioner that prevents tangles.

Using a conditioner that prevents tangles and also keeps the coat from drying out is a good idea. You can find dog conditioner where you purchase your other grooming supplies (or check out the Appendix for other pet-supply resources).

5. Rinse better than you did in Step 3.

No residue is good, but leaving any in your dog’s coat can really make it yucky. Feel along the skin, and then rinse some more, just to be sure.

6. Get out those towels and start drying.

As you squeeze the towels into the coat, look for soapy water. If you find any, go back to rinsing.


Like the really thick-coated breeds, drying your long-coated dog really well is of utmost importance. Otherwise, your dog will pick up dirt in his coat, and you will have a dirty dog on your hands altogether too soon. Take these steps when drying your long-haired breed:
1. Use towels first to dry your dog’s coat.

Wrap the towel around the dog’s hair and gently squeeze as much moisture from the hair as the towel will hold. Repeat as needed.

2. Use a blow-dryer (no heat, of course) to dry your dog’s coat.

This step both dries your dog and helps fluff his hair.

3. While using the blow-dryer, use a comb that works for your dog’s hair to start combing out the hair.

If the coat’s still too wet, the comb usually sticks and pulls hair, so you may want to start adding leave-in detangler solution and comb with a coarser-toothed comb.

4. After your dog’s coat is dry, brush it out again. Doesn’t that look good?
5. Clip the coat if required (see the following section).


If you clip after a bath, be sure the dog’s hair is completely dry to ensure a proper cut. Otherwise, you may accidentally take off more than you expected.


Some long-haired breeds can be clipped (Yorkshire Terrier and Shih Tzu, for example) while others should not be clipped (like the Afghan Hound and Bearded Collie). If you’re worried about having a correct coat going into the show ring, you need to read the breed standard and find out what is allowed. A good place to look for breed standards is on the Internet at Talking to breeders and show people also is helpful.

Neatening the breeds that need it

If you’re planning on showing your long-haired pooch, you may decide to keep your dog in a show coat. Clipping is usually not appropriate for these dogs and basically what you do is trim the edges with scissors for an even look.
Even so, many long haired breeds that most folks think of as clipped (the Yorkshire Terrier and the Shih Tzu for example) are actually not really unless you’re planning on keeping your dog in a pet cut (see Chapter Spiffing Up Short- and Medium-Coated Breeds). For example, the Yorkshire Terrier allows trimming of the ears and feet for a neatened appearance, but the rest of the coat is more or less untrimmed. To trim the tips of the ears, you need to use the scissors and put your fingers between the ear leather and the scissors to avoid cutting the dog, and trim along the line of the ear. Likewise, the feet are also trimmed.
The Shih Tzu really doesn’t have a lot of trimming, and in fact, excessive trimming is considered a fault. Basically, you follow the bottom line of the hair with scissors to keep a neat appearance. That’s pretty much it, unless you’re planning to keep your dog in a pet cut (see Chapter Spiffing Up Short- and Medium-Coated Breeds).

Doing the low-maintenance do: A Puppy cut

Many first-time, long-haired dog owners are surprised by how much work it takes to groom their pups. Not only is brushing a lot of work, but keeping your dog’s coat mat-free can be a real headache. Most long-haired dog owners fall into one of these three coat-care camps:

– They do all the brushing and coat care and don’t mind it because they like the look.

– They like the look, but have no time to do the coat care properly, and the dog ends up looking matted until they can pay a groomer to clean them up once in a while.

– They like the look, realize their limitations, and keep their dog in a nonstandard trim to make life easier.

If you’re the first or third type of pet owner, you’re doing great. But if you fully recognize yourself as part of the second group, don’t despair! There are plenty of reasons why you haven’t gotten your dog cleaned up, and I must applaud you for looking for solutions by picking up this book.
However, if you’re a member of that second group, you need to be realistic. Do you and your dog a huge favor and accept the fact that your dog just isn’t going to get better merely by you expressing your good intentions. Even though it’s terribly nonstandard, a clipped dog (and you) can be much happier than one’s whose coat is constantly matted and icky.


If your long-haired dog has a severely matted coat, bite the bullet and take him to a professional groomer right away and ask the groomer to remove the mats and give your dog either a Teddy Bear or a Puppy cut. That way, you can either maintain it or have a groomer maintain it for much less hassle and money. Your dog will come out really cute and adorable, and you’ll be wondering why you didn’t take this step sooner.

Putting your dog in a Teddy Bear or Puppy cut enables you to decide whether it’s something you’re going to maintain (once a month — at least) or whether you’re going to be taking your dog to the groomer thereafter. If grooming your dog is a matter that slips your mind, put your grooming day on the calendar and if you miss it, schedule a spruce-up with the groomer the next day; it’ll be much less expensive than the initial session.

Preparing for Show

Prepping your long-coated dog for a conformation show isn’t necessarily a big deal if you maintain his coat. But you still need to know some of the tricks of the trade for getting your dog ready to show.
Preparing a long-coated dog for show is time-consuming. The basic things you have to do are
The sections that follow look at some of the fine points of getting your longhaired dog’s coat ready for the show.

Clip and snip

What about clipping? Well, again, clipping depends on the breed. Some breed standards forbid clipping the hair in any manner. Check the standard to see whether clipping is something you can do. A good place to look for breed standards is on the Internet at


Even if you can’t technically clip your dog’s coat, most people like to trim around the feet and the muzzle to provide a smooth appearance or trim the dog’s whiskers (see Chapter Going Pro: Starting a Dog Grooming Business).

Using coat conditioners

Like the double-coated breeds (see Chapter Clarifying the Corded Breed’s Coif), the long-haired breeds sometimes need a little help keeping their coats at their finest. Sometimes these coats can get dry or damaged because of the environment and thus need an occasional spray from an oil-based conditioner.


You can use a coat conditioner to give the coat a proper feel when touched. Of course, coat conditioners won’t make an incorrect coat into something wonderful, but they will improve the coat tremendously, especially if you keep your dog otherwise well groomed. Coat conditioners won’t necessarily make your dog into a show winner, but they can prevent you from losing badly because your dog’s coat looks awful.

by Margaret H.Bonham

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