Something I get asked about a lot is grooming tips for cavaliers.
I may not be the best person to ask, as I’m one of those people that shaves their cavaliers. I know, right? The horror! I personally like the look of a shaved cavalier, but prefer mine to have their ears and tails grown out long. I used to have full flowing coats on them, but found the maintenance to be a bear, so we started getting them shaved twice a year. You will often hear that shaving a cavalier “ruins” the coat permanently, but that’s really not the case. Some cavaliers have nice silky coats and some don’t. Those that grow the “Cottony” fluffy coats will always grow a cottony fluffy coat, regardless of shaving or not shaving. Those with silky coats will have silky coats. One thing that is common, though, is for spaying or neutering to change the dogs coat. The change in hormones can trigger a change in the coat. After spaying many silky coated dogs grow in a fluffy coat, and it seems to be more common in females than males.
So, you have a cavalier with a long flowing coat…what’s the best way to keep that coat beautiful?
Mainly and most importantly: Regular brushing! I cannot state this enough. If you want a cavalier with a long flowing coat, you will have to brush at least several times a week, if not every day, especially in summer when there are lots of sticky plants and weeds out! You will have to check in between the dogs’ toes whenever they run in an area with a lot of weeds, especially if there are foxtails around! More on that in a minute.
What is the best kind of brush for a cavalier? I prefer a double sided brush that has wire pins on one side and bristles on the other. The wire pins work great to work out light tangles and the bristles help smooth the coat. A “Furminator” type brush works great to thin out a thick, unruly coat. Be sure to brush with a regular brush BEFORE using a Furminator as they tend to pull tangles and that hurts!
Always brush your cavalier thoroughly before bathing! Bathing will make any tangles tighten up and even harder to get out! If your dog does get a mat, you can use scissors to cut through the mat, then use baby powder and a comb to take the mat out. Always be careful when cutting mats so you don’t accidentally get skin!
It is a good idea to keep the hair around the underside of the ears trimmed. This will help keep moisture from staying inside the ear, which causes yeast infections. If your cavalier is prone to excess ear wax, use an ear cleaner a couple of times a month. I use Epi-Otic every time I bathe my dogs. You simply pour it into the ear, rub the ear and use a cotton ball to gently wipe the inside of the ear.
How often to bathe your cavalier? To keep your dog from having dry skin, it is good practice to bathe no more than a couple of times a month, and always use a good moisturizing shampoo. Conditioner works great to keep the hair tangle free (I personally use Mane-n-Tail, which is used on horses and I have always had great luck with it!). As for shampoo, there are many kinds to choose from. I prefer an oatmeal shampoo because it is less irritating, but it’s really a personal preference.
Lastly, keep the bottoms of your cavaliers feet trimmed. The hair in between a cavaliers toes tends to grow quickly and cover the pads of their feet, which can cause your dog to slip on slick surfaces. Keeping the hair between the toes trimmed will prevent that! You can still keep the hair on the top of the feet long to keep the “Grinch Feet”. Trimming between the toes also helps to prevent foxtails from sticking and burrowing in between your dog’s toes. See below for an infographic on foxtails and what they look like.
I hope that this has helped! If your dog is not used to being groomed, be sure to take things slow and use lots of praise and treats help him get used to being brushed. Many rescue dogs have been badly neglected and some have never even seen a brush, so grooming time can be very stressful. Go slow and never push your dog. Keep your grooming "training" sessions short and positive to help your dog get used to it!