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Posts Tagged ‘IWS grooming’

If I were still showing Cooper in the conformation ring, I’d have collapsed on the floor and cried. As it is, I can’t bear to take a picture of what happened.

I had just finished cleaning and oiling my clipper blades, getting ready to give Cooper a trim. I wanted him to look nice for next weekend’s Rally Obedience trial in Salem.

I’d gotten out the grooming table, my combs and brushes, and my scissors. Cooper surprised me by jumping up on the grooming table, so after giving him a piece of homemade chicken jerky, I grabbed the clipper and started to work on his back, just over his shoulders. After a few moments, I thought to myself, “Wow. That blade is much sharper than I remembered.”

And right after that, I thought, “OMG!” and dropped the clipper.

Wrong blade. The blade I use the most, the one that cuts a nice 3/4″ length isn’t the sharpest blade. The sharp blade I actually had on my clipper was a #10. That one cuts about 1/4″. Maybe. If I’m lucky.

Normally I use that blade to clip his muzzle. And too late, I realized that it was the one that was still on my clipper when I finished cleaning and oiling them all. So here is my beautiful Pretty Boy with three clipper-blade-wide, 4″-long divots of really short coat over his whithers.

Well, there’s nothing to do for it except keep clipping him. Not with the #10. It’s still too cold around here for that. I switched to my 3/4″ blade, and clipped against the grain of the coat on his back. That leaves the coat at about 5/8″. Still a lot longer than 1/4″, but I hoped that the 5/8″ cut would make a slightly less obvious contrast with the #10 blade than a 3/4″ cut would.

Wishful thinking and denial combined, but it kept me going. And if I do say so myself, I did a really nice job on his legs — usually the hardest part for me.

But about his back? It’ll just have to grow out so I can clip it again. Hopefully with the right blade.

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I gave up trying to comb the mats out of Tooey’s legs and ears. So I just cut her coat off short.

I used a 3/4″ blade everywhere except her topknot and her front legs. Even the ears. Tooey was very patient. I’d like to think she’s more comfortable now, but who knows. I’m pretty sure she’s not unhappy. She still wags her tail at me and, suspecting she’ll be rewarded with liver, still happily hops up on the grooming table.

This cut worked out great for our Sunday training session. Tooey didn’t bring back nearly the amount of twigs and debris that Cooper caught up in his coat.

The reason for this is that Cooper (in the background) is wearing the Irish Water Spaniel show dog cut. Not that I’m going to show him any time soon. And I like the short cut on Cooper, too. It’s just that he’s just recently gone through this amazing bout of shedding. At his last bath, handfuls of coat came off. I’m afraid that if I cut his coat down, he’ll end up being naked.

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Ending score? 14 pheasants flushed, 3 pheasant shot at, 1 pheasant hit, and 3 apples retrieved to hand.

The dogs flushed up 14 pheasants. About half of those were roosters (you can’t shoot hens). The gunners shot at 3, and hit one. That one fell like a lead weight, right into the middle of some very dense, thorny bushes.

All four dogs and all four people searched, but none of us ever found anything resembling a bird. The dogs didn’t find the bird or its scent, and the people didn’t see any feathers or other evidence that a pheasant had ever been shot, much less fallen to earth.

Tooey, Rio, Cooper, and Kasen

But fortunately, the scenery and the weather at Lower Goose Lakes were absolutely beautiful. Mid-40’s, blue skies with wispy white clouds, just a bit of wind, fractured basalt cliffs, glittering blue lakes, the scent of mint and sagebrush. Perfect for hiking.

Rio, Tooey, Kasen, Cooper, Rod, Renae, and Russ

Oh, I guess we're going that way

Rio did get one scent that really excited him. He dived into some heavy cover to grab his favorite — apples. He loves apples. It was sort of funny that Rio retrieved apples on a bird hunting trip. But all of us were happy to take a break to enjoy their juicy sweetness. All you have to do is wipe off the bird doo-doo, get out the pocket knife, and cut slices for everyone. Even Cooper took a slice when he saw all the other dogs enjoying them.

Cooper and Tooey, surveying the terrain

Cooper has not yet had his hunting “lightbulb” moment this year. We really need to get him out somewhere, like a game preserve, where we can arrange for birds to be planted in identified locations. That way, we can direct Cooper to those birds so that when he flushes one, he can associate the excitement of the flush and retrieve with the birds’ scent and typical hiding places. Today, he mostly wanted to stay close to Russ, or to come find me. He’s birdy, though, so I know that with more experience, it’ll come.

I was very pleased with Tooey. We haven’t taken her out hunting before, so she doesn’t have a clue about what she’s supposed to be doing out there. But she clearly enjoyed herself. She checked in with us often, but she was also pretty adventurous, searching the rocks and bushes for whatever was out there.

And the water… Tooey loves to swim — she’ll swim just for the unadulterated joy of it. And the Lower Goose Lakes area is filled with, you guessed it, lakes. Little lakes, strung like beads along desert canyons.

string of lakes

more lakes

Whenever we couldn’t see Tooey, all we had to do was listen for the sound of splashing and paddling. If we heard that, we knew Tooey was swimming again. And loving every minute of it, even in the cold water on a cold November day.

And then, after all the day’s fun, the not-so-fun. The plants in the field provide cover for birds and are wonderful to the nose. But they also festoon the dogs with seeds, twigs, seeds, thorns, and more seeds. And every single bit has to be picked or brushed out. Especially, I’m told, the cheatgrass seeds. For some reason, cheat grass seeds love to hide between dog toes, and in the ears, eyes, and mouth. They can even work their way through the skin into body cavities such as lungs and abdomen and cause serious infections as they move though and get lodged in body tissues. Nasty.

So before dinner, before changing clothes, before even a glass of Scotch, out come the combs and brushes.

Trice brushing out the seeds and debris after a day of hunting

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The last time I wrote about Cooper’s grooming, I was very much enjoying his new short field cut. It was March, and I was looking forward to months of less debris and less grooming time. Not to mention improving Coop’s ability to see.

Well, now we’re getting ready for Cooper’s (probably) last conformation show in about 3 weeks. So we’ve been growing his coat out, with the idea of sculpting it back into dog-show condition.

It’s not sculpted yet though. Take a look:

For the show, we’ll probably clip his muzzle to get rid of the muttonchops. And we’ll shape the topknot. The ears, though, are the interesting issue. The ear fur seems to have grown a lot slower than the topknot fur, so it’s unlikely that they’ll be grown out to their full length to the show.

Which is OK. Part of me is sorely tempted to give him a modified field cut. He’s a hunting dog, after all, and I’d like people to see him in all his hunting-dog style. But I don’t know just yet.

And fortunately, I don’t have to decide right now.

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Tooey failed yesterday’s Junior retriever hunt test. The failure didn’t completely surprise me, but what did surprise me was the almost complete lack of enthusiasm.

I could see that she didn’t want to go out to get that first duck. We started at the water. She left the line, stepped into the water, swam out for about 15 yards, and then turned around to come back. I told her to go get her bird, and since she was still swimming in, I then turned my face away.

At that point, she decided to turn around and get the bird. When she got it, I gave her a happy, “Good! Here! Good job!” She brought the duck back to about two feet away from the line, dropped the duck, and wouldn’t — would not — pick it up again. Finally the judge excused us.

We’ve been working on picking up and holding wet ducks, so I knew that dropping and not fetching up the wet duck might be an issue.

But I was very surprised at her reluctance to go out. I thought that we’d been making strides in building enthusiasm. And for the past couple of weeks, we have been going out to a couple of different training fields with ponds, and she has been happy to leap into to water, fetch up the bumper, and come straight back in. She’s been so eager to go out that she’s been whining when we get close to the training field, and whining at the practice line to be sent, both on land and water. So eager that she’s even been willing to pick up icky wet ducks.

It’s as if there is something about an actual hunt test environment. It amps Cooper up so high with the desire to retrieve that he’s on the edge of control. With Tooey, it just seems to deflate her — it happened with me yesterday, I could see it at the two hunt tests I attended that Butch took her to, and I could hear it in the descriptions that Butch gave me of the tests I didn’t see.

Or maybe it’s the ducks. Hunt tests always have ducks. Our practice doesn’t always have ducks. It isn’t easy to get ducks to train with — the last two we had finally became too decrepit. I cut the wings off and will band them to a dokken until I can get some more ducks.

I don’t know what I’m going to do now. She’s scheduled for another hunt test in a couple of weeks. I have about 12 hours to scratch her from the test. I’m thinking about what to do…

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You know, there are times when I get tired, and writing posts for The Cooper Project seems to fall pretty far down the priority list. Work, sleep, meals, dog training, dog grooming, saying hello to the husband once in awhile, remember that I have friends whom I want to keep in touch with, taking a nap, even reading the occasional book all see more important from time to time.

But then I get a nice comment on the blog, or someone writes to tell me that an entry helped them, or I see that someone actually searched the web for “cooper project” to find it — I’ve even had people write to me asking to change what I’ve written or arguing with my conclusions. All of these encourage me to keep going.

And then there is that special category of encouragement — fan mail. I was so fortunate yesterday to get more fan mail today, this one from Becky. She sent a lovely card designed by Skylar and Ariel, and also a T-shirt with an IWS face designed by her sister-in-law.

card and shirt

The card is so sweet. I love my IWS, too, so I know exactly what they mean. And the shirt is perfect: lightweight with lots of coverage, and a perfect color of brown to go to hunt tests with. (Retriever hunt tests require camo or dark colors.)

Thanks, Becky. And thanks to everyone who reads my blog.

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I was so enamored when I saw the pictures of Cooper’s sisters, Darcy and Tosca. I just loved the way that Louise and Pepi have trimmed their topknots and ears. So easy to maintain. So practical for a field dog.

Darcy, photo by Louise Bailey

Tosca, photo © Pepi Barrington

So, I wanted to try it on Cooper. Colleen once again agreed to help me out. Actually, she did most all of the work. And I think it turned out pretty darn good.

Cooper with new hairdo

When I got home from Colleen’s, I asked Russ what he thought of it. Diplomat that he is, Russ just said, “Well, you’re the one who grooms him.”

Okay, I get it. Not Russ’s favorite. And I have to admit it was a shock looking at him for the first several days. It’s really different from how he looked for his birthday photo. But it’s growing on me. It’s really growing on me.

And the real test will be next Sunday, when he’s out hunting for pheasant and chukar. I’m betting it will be much easier to get out all the debris and mats out of the new ‘do. I’ll let you know what I find out.

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