Grooming the Cardigan
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
but extreme care is required, as the dog may puncture an ear drum by moving
Dogs which swim frequently, or roll in powder
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
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
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.
The anal glands, or rather anal sacs, are usually emptied
by rectal pressure during defecation or involuntarily when the dog is upset or
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
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
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
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
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