Golden Retrievers drop coat naturally. A bitch coming into season or after whelping a litter, will drop most of her coat and can look rather like a Labrador Retriever. The male will also drop coat but maybe not as often as the bitch. Climatic conditions such as excessive heat can also cause a Golden Retriever to drop coat. Some people say that having your dog live outside during winter will give the dog a better coat as it grows thicker and longer to adjust to the cold. While this is sometimes true, it is not always the case and sometimes patience is the best course of action when waiting for your dog’s coat to come back.
While it is not critical to groom a pet Golden Retriever to the same extent as the show dog, it is still important to do some grooming work which should only be a matter of tidying up. A good brush at least once a week, or at more regular intervals if your dog requires it, should be enough to keep them looking healthy and free of any matted hair. Grooming is an excellent time to check for skin allergies such as hot spots and whether his toenails need trimming. Regular grooming will also help to keep the dog’s coat clean. The basic tools required are a pin brush, slicker brush, comb, straight scissors and nail clippers. Introducing a dog to grooming at an early age will help to make the task more enjoyable for both owner and dog. Touching and playing with a puppy’s feet will help to overcome any fear of trimming feet later on. Rewarding a dog after a grooming session with food or play will help with problem dogs. The basic rule is to slowly introduce your dog to grooming and not overdo it. Most Golden Retrievers have a love of water and care should be taken when swimming in pools, especially salt chlorinated pools as it can bleach the coat. After swimming in salt water, the coat should be rinsed with fresh water to remove any salt residue. This will help to avoid any skin irritations.
It is always a good idea to bathe your Golden Retriever before any trimming takes place as any dirt or mud that is trapped in the coat will blunt your scissors and make the job more difficult. A quality dog shampoo should be used and if skin irritations occur, try a different product. There are many shampoo products available on the market today and the general rule of thumb is once you have found a product that works, stick with it. Human shampoos are not suitable for use with dogs.
It is important that Golden Retrievers are thoroughly dried after bathing, especially the tail. They can get ‘wet tail’ which is a chill at the base of the tail. This becomes very painful for the dog and his tail will just hang as it is too painful for the dog to wag. The dog should be towel dried immediately after bathing. If you can afford it, a dryer is an excellent tool for the show person as it will allow you to dry the dog quicker and get on with the grooming. Using a dryer together with a quality drying cream can provide some excellent results. Note that dryers that blow heated air using a heating element should not be used on a Golden Retriever’s coat. This can burn and damage the coat and ruin the end result. Coating the dog after drying with a satin coat, shiny side towards the dog’s coat will assist in keeping any stray hairs flat. Coating a dog for no more than one hour after drying should be all that is required. Additional spray products can be used to enhance coat shine.
Trimming for the Show Ring
For the show ring, good trimming should accentuate a well-balanced overall appearance and improve your dog’s chances in the show ring. Sometimes this might be the only thing that sets you apart from the competition. Preparing your Golden Retriever for the show ring should be done well before the day of the show. If trimming is completed well ahead of time then any mistakes have time to blend in. There should not be any evidence of scissor or clipper marks on a dog presented in the show ring. A Golden Retriever will usually be bathed the day before a show and any trimming should only be a matter of tidying up.
Tools of the trade for the show enthusiast are a pin brush, slicker brush, comb, fine comb, stripping tool, double sided thinning scissors, straight scissors and a grooming table. It is far easier to work on your dog while he or she is on the table as it will save the back breaking job of bending over. For those dogs that like to fidget and are not so accustomed to the grooming table, a grooming arm can be attached to the table and the dog’s head can be held in the noose. There is nothing worse than when a dog moves just at that critical point and your scissors cut too much. Preferably your dog should be bathed and dried prior to trimming. This will allow you to see exactly where trimming is required. Trimming a wet coat will give an undesirable result and can often leave a terraced effect when the coat dries. Do not attempt to do too much trimming at one time. It is very tedious for a dog and tiring for you. To get the best result, do a little each day.
Trimming Front Feet
A Golden Retriever’s feet should appear round and compact. To achieve this any untidy hair should be removed. With straight scissors, trim around the outline of the foot as near to the pads as possible, then take out any excess hair between the pads and any hair sticking up between the toes. The feet should now have a round cat-like shape. This trimming will also help your dog get a grip on hard slippery surfaces such as polished floorboards and tiles. It will also reduce the amount of dirt and mud that he tracks into the house, and helps keep burrs from lodging between the toes and mats forming. The hair is removed from the pasterns with straight scissors.
Trimming Back Feet
The back feet are trimmed the same as the front feet although the featherings on the pasterns will need attention. Excess feathering from the hock to the foot should be removed. The hair should be combed upwards from the foot to the hock and using scissors cut parallel to the hock, just enough to take off excess. The process can be repeated making sure to comb between each cut until the hair lies flat.
Trimming a Golden Retriever’s tail to look tidy is easy. If the tail is left untrimmed it will appear too long and detract from the dog’s outline. The Golden Retriever’s tailbone should reach to the point of the hock. The tail feathers should be trimmed slightly past this point. How much further past the hock you trim depends on the dog’s body type. Dogs with longer body type should be left longer so they don’t look disproportionate, likewise with a dog of shorter body type. The tail feathers should appear as a smooth crescent shaped curve. Brush out your Golden Retriever’s tail, making sure to remove any tangles or dreadlocks. Gather up the tail feathers and twist the hair in one direction until you have a unicorn’s horn at the end of the tail. Feel for the last bone in the tail and measure against the hock. Decide the correct length and then cut across the twisted hair with one continuous cut. Shake out the tail and comb again. Thinning scissors can be used to neaten any stray hairs.
Straight scissors are used to trim around the outline of the earflap to remove any untidy hair, although some owners prefer to use thinning scissors which can help to hide any mistakes. Long hair on the top and underneath the ears should be removed. The fluffy hair beneath each ear should be trimmed very short and neatly blended into the neck. Any ridges on the neck should be blended. A nicely shaped ear should add to the overall appearance of the dog’s head.
Neck & Shoulders
Golden Retrievers usually have a considerable amount of hair around the neck and shoulders. Often heavy undercoat in the area can detract from the dog’s outline. Some of this undercoat can be removed by combing with a fine comb or by using double sided thinning scissors (which is the most preferred method). When blending with thinning scissors, use an upward movement, constantly combing at the same time, taking out just enough hair so as to give a smooth effect. Always cut the way the hair grows and use the scissors underneath the top layer of hair which will then lie flat. It is much better to trim the neck and shoulders in two or three attempts, rather than take too much hair out at once. A clean neck and shoulders can improve the overall outline of the dog. Good trimming work should leave no evidence of scissor marks. Grooming has many more functions than appearance alone. Regular grooming can help to prevent some skin allergies. Bathing and grooming will assist in the removal of dead or loose hair while making the job of cleaning up hair after a coat drop less tedious. Grooming is just as important as correct diet for a healthy coat and a healthy dog is a happy dog.
Trimmed & Untrimmed
The Untrimmed Dog
The untrimmed dog has thick hair on the neck and shoulders. The tail is long and scruffy, and the feet, hocks, chest and pasterns have long hair. The ears are covered in long hair both externally and underneath.
The Trimmed Dog
The trimmed dog is neat and tidy. Thinning scissors have been used to remove excess hair. The tail has been shaped and is shortened to hock length and the excessive hair on the feet, pasterns and the back of the hocks has been trimmed.