By Audrey Nicholls; Darelyn Curly Coated Retrievers

Trimming and Coat Preparation

Equipment: - Sharp scissors, thinning scissors, sponge, wide toothed comb.

The correct coated dog requires very little preparation, a light trim about once a month is sufficient to keep him in perfect shape, but many curlies need weekly preparation for show purposes. Before moving onto descriptions of the necessary tasks in preparing your dog for the show ring it may be interesting to read a couple of quotations from almost ninety years ago. 

One from the early twentieth century about the preparation of the curly coated retriever’s coat states "The use of curling irons continues…… the exuberance of superfluous curly showing off the offending ringlets. It is therefore very advisable for intending purchasers unless they know a vendor to be above such practices to examine a dog of this description thoroughly before they conclude a purchase or possible disappointment may be in store for them".

Then, L.P.C.Astley, writing in 1907 likened the curly’s coat to the close fitting tightly curled beautiful head of hair on the African people opining that this was the only "true and proper one” …. Of which every knot is solid and inseparable. A coat of this quality is not capable of improvement by any methods of grooming for the simple reason that its natural condition is itself perfect. The little locks should be so close together as to be impervious to water and all parts of the body should be evenly covered with them, including the tail and legs. A bad class of coat and one that readily yields to the faker’s art is the thin open coat, which by careful manipulation can be greatly improved!"

Trim along the edge of the leather to give a neat outline. Cut the curls on the ears to make them short, especially the ones on the top of the ears, but not so short as to lose the curl. 

Trim the hair from underneath the ear towards the throat. This must be done at least a fortnight before a show so that the cut edge does not cause the dog to "Fly his ears". Some dogs do not have the desired flat hair on the top of the skull – a tendency for a top knot. If there are waves or curls here, trim them back with thinning scissors. Trim the curls to give a smooth line to the top of the head

Throat and Neck
Curlies do have a tendency to grow very long hair in this area. Just cut back to give a neat outline down to the brisket.

Trim hair round elbow. Trim curls on the back of the legs to give a neat outline. Don’t cut too close unless you have a heavy boned dog.

Cut hair close to the skin to make a neat foot

Trim curls to give a neat outline but do not cut too short

Trim any long hair on legs. Cut hair on hocks very short. Some dogs do not grow surplus hair here.

Cut hair on underside of the tail fairly short. Trim curls on the rest of the tail but not too short – starting with the root and working toward the tip. Trim round the tip but not too close as this is the place that is often caught by wagging against sharp objects. The tail should be wide at the root and certainly not a "rat-tail".

Some curlies may grow hair between the toes – if they do, pull the hair upwards and cut downwards towards the nails. Push remaining hair back between the toes.

Show Preparation
I have heard of many different "secret" preparations that have been used on the coat – glycerin and Jeyes fluid, to name just two, but plain water, preferable rain water, is quite adequate. 

If you are in a position that the dog can swim then this is the ideal way of wetting the coat. To keep in perfect show condition the coat needs to be thoroughly wet once a day. If the facilities for swimming are not available really soak the coat with water, with the aid of a sponge. After the dog has shaken the surplus water away, use the fingers to massage the coat in small circular movements – getting right down to the skin. All of the body, including the tail and the backs of the legs need this treatment. This will get rid of any dead hair. Pat the coat down with the flat of the hand. Any coat that is shaggy needs to be trimmed off. For a pet dog the above treatment can be done fortnightly.

A male often casts his coat once a year – a bitch after each season or false season. The easiest way to get rid of dead hair is to comb the coat out. Use a wide toothed comb (Not steel). Comb in small sections back towards the head. This is an ideal time to wash the coat with a good medicated shampoo. You can also comb out any dead coat while the shampoo is in the coat. Rinse the coat well. The Curly’s coat should be dull, but if you have a dog with a very dry coat, it will benefit from being soaked in coconut oil periodically. This treatment is particularly useful for the liver colored variety.