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Over trimming or shaving of the Show Irish Red Setter?

I would like to know the opinion of all show people on the over shaving(trimming) of the setter? I was very surprised to see that trimming is actually mentioned in the AKC breed standard (coat section)"Trimming is done to preserve the natural appearance of the dog" How over trimming or shaving can preserve a natural look is quite puzzling to me!!!! I make my dogs as neat as possible for shows with a scissors or hand plucking but never put a blade near them!! I think that over grooming is quite the opposite of the natural appearance!! I believe over trimming/grooming makes setters look a bit like cardboard cut outs,not real dogs!!!!!!!!

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I use the #15 blade between the pads on the bottoms of the feet to clean out the feathers there. I thin the feathers between the toes on top with thinning shears, never use clippers on the tops of their feet. I brush the feathering up towards the leg before thinning level with the tops of the feet. Makes the feet look more natural and not clippered. I use straight scissors around the bottom edges of the feet to make them look neat too. I also use straight scissors to trim the backs of the hocks, depending on how much hair is on the hocks and how thick it is, if there's not much hair at all, I thin it with thinning shears and just make the backs of the hocks look naturally short and neat. Never shave the backs of the hocks. I never shave the back of the neck on an Irish Setter either, just an English or Gordon and only if they are not being shown within 2 weeks of grooming. I use thinning shears to thin and blend the neck on an Irish, including the backs of their necks, not just the sides. You can sometimes even blend in a small cowlick on the back of the neck by judicious thinning from underneath the coat. I also blend on the sides of the shoulder blades using thinning shears to blend in with the neckline, etc. It's taken me 40 years of practice on a lot of different dogs to develop the technique that I use. It works for me, others' have other methods, some take shortcuts that I wouldn't, but every groomer needs to learn what works best for them and their style of dog.

I also use the #15 blade on a Gordon or English Setter on the fronts of their necks if the hair is really thick, I shave downwards, with the direction of hair growth. On the tops of the ears, I use an 8 1/2 against the direction the hair grows. Makes a neater, cleaner trim than trying to use a #10 downwards, with the direction the hair grows. Try it some time, I think you'll like it. On my current Irish, I also use the 8 1/2 blade on her throat, but going upwards against the grain of hair growth. Her coat is very thick and I can trim her the day of show with an 8 1/2 blade and it looks like I did her a week in advance with a #10 blade. My suggestion is to try different blades, on each dog it's different. Depends on the type of coat, how thick it is, etc. I just experimented with each setter that I've owned or groomed for others' to see what works best on each individual dog.

Thank you again so much for the detailled information!!! I really appreciate it!
Here are some photos of a couple of my dogs that I bred, they were littermates, brother and sister, less than 3 years of age in the photo. I'm also including a photo of my Annie that was taken 8 months after I shaved her feathers off completely, ears, body, etc. She was 4 years old in the photo. Hope this shows you how we have to trim our dogs with clippers and then blend with thinning shears. These dogs have a lot of hair to cope with.
sorry can't resist...

Susan Stone, Coppersheen Irish Setters (who require no clipper work at all)

well all this is very interesting! I actually pluck the hairs on the ears( very old fashioned I know!) with fingers then tidy the edges with very fine thinning scissors, again tidy the neck with thinning scissors, and the same for the feet! I have never owned any clippers I was always told it is wrong to shave any part of an Irish as the trimming should look as natural as possible! Of course I know the presentation is quite different in the USA! And nowadays in the UK if you have bred too much coat you might need to do something else for the ring but I have dogs with easily maintained coats!
How do your dogs take the plucking? Mine are not at all pleased with that operation... The oldest of mine gets the best looking result on his ears with this method though.
never had any problems with ear plucking...i can do it very easily if they decide to sleep at my feet watching television, actually my two youngest adore being brushed and they' fight' for position to be under the brush of the comb which is quite funny to watch!
Well, we prefer long feathering on the ears here and never pluck the ear feathers off. The longer the ear feathers and the thicker they are, the happier we are. It certainly softens the 'look' and adds a lot of elegance to the headpiece of a beautiful Irish Setter, or English and Gordon for that matter. Take a look at my Garnett on my personal page, you'll see what I mean. I don't have any photos of Annie on a CD but will try to get some scanned onto my hard drive so you can see the difference in ear feathers on American Irish Setters. Like I said earlier, our setters carry a lot more coat than setters in the UK, genetically bred into them. Only the Field Red Setter does not carry this type of coat and they are mostly cross bred with pointers, brittanies and english setters, not purebreds at all.
Well, for one thing, show setters in the US and Canada, also Australia and New Zealand, carry a lot more coat on their heads, necks, ears, throats, etc. and their bodies. If we left them to grow as long as they wanted to, without any kind of trimming, we'd have dogs that look like hairy beasts. There would not be a dilineation to define head type, ears, necks, etc. For instance, if I let the hair grow just on the top of my Irish Setters' head, it grows long enough and thick enough that I can part it down the middle of her topskull and put hair ribbons in it! LOL!!!! My Annie on the other hand, just needed a little stroking with a pumice stone to remove any stray of fuzzy hairs that stuck up and she was good to go, just trim the tops of her ear feathers which grew as long as people's hair does. Her front leg feathers and body feathers also kept growing and the leg feathers from the tops of her elbows could reach the floor. That's right, the floor and she was 26 1/2 inches tall at the withers. Some of our specials (Champions) have coats that grow to the floor length wise and need to be trimmed to give them some daylight underneath their bodies. Until you've owned a dog with this kind of coat, don''t presume that we 'over groom or over shave' these dogs. They are hair factories!

A good instance of this is when Annie was a 2 year old, she got into some stick weeds that stuck her coat to her skin. You literally couldn't get a comb, brush, or even scissors between the matted coat with stickers and her skin to cut them out. I had to shave her body, legs, ears, tail, every thing down to the skin except for her back where the coat was normally nice and short. In just 8 months, she was back in full specials coat, trimming her feathers up off the ground again! The more you trim the edges of the feathers, the longer it will grow. Just like human hair keeps on growing, so will a setters coat if it's kept trimmed. Garnett is the same way, I shave her feathering down to the skin with a 7 skip tooth blade just before our winter sets in. She romps and plays in the mud and has to be hosed down in the pouring rain before I bring her back into the house. She's literally a mud ball wrapped around an Irish Setter. Her coat is very thick and cottony, not spay coat but still thick like spay coat and like cotton candy. You can imagine how much grooming it takes just to keep her coat free of mud balls and caked on mud after a half dozen trips outside in the rain and mud every day! I no longer show her so there's no real reason not to shave her down, leg feathers, chest feathers and ear feathers. The top her head grows thick and cottony too. The only thing I don't shave down is the back of her neck or her back, just the long feathers. I hate to do it because she looks so funny shaved down, but believe me, grooming her and washing her down with a cold hose every day, half a dozen times a day, just to bring her inside the house makes it necessary. With the shorter coat, I can just wipe her down with a thick clean towel and she's damp, but no longer a mudball bringing all that caked on mud into the house. The mud here in N. Tx is like clay, when it dries, it's all over the house too. Much easier to keep her clean this way too. My Borzoi tiptoe thru the wet grass, forget mud puddles or any standing water, they don't get the bottoms of their feet wet, much less roll in it! Good thing as they are white with red markings!
Thankyou all for so much information on this trimming issue. This Forum came up when I was googling for information on how to present my first "show" Irish. So I have joined up......and now look forward to learning and enjoying this group.
I had missed this Forum when it first came out.......I have Arthritis, and can't use the thinning scissors any more, I used to be a hairdresser (before a Bus Driver) and was I hope quite proficient in the use of scissors. But now HAVE to use the clippers, BUT I don't shave like the American's, and I would like to think that my dogs look 'natural' when I have finished, I do have to use the scissors when I have finished with the clippers just to blend it in.. when used properly and not taken down to the skin a dog can look good, you can look at some of Jas and Saffy's pictures and I hope that they look natural, Caremel has seen my girls at a show, so I hope that she didn't notice that they had been 'clipped' And it is now becoming the 'in thing' to look at presentation rather than substance...When I started showing in the early '70's you only put a brush through the dog if it needed it and took thinning scissors to a little bit of the neck, problem is that NOW you have to do all the trimming and washing etc, or you just wouldn't be looked at.....shame...
Oh yes have judged dogs that I think had been through a cattle yard, not only 'mud' (I hope) but smelled like cow poo....yuk




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