How to Use Anatomy to Groom the English Setter

February 22nd, 2018 by Kara Adams

Quote In A CircleExcellent grooming starts always starts with a firm understating of canine anatomy. It is the FOUNDATION of all grooming.

Basic pattern lines are set based on the muscle and bone structure. Depending on how physically active a dog is, the muscle structure may be very prominent. It could be lurking under a layer of fat. It may also be poorly developed due to age or lack of physical activity. Nonetheless, those muscles are there. They will help you set symmetrical and correct pattern lines.

The bones are there, too. Whether the dog is anatomically correct when compared to the breed standard is something else altogether. Understanding what a physically sound dog is will help you immensely. When you know the difference between good and bad structure, you’ll be able to hide many faults.

When we combine all the layers of the dog – the bones, muscles, the skin, and the fur – we will be able to mold and shape the coat to highlight the dog’s best features and downplay the others. If the bone structure is a little less than perfect, you can use the hair to camouflage those defects.

Before you begin grooming any dog, get your hands on them! Close your eyes. Feel the structure under the coat. Sink your fingers deep in the fur. Pay close attention to the muscle groups highlighted in color in these diagrams.

1The Essence of the Breed

Before you start grooming any dog, you need to familiarize yourself with the breed and understand its essence.

The English Setter is a Sporting dog of great style. It should be physically fit and structurally sound to work long hours flushing game in the field. The general outline of the English Setter will be rectangular. The shoulder lay back and the angles of both the front and rear assemblies should allow for adequate reach and drive.

The coat is silky, flat, and should lay close to the body. English Setters have longer feathering on the ears, chest, abdomen, underside of thighs, back of all legs, and on the tail. The longer coat should not be so long as to hide the true lines of the dogs, movement, or the function of field hunting.

2 Landmarks for Grooming & Styling

When it comes to grooming, let’s work around the dog using its anatomy as a reference.

When done “correctly,” Setters are hand stripped for a very natural look. However, in pet grooming circles, it is common to see the pattern clipper-cut or styled using a combination of clipping and stripping to save time. Regardless of the method you chose, the anatomy reference points – or landmarks – will remain the same.

Setting the Throat

Feel for the muscles at the sides of the neck to set the throat pattern line. A visual clue to this area is at the “frill” or cowlick line running down the sides of the neck. The throat area is directly below the jaw, inside the muscles running down the outside of the neck. The shape is generally a soft “U” shape. The lowest part of the “U” stops a few fingers above the prosternum bone.

3Body

The jacket coat on the bulk of the body is shorter and lays flat on dog. Follow the natural lay of the coat when working this area. 

Shoulder

Use the turn of the muscle at the shoulder to set the jacket pattern on the body.

Elbow

The turn of the shoulder will also tell you the location of the elbow. This is the general location of where to start the pattern on the body, sweeping back and upwards towards the flank of the dog.

Spring of Rib

The turn of the ribs will help set the pattern line separating the dog’s body jacket which consists of much shorter coat, blending invisibly into the longer feathering found on the lower portion of the dog’s body.

Undercarriage

The undercarriage line creates a focal point for balance of the overall dog. The highest point of the graceful sweep will be directly under the last few ribs.

Flank

Moving into the flank area, the thigh muscle should be exposed to help accentuate a physically fit and muscular dog.

Tail

For balance, the tail should reach to the hock and be a triangular flag. There is a slight gap of fur on the underside of the tail at the base. This slight space separates the longer rear furnishings with the feathering on the tail.

Topline

The top line maybe level or slightly sloping from the withers to the tail.

Neck

The long graceful neck is well muscled and slightly arched.

Head

The lines of the skull are parallel with a well definite stop.

Ears

Set well back and low, even with or below the level of the eye. All these areas are natural landmarks used as reference points on any breed. When you combine anatomy with the official breed standard for any purebred dog, you have knowledge. You can use this understanding to accentuate the proper structure of the English Setter.

Always remember, all transition lines should be invisible. Ideally, the English Setter should look totally natural when finished – as if the coat simply grew that way.

Combining the use of these anatomical landmarks and skillful technical skills, a talented pet stylist can easily create a symmetrical, stylish, and well-balanced trim on any dog – purebred or mixed breed.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white

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How to Set a Tuck-Up

February 1st, 2018 by Kara Adams

I love it when I get questions from our Learn2Groomdogs.com members. Not long ago, Mishelle H. asked if I could do a blog about tuck-ups. She said, “I’m never satisfied with mine.  Skirted breeds or not, just can’t seem to master them.”

It would seem to be a simple question, but there’s no one answer. There are variables depending on many things, including:

  • the type of dog you are working on
  • the type of haircut
  • the type of coat
  • the technique you choose to use to establish the tuck-up area

BichonWhat is the tuck-up area on a dog?

It’s the natural waistline.

The waistline is made up of the loin in the flank. It falls right behind the rib cage and before the rump. Depending on the dog’s build, some waistlines are well-established. Others are barely visible due to bone structure or being overweight.

Ideally, you want to see a bit of a waistline on most dogs. However, that waistline does not wrap all the way around the dog. It’s a pocket just below the loin in the flank area where the back leg joins the body. Depending on the dog’s conformation, this is a key balance point.

A knowledgeable pet stylist can enhance any dog’s physique by proper placement. Improper placement detracts from the overall balance of the haircut. Setting the tuck-up correctly brings harmony to the entire trim. If the pet has enough coat, a talented stylist can give the illusion of a well-defined waistline even if the physique is less than perfect. Incorrectly setting the tuck-up makes a dog look unbalanced and structurally unsound.

How do you find the tuck-up?

Here are three different ways to find the proper placement for the tuck-up on a dog. There is no hard-set rule as to what is right – or wrong. Choose one or incorporate all methods into your everyday grooming.

  • The Last Rib Method

The highest point of the undercarriage making up the tuck-up falls just below the last rib. Put your hands on the dog. Feel for the ribs. Directly below the last two ribs is typically the highest point on the undercarriage line. This would be the point of tuck-up. Depending on which type of haircut you are working on and the physique of the dog, you might need to carve the area out slightly below the loin in behind the ribs to show off “well sprung ribs.” However, when you look at the dog from top, you will should not see an indentation near the loins on the topline.

pina

  • The Rule of Thirds

Measure a dog into divided thirds. The measurements would be from the point of shoulder to the point of rump. The highest point on the undercarriage line forming your tuck-up will be at the 2/3 point. The rear assembly of the dog will make up the final 1/3. It could be a Poodle, a Setter, or a Terrier. It works on almost any breed carrying coat. When the tuck-up point is set at the 2/3 – 1/3 point, it will balance a dog, giving it a pleasing appearance.

  • Use the Stifle to Find the Tuck-up Point

Many professional pet stylists simply use the back leg to measure where the tuck-up should be set. They gently ask the dog to pick up its back leg, pushing it towards its body. The knee or stifle joint will hit right about where the tuck-up point should be set. If it does not touch directly, simply visualize a straight line from the stifle to the body near the last rib. This is your tuck-up area for that dog.

KathyYou’ve found the tuck-up – now what?

How do you scissor it in?

It depends.

Are you dealing with a flowing undercarriage like many Sporting dogs or something that’s tightly tailored as with many of the Terriers? Maybe you’re dealing with breeds that are fully sculpted (such as the Bichon or the Poodle) or even many drop-coated breeds and pet trims.

With long flowing undercarriages, you simply find the highest point and start from there. Most of your active dogs are going to call for a deeper chest. The highest point of the tuck-up will be the shortest part of the drape. It will angle down towards the pastern joints and sweep up into the chest. From the tuck-up into the rear leg, the longer coat will drape accentuating the bend of the knee or stifle joint and sweep either into the foot or the hock joint, depending on the breed.

Many of the long-legged Terrier-type breeds, have just enough coat on their undercarriage to accentuate the depth of chest. The tuck-up point will accentuate a well-balanced dog of substantial build. This type of styling does not leave along drape of coat on the underside of the dog. There’s only enough coat to accentuate the depth of chest. The depth of chest is normally at the level of the elbow. There will be a slight incline from the point of tuck-up towards the elbow, showing off a deep-set chest. From the tuck-up towards the rear leg, the fringe of coat will connect the stifle joint to the body and the rib cage. If you were to back comb the blending line along the lower sides of the dog, it should transition smoothly from the shorter coat on the body. Depending on the dog’s conformation, some dogs will have slightly longer furnishings while other dogs will have almost none. However, almost all of them will have a slight amount of coat in the flank area connecting the tuck-up into the rear leg blending with the stifle.

On stylized longer trims where the dog has a fuller body and even more stylized legs, you will need to scissor in the tuck-up by hand. You can use straight shears, curved shears, chunkers, or thinners.

Lindsey Dicken has a technique that works well with any type of scissor. She calls at the “windshield washer technique.” Once you have established the tuck-up area, you need to carve in a waistline. This waistline will be a little pocket in the flank area only. It does not go into the loin or the back. The purpose of this point is to establish a balanced haircut with a well-bodied dog in physically good shape. The little curved space accentuates the spring of rib and gives the dog the little waistline. It also defines the rear assembly.

Bichon 2 LLindsey’s technique is simple. You place the pivot point of the shear right at the tuck-up area. The screw of the shear will not move. It stays anchored. The tips of the shears sweep back and forth like a windshield wiper. It will create the slight divot of the waistline while blending the stifle smoothly into well-sprung ribs.

For those of you who are Learn2GroomDogs.com members, I have created four Spotlight Sessions featuring the techniques outlined in this blog. I’ve selected different breeds with four different Training Partners as they set in the tuck-ups.

If you’re not a member of Learn2GroomDogs.com, take advantage of coupon code tuckupblog and get 50% off our normal low price of $42 for a one-month subscription now until February 28, 2018. Each month you have unlimited access to over 600 educational grooming videos. Our training partners are some of the top pet stylists in the world – yet every one of them works on every day dogs, just like you, in their salons.

  1. Setting the Tuck-Up While Shaping the Rib Cage Area on a Kerry Blue Terrier with Cheryl Purcell
  2. Setting the Underline Area on a Show Styled Bichon with Lindsey Dicken
  3. The 1/3 – 2/3 Balance Rule: Setting the Tuck-up and Undercarriage on an English Setter with Irina “Pina” Pinkusevich
  4. Establishing the Tuck-Up & Setting the Undercarriage on a Pet Schnauzer with Kathy Rose

Happy trimming!

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white

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Westminster Dog Show: What I’m Watching For This Year

February 11th, 2016 by Kara Adams

February is Westminster dog show month! It is one of the few dog shows getting full national TV coverage at the Groups and Best In Show levels. I look forward to it. Every. Single. Year.

1rrI will be parked in front of my big screen TV for both nights watching and studying.

This year I’m even more excited. The 140th Westminster Dog Show is coming on the heels of a two-day advanced grooming session we just filmed for Learn2GroomDogs.com.

Master pet stylist, Irina “Pina” Pinkusevich, was our guest Training Partner. Guess what? Just three years ago she won the prestigious Groomer of the Year Award which was presented at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. She worked on six different dogs, all in show trims:

  1. Miniature Poodle in a Continental Trim
  2. Kerry Blue Terrier
  3. Bichon Frise
  4. English Setter
  5. English Springer Spaniel
  6. American Cocker Spaniel

Pina is one of the most advanced educators in our field. Every time I see her work on a dog, I learn something. These lessons were no different. What I especially love about Pina is that she has the inside scoop. She knows the hot styling trends and/or the direction they are going from the conformation show ring.

If you are focused on expanding your career as a high quality pet stylist, it’s more than just washing and knocking the hair off pets. It’s about anatomy. It’s about geometry. It’s about balance. It’s about style. It’s about bringing out the best of a dog based on its written standard. It’s about creating artful illusions. The art of pet styling is sculpting fur.

With every L2GD film shoot, I take detailed notes. With Pina, I find it challenging to keep up. My fingers never stop on my keyboard as I watch her work. I always walk away with loads of notes from her lessons.

Here just three takeaways that I learned from Pina two weeks ago. As I watch this year’s dog show, I will be noticing how these particular trends apply to the dogs in the ring on Monday and Tuesday nights.

Takeaways From the Learn2GroomDogs.com Film Sessions with Irina “Pina” Pinkusevich

Number 1: The ⅔ to ⅓ Rule

I’d never heard this rule of balance, style, and proportions before. Pina said when a dog is in properly balanced, the ratio is ⅔ to ⅓. Two-thirds makes up the front section of the dog. One-third makes up the rear of the dog. When trimming, the tuck-up or front jacket will be placed at the dividing line between the ⅔ and ⅓ points to create proper balance on a dog.

To test the theory, we pulled a number of images of top winning show dogs.

Dang!

There it was there over and over again. I also pulled images of the gorgeously groomed dogs Pina has done for Learn2GroomDogs.com.


Yep… the rule holds true on all of them, too.

This rule might be a new concept to many of us, but it’s been put into practice in the conformation ring for quite some time.

I will be watching to see how this rule plays out on the big screen at the dog show.

Number 2: The Lowest Point on the Throat is Level with the Topline or Loin

What??!

The throat is level with the topline? Seriously? This one caught me off guard. But then I started looking. Really looking. Sure enough. There is was over and over again. It especially held true on the Sporting dogs.

OK, I get it. Level with the back but what if you have a dog with a “sloping topline?” Now where do you take the point of reference from? The loin. It’s the point just in front of the hip bones on the top of the back. Draw an imaginary line from that point level and straight forward to the throat. That’s the lowest point on a clipped throat.

“Huh…,” I thought as I raised a questioning eyebrow. I will be on the lookout for this new grooming development. I saw how the rule held up in the Sporting dog images we pulled – but would it hold up to other breeds in different groups as well? I can’t wait to see how many Sporting Dogs utilize this “rule.” Trust me – I’ll be looking!

Number 3: Use the Front Pastern as a Guide When Setting the Undercarriage on Well Coated Dogs

Really?!

There is a point of reference when setting this line? Who knew? Certainly not me! I would just eyeball it and pray. My guess is I’m not the only one out there who has used that technique.

This principle applies nicely to many of the Setters and some of the Spaniels in the Sporting Group – as long as they have long enough furnishings to pull it off.

I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled to see if this third rule applies to other breeds, as well.

We had many more aha! moments while we watched Pina work her magic on these six lovely dogs. We will be releasing Pina’s latest L2GD video lessons all through 2016.

The three points I chose to outline here are all points I’ll be looking for closely as I watch this years televised Group and Best in Show classes at the 140th annual Westminster Dog Show.

People say to me all the time, “But I only groom pets… I don’t need to know how to groom show dogs.” You know what? I only groomed pets, too. But that never stopped me from learning as much as I can about what different breeds SHOULD look like. If you don’t have any reference as to what a nice representation of a breed looks like, how are you going to know how to bring out the best of any purebred or mixed breed?

Watching a dog show of this caliber keeps me fresh and excited. Watching top stylists at work, like our Training Partners with Learn2GroomDogs.com does, too. I hope you will join me as I hunker down Monday and Tuesday night to watch the show. I know I’ll have a pencil and paper close by to take notes!

February 15 and 16, 2016 marks the 140th Westminster Kennel Club Annual Dog Show. There are 199 breeds and varieties are eligible to compete. For 2016, there are nearly 3,000 dogs entered. For more information on the dog show, streaming or television schedules go to: http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

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