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Top Tips for Grooming your Westie

WHETHER YOUR WESTIE LOVES IT OR LOATHES IT, GROOMING IS A MAJOR PART OF ITS HEALTH AND WELLBEING WRITES, MICH DALE

Your West Highland White Terrier will require some coat maintenance, whether you trim your dog yourself or take him/her to a professional groomer. Trimming is best done on a regular basis every four to eight weeks depending on the method of trimming and also if you intend to show or not.  It is important to introduce puppies to this regime at an early age as it then becomes the norm rather than something horrid and frightening. I would introduce my puppies to grooming as early as eight weeks of age.

Choose your Groomer Carefully

Do your research to check if your groomer is qualified and insured, you can find qualified groomers in your area on The Groomers Spotlight where you can see a list of groomers in your area, and you can also see photographs of their work and what they have achieved.

You need to discuss with your chosen groomer what trim would best suit YOUR dog’s lifestyle i.e. traditional hand strip with full furnishings – this is generally for the show ring as this is higher maintenance and needs to be done around every four weeks, or a pet clip with either long furnishings as in the hand strip or a more practical clip with short furnishings if your dog is very active and goes on muddy walks or is elderly. This is generally done every eight weeks and helps keep your pet in tip top condition. Your groomer should point out any areas of concern to if a problem is found that you may not have noticed.

It is important to notify your groomer of any known health/skin problems. If your dog has a prescribed shampoo, you may wish your groomer to use that. It is also important to give as much information as possible to your groomer especially if your pet is old, blind, or has mobility or temperament issues, again your dog’s groom can be tailored to best suit your pet and enables them to keep themselves and your pet safe.

I personally bath my dogs every two weeks to maintain a crisp white show coat using a really good quality shampoo and conditioner. Please DO NOT use human shampoo products as your dog’s skin PH is different to a human and could cause problems for your dog. I also find it easier to Hand Strip or clip a clean coat and would never use clippers or scissors on a dirty coat as this will ruin your blade. Below are the regimes and equipment I use.

Pet Trim (Clipped) Every Six to Eight Weeks

Equipment Needed:

  • Shampoo & Detox Mask
  • High Velocity Dryer
  • Finishing Dryer or handheld dryer
  • Absorbent Towel
  • Slicker Brush
  • Double sided comb
  • Clippers
  • 5F Blade
  • 15 Blade
  • 3mm Comb attachment
  • 7” Curved Scissors
  • Thinning Scissors
  • Nail trimmers/file

As with any trimming on a Westie, first things first, preparation is key to a good trim. I start with two shampoos and a conditioning treatment followed by a THOROUGH blow dry using a slicker brush.  The westie’s coat tends to hold on to moisture and when you think it is dry it probably isn’t, so carry on for another 10 mins or you will end up with a curly coat that is difficult to get a good finish on.

Now you have your dog’s coat properly prepped, brushed, and combed thoroughly you can begin to trim and style your dog.

Chest

With a 5F blade try not to expose the rosettes at the top of the legs to give a straight, flat front …. Westies should not have a keel like a scotty.

Body

With a 5f blade, or longer, clip the jacket and tail following the coat growth and blend into the furnishings (legs and skirt) at the widest point of the dog.

Legs and Skirt

Blend body coat into furnishings using thinning scissors.

Feet

Trim around the feet and if necessary, trim some hair from the legs depending on the overall look required.

Head

Set the head shape by firstly trimming the tips of the ears into a pyramid shape (not following the leather of the ear) as this will determine the length of the hair on the finished head. Then with straight scissors, create the chrysanthemum shape from ear, under the jaw, back to the other ear. Now you can create the rest of the chrysanthemum by bringing the hair in between the ears together in the middle and trim with thinning scissors (Not straights at this point as you want it to look more natural and not like a Bichon.)  Then trim a little from the sides but not too much to create the round shape.

Show Trim (Hand Stripped) Every Four Weeks

When I hand strip any dog, I like to use the rolling coat method. This means stripping around 1/3 of the coat out at a time to create layers (at least three), this will give a much better quality of coat and is easier on the dog and groomer. It also allows you to sculpt the dog to correct and improve its shape and to enhance the good points.

Equipment Needed:

  • Shampoo & Detox Mask
  • High Velocity Dryer
  • Finishing Dryer or handheld dryer
  • Ultra-Absorbent Towel
  • Slicker Brush
  • Double sided comb
  • 7” Curved Scissors
  • Thinning Scissors
  • Nail trimmers/file
  • Stripping knife coarse & fine
  • Finger cotts

Prep work is as above including pads and hygiene areas but that is where the similarity ends…

The Goal

Your goal for hand stripping a Westie for the show ring is to make the best of your dog, enhance the good points and to mask the bad points, no dog is perfect.

The Aim

Your aim is to make your dog as balanced as possible.  Each dog you will trim will be slightly different i.e. longer or shorter legs, longer or shorter back etc.  Firstly, evaluate your dog …. Look at his/her good points and be honest about the bad … then you can decide what you are going to do.

I usually start to trim from behind the ears then work my way back, as a rule I would only take out 25–30% of the coat at one time, this will give you a rolling coat … by this I mean the dog will have several layers to the coat, this makes the coat thicker with better texture and it will have the correct double coated appearance. This should be done every three to four weeks.

Chest

I hand strip the chest as much as is comfortable for the dog, then use thinning scissors to tidy up. Again, this must look as natural as possible with no scissor marks or bald patches.

Now blend the shorter body coat to the longer skirt and leg furnishings. You need to thin the area out by pulling a few hairs out at a time, moving around so as not to create a hole. You should then have longer and shorter hair that gives you the graduation between the two areas.

Do not go too far down the ribcage, the graduation needs to take place at the widest point of the rib, so the hair flows straight down with nothing sticking outwards.

When you look from the front and the back nothing should stick out from the sides.

Body

Starting at the sides I strip quite short down to the shoulders being careful not to over strip just above the front leg to avoid any dips, giving your dog nice clean shoulders.  At the base of the scull (top of neck) I also take very short as you do not want to be fighting hair when you are trying to stack your dog for the Judge…blend into longer hair to form a graceful neck leading onto a level top line.

You can see where you need to build up hair (make more layers) on the neck by placing a comb at the base of the scull and resting it on the dog’s back … if there is a gap this will need to be filled in with longer hair over time.  In this way you can alter the lay of the shoulder slightly to give a little more neck/shorter back but do not over exaggerate or you will give the dog a very un-natural appearance.

Legs and Skirt

The hair needs to be full but at the same time harsh (not so hard that the coat breaks.) To do this pull a few hairs at a time from all over the leg and skirt. Thinning scissors are then used to tidy and shape the leg for the finished look.

The skirt should taper up from the front to the back, this can be done with thinning scissors or a stripping knife and should look as natural as possible.

Feet

Using straight scissors remove unwanted hair from the pads then comb the hair as you would for a show and tidy around the foot being careful not to over trim.

Rear End and Tail

The way you trim the rear of the dog depends on its construction, if the dog lacks a good back end, then you will need to build up hair to give the appearance of one.  I personally do not like to much hair flapping about as this detracts from the dog’s movement when you walk away from a Judge … so remember the rule of balance and symmetry … if in doubt do a little then put the dog on the floor and look at it as the Judge would … remember you can always take a little more hair out, but you cannot put it back!

Tail should be stripped then tidied with thinning scissors. The shape should resemble a carrot, thicker at the base and tapering to a point.

The Head

Set the head shape by firstly trimming the tips of the ears into a pyramid shape (not following the leather of the ear) this will determine the length of the hair on the finished head. Then with straight scissors create the chrysanthemum shape from ear, under the jaw back to the other ear. Now you can create the rest of the chrysanthemum by bringing the hair in between the ears together in the middle and trim with thinning scissors (not straights at this point as you want it to look more natural and not like a Bichon.  Then trim a little from the sides but not too much to create the round shape, you must strip some of the head hair to give layers to add volume and hold its shape.

If you have any doubts about grooming your own Westie or have little experience of it, Westies & Besties Magazine suggests you do some research on qualified groomers in your local area and leave it to the professionals.