Before jumping into the Nederlandse Kooikerhondje grooming world, we should mention our background in grooming. Amber Corduan has been a professional pet groomer for 14 years, focusing on specific trimming such as feet, feathering, etc. Hailey Perkins has been a professional pet groomer for 11 years, since she was 15 years old, focusing more on complete body grooming, patterns, faces, etc. This experience greatly helps us understand the right tools for the job, how different coat types work, and what a natural, untrimmed coat means. Amber has been showing in AKC for over 15 years now and understands what the judges look for, how to properly groom a show coat, and more!
In learning that we are professional groomers, we want to mention that we ourselves would never take our Kooiker to another groomer. You would never want to risk cutting off the earrings, trimming of the feathering, or “neatening” of anything. We would suggest, if taking your Kooiker to a groomer, that you tell them absolutely no trimming is to be done! You may find a groomer who understands showing dogs, but we would avoid groomers unless absolutely needed.
You may have noticed that some breeds have become what we would call “over-groomed” in the show ring. We do NOT want our Kooikers to become like them, and in order to keep this from happening, we have to stick to our standard and groom them appropriately. We do not want to see a “fluffed-up” coat, water being sprayed on the coat before the ring, chalking or starch used, or any “marking” or changing of the coat.
What follows is our process for grooming our Kooiker before a show. First, we bathe him the day before we leave. We wash his face and head (usually using blueberry facial shampoo or puppy tearless), then we completely rinse and towel dry the head (this keeps the dog from shaking so much). Then we wash his body using gentle, professional shampoos. Some of the products we use are Fresh N Clean, Tropiclean, Earthbath, and Nzymes. After applying shampoo, we apply conditioner and we fully rinse the dog. We towel dry his entire body and get ready to use a high velocity dryer. This is where the process may differ depending on your dog. High velocity dryers work in a few different ways. On double-coated dogs, like German Shepherds, we use them against the grain of the coat, so backwards, up the back. This loosens any matting, and it blows out dead skin and dead coat. It pulls the coat from the skin so that the dead coat can be brushed out. For dogs like Afghan Hounds, Springer Spaniels, and Kooikers, we use the dryer with the grain of the coat to flatten the top of the coat, giving it a beautiful sheen. This method still blows out dead skin and dead coat, so we do believe this is an important part of the process. Even short-coated dogs benefit from high velocity dryers!
Contrary to previous belief, a healthy dog on a high-quality diet will not dry out from using the high velocity dryer. We do not like to over-bathe our Kooiker, though we did six AKC shows in a row each weekend and had to bathe him before each one. (This is not ideal, but when we are scheduled like this, we had to do it!) His coat never dried, broke, looked frizzy, or suffered any damage. He took home several wins during that period as well! What we do NOT want to see in Kooikers is the dryer being used to fluff the coat. We go with the grain to shine the coat, get dead skin and coat out, and keep the coat flat and beautiful.
After our Kooiker is bathed and dried, we use a slicker brush or a comb to brush his entire body, feathering, rear, earrings, etc. This should leave your Kooiker looking smooth and groomed. You should not see any separation of coat or an oily looking coat. After our Kooiker is dry and brushed, we trim his feet! We do this by doing his nails first; we clip and Dremel them smooth and short. Then we start by clippering or scissoring the hair on the bottom of the feet at the pads. We want the dogs to have protection, but they also need “grip.” You can use clippers or scissors. Just go flat against the foot and trim off any excess hair. Then we trim the hair between the pads and around the toes. We do this by taking our finger and pulling up the hair between the toes, using scissors to trim the excess hair. We “round” the feet. When the foot is in a standing position, it should look completely natural and round. There should not be scissor marks or an obviously grooming appearance. This should not alter the appearance of the dog or indicate a trim on any of their feathering. We do also check his teeth to see if any plaque needs to be scraped, but dogs on a high-quality diet usually have minimal plaque buildup, so scraping is usually not necessary.
Once at the show site, we do try to keep our Kooiker clean and dry. As much as we want to make sure that Kooikers remain a working breed and are able to do their job, it is still a dog show, and so, your dog is expected to be groomed and clean. The coat should look smooth and together, not separated, oily, or tangled. If you have a male, you should check their male bits and make sure they are dry and clean. No judge wants a handful of anything wet or sticky! If you have a female, check the lady parts; and if she is in season, wipe her with a grooming wipe before showing, to minimize dripping. Then we simply go to our ring, run a slicker brush or comb over the dog, and head into the ring.
It is important to note that even those who do not show their Kooikers should be doing regular brushing, nail trims, and feet trimming. We trim the feet to avoid snowball and mud build-up, to give the pads proper grip, and to keep the house neat and clean by having less mud and water on the feet. Regular nail trims are extremely important for any dog of any breed, as the nails directly create the conformation of the feet and allow your dog to stand, walk, and run the appropriate way!
Our breed is a natural dog and we want to keep it that way. In order to do this, we need to band together to show our Kooikers in a natural coat. We should not be fluffing them, spraying excessively with conditioner or water, and we should NOT be trimming anything other than their feet. We all need to work together to keep our Kooikers looking natural in the show ring. We, and many other natural Kooiker exhibitors, have already proven that we can and will win with our natural dogs. Contrary to popular belief by some professional handlers, we do not have to try to become a Golden Retriever or a Setter in the ring. This is not what our breed is!
Show Grooming a Kooiker by Hailey Perkins and Amber Corduan