Brushing your dog can be very rewarding - it can be hard work, but it's
certainly worth the effort.
When freshly groomed, the Cocker Spaniel is a very handsome dog, just look at this photo below!
The Cocker Spaniel's coat is best described as medium to long, with long, fine, silky hairs on the top of his body, and a soft short undercoat below.
Brushing your dog's coat regularly will help to prevent tangles and mats forming in the first place and will help to remove dirt and anything he may have picked up during his walk - seeds, burrs, leaves, twigs, which if left in his coat, will probably cause matting.
Regular brushing also helps to evenly spread the natural oils throughout his coat to help keep it looking healthy and glossy.
Although brushing your dog can be hard work, it can also be relaxing and can help to strengthen the bond between you and your Cocker Spaniel.
If you want to groom your dog properly, and to a professional standard, you'll need a selection of grooming tools, but don't stint, buy the best you can afford - not only will they do a better job, they'll last longer too!
Most Cocker Spaniels will need to be brushed at least every three days to keep them looking good, although if your dog is walked in the countryside you may need to brush him more often.
If you're not sure how often you need to brush your Cocker, begin by brushing his coat once every three days. If the brush is picking up lots of loose fur, increase the grooming to every day or every other day.
If there's not much hair on the brush you can probably reduce brushing your dog to once or twice a week.
Brushing your dog regularly will not only help to stop matting developing, but it will also keep your Cocker's coat looking beautiful and glossy!
Areas most prone to tangles, knots, and matting, are your dog's arm pits, behind his ears, his bottom, leg feathers, and chest - I guess that just about covers your whole Cocker, doesn't it?
If your dog's coat gets in a tangle, take one area at a time and, using a metal comb, gently tease out any tangles and knots.
Start from the ends of the hair and slowly work up towards the skin -
this should remove most tangles without too much effort. I recommend you hold the base of the hair, near his skin, so that you're not actually pulling his hair.
I'm sure I don't need to state the obvious (when brushing your dog, be gentle with him) - no Cocker owner is going to deliberately hurt their baby, but pulling away at tangled hair can't be much fun for your Cocker.
If you're gentle with him and 'coo' to him at the same time, he will stay still for longer and will come to enjoy being brushed.
That's the easy bit - well, if your Cocker will sit still it is - time now for the mats!
Not everyone knows what 'matting' is, especially if their dog hasn't had matting in his coat before.
Mats are caused by friction and if your dog regularly wears a harness he may be more susceptible to matting in areas where they cause friction with his coat. It's probably a good idea to check for mats after removing his harness - it will only take a couple of seconds.
is made up of your dog's undercoat which has loosened and because it's not been brushed out in time, it's become
'matted' in his topcoat.
Mats are easily overlooked (especially when they're in awkward places) and so the occasional mat will sometimes occur.
seeds, and burrs can easily become trapped in a mat - making 'matters'
worse (if you'll pardon the pun!) - and the sharp edges of grass or
seeds can also work their way into your dog's skin, causing irritation, pain and
If your Cocker Spaniel isn't a 'townie' and is walked in the countryside, I recommend you check his coat for any signs of burrs and plant material as soon as you return home - remove them before they get a chance to work their way into his skin.
Brushing your dog's coat regularly will help to keep matting to a minimum but if you should discover one, here's how to deal with it.
It's important to remove mats as soon as possible, because, if left, they can create a warm, moist area next to your dog's skin - an ideal environment for bacteria and yeast, which could lead to infections and sores.
If your dog's coat is heavily matted, tackle as many individual tangles as you can in one 'sitting' and then let him rest for a while - no Cocker is that patient!
If you try to comb them all out at once, your Cocker Spaniel may become uncomfortable and fidgety and he may not be so willing to sit so still next time around!
As I said earlier, work on one mat at a time, slowly and carefully, and most important of all, work gently.
If the mat is not too tight, you may be able to pull it apart with your fingers to loosen the hair and then gently comb it out.
If a mat gets wet, it won't help as it can tighten even more as it dries - it's advisable therefore to remove mats before bathing your dog.
You can buy specially formulated conditioners or other products which claim to loosen mats. I've yet to find one that really works, but if I do, I'll let you know.
If you decide to try one, (before brushing your dog) try leaving the product on the mat for a while and then tease it out with a de-matting comb or the prongs of a steel comb.
The slicker brush can be used to remove small mats by gently pushing the wires into the mat and moving the brush from side to side in a gentle 'rocking' motion. Repeat this several times and then try brushing it out.
Be careful to keep your hand between the mat and your dog's skin so you don't hurt him. If you hold the strip at its base as you're brushing, you won't pull your dog's skin.
If the above doesn't work, try cutting the mat into 'strips' with a pair of sharp hair scissors, and then brushing each strip with a pin brush or a steel comb.
Important Note: Be very careful when cutting a mat into strips - don't cut too far into the matting, otherwise you may accidentally cut into your Cocker's skin!
If cutting into the mat doesn't work, as a last resort, you may need to cut it out completely.
If you need to cut out an entire mat, don't cut across the mat with scissors as you could seriously cut your dog's skin.
A cut like this, across the skin, would very probably need stitches!
I didn't realise that brushing your dog could be so dangerous!
Instead, slide the blade of a pair of scissors down the hair in the direction of growth.
Not only will this give the hair a more natural appearance when the mat has been removed, it will be safer for your Cocker too!
If you're not too confident about removing a mat with scissors, why not take your Cocker to a professional groomer and have them cut it out for you?
Cocker Spaniel ears are beautiful!
However, as well as trailing in and out of food and water bowls, they also trail in all sorts of dirt and muck outside, that's why it's important to keep Cocker Spaniel ears clean, healthy and free from infection.
When brushing your dog's ears, it's best to gently comb out any tangles or matting under and behind the ear before you begin brushing.
Cocker's tend to have a lot of fur at the opening of their ears which can prevent fresh air getting into the ear canal, creating a moist area where bacteria can thrive.
Following a severe ear infection, I now trim away this hair as best I can to help get the air circulating - follow the link above if you'd like to learn how to remove this hair.
For the leathers, I recommend you first use a slicker brush on each side to remove as much loose hair as you can.
I usually grasp (gently) my Cocker's ears at the top while I'm brushing to help stop any pulling sensation. Once the ear has been brushed thoroughly, I use a comb to remove any stubborn undercoat - I'm always surprised at just how much more there is, even after using the slicker brush!
TIP: When brushing your dog's ear, you may find it much easier if you begin brushing from the bottom tip of the ear and slowly work your way up.
Brushing your dog should be fun for you both - try to keep it light, and be gentle.
Your dog will come to resent his grooming sessions if you are too rough with him, and pull at his hair.
If you keep your dog mat and tangle free by grooming him every couple of days, it will become easier and more enjoyable for you both.
If you intend to show your Cocker Spaniel, you will need to hand-strip his coat, or use a stripping knife. Your dog groomer can show you how to do this, or if you prefer, will do it for you (at a price!)
Brushing your dog can be carried out either on the floor or on a table, depending upon how he behaves and how comfortable you feel.
I like to brush Max when he's lying quietly on the rug, either after a long walk (when he's tired out) or at night time when he's sleepy.
My preference would be to brush him on a raised surface - it's easier on the back and I can get the brush into all those nooks and crannies much more easily - however, he's not too keen on being high off the ground and won't stand still for very long!
If you choose to groom your Cocker Spaniel on a raised surface, such as a table, place a rubber mat, or a non-slip bath mat onto a table to prevent your Cocker Spaniel from slipping (it will also protect your table!).
When brushing your dog, it's important not to rush the job; take your time and be very gentle, particularly when trying to tease out any tangles or mats, otherwise your pet may not stand still for very long.
Using a pin brush, begin at the front and brush small sections at a time in the same direction that the furs grows, quietly checking for fleas or dog ticks - don't wait for the tell-tale signs of scratching and flecking (is that a real word?).
Work your way along one side, from head to tail, and then brush the other side, taking care to reach and remove any dead undercoat. This should help to prevent mats forming in the first place.
If you find a mat or a tangle, try gently teasing it out with a steel comb, pin brush, or slicker brush, as explained in more detail above.
If he behaves, reward your Cocker with praise throughout and offer him an occasional treat.
Most of all, enjoy it - brushing your dog should be therapeutic, not traumatic!
I strongly recommend you begin brushing your dog at an early age to acclimatise your Cocker Spaniel puppy to being brushed and groomed as well as being handled.
If your Cocker's coat isn't shining it could be a sign of an underlying illness, a sign of worms, or as a result of a poor diet.
If you're at all concerned about the condition of your dog's coat, I recommend you take him to see his vet for an accurate diagnosis.
Photo Credits - In order of viewing:
1. Tehzeta at Flickr.com
2. Olga Chernetskaya at http://www.dreamstime.com/Chernetskaya_info
3. Web author's own photograph
4. Web author's own photograph
5. Tammy McAllister at http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-american-cocker-spaniel-puppy-image5436306