Grooming the Cardigan


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Grooming, article by Patrick Ormos
Grooming, article by Sarah Taylor



Compared to many other breeds the Cardigan is a low-maintenance dog in the sense that he is easy to keep in good condition and grooming is a relatively simple procedure. However, basic good grooming is essential to the well being of any dog.

The correct coat for a Cardigan has two layers.  The undercoat is soft and rich.  If the dog is not bathed too frequently, this layer is almost waterproof from its natural oil content.   Over this lies the guard hair layer.  Correct guard hairs are strong and firm, but not wiry.  They give a weather-proof overcoat which sheds most debris and mud.   Longer coated dogs have finer, silky guard hairs that collect too much dirt in wet weather.

The coat of a healthy Cardigan should be rich and glossy and he should not constantly lose hair between sheds. So first, you need to get the diet just right. It is impossible to give a universal formula, because the climate of your home region will affect the coat.

There are many food supplements available and you will have to experiment to determine which is best under your circumstances. Frequently some extra oil will help to achieve the glossy coat. Fish oil, olive oil, corn oil, wheat germ oil, brewer's yeast and various herbal mixes are all useful, but do not expect to see instant results when you feed any diet supplement - it may take two months or more.

In addition to nutrition you should not forget regular exercise which is essential for your dog's condition and well being. A Cardigan with no muscling and a soft, mushy belly is not what you would expect from a working dog. You will also have to watch his weight. Cardigans usually have a healthy appetite but a fat dog is very unsightly and overweight can lead to many health problems.

Basic good grooming includes regular brushing and giving baths as appropriate, as well as checking teeth and nails, ears and eyes. For your own comfort, the acquisition of a grooming table with a non-slip top is a good investment.

Brushing and combing

There is a wide selection of brushes and combs suitable for the Cardigan's double coat to choose from. Especially during moulting it is necessary to comb out the loose undercoat and you will be surprised how much wool a Cardigan actually can shed. Excess hair on the underside of the pads should be trimmed, especially during winter and if you live in a city where salt is used on the streets.


How often your Cardigan needs a bath depends on various circumstances. The Cardigan with the correct coat is by nature a clean dog and ordinary dirt which is picked up in wet weather will normally come off once the coat is dry. However, the climate and the kind of soil in your area may require more frequent bathing. If he is allowed to run off the leash with the opportunity to roll in some filth you will also find it necessary to give him a bath to get rid of both the muck and the offensive odour.  Feel and smell the coat to help decide whether a bath is in order.  Remember that too frequent bathing removes too much of the natural oils from the coat, leaving it dry and brittle.

Put your dog in the tub or the shower on a non-slippery surface such as a rubber mat. When turning on the water take care that it is not too warm. Use the hose with the rinse

head attached and thoroughly soak the coat before applying the shampoo. Use a good dog shampoo or possibly a baby shampoo. Take care that the soap does not get into his eyes and ears. Rinse thoroughly and let him shake off as much of the water as possible before getting out of the bath. If you are going to use a blow dryer make sure the air is not too hot and that you have introduced him to the dryer while he was still a puppy. When blow drying you should aim with, rather than against, the lie of the coat.

Just as in humans, sometimes conditioner should be used after shampoo.  This is most important when the coat is close to shedding, and is already dry and brittle.


Nails should be kept short right from puppyhood. Nails which are too long spoil the shape of the foot and may even influence the movement.  If the nails are not trimmed properly, the quick will grow longer and make it more difficult to cut the nail back. If your Cardigan is regularly exercised on hard surfaces such as concrete the nails will usually stay short, but if he mostly walks on soft ground or during winter in snow the nails will need regular trimming. You can use nail clippers, a file or an electric grinder.  The Dremel grinder or equivalent, equipped with a 1 cm (1/2 inch) sanding drum gives the neatest result and the dogs usually prefer it to clippers. Be very careful of the quick that is the nerve of the nail and will bleed when cut and be very painful to the dog.  If you are faced with a dog whose nails are much too long, cut back to the quick, and repeat at weekly intervals.  If you live in a country where the removal of dew claws is not allowed, make sure to check and clip these as well as some dew claws don't grow straight and will eventually grow into the leg.


The erect ears of the Cardigan normally do not present any problem. The outer ear can be cleaned with cotton saturated with some alcohol. You may also use a special ear lotion which you squeeze into the ear and gently massage the ear base, the dog will then shake his head and thus clean the ear. If the ears are smelly or there is a lot of ear wax, you should consult the vet.

Q-tips dipped in mineral oil or ear cleaner are useful, but extreme care is required, as the dog may puncture an ear drum by moving suddenly. 

Dogs which swim frequently, or roll in powder snow, need extra ear care. 

Many dogs are very allergic to cat ear mites, so if you have a cat, keep and eye on both pets’ ears.


Check teeth and ensure they are clean and free for tartar. Tooth scrapers can be purchased at most supply houses. You must be very careful when scraping teeth to ensure you do not injure the gums. Always scrape away from the gum. Daily opportunities for chewing on a good hard bone or special biscuits will help to keep gums and teeth healthy. When checking the teeth also make sure to check the gums for any irregularities and if you discover anything unusual like toothflesh growing over the teeth, see your vet, as it might be epulis, the most common non-cancerous oral tumor of dogs and which needs to be removed.

Anal glands

The anal glands, or rather anal sacs, are usually emptied by rectal pressure during defecation or involuntarily when the dog is upset or frightened. The smell is very unpleasant. If your Cardigan is rubbing its rear-end on the ground or floor ("scooting") his anal glands may be impacted and require expressing. You can learn to do this yourself or ask your vet to do this.


Grooming includes keeping your Cardigan free of parasites such as fleas, lice, ticks and worms. An adult dog should be dewormed twice a year. Depending on where you live, ticks should be removed as soon as possible as they may carry various infectious organisms that can transmit diseases to cats and dogs. Fleas may cause an allergy in the form of hot spots which will have to be treated by your vet.

Show grooming

A dog show is like a beauty contest so obviously the dog has to be clean, to look at, to feel, and to smell.  So, depending a little on the coat texture, a bath a day or two before the show is a must. If your dog has a very short coat you will bathe him the day before the show to make the coat look fuller, if the coat is a little longer and rather full it might be a good idea to bathe him two to three days before the show to give the coat time to settle. On the day itself  you may wash the white parts again or otherwise clean them up using dry shampoo or such, but be careful what you use. Some kennel clubs do not allow any artificial remedies like chalk or sprays at shows. In addition to being clean, your dog should also be well combed and brushed, nails should be short and teeth clean.

Grooming techniques and show presentation vary from person to person and from country to country. It should, however, be remembered that the Cardigan Corgi is a working herding breed and as such should be shown in its clean natural state without too much artistry as seen in many other breeds.

3 March 2005


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