Caring for the Cocker Coat


(For the purpose of this advice sheet I have referred to my own dog as ‘Miss Rug’.)

There are many different breed standards of the Spaniel breed and as such there are several different coat types that include; a) medium length silky coat and under coat, b) dense, tight crisp ringlets as with the Irish Water Spaniel.  Generally the Spaniel cut appears long and straight. Different breeds of Spaniel will have variations on how they are groomed and finished, however, the basic process for brushing and clipping remains relatively standard.

Gently handling your puppy right from the word go will help him or her to get used to being brushed/washed and checked over.  I would suggest a gentle brush for a few minutes a day with a soft baby brush.  Ensure that you never rush or are in a hurry.  Treat this as special bonding ‘together time’.


Brushing and Tools


As owner you will need to check for any matts or tangles that can then be removed using a detangling product and a medium toothed comb.  A matt rake or splitter may need to be used if a medium toothed comb and detangling product fail to remove matts or tangles.  Using a slicker brush the fur should then be back brushed and the initial process should then be repeated with a medium toothed comb.  It may then be necessary to repeat the process with the slicker brush. 


A soft brush or curry comb should be used around the spaniel’s face and head.  The tools used for brushing can include; the Pin brush, slicker brush, medium-toothed comb, fine-toothed comb and curry comb.


Pre bathing and dealing with mats


The dog’s coat must be fully brushed before being bathed.  Brushing will remove dead hair and any debris that may be caught up.  Whilst brushing, it will be a good idea to check for any ticks (and remove using a tick comb) or mites that may contaminate the grooming area.  A good brushing will stimulate the dog’s circulatory system, improve the dog’s skin and coat condition, it will also separate the hair making the cleansing process much easier and more affective.  During the pre bath brushing out process it will become obvious where the mats, tangles and knots are.


I have noticed with my own spaniel that there are areas that have required particularly attention.  The areas under Miss Rug’s forearms and ears at one time became particularly tangled.  Initially I found the best way to deal with this was to use a de-tangling lotion, prior to her bath.  Then gently comb out, using a slicker brush.  However, one long walk later and they were back again, with vengeance.  I have subsequently found that it is easier and kinder for the dog to carefully remove the matts using clippers.  Using scissors in areas under the arms and other hot spot areas can be quite dangerous.  If the matt is too close to the skin as you cut the skin can also get cut, therefore if you are grooming the dog yourself I would suggest using clippers.  Keeping the fur around these areas (behind ears and under her forearms) short, thus preventing further tangles.  Tangles can pull and can bother a dog. 


Another way of dealing with mats and tangles is to use a de-tangling lotion.  The tangled area should be completely drenched with the de-tangling lotion, to allow the lotion to sink in and start working, if possible, the dog should sit for five to fifteen minutes.


The equipment needed will be the slicker brush and a matting comb.  The brush should be used first and starting with the dog’s legs and by brushing the coat up and then down the mats and tangles should begin to loosen.  However, I have found that Miss Rug did not like this procedure at all.  It was only when she had come back from a very long walk and when she was so ‘dog tired’ that she allowed me to cut out the mats, in fact she was so sound asleep that she did not notice what I was doing.  This technique of walking the dog to near exhaustion is not recommended and a young dog or puppy should never be over exercised.  Please see separate exercise sheet for puppy. Therefore, it may be necessary and in the animal’s best interest to shave the coat down using either a 10” or 7” blade.  It will be in the dog’s long term best interest to ensure that when the fresh coat comes through that the dog gets into a regular grooming routine to avoid any future mats.  A cocker spaniel will need to have a good brush through every day and will need a thorough groom every 5 to 6 weeks.  Some people and in the case of a show dog, will prefer to do hand stripping.  However, there is a technique to this and if you plan to show your dog, you may wish to learn how to do this.  The cost of taking your dog to a dog parlour for grooming varies but could cost between 30 to 40 pounds.





When the de-matting process is complete, the next step will be to bath the dog.  I have found that I am able to keep control of Miss Rug in the bath by keeping hold of her nylon collar (the nylon collar is one that is specifically used for the bathing process).  Even if you decide to take your dog to a professional groomer, there will be times when you may need to bath the dog yourself.  I use my left hand to control her, my right hand is my work hand.  Our dog loves a bath but be aware that not all dogs enjoy a bath. The coat will need to be thoroughly saturated using warm water, a shower/tap attachment for a hose will be suitable to use.  To prevent water getting into the eyes and ear canal the dog’s muzzle should be held in a downward direction, whilst the water should be directed downwards on the dog’s head to prevent water from getting into the mouth, ears and nostrils.  The dog’s neck, back, front leg region, belly, rump, hind legs and tail should be thoroughly saturated.  I have found that Miss Rug prefers a shallow bath and I always ensure that the shampoo and conditioner are close by.  My technique is to then massage the shampoo through the hair building up a sufficient lather over the entire animal.  Special attention should be paid to the stomach, genital region, to the foot pads and inside the ear flaps.  Always use a shampoo and conditioner especially formulated for dogs.


A small soft bristle brush may need to be used if there are any areas of the dog that are particularly dirty or stained.  Care should always be taken to try not to get shampoo in the dog’s eyes as the product could get into the eyes or tear ducts that could lead to infections.


Thorough rinsing using touch-tested warm water, will follow the shampooing procedure.  The same principle applies as when wetting the coat, the water should be directed away from the eyes so that the soap does not run into the eyes.  Similarly care should be taken to ensure that the water spray does not enter the animal’s ear canal.  A shampoo brush may be required for those animals that may be particularly dirty and require a second shampoo.


As a general guide it is better to use a flea shampoo and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.  Whilst a medicated preparation may be better for dogs with skin conditions as this may be more soothing and better for their skin.  The use of a condition and or a cream rinse may be very useful on dogs with silky, long coats.  Interestingly conditioning agents remove static electricity on drying.  It is important to ensure that all products, for example shampoo and conditioner are removed as this can create dandruff and skin irritation.


Expressing the anal glands


Whilst bathing the dog, it may be necessary to inspect the anal area.  Anal glands are scent glands and each dog has two anal sacs either side of the anus. Usually the dog will empty their anal sacs whilst doing a bowel movement, however, on occasion the anal sacs can become blocked or clogged and it may be necessary for the anal sacs to be expressed as part of the grooming process.  It may be necessary to take the dog to a vet if on examination there are any signs of infection or damage.  Signs of infection would include; heat, pain, redness, inflammation or possibly pus.  If the anal glands are free from infection but are firm and feel like a small firm grape they may require expressing.  I would suggest though that the dog will need to be accepting of this procedure.  Should you take your dog to a dog groomer you will need to discuss this procedure with the groomer and give consent.

Once your dog has been brushed and bathed it will be necessary to dry your dog.


The drying process


No dog likes to be left to drip dry!


Therefore it will be necessary to remove as much surface water as possible manually as this will not only reduce the mechanical drying process of the groom but will also reduce the grooming and finishing time.  The technique required is by wringing the coat out, starting at the head and moving down the body towards the tail region, then by squeezing both hands down each leg the feet should gently be lifted up to gently squeeze all excess water from the feet.  A Towel or chamois should then be used to rub over all of the dog’s body. 


There are a variety of drying methods that include using a hand held dryer.  It will be useful to wrap the dog in a second large towel that is completely dry and by holding the animal for a few minutes as the extra towel wrap will soak up more residual water than the brisk towel dry alone.  Brisk and vigorous towel drying may not be suitable for dogs that have a long or drop coat, as their coats are prone to tangling therefore, the above method should be used. 


I use a stand alone dryer that has a stand where the dryer can be placed, thus freeing up both hands.  I find the most effective way to dry Miss Rug is the use frequent, upward, even stokes until the coat is completely dry.  One of the important aspect of the drying process is to ensure that the dryer does not stay in one place for too long or that it is too near to the coat, as the warm air could cause a burn to the dog’s skin.  Although fluff drying appears to be effective for the type of coat that Miss Rug has, the one disadvantage is that it appears to be time consuming.  Fortunately she is a very patient dog, but a dog that is older or not so used to being groomed may find that standing for a long period of time, or the noise from the dryer, may distress them or make them unhappy. 


Ear cleaning, eye cleaning and dealing with facial wrinkles


Other principle areas of the grooming process and their function include; ear cleaning, eye cleaning and dealing with facial wrinkles.  It is important to remove the accumulated wax and ear dirt by swabbing the animal’s ears using either cotton wool or for smaller dogs a cotton bud.  After cleaning it is essential to thoroughly dry the ear with another piece of cotton wool or cotton bud.


You may find the following web sites have been used for this section of this essay;


Nail trimming


How often a dog’s nails need to be cut will depend on the activity of the dog and its lifestyle.  For those dogs who are inactive (the older dog) or who do not wear down their nails whilst playing or who do not walk on hard surfaces, it will be important to ensure that the dog’s nails are well trimmed to the correct length.  Long claws are prone to ripping, splitting, stress injuries and infection.  Specially make nail cutters should always be used and but you will need to feel competent and comfortable when handling the clippers, particularly as most dogs do not like having their nails trimmed.  It is a good idea therefore to get the dog used to having their paws and claws handled at a young an age as possible.


Once it has been decided that the dog’s nails are too long then the general recommendation is to cut approximately 2-3 mm from the kwik.  However, if the dog has black or dark nails it may be difficult or impossible to see the kwik, this in turn can make nail trimming more difficult.  The kwik is the area inside the nail that has the blood supply. 


It may be advisable to trim in small cuts to reduce the chance of accidentally cutting the kwik and also remember to trim the dew claw if the dog has any.  The following website: gives some useful advice regarding trimming your dogs nails.  If the kwik is accidentally cut too short and it starts to bleed, then pressure should be applied to the area that is bleeding.




A close no. 10 blade is used to trim the face.  The areas to concentrate on are the check, jaw, up to the occiput and the top third of the ears. The throat should then be trimmed down to the breast bone.  The coat should be trimmed evenly down the neck, chest, back and loin region – remembering to avoid any ridges or lumpy lines – it is important to blend as one trims.  The legs are usually left untrimmed as they should look relatively natural, although if they are very untidy they can be tidied using a no. 3 or 4 blade.  Generally a no. 5 or 7 blade can be used to trim down the sides.  The following web site can be useful as a resource for trimming the English Cocker Spaniel.  Whereas the You Tube website shows some very co-operative models being groomed, from a personal perspective I prefer not to cut or shave off the dog’s whiskers. 


Head and other Details for Spaniels


  • Eyes, I would encourage the owner to check and wipe away debris daily.

  • The ears should be checked weekly.

  • Teeth should be cleaned regularly with a toothbrush or finger cap cloth.

  • Nails if not worn down with walking on a tarmac or hard surfaces, should be clipped using nail clippers. (with Kwik stop close to hand)

  • Paws should be checked daily for matts and trimmed regularly.


Hand Stripping the Spaniel


  • A rubber glove or finger caps,

  • stripping knives,

  • mars stripper,

  • powder of chalk can be used for hand plucking or stripping out the dead hair.


Hair should always be plucked or stripped before a bath as wet hair is impossible to grasp.