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I have been trying to teach myself how to groom an English Setter from the book 'The New Complete English Setter' by Davis Tuck 3rd Edition Revised by Elsworth S Howell which I purchased 22 years ago. The main area I am interested in is trimming the back of the neck down from the occiput and around the sides of the neck. The tools used in the book include a Duplex Dresser, Durham Duplex trimming knife or stripping knife. Whenever I have tried to purchase a stripping knife or the equivalent of the Duplex Durham tools in Australia or asked someone for advice, I have been advised not to use the stripping knife and instead use thinning scissors for this area or clip with a #7F blade or use a pumice stone or use the Wahl clipper blade as a comb or buy a cheap Blade Dresser from a pet shop. I did not like the look when this area was clipped. I have not been taught how to use thinning scissors so have never felt comfortable tackling this area with a pair of one-sided thinning scissors. I did not find the other 3 tools useful. I understand you have to be careful using a stripping knife because the coat of an English Setter is fine but I thought I'd order a fine stripping knife to try. Before I do this I was wondering what members use to groom this area to produce a clean outline. The Mars coat king is good for general grooming but does not produce the look of show English Setters.

I tried to purchase a video about grooming an English Setter from www.learn2groomdogs.com but this video is not for sale. I have purchased a video from the UK English Setter Assn but it was not detailed enough. Unfortunately there are still no local dog grooming schools where I live which have classes on how to use clippers correctly, how to hand strip, etc.

I was also wondering if the book 'Notes from the Grooming Table' by Melissa Verplank is worth purchasing. I have been advised that only several pages are relevant to grooming an English Setter and this book is only useful to those working in the dog grooming business.


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Hi, when I was showing Irish and English in the UK we didn't strip as much as today.   Re the query on thinning scissors and how to use them, I used to raise the top coat and scissored the layers below and then brush the coat over the top.   This meant that the area was cleaner but didn't look as if it had been touched.   I think it's a pity to overstrip, it is part of what makes setter so beautiful and if one wanted a smooth coat then perhaps setters are the wrong breed and a pointer would be better.  

The older breeders, when I was showing, hand stripped under the ears, top of the ears and used thinning scissors under the next to the breast bone and the back of the hocks and obviously tidied up feet.  So I guess the dog showers of today would be horrified and likewise the older breeders would despair that clippers were being used.  In the UK the lengths of the coats are too glamorous.  When watching Setters working in heathers on moors it would be a great disadvantage to have long coats  both from a snagging and chilling aspect.  When all said and done dog showing and breeding should be to maintain a type in each breed that would enable it to follow the reason it was developed in the first place.   Bred for purpose.  The reason the pattern of trimming as described above is to avoid damage to the dogs when working because hair that becomes matted becomes a health issue.

 How is Hobson keeping??  He looks lovely and typical of the UK type, not exaggerated just beautifully boned and balanced.  

Dear Georgina

I must not have been clear. I am not talking about the entire body of the English Setter, only the area down from the back of the occiput and then around I suppose to the shoulder line. I like the look of a clean outline in this area, but also a natural look, even though I am not showing my English Setters. I use clippers for underneath the neck and thinning scissors and clippers for the excess hair that develops around the ears. I use thinning scissors to blend in the line down both sides of the neck. Even the "old" book I use does not recommend using thinning scissors in this area on the back of the neck down from the occiput and only to use thinning scissors for "roughing out" work. I have been trying to find the equivalent of the tools used in this "old" book (which Misty almost recently destroyed .. lucky it has a tough cover) but even professional groomers have not heard of them. I have been worried about using a stripping knife in case it took out too much hair which I suppose is silly because the hair will grow back. I saw a shedding tool yesterday which I might try instead. It looks like a tool used by a professional groomer in a video on the internet to tidy up this particular area of an English Setter.

Re the over-stripping of English Setters in the show ring I cannot comment because I do not know what breeders and exhibitors do. One of my biggest regrets is showing my English Setters. I avoid dog shows now. My English Setter, Hammer was previously owned by a Master Groomer who told me to use the #7F blade in this area to save time. I tried this but I did not like the look and because I am self taught, I am not very good with clippers.

I agree with everything else you have said. In Australia too many people seem to have forgotten that an English Setter is an extremely intelligent, athletic breed. Also when they were orginally bred they slept beside their owner when out on bird hunts. English Setters need human companionship and they need to be a special part of the family.

Thank you very much for asking about Hobson. I wish I could say he is well. I keep doing everything I possibly can every day to help him. I hope he will regain his strength and be able to run with young Misty soon. I am proud to say that Hobson is a Pamploma English Setter and bred on the UK type. It is a real shame that this type of English Setter has disappeared from Australia. In saying this, it is a real shame that English Setters in general have disappeared. The ES member who does not believe that the English Setter is on the verge of extinction in Australia is in denial.

Thank you for your comments.

Best wishes from Susan, Hobson and Misty

Ah, hadn't realised you meant the back of the neck to the shoulders and agree that thinning scissors wouldn't work for this area.   Stripping knife maybe the answer and as you get the feel of it each time it is used you will get to know what suits you best.    Misty looks so pretty, perfect blue belton colouring and that look that only English have.  They are so amusing when they want something but can't get it, I mean the huffing and the blowing out of the cheeks, adorable.   One of my friend had to take her rescued English to the vets, she hadn't had him long and he was really quite a big dog.   As she entered the surgery there was a baby English puppy in for it's first innoculation and, of course, it was sitting on it's proud owner's knee.   The place errupted when my friend sat down and Feather looked around in his imperious way and climbed up onto her lap and balanced himself there until it was his turn to see the vet.   My friend couldn't do anything and just prayed that the vet wouldn't be too long!!!  The vet was so taken with him and the little puppy that he went out and bought himself an English!!!

There has been talk over here that because breeders have done so much damage to lots of breeds that there may be a time when all of the setters are crossed with one another, retrievers, spaniels, bull breeds etc etc.   The resulting offspring would just be setters, retrievers, spaniels and not broken down to a variety.  Of course they would have to still have health checks, pointless putting a gordon with hip dysplia to an irish with same condition.   But even that has it's limitations.  I had my first irish in '69 and the decline in the breed health wise has been very marked and sad and likewise with English.  When you told me that you had managed to keep an english to age 14.5 was amazing because I hardly know any that get to 8 or 9.  The oldest Irish I had was 13.5 when I lost her but the others have been 7,8,9 which is hearbreaking, bar one who had a spontaneous rupture of the spine, went because of cancer.

Anyway, 'tis the season to be merry so wish you and the dogs (and heron)  happy christmas.  My sister is in South Toowoomba, Brizzy, are you in that part of Qland?  I was born in Sydney and we travelled extensively around Australia.

Agree with you, it seems that the American style of setters, i.e. overlong, light boned, heavy coated, scythe tails and light eyes are what people want but to my mind Hobson is really the correct type.   

As a Yank, I much prefer the look of Hobson also! And Misty is stunning! :)

Hi, didn't mean to be rude!!!!   It just seems to me that the "real" English like Hobson are become more and more rare and to lose that entirely is so sad I think.   The Irish here have lost their front angulation and it seems that when they read "straight front" they think the setter has to be straight from the bottom of the neck and in line with front legs, rather than an angle from bottom of neck to point of shoulder thus giving an upper arm angulation.  My interpretation of straight front is when looking at the dog from the front and the legs are parallel, i.e. feet not pointing inwards or outwards or as we call it "ten to two"!!   The movement is badly affected if they have the latter and if they were expected to run over moors or scrub they would quickly become exhausted whereas if they have the correct shoulder placement they can propel themselves forward effortlessly and that is a wonderful sight to see.  

Misty is gorgeous isn't she, such a pretty head and expression............  Happy Christmas and enjoy yourselves across the pond!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hi Georgina

This photo is for you. It appeared in the National Dog magazine in Australia in 1994. Unfortunately only one of these English Setter breeders is now breeding. From what I've been advised by English Setter breeders who showed their dogs from the 1970's, showing used to be fun. The primary concern of breeders was to produce a litter of puppies, all of whom would be good representatives of the English Setter breed. Breeders used to encourage pet owners to show and breeders used to help any purchaser of their puppies to groom. xxxx

I agree, the 70s and 80s were both great decades for showing and owning dogs.  In the UK we have health and safety and sometimes a strong anti dog and this means anyone with dogs in built up areas can get quite a lot of abuse.   Of course, one the complainers forget to accept is that we all have a right to live and surround ourselves with whatever makes us happy whilst respecting others.  The complainers respect no one, if whatever doesn't suit them anyone in their sight is in for a rough ride. 

I had my first irish in '69 and showed from them on, I only had 4 litters so that I could have a follower on to show, just as you say.  I kept in touch with everyone who had puppies from me and always very sad when they reached the time when the dogs lives ended.  Money is such a driving force now, greed, greed, greed, regardless of the wellfare of the dogs.  The genetic pool in the UK for Irish is scarily diminished because everyone uses "the dog" of the moment without thinking of the future.  They use "the dog" because they can command higher prices, I don't consider them to be proper dog people, they breed and breed, they are the only ones now who have stock to show and because they've churned out the puppies they are the only ones who have large amounts of disposal income.    Ironically there are a lot of dogs and bitches being imported from Europe but they are bringing in dogs that have strong UK connections so not very helpful in the long run.   Hence the problem with genetic pool and showing became unpleasant because it had become so political, a bit like an "old boys club".  So I stopped, I couldn't bear the lack of honesty, ethics and worst of all the greed.  Human nature at it's worst!!  This didn't just happen to Irish but most of the dog breeds, shocking really.

Absolutely love the national dog april '94, fascinating.  We spent some time in Tazzy as children and remember the miles and miles of cherry and apple orchards, the blossoms from them and best of all the smell.

The photographs are fascinating, 8 would be UK presentation with a tidy up under the ears with thinning scissors.  9 was disapproved of but they would reduce the hair on the shoulders to get a cleaner outline.  This used to make me laugh, once when I was showing an English down in London, the judge told me Spring was loaded over the shoulders - I asked her to point to where she meant, she pointed to the wonderful muscling that Spring had because she and her sister Sugar spent hours galloping and playing.   Spring won the class, there were about 20 other English puppies then.  She told me to thin out!!!   I didn't ever show under her again, stupid woman.  She gave Spring first in a class of 20, these days there a only 5 and 6s, no competion and they are usually from the same litter or sired by the same dog.

11 would be UK presentation, thinning the upper ear hair and under the ear so that the ear could sit more closely to the head and obviously under the chin.  All done with thinning scissors and finger and thumb.  We also used to thin out the top knot by the occiput - otherwise they would look a bit loony!!! 

The stripping knife is a useful tool and when you get used to it you can use it to your advantage.  Good for you taking a pride in your dogs appearance without butchering them.  I was at the vets the other day and a lady brought in a cocker that was having to be knocked out so that the vets could shave off her coat.  Her ears looked as if they had tennis balls on the end - I didn't growl but boy I felt like it.  The dog must have a lot of discomfort, goodness only knows what was living in her ears, poor dog.  The lady was gushing all over it - revolting.  I'm sure the dog would have been happier being kept clean and comfortable and not treated like an imbecile.

Misty's video was hilarious, chicken - all Setters can be so dim but they do it with such aplomb don't you think!!  Loverrrrrrrrrrrly.

Mmm, me too but if the current breeders are allowed to continue unsolicited it will be the only way to overcome total extinction of lots of breeds of dogs.

Likewise, enjoy yourselves, stay happy and well and life is only as good as we want it to be - hence we surround ourselves with dogs - YIPPPPEEEEEEEEEEEEE! and stay sane.

Remind me again, what is the subject of this discussion ?

Hi Georgina

I'll look into buying a stripping knife in the New Year and take it very slowly. I've attached a couple of photos from this "old" book I have to show you what I mean -



As I said, Hammer's previous owner who is a certified Master Groomer and one of the best dog groomers in Australia recommended a #7F blade for this area only to save me time. She would have the skills to clip this area and make it look natural. I don't. As I've said, grooming is something I really enjoy and I take a lot of time doing it. I would prefer to persevere myself than allow anyone else to groom my English Setters.

Re Misty, have you seen her video on my page? I will introduce her with her own blog very soon. I purchased her sight unseen from a registered English Setter breeder I know in NSW.

Yes, English Setters are irresistible. I was at the local shopping centre with Misty and Hobson the other day and people were flocking around us.

I sincerely hope I never see the day when English Setters are deliberately crossed with other breeds. There are health problems in the breed in Australia but I am certain there are health problems with all purebred dogs.

Brisbane is about 1 hour's drive away and Toowoomba is 2 1/2 hours drive away from where we live.

Wishing you and your beautiful animal children a very happy and peaceful time over Christmas and I sincerely hope 2013 is a wonderful year for all of you. xxx Susan, Hobson, Misty, Hallmark, Charlamayne and Sam

I don't think the book 'Notes from the grooming table' would be worth the expense Susan.  It is more for the pro dog groomer as it covers hundreds of breeds and has only a few pages about grooming Setters.

I brush the hair on the ear flaps upwards until it is standing out and then thin straight up through it using thinning scissors. I then brush the hair down flat and take a look.  I repeat this process until I am happy with the results.

 I use clippers to tidy the neck area and under the ear flap.  I use Oster Cryogen-X 7F blade for tidying under the ear flaps and under the highest part of the neck and then I use the 4F to blend the neck into the chest. The higher the blade number, the shorter it cuts.

I tidy round the feet with straight scissors and the hocks with the thinning scissors

Alternatively, you could get a pro who knows how to trim a Setter properly to do it for you for the first time and then follow their example.  That would show you the areas to trim and the correct length of coat to leave.

I forgot to mention.....I would use thiining scissors or the 4F blade to tidy up the top of the head and top of neck area.  The 7F blade would cut too short for my liking on this area.

Hi Torie

Thank you for your comments. I know how to groom an English Setter except for this particular area on the head. In the late 1990's I trusted one groomer who shaved off the coats of Jessie and Bandit. I was horrified and Jessie would not speak to me for many hours. Since then I have never allowed anyone else to groom my English Setters, and Benmore, until I found a groomer of English Setters in 2003 when I decided to show Beau. She showed me how to clip underneath the neck and the ears and how to use thinning scissors. I already knew how to groom the feet etc. Over the years I have learned enough to be able to groom adequately but because I am interested, I keep trying to improve. When I rescued my sweet Rose who threw herself in the corner of the room at the sight of a hair brush, I was pleased I knew how to groom her myself. Bandit was also a rescue English Setter. He broke down when the groomer tried to put him inside a crate at her pet grooming salon. Bandit had a skin problem and I used to take Bandit to her every week for a hydrobath. She allowed him to run freely inside the salon. His skin problems resolved. She "stuffed up" his and Jessie's grooming though, as well as poor Benmore, my longhaired Dashchund. She meant well but I never allowed her near my dogs again with her clippers!!

Best wishes from Susan, Hobson and Misty.




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