COAT CARE IN A FLUFFY PEMBROKE WELSH CORGI
(For the Do-It-Yourselfer, or to Take to Your Groomer)
By Millie Williams and Stephanie Hedgepath
There are different degrees of fluffiness in the Pembroke coat. Some have an almost correct texture, especially along the back. Some do not, and have a softer, longer coat all over the body. Some have hardly any feathering (the longer hair that is normally on the back of the front legs and also on the back legs) at all, it's more a matter of softness. Some are full-blown fluffs and require a lot of care. With routine maintenance, you will find that the fluffy coat is not very difficult to keep clean and mat free.
Items you will need to keep your fluffy’s coat in top condition include the following:
Conditioner should always be used during a bath and during brush-outs. Some fluffies can be brushed about every two to four weeks without being a mess. It is all in knowing the correct way of brushing the coat to be sure that the coat is not matted. Always use the soft slicker brush for grooming. When brushing your fluffy, you want to use a method called “line brushing”. To brush the dog, always go in the direction the coat grows or at a right angle to the growth. I usually start with the dog lying on his side, either on a grooming table, or on my lap. If you do not have a table, it is often easiest to sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Lay the dog in the "V" between your outstretched legs on his side, his head nearest your feet. Start at the back of the dog on the hind leg, which should be the body part closest to you. Brush the hair from the hock (the joint above the foot) down to the toes. Then in the longer hair on the broad part of the thighs, separate out a small section of the coat, holding it up with your left thumb (if you are right handed) and then brush a section of hair down toward the foot. This will be at a right angle to the direction of growth of the hair. As you brush, you will see a definite line below your thumb. Continue brushing until you have reached the top of the thigh where the topline coat begins.
Then brush the "pants" section, starting at the area right above the hock where the hair becomes longer to form the pants. Again, hold the hair up with your left thumb, and separating a small section at the time, brush it out and down towards the hock.
Then brush the sides of the dog, starting in the loin area (the area between the dog’s last rib and his hindquarters) in front of the thigh, and using the same technique, brush in sections until you reach the ruff area of the neck.
Turn the dog over and repeat on the other side. Then lay the dog on his stomach, and brush his topline, starting at the tail area, with the dog facing away from you, and work your way up toward his neck. Next, with the dog seated in front of you, start at the bottom of the chest and use the same technique that you used on his legs and sides, brush up the chest and neck to right under the chin. Brush the coat on the legs, too. Then work around the sides of the neck in small sections in the longer hair of the ruff.
Finally, brush the face, the top of the skull and the ears. (Yes, even brush the ears!) If you do this on a weekly basis, it should take no more than 10 minutes, as the brush should glide easily through the coat. This is a good time to quickly brush his teeth and check his nails. You will also be surprised how quickly you can pick up on any small changes in your dog's health in these sessions.
After they are line brushed through and through, then you need to be sure a greyhound comb can be run through the coat all over. This can be done very quickly.
To bathe your fluffy, use a good brand shampoo, such as one of the BioGroom shampoos (without the insecticide) or you can use dishwashing liquid soap (I like Palmolive Antibacterial!), put a good squirt in a 1 1/2 qt. container and fill with warm water. Wet your fluffy down completely, use a washcloth and make sure you wash the dog WITH the lay of the coat, don't scrub, EVER, not when washing, not when toweling, not when just petting. It just causes mats to form in the dog’s coat. Rinse thoroughly.
A good conditioner is BioGroom’s Silken. It's pink. I mix it with water and put it in an old dishwashing detergent bottle – or you can buy a squeeze bottle just for the rinse.
Mix about 1/3 conditioner to 2/3 water. While the dog is still wet after bathing, squirt on some conditioner, work in with fingers, let sit a minute, rinse again. Make sure you rinse the dog well both after the bath and after applying conditioner.
Squeeze out as much water as you can from your fluffy’s coat and wrap him in a towel and carry to table. Use towels to blot and squeeze coat, do not scrub!
Put the dog in a place where it can rub around on an old blanket for an hour or two. When it is nearly dry, begin the brushing. I brush all over to start with, just a
normal topcoat type brushing, then go to line brushing, then comb. I spray on some Show Sheen (can get at horse stores), mixed 1/3 Show Sheen to 2/3 water, put in a spray bottle and apply to the coat using the finest mist possible. This really helps the coat to separate and gives a very nice feel. It is a silicone based product and it coats the hair shaft, helping to keep it clean longer.
If your dog is a heavily coated fluffy, then you should invest in one of those small Air Force Metro Dryers ($45) for blowing out the coat. More on that later.
Work on brushing your puppy daily until it is 4 or 5 months old, then weekly. They lose a lot of puppy fuzz and also need to learn to tolerate the brushing and your fussing with them. If you train your dog gently, he will often go to sleep while you groom!
For Foot Care: I grind the nails using a battery operated Dremel. Trim the hair from under the foot and around the edges of the pads. I scissor the backs of the hocks, brush straight out and then trim to whatever length you prefer. I like a curved shear for this, it gives a nice look. Back brush the hair on the top of the paw. Use the curved shear to cut the hair (that's sticking up) in the same direction as the lines between the toes. I prefer to pick up the foot to do this. Back brush and trim several times for a nice looking foot. Gets rid of the fuzzy bedroom slippers look. For the front feet, I clip the hair on the back of the paw up to the little nubbin, about 1/3 to 1/2 inch long. Gives a nice definition of the paw. Always let the fluffy run around nude, don't collar them unless you are going somewhere. The flat collars will rub back and forth and will mat the neck. If you must use a collar all the time, get a rolled leather collar, the hair will lie flatter and will not break off or mat.
Ears: Here's the way I do it! It makes them look much more "normal". Take a clipper and use a #10 blade. Cut with the direction of the hair growth, not against. From about the middle of the ear, cut the hair, so that the top half of the ear is done, inside and out. Then take thinning shears and thin the fluffy stuff at the base and along the back edge of the ear where it joins the neck/skull. Fluff out the fur, and cut with the lay of the hair, not against. Fluff out again with the comb and do it several times. The idea is to blend the very short hair of the tip of the ear with the longer hair at the bottom. The longer hair at the bottom should blend with the hair on the neck. So it's a gradual thing, and looks great, but takes some practice. A groomer can show them how to do this, tell them it's something like a Westie ear, but blended appropriately for the type and length of the coat on the ear of the fluff. Carefully trim around the short hair of the ear that has been shaved to define it sharply. Trim the longer hair to match and blend.
The other place I do a lot of trimming is on the bottom. For a female, you will want to shave her vulva, down about an inch all around. Sometimes when they squat, they get some “ickies” (technical term, coined by Millie Williams) around on the pants and underneath the vulva. I lift the hair over the anus and shave just a bit there, or at least trim closer with the scissors. I brush the pants together a bit and then trim a poop track straight down. Don't take off too much here, it will give them a “baboon butt”! You just want a fairly clean chute for the poop to drop through, no more than an inch. The pants should then fall over that area to kind of hide the bare spot. Don't shave the tail fur, it will lift up when the fluff poops and shouldn't get messy unless there is diarrhea. Keep baby wipes handy and inspect butts daily for “Klingons”.
Matting under the elbows depends upon the texture of the coat. Those with a softer coat have a tendency to mat more readily. Sometimes you might have a bit of problem on the ribcage right behind the elbows especially when your dog is blowing puppy coat. Fluffs don't shed like regular corgis! If you pick up a corgi that is shedding, you can be sure your shirt will have a corgi imprint on it when you put the dog down. Not with the fluff. So this is one advantage to a fluffy coat – less shedding! However, they have to be brushed regularly, and thoroughly and combed, too.
It's O.K. to have them trimmed down severely during the summer. They will look a bit odd, but it will grow back. In the winter, some may opt to trim back the feathers and chest fur quite a bit to prevent the snow dangles that they seem to get sometimes.
Ok, finally on to the Metro dryer. A friend has a super heavy coated fluff. Whenever she would bathe him she said he always smelled moldy and icky. Guess what? He was so thick he wasn't drying completely underneath. So now she metros him to get him thoroughly dry. I learned this technique from Llama people. Believe me, they know how to get a long coated animal thoroughly clean! When you metro, hold the nozzle either with the lay of the hair (I do this first to get the outer water off) or hold it back about two feet and directly onto the skin. For example, if we looked at the letter L, the up/down part of the L would be the dog and the right leg would be the nozzle. If you are holding it correctly, the hair will go out into a starburst shape. If the tips of the starburst begin to turn into itself, the nozzle is too close and you are making mats in the coat that you will just have to remove later on. So hold the dryer back at least two feet. This will get the undercoat good and dry right down to the skin. Also, if the starburst has rather thick "rays", the metro will dry those and they will separate. Sometimes the rays are thick because there is loose coat ready to come out. Carefully and slowly Metro-ing through the coat will remove a lot of this coat. It is easier to get a lot of it out this way, then follow up with the brushing and combing.
When the fluffy goes out into rain to pee, carefully blot out the coat again and brush them when dry. Don't let them do this several times without doing it as you will have mats for sure!!
Well, that's my thesis on the grooming of a fluffy. The majority of this article is from Millie Williams, who owns and shows Pems and also is a professional groomer. She’s held no secrets back, so now we know that you will make that little fluffy just beautiful as Millie’s beloved pet fluffy, Cheveu, always was.