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A good place to start is understanding the Brittany breed standards.


Grooming Your Brittany

By Sue Drazek, Northern Virginia Brittany Club

Portions of this article are excerpted from The Book of the American Brittany Eighties Edition by Rheta Cartmell, in the chapter "The Show Brittany"

For additional information on grooming your Brittany click on Jessica Carlson's Brittany Grooming article. (Linked with permission of the author.)

Recorded in September, 2016, this grooming video is one of the best so far on how to trim and groom your Brittany. It is done by Dawn Droel of Sovereign Brittanys, Marine, MN, with camera work by Joe Droel. Dawn clearly demostrates how to groom your Brittany whether for show ring, working in the field, playing in the back yard or walking on lead in your community. [Linked with permission.] Thanks Dawn!

To my eyes, there are few things as beautiful to watch as a Brittany racing around the yard or field, just for the love of running. And then when that happy dog come close for some love pats, there is a great feeling in stroking a clean, well groomed Brittany. I have found the Brittany very easy to maintain. In this article, I will share what I have learned about grooming over the 18 years that I have had Brittanys. I use the same type of grooming on my show dogs (Breed, Obedience, Agility, and Hunt) and on my older dogs who are retired from obedience and agility and enjoy life at home.

Getting Started

It's a good idea to have a clear picture, in mind or on paper, of what a properly groomed Brittany looks like. You can use your copy of The American Brittany Magazine or one of the available books on Brittanys, to locate pictures of several groomed dogs. These will most likely be found in the section dealing with conformation shows. Note especially the amount of hair on the ears, neck, tail and feet. (See listing of resources at the end of this article.)

Shedding

One question frequently asked by someone interested in the Brittany, is "Does a Brittany shed?" Most dogs shed, as do people. It is a natural process, hair falls out and, with any luck, new hair grows again from the same follicle. With regular brushing, the amount of hair scattered around your house, stuck to your clothes and landing on your dinner plate can be controlled. And for those special events, be sure to keep a pet hair remover - one of the those sticky rolls of paper with a handle - close at hand.

Veronica Stevens brushes out some lose Brittany hair on Oscar af Domsten owned by Irmeli Bostrom
Veronica Stevens brushes out some lose Brittany hair on Oscar af Domsten
owned by Irmeli Bostrom during grooming demostration at NVBC's 2004 Fun Trial.

Grooming Routine

Following is my standard, weekly grooming routine:

Start with a clean dog. You be the judge of when a bath is needed. I have found that the coat on the Brittany is naturally clean. Dirt just seems to fall off easily. I don't bathe the dogs every week, just when needed. I use a slicker brush - one with wire teeth - to remove dirt, snarls, and plant material like burrs.

Ear Flaps Up

I clean the inside of the ear flap and the inside of the ear by squirting ear cleaning solution into the ear canal, then massaging the base of the ear. I then wipe with a cotton pad wetted with an ear cleansing solution made especially to dry quickly. Let the dog shake it's head and dry the ears again. Regular cleaning will control the brown waxy buildup that smells.

Typical ear cleaning supplies
Typical ear cleaning supplies

When bathing my dog, I use a good quality shampoo made expressly for dogs. It is the correct pH for their skin, and rinses without leaving a soapy residue. Dog shampoo is available at dog shows, through pet supply catalogs and websites, and local feed and pet stores.

Start at the Head

Have a good supply of big towels at hand. My Brittanys fit in the laundry sink, where the faucet is a hand held spray head on a retractable hose. I thoroughly wet the dog, soap, rinse and dry the head, and then soap and rinse the rest of the body.

Let's Get Anal

While the dog is soapy, express the anal glands. There are several methods to do this:
orange ballPut on disposable rubber gloves, put KY jelly on one index finger, hold the tail up with the other hand and insert the gloved finger into the rectum. Using your thumb on the outside of the dog and the finger on the inside, locate one of the anal glands (at about 4 and 8 on a clock face); if full, it feels like a grape. Gently squeeze the accumulated fluid out. Beware, it may come squirting out and it is stinky. Twist your thumb to the other side of the anus and do the same to the gland on the other side.

orange ballAnother way is to use paper towels or Handi-Wipes to cover the anal area, apply pressure externally at the 4 and 8 o'clock areas to express the glands. Get your veterinarian or someone who knows to show you how this done before trying it yourself.

Anal glands are found in all dogs. Anal sacs are collectors for glandular secretions and are located on both sides of the dog's anus. These sacs contain a liquid that ranges from brownish-yellow to light gray in healthy dogs. The anal gland is normally maintained during bowel movements if the dog's stool is firm then this liquid is normally discharged. These anal glands are used as a scent indicator. This is why dogs greet each other by sniffing the other's butt. If the anal gland fluid is discharged during the greeting, they know if they have frighten or made the other dog nervous and can be assured they are the dominant dog.

Often these sacs empty easily, however, some dogs are not able to empty their sacs completely and risk anal sac disease.

Visible signs that your dog may be suffering from anal gland discomfort include:
orange ball scooting across the floor or yard,
orange ballchasing their tail, or
orange ballchewing or licking at their rear end.

It is important that all stages of anal sac disease should be treated by a veterinarian. If your dog suffers chronically from anal sac impaction, there is a surgical removal procedure which involves anesthetization. Consult with your veterinarian about this treatment and include discussion of anal glands during regular checkups with your vet.
Anal glands aren't a popular topic of conversation but they are an important part of your dog.

After expressing the anal glands, I squirt more shampoo on the rear area and suds well. Then rinse the dog thoroughly. Throw a towel over the dog sopping up as much water as you can. I taught my dogs to shake on command, so I hold a towel over them and say "shake." Wrap a dry towel over the dog and lift him onto the grooming table, the top of the washer, or the floor, which has been covered with another dry towel. Towel off as much of the remaining water as possible. I like to use a hair dryer and brush or fluff the coat with my hand while drying.

Smile

Additionally, I clean the teeth with a toothbrush and dog toothpaste, which has a beef flavor. Never use human toothpaste. It is not designed to be swallowed. If swallowed by your dog, it may make the dog ill. I also scrape off any accumulated tarter and plaque, using a scrapper similar to that dentists use. These are available at dog shows, pet supply catalogs and websites, and feed and pet stores. When necessary have your vet do a more complete cleaning, removing plaque from your dog's teeth.

Brushing to remove dead hair

All brushing and combing is done in the direction the hair grows. Once the dog is thoroughly dry, a use a Zoom-groom, a flexible soft rubber devise with 20 to 30 cone-shaped teeth. It fits in the palm of the hand and removes the loose guard hairs. It is very soft so it doesn't poke or scratch the dog's skin. It is especially good on the bony areas like the leg and feet.
Zoom-groom brush

Zoom-groom
Russ Cavendar, Veronica Stevens, Bengt and Irmeli Bostrom with Oscar
Zoom Groom Groom! Russ Cavendar, Veronica Stevens, Bengt and Irmeli Bostrom (l to r)
with Oscar at grooming deomonstration during 2004 NVBC Fun Trial

Finally, I use a fine striping comb. I learned about this comb several years ago and really like it. It has a wooden handle and metal head at one end. The metal head is about two-inches long with a row of tiny teeth about ½ inch deep.
Mars Fine Stripper comb
Mars Fine Stripper comb

Start at the rear of the dog, combing a patch at a time, and work your way forward. The stripper comb removes dead hair, especially from the undercoat. The amount I can remove depends on the dog's coat. The thicker and woollier the coat, the more hair may remove.

Clipping and Trimming

Get someone experienced to show you how to do this the first time, and refer to the pictures of well groomed Brittanys.

Holding the dog's muzzle pointing upward, use clippers with a #10 blade and clip the neck of the Brittany. Go the way the hair grows in a "V" shape, to the top of the breast bone (the top of the "V" being the top of the neck and point of the "V" at the tip of the breast bone.

Next use thinning shears (the best quality you can afford) to thin and blend in the hair on the side of the neck with clipped area. Do not trim the coat on the top of the neck.

Veronic Stevens (left) and Sue Drazek (right) deomstrate trimming techniques
Veronic Stevens (left) and Sue Drazek (right) deomstrate trimming techniques at 2004 NVBC Fun Trial.

Grooming the Ears

Grooming the ears is necessary especially on those Brittanys with lots of furnishings, long or profuse feathering. First, using straight scissors, trim the hair following the outline of the ear from ¾ down the front, under the tip and up the back of the ear. Then thin the rest of the furnishings with either a thinning shear or stripping comb, making sure to blend in with the edges. Remember the ear set is high so do not take out the hair at the top and the front top of the ear. Thinning shears may be used under and in back of the ear to blend in with the neck. The ears should not have so much hair taken out that it has a hound appearance.

Joann Anders (left) holds Oscar as ears are brushed
Joann Anders (left) holds Oscar as ears are brushed in preparation for trimming.

Whiskers

If you are showing your dog in Conformation, whiskers may be taken off using blunt ended scissors. Some people prefer to leave them on, with the thought that they need them in the field. It is not a fault leaving them on but taking them off gives a smoother, much more finished look.

Tail's End

Thinning is also done under the tail and blended into the rear feathering. The coat should be thinned to lay flat from the anal area to the circular areas of hair on either side of the rear. The tail is completely thinned out underneath and the sides are blended in with the top of the tail. The tip of the tail should be thinned also to blend in, if necessary, taking care not to have any bald spots showing. To make a tail look longer, thinning can be done on both sides of the tail but never on the rump above the tail.

Feet

In trimming the feet, the hair growing between the pads is cut even with the pad. Do not cut or clipper out the hair in between the pads as this is protection for their feet. Trim the hair evenly along the sides of the pads all the way around. With a bristle type brush, back brush the fur on the feet (from toenails toward the foot). With thinning shears, trim the wispy hair sticking out on the tops between the toes, taking care not to trim out the hair in between the toes. This gives the foot a neat appearance. I especially like to keep the feet trimmed to minimize the amount of dirt that gets carried into the house.

Veronica Stevens (left) clips Oscar's nails with Irmeli holding him steady
Veronica Stevens (left) clips Oscar's nails with Irmeli holding him steady during demonstration at 2004 NVBC Fun Trial.

Hind Hocks and Front Pasterns

On the hind hock, brush the fur against the growth pattern, then use thinning shears to clip the rough coat that sticks out from the hock to the footpad. On the front pastern, thinning shears or clippers again may be used to smooth out the rough coat between the foot pad and the wrist pad, only on the back side of the leg. Clippers should not be used on the hock.

Toenails

I trim off the tips (about 1/8 to ¼ inch) of the toenails with a nail clipper. I use a light located on the far side of the foot so that the pink quick is visible through the white nail. This way I can avoid cutting the quick and drawing blood. On the brown nails, I estimate how much to trim based on a white nail. Then I use an electric grinder with a medium grit sanding drum to smooth the rough edges of the mail and to shorten it further. Apply the grinder in short intervals, without much pressure, so that the friction does not heat up the nail. I feel the end of the nail during this process and quit when I sense I am getting to a soft area.

Introducing Pups and New Dogs to Grooming

When you bring a new puppy or new adult dog, such as a rescue dog, into your home, you will want to gradually introduce the new dog to this grooming routine. I use treats and praise for calm behavior. When the dog is tired and relaxed, I sit on the floor with the dog and start out just touching and manipulating the feet, ears, mouth, and the rest of the body. I show the dog the tool (brush, clipper, etc.), touch it to their side or foot. Gradually build up to short brush strokes, then a treat, more brushing and another treat. I trim the tip of one toenail and give a treat. I introduce the electric grinder, showing the tool, turning it on, touching the foot with vibrating handle and rewarding calm behavior with a treat. I gradually build up to touching one nail with grinding wheel, and so forth.

Your Rewards

At the end of this process, you will have a lovely, well-groomed Brittany, ready to show in the ring, or jump up and sleep on your bed, one that will feel and smell wonderful when you pet them.

Sue Drazek displays finished Oscar
Sue Drazek displays finished Oscar at NVBC's 2004 Fun Trial.

Recommended Brittany Grooming Resources:

orange ballThe Book of the American Brittany: Eighties Edition by Rheta Cartmell
    Order from: Velma Tiedman, ABC, 2036 N. 48th Ave., Omaha, NE 68104
orange ballNew Owner's Guide to Brittanys by Beverly Millette
orange ballThe Guide to Owning a Brittany by Stacy Kennedy
orange ballBrittanys by Beverly Pisano
orange ballBrittanys by Dan Rice

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