Trimming Equipment

Originally scissors and hand clippers or razors were more or less the only tool used along with hand plucking, now a great variety of tools are used in trimming and grooming.


Scissors need to be very sharp for Bedlington coats. I have many different kinds of scissors but it is advisable to have at least two pairs, both of very good quality. The first could be a normal pair of hairdressing scissors, the second pair should have the straight blades parallel to, but in a different plane from, the grips OR have curved blades. I am left handed, learnt to use either hand in trimming, but never thought to buy left handed trimming scissors until recently..they are wonderful! The scissors should be set so that they move easily with no stiffness. This can be achieved by adjusting the screw found at the base of the handles. The ‘bent’ scissors are especially useful when trimming the legs and head as the hands do not brush the hair or interfere with the line of sight as much as conventional scissors. Be gentle with scissors as any jarring, even by dropping them roughly on the grooming table, can cause the molecules of the metal to move thus taking the sharpness off the blades.


A steel comb should be used with the teeth of half the length of the comb being about an eighth of an inch apart and the rest of the teeth about a sixteenth of an inch apart.

Electric Clippers:

Some electric clippers are unsuitable for the Bedlington coat, mainly because they clog with hair too easily. Clippers sold for human hair are usually useless for Bedlingtons and are a false economy. A decent pair of clippers will cost just over £100 and usually come with a free blade. There are many web sites offering such items. I personally prefer the Andis clippers as they are quieter and lighter than Oster clippers. A battery operated clipper gets rid of the annoyance of electric cables and there are even clippers now which can be used either as battery clippers or attached to a power supply. A really good pair of electric clippers, used with care, can give good results for both the shaved areas and the body coat. Purists would argue that only scissors should be employed on the coat as the coat colour and texture can be ruined by overuse of clippers, but for a pet this is not so important. Dogs with sensitive skin may develop ‘clipper rash’ on the close clipped areas of the face, tummy and tail, mainly as a result of clumsy work or overheated blades. It is important to keep the sole plate of the clippers flat to the skin, not to dig in in any way or force the clippers through the coat and not to allow the blades to overheat. The blades must be kept clean and oiled. A soft tooth brush is useful for cleaning hair from the blades. The two parts of the blade set should never be taken apart when cleaning the blades. This ruins the tension on the loose blade and any blades accidentally taken apart will probably need to be re tensioned by a specialist. Blades should not be dropped as this can take the sharpness off them, as well as perhaps breaking them. It is possible to manage with only a 7F and 30 (or 15) blades. A very fine finish can be obtained on the ears with a 40 blade and it is less likely you might accidentally nick the edge of the ear with a 40 than with a 30 or 15 blade.

Hand Clippers:

Many people used not to believe in using electric clippers at all, others could not afford them. Nowadays hand clippers are old fashioned and difficult to get hold of, though for cheeks, throat, ears etc. they are a perfectly viable alternative. These clippers are much cheaper to buy (if you can find them) and have the advantage that one may progress more slowly and thus, perhaps, be less prone to mistakes. One brand which is highly recommended is the Hauptner No 2.


Brushes :      

Most people use a pin type of brush which consists of a large number of fine, bent wire prongs. Such brushes may be called ‘slicker brushes’, ‘universal brush’ etc. There are many many types available today. The harder pronged ones are NOT recommended for regular use as they tend to pull out too much of the coat, but some use them just before going into the show ring to ‘finish’ the body coat. Brushing with a gentler form of pin brush helps stimulate the circulation to the skin thus helping improve the coat. It is important to part the head and leg hair to be sure you get to the base of the hair.

Artery Forceps:

A small pair of these can be helpful for removing hair from inside the ears. Great caution should be taken not to damage the ear and fingers are preferable! A small amount of ear powder or medicated talcum powder on the ear hair helps to allow a good grip on it.


Nail Clippers:     

It is advisable to buy as good a pair of these as possible so that the nails are cut quickly and with a minimum of fuss, most dogs thoroughly dislike having their nails attended to. The guillotine type shown above is the most often used.


Tooth Scaler and Brush:

If bones and other hard foods are fed regularly the teeth may stay fairly clean and an occasional rub with Tooth Powder may be sufficient to keep them nice. There is a variety of different toothpaste for dogs, it comes in flavours such as ‘beef’ and is said to aid in the removal of tartar. A weekly brush with a dog toothpaste will help keep teeth clean, but many dogs hate having their teeth cleaned. There are many “chews” available which claim to keep the teeth clean.

If tartar/plaque deposits are allowed to build up they will have to be removed with the aid of a ‘scaler’, which can be anything from a proper tool as used by Dentists to the side of a coin. Severe cases may have to be dealt with by the veterinary surgeon, the dog first being given a general anaesthetic, so prevention is better than cure!.

Trimming and Grooming

Background to todays presentation and trimming.

During the last 120 or so years more and more skill has gone into the trimming of MOST of the various terrier breeds. At a recent show I was suprised to learn that SMOOTH fox terriers are clipped and scissored to ensure a “smooth” coat. There is particular critisism by some terrier judges of trimming of breeds such as the Bedlington Terrier which have longish hair. the bedlington was once described as ‘that most hairdressed of breeds next to the Poodle’. This reached a stage where an untrimmed or badly trimmed exhibit was severely handicapped in the show ring. An outstanding exhibit, under a judge familiar with, and interested in the breed, would probably be placed – but the owner would be tactfully told to study trimming. In variety classes the poorly presented exhibit would be unlikely to reach the prize list.

In the early days of dog showing Bedlingtons were merely tidied up by using a finger and thumb to pluck out dead hairs. Scissors began to be used and exhibits were ‘improved’ to such an extent that a great deal of controversy was caused. In the year 1882 a Mr.A.N. Dodd firmly showed his displeasure by registering a Bedlington under the name ‘Hairdresser’! Mr Dodd is recorded as having given up showing because he was so disgusted with all the ‘faking’. Much has been written on this subject, in the dog press and elsewhere and the controversy still rages today. The ‘sporting/working terrier’ enthusiasts were and still are very vociferous in their condemnation of the ‘show Bedlingtons’ and their presentation for the show ring..

Mr. Harding Cox, in his work ‘Dogs of Today’ refers to the dogs of the time as ‘grotesque fakements’ and describes the head trimming as ‘deplorably ugly’. The author has some sympathy with these writers, described elsewhere in more detail. The photograph below shows a Bedlington which has been kept well groomed, but which has not been trimmed for showing for some six weeks.

The little bitch looks quite tidy and quite pleasant. If not groomed they become very matted and pick up smells (a Bedlington does not have a ‘doggy’ smell) on their coats, some ‘working’ Bedlingtons have been observed in an atrocious state. Though many enthusiasts feel that we ridicule a sporting terrier with the modern show trim the current style has a number of things in its favour. Keeping the coat very short, for instance, means less possibility of tangles and mats developing. Shaving the ears, side of the face and beneath the chin helps prevent ear infections and build up of food stains in what would otherwise be a ‘beard’ beneath the chin. Shaving parts of the ‘tummy’ and tail help with hygiene. The modern British style, if approached with good sense, can be both beautiful and practical. Sadly some exhibitors, especially in other countries, tend to exaggerate the current style with, e.g.; large oversize tassels which resemble pom-poms, or excessively long hair with manes on the neck leading to a clumsy look at times. Such caricatures of the breed do nothing towards maintaining quality, soundness and breed type. A Bedlington should look elegant, capable of great speed and able to do a days work, hence trimming should be done in a way which produces a smart businesslike appearance, while at the same time minimising the faults and enhancing the virtues. A word of caution is necessary about the coat. Some exhibitors remove far too much coat so that the dog appears ‘skinned’, this makes it difficult to tell whether the dog has an average, good or a bad coat. A well known exhibitor of the mid 1900s, Dr. Muriel Binns, is on record as having stated that, “A Bedlington, after trimming, should look as if his coat were naturally so.” This is a good yardstick to use!

To master the art of trimming for the show ring may take a long time and a very great deal of practice. It is not, based on the authors personal experience, a good idea to expect a poodle parlours’ staff , or many so called ‘professional’ trimmers, to trim a Bedlington for the show ring. They are usually very good at Poodles and therefore tend to turn out ‘Bedlington poodles’, witness the head shown on photograph 2., where hair has been trimmed away round the eyes producing a sort of figure of eight shape instead of the required lozenge shape, confusion may have arisen from the use of the term ‘pear shaped head’ in the breed standard. Notice also the very short leg hair and untrimmed feet.

Pet owners have on several occasions contacted the author for the name of a professional groomer who can produce a Bedlington which looks like a Bedlington! Typical complaints include that a small beard is left on, that feet are shaved and that legs are merely ‘topped’, that is, the wispy ends of the hairs are snipped off only..or worst of all the whole head and legs are made so short the dog might as well be a whippet!

If one wishes to exhibit Bedlingtons one must be prepared to learn DIY, trimming. One needs to visit as many shows as possible to observe the finished products of experts and also, if one arrives early enough, to watch the experts putting the finishing touches to their exhibits. In the authors experience there is a great deal of help available to the novice. The ‘top’ breeders and exhibitors are helpful people, with the good of the breed very much in mind. They will even aid the novice by doing the ‘ finishing touches’. But remember, before they go in the ring they are preoccupied with their own dogs, so it is better to ask for help with your dog AFTER judging.

Photo 2                      

A good quality ‘Stanolly’ Bedlington showing the effect of so called ‘professional’ trimming. Note the way the eyes have been trimmed around and the sides above the ears left long giving a ‘figure of eight’ effect.

If one is lucky enough to live within travelling distance of an ‘old hand’ then the ideal is to ask to be allowed to watch them at work and then experiment on ones own dog under their guidance. Before attempting seriously to trim a Bedlington for the show ring it is essential that the trimmer be conversant with the points of the breed.

Trimming Procedure

Trimming usually consists of clipping and scissoring. Some breeders used to singe the coat using a comb and a lighted taper. Some question the advisability of bathing Bedlingtons before each show since it may make the coat too soft, however, clippers work better and last longer on clean hair and the furnishings fluff up better when freshly shampooed. Some barely bath their dogs , others may bath only the legs and head, still others always bath the dog before trimming – each person must make up their own mind.

If the dog is in a neglected state all tangles should be removed BEFORE bathing. The addition of some conditioner to the coat may help with detangling and there are specialised detangling products on sale. It may well be advisable to scissor the coat at this stage also. Only tepid water should be used since most dogs find hotter very uncomfortable. Ears should be plugged with cotton wool, which may be helped to stay in place by adding a trace of Vaseline. Ear infections can be triggered if too much water enters the ear. Is is impossible to completely dry inside the ears since, unlike our ear canals which go straight ddown to the ear drum, dogs have a more or less right angled bend in their ear canals beyond which water and wax may accumulate leading to an excellent environment for bacteria, ear mites etc. to grow.

The choice of shampoo, soap etc. is again one of personal preference. In olden days some advocated Lux Soap Flakes, Vosene for humans and so on. Today there are almost as many specialist dog shampoos as there are breeds! A point to watch for is that shampoos which sting the eyes may cause tearing and resultant staining. Baby ‘no tears’ types of shampoo are good for use on the head to avoid irritating the eyes and are also gentle on the hair. Some add vinegar to the rinsing water but this can over soften the hair. An important word of warning is that one should never use shampoo claimed to be specifically formulated for ‘dark hair’ or ‘contains Henna’ etc., as such shampoos contain a natural tinting agent. Henna itself is a natural dye and using any substance which changes the colour is against Kennel Club rules. The rules state very clearly that no form of artificial colour or dye may be used on dogs for exhibition, ignorance of the composition of the shampoo is NOT an acceptable ‘defence’ if , for example, a dye test were to be carried out on hair from ones exhibit.

After bathing the dog should be briskly rubbed down and while still a little damp some chalk powder should be put on the topknot, forelegs and hind legs. Magnesium ‘chalk’ is most favoured since this is very white and very light. Drying should continue until the dog is thoroughly dry. Today most people blow dry the coat with a hairdrier, using a slicker brush to fluff up the hair.

The dog should be combed and any remaining small knots and tangles teased out. The coat is combed in the reverse direction to the norm, that is, it is combed from the tail towards the head and from the feet to the top of the legs. It is important to keep the dog warm during the drying phase.

The dog should be placed on a good steady table, which has been positioned to get the best light possible. there are many inexpensive grooming tables available which double as trolleys, used for getting dogs and equipment into shows. A card table or a kitchen surface which can be approached from both sides can be used, but to prevent the dog slipping he should be stood on a rubber backed mat or something similar. It is very helpful to have a large mirror behind the grooming table so that the dog can be viewed from both sided as one works. Many people tether the dog using a post from which hangs a “noose” clamped firmly to the table.


A tassel is required on the ears and it is useful to scissor a line on either side of the tassel which is to be left. Throughout the ear trimming it is a good idea to grip the area NOT to be cut, to leave the tassel, between the thumb and forefinger. That way it should be impossible to accidently clipper or cut off the tassel! The size of the tassel is partly a matter of taste, but it should be fairly small and NEVER a large fluffy pom-pom. If the ears are small, for that dog, then the tassel should start almost at the tip of the ear with the hair being left fairly long. If the ear is on the large side the tassel should start further up the leather and be finished only a little beyond the tip.

Untrimmed ear.     Correct tassel.     Large fluffy pom-pom   

All hair outside the scissored tassel line should now be removed. This can be done with scissors but it is difficult to get it short enough, more commonly this area is clippered using a clipper blade number 15, 30 or 40. Care must be taken not to nick the edges or folds of the ears and hair must not be allowed to fall into the ear opening. If the hair is thick they can be clippered against the direction of growth, if fine clipper with the direction of growth. For show purposes this should be done three or four days before the show to allow a natural sheen to be produced. After clipping boracic or talcum powder, or alternatively almond oil, will help prevent irritation.

The Head.

The sides of the face and the throat are clippered with the same fine blade. On the throat start at the Adam’s Apple and clipper to the end of the lower jaw. Care must be exercised not to nick the sides or ends of the lips. The lips should be drawn taut and the mouth kept closed. Once the throat is clippered clean, next clip from the ear in a straight line towards the corner of the eye. Hair should NOT be removed immediately round the outer corner of the eye since this should look small and well sunken. The rest of the cheek is finished with a more or less straight line down from the corner of the eye more or less to the corner of the mouth, but perhaps a liitle back from the mouth, each dogs head will need a slightly different line. The side of the face is then clippered from the back of the ear to meet up with the line clipped from the Adams Apple, most people make a slightly curving line.

Heads from a variety of angles


To obtain the correct head shape first brush the head hair thoroughly and comb it all to one side of the head. Using the side of the face as a rest for the scissors cut all the hair sticking out beyond about the join of the ears to the face. next comb all the hair over to the other side of the face and repeat the procedure. Then comb the hair to a point in the middle of the head and trim off the excess hair.



The head shape is often referred to as “wedge” or “pear” shaped..but from what angle is it being viewed? The shape of the curve is sometimes described as similar to a Roman nose – not really a very accurate description. Sufficient hair should be removed from the region of the nose to prevent the appearance of dishiness, but it is important not to remove too much so that the foreface looks shallow or snipy. The back of the topknot should be trimmed to have a rounded profile and taper gradually into the neck hair, with a “V” shape outline when looked at from the back. The hair should not, in my opinion, be extended into a mane as it is in some American style trims.

For exhibition , once the basic head shape has been achieved it is important to spend time putting a good finish on it. A well finished head can make a great difference to the initial impression the judge has of the dog AS IT ENTERS THE RING. The hair should be combed painstakingly out from the face, attempting to comb each and every hair out to its full length. Once this has been done one can discern a “haze” over the head surface of the head shape, caused by hairs of slightly differing lengths. With a steady hand one should snip carefully at the haze until the outline takes on a solid look and the lines are definite. Standing the dog with a gentle light behind it helps to show up the haze.

The clippered areas of the head and the approximate line (dotted line) the head hair will be trimmed down too.


Tail and abdomen.

While using the clippers most people carry on and clipper the tail and abdomen. For the tail the same blade is used. Starting approximately three inches from the root, clipper towards the tip. Now the sides of the tail are clipped, once more from root to tip. Lastly, holding the tail up clipper from near the root to the tip, one may need assistance with this as in my experience they all try to sit down! Careful clipping can camouflage a too long or too short tail to a certain extent. If a very close finish is desired then the tail can be trimmed from the tip towards the root. Care should be taken not to remove too much hair from the base of the tail or the tail may be made to appear too high set on, an undesirable fault which has crept into the breed. The hair left unclippered must later be scissored so that the length is graduated from that of the body near the base of the tail to almost nothing where it meets the clippered area so there is no ugly “bump”.

Tail Trimming

The final close clipping is done on the abdomen. A less fine blade should be used, either a 10 or a 15. Extreme care must be taken around the teats and genital areas. Only very light pressure should be applied to the clippers. Many prefer to scissor this delicate area using a comb to hold the hair away from the body. Clipping here must ALWAYS be done in the direction of hair growth, never against the direction of growth. The clipped area extends from the genital organs forward to the beginning of the rib cage and down a little way on the inside of the hing-leg. No trace of ‘down’ should be left. The ridge of skin which extends from the ribs to the hind-legs must be carefully trimmed as this can make or mar the appearance of grace which should be shown in the loin region. If the line is trimmed off to give a good clear line this will accentuate the curvature of the back giving the (correct) impression of a lathy, springy dog capable of galloping at great speed. Incorrect trimming of the loin can either make the dog look round in the chest or pinched at the loin, it is therefore advisable for the novice not to clipper too close to this line when attending to the abdomen, rather scissors should be used. A heavy curtain of hair on the chest may fool from the ringside, but a judge worth their salt will FEEL for shallow chests (briskets).

The Body.

The body used to be trimmed so that it was either about 3/4 inch more or less all over, or from as little as 1/4 inch on the neck grading to as much as 1 1/2 inches on the roach and back to about 1/2 inch at the base of the tail.

Midland Bedlington Terrier Club Trimming chart from the early 1980s, from Olive Stones, Stanolly.

The modern ‘fashion’ in the UK is for most of the coat to be around 1/2 inch, slightly shorter on the sides and quite short (in some cases fairly close-shaved even!) on the neck. Some people clipper the body coat very, very short, which can be used to mask a poor coat! Some use electric clippers with a fairly coarse blade for this, it is better to use scissors. Whichever method is used one should proceed by removing a little of the coat at a time until the desired shape is achieved. More hair can be taken off BUT IT CAN NEVER BE PUT BACK ON !!!

It is important to keep standing back and viewing the dog from different angles to assess how the trim is progressing, it is also useful to move the dog in front of a mirror from time to time as the work progresses. Since every dog is an individual there are no hard and fast ‘Rules’ only suggested methods – each person must watch and learn from others and adapt the various techniques to suit themselves.

Whatever method is adopted for using scissors care must always be taken not to leave scissor marks.

Starting on the back the hair should be trimmed from the shoulder region to above about the start of the back legs.

The neck should be graded from 1/2 inch where it joins the body along the top of the neck, to 1/4 inch on the sides then blended into the clippered areas of the throat (so that no ridge is left round the clippered part). When trimming the shoulders scissors should be used. They should be held at an angle of about 45 degrees, which is roughly the angle of the shoulder blade. If this is done then any scissor marks will enhance the impression of the neck flowing gracefully into “correct” shoulders. If the cutting is done vertically then the optical illusion will make “correct” shoulders appear upright and therefore “incorrect” – obviously not a desired result.

The sides of the body are again about 1/2 inch long, but a little shorter over the ribs to enhance the flat sided look.

The Chest should be trimmed with the dog facing the trimmer. Starting at the line of close clippering of the throat the neck is trimmed to about 1/4 inch long then the length over the chest is gradually increased.



Legs and Feet

Legs and feet require to be trimmed in a similarily painstaking way to that used on the topknot. In the Standard hare-feet are called for, accordingly the feet are trimmed neatly in the shape of this animal’s foot, which is long and narrow. Some Bedlingtons have cats feet, which is a fault, and this is impossible to disguise. Judges are unlikely to be hoodwinked by any attempt at camouflage. As already mentioned all hair should be kept very short between the toes and pads, this together with regular plucking of the hair from INSIDE THE EARS should never be neglected. Hair should be cleared off the toes as far as the first knuckles and from the sides and back of the feet, so that the dog stands with a clean outline next to the floor. Too much hair left on in a “Fox Terrier-like” trim will make the feet appear round.

 A nicely trimmed front. Note the slope at the pasterns.

The Fox-Terrier-like trim also has the effect of masking the sloping pasterns required in the Bedlington, a feature of the breed standard which many seem to have forgotten!

If the leg hair is very long a series of partings can be used – first the hair should be combed out to either side and a nice line cut, then the hair is combed out to a peak at the back and front and again the line cut.
Once the basic shape has been achieved then the careful snipping procedure should be employed to produce a good clean leg outline. The forelegs should appear perfectly straight from the front, but wider apart at the top than at the bottom. Little hair should be left on the elbows as too much here makes it appear that the dog is throwiing its elbows when it moves. The foot should be lifted up, with the leg straight, and any hair sticking too far out from the elbow removed.

The hind legs are trimmed in a continuation of the flowing line of the arched back and the graceful curve of the tuck-up. The natural bend of the stifle should be accentuated, but only slightly and straight back legs with little bend of stifle are completely wrong for this, or any other, galloping breed. From the hocks to the feet the same trimming procedure is followed as for the forelegs. When trimming the hocks stand behind the dog and with a hand between the legs gently lift him about an inch, then lower him down so that he takes up a natural position for his conformation. It is useful here to have secure hold of his head, or to slip his head into a trimming “noose”, or he will turn round to investigate. From the back the legs should be trimmed so that inside and outside they rise as straightish lines from the foot to the upper leg. Once more, for exhibition purposes, a good deal of time must be spent taking off the haze.

In theory the dog should now be ready for the show, but until one becomes proficient with the clippers and scissors many mistakes are likely to be made! It takes a great deal of patience and practice to develop a good trimming technique and unless one is naturally artistic one has to work at developing an “eye” for the flowing lines of the ideal end product.

A nicely trimmed Bedlington


Care of the General Appearance -Some General Points

The health of a dogs coat, eyes etc. depends very much on what goes into the dog as food. A good balanced diet, good genes and good grooming should produce a dog which is bright eyed and carries a good healthy coat. In the Bedlington the coat should be thick and linty, have a distinct tendency to twist and a healthy sheen.

It is important to ensure that enough fat is present in the diet for a good coat to be produced. If all these factors are in order little else may need to be done to the coat but if the coat is out of condition it may need ‘rumped right back’ this is done in a variety of ways, the novice being well advised to seek help. Some people clipper the coat extremely short, while others would claim this achieves little. Some strip out dead coat with a plucking action of finger and thumb, while yet others employ the thumb plus a hacksaw blade as a stripping aid, all methods need care and discretion in their use and in my opinion any plucking must be painful for the dog.

Once the coat has been taken back some now apply e.g.. Olive oil and wrap the body in cotton fabric. Medicated Brylcreem seems to feed the skin and coat. Apply a small amount spread over both hands and massage into the skin of the body (note. Do not use such conditioners on legs and heads as they would weigh the hair down!)

Eyes may sometimes ‘tear’ due to hair or foreign bodies irritating them, once the cause is dealt with this should stop. Some time ago a man offered to help me with head trimming, he cut the head in very tight near the eyes which removed much of the dogs eyelashes, hair then tended to irritate the eyes until new eyelashes grew in, sadly some temporary staining occured. I found a tiny hint of vaseline, applied with a mascara brush, to the short eyelashes helped hold the hair out of the eyes and thus reduced any tear production, however, it was quite a while before the eyelashes were long again and the tears stopped. The stains caused must be removed if possible with a tear stain remover, though none seem terribly effective unless used for some time. When young puppies are teething they may have temporary tear staining, but any tear staining which persists should be investigated by your Vet as there are eye conditions, which can be inherited, such as ingrowing eyelashes, eyelids improperly formed etc.

Feet and mouth may also become stained by food and licking. Licking stains may be due to an incorrect diet. I once saw a “tip” for eliminating these stains:- ‘a teaspoon of chopped liver and a sprinkling of antibiotic granules added to the food for several days…..’ Please do not follow this “advice” as it is NEVER advisable to use drugs such as antibiotics except on veterinary instructions. For mouth stains try a change of diet to something less rich. Feet stains may be due to food and licking, but might also be due to ear mites lodged in the nail beds, Thornit for ear mites might cure this.

The Bedlington hare-like foot is built for speed and the dog should be well up on his toes. The toes should press tightly together (splaying is very undesirable.) Pads should be firm and smooth and the feet smallish, compact and neat. Bedlingtons are on the whole a healthy lot, with two notable exceptions. Firstly there is a problem with the retention of copper in the liver, leading to liver damage in some affected dogs, and secondly, the breed has been troubled with ‘cracked pads’ and “corny feet”. ANY dog my develop a slight roughness, hardish pads or even shallow cracks when, for instance, the weather is hot and dry. Another cause of cracking and drying out of pads is the salt put on roads in the winter. The ‘corny feet’ syndrome is very much more serious and unpleasant. It appears that it is an hereditary condition, but since there has been no properly conducted investigation of possible inheritance of corny feet, so we cannot be certain if it is inherited or not.

One difficulty in deciding for certain if it is inherited and how it is inherited lies in the fact that no clear diagnostic characteristics have been described by Vets. It would be vitally important to completely accurately diagnose the condition before any proper study could ensue. It is simply not good enough just to say that breeders say it is inherited. Though I believe there is an hereditary component involved no-one has been able to give me a satisfactory way of distinguishing between mild cases of corny feet and badly cracked feet due to salt, hot surfaces etc. Until this is defined it is impossible to conduct a proper investigation into the possible mode of inheritance…or whether in fact there is one. The best breeders can do in the mean time is to avoid breeding from dogs which have corns growing out of the sides of the feet.

The condition is said to have occurred in most bloodlines at one time or another. Dogs with the condition develop deep cracks and corny growths which can make walking very painful. If a dog has this problem the first rule is to keep the nails very short. Plenty of exercise on hard pavements will often be enough to keep the nails short but country dwelling dogs will probably require frequent nail trimming. It has been recommended that massage of the pads regularly with coconut oil, lanolin or Vaseline can do much to alleviate the problem. Smallish corny growths may, I am told, be pared down using nail clippers. For more serious growths veterinary assistance is required.

Cutting nails is fairly easy if they are white as the quick can be seen easily, on a dog with black claws it is not so simple. It is important not to hurt the dog, as if you do, future nail clipping sessions will be made difficult and distressing because his fear will make him struggle. The safest, but rather time consuming, method is to use a coarse woodworking file. By doing a little filing each day the nail is gradually shortened, the quick correspondingly recedes and the nail eventually reaches a satisfactory length. If a pair of clippers is used it is best to proceed in a series of nibbles. Firstly, cut a corner wedge off the top of the nail holding the clippers at right angles to the nail. Secondly, take a slice from the lower edge. It may also be possible to remove a small slice from either side. It is obviously easier to make one straight cut, either up and down or slantwise and this is probably how it would be done in a grooming parlour. There is, however a real danger of cutting the quick thus causing profuse bleeding. The dog will then ‘hate’ having its claws cut, and who could blame it! Most dogs are, as already stated, nervous of having their nails attended to, hence it is sensible to do everything possible to avoid hurting them.

TIP : The quick may be cut if only one cut is used, take slices.

If a pair of spring clippers is used it is best to proceed in a series of nibbles. Firstly, cut a corner wedge off the top of the nail holding the clippers at right angles to the nail as shown below:-

Secondly take a slice from the lower edge.

It may also be possible to remove a small slice from either side, as shown below:-

It is often a good idea to prevent the dog watching what one is doing! The quick may be cut if only one cut is used. In the event that the quick IS cut it will bleed a great deal, “Clip Stop” powder or potassium permanganate powder can be applied to stop the bleeding. If these are not available ordinary talcum powder sometimes does the trick. Do not forget that the dog requires comforting for he has been hurt and frightened. Bedlingtons do not always have their dew claws removed so when clipping the nails it is important not to forget these.

Another’ chore’ which is sometimes neglected is the removal of hair from between the toes and underneath the foot between the pads. If this is not done on a regular basis mud accumulates and dries into hard mats. This leads to splayed feet and grass seeds may also penetrate the skin causing abscesses or inter-digital cysts. Such cysts appear as swellings between the toes and cause a great deal of pain which may lead to lameness. The infected areas need to be bathed with hot water containing an antiseptic such as T.C.P If pus is present bathing with hot water containing sodium bicarbonate may draw the pus out. Failing this a STERILISED instrument may be used to produce a small puncture, but, as always in this type of situation, if is better to consult the veterinary surgeon. In summer one should watch for harvest mites and other small parasites, on feet and lower legs in particular.

The area around the anus should be kept clean and the anal glands checked periodically, if they seem to require emptying one would be well advised to seek professional advice. Groomers often charge much less than Vets. and may manage to hurt the dog as little as possible. This is not a job for the amateur as it can hurt the dog and the contents of the anal glands are extremely vile!!!

For minor ear problems there are many ear powders and lotions on sale.

Any persistent or serious ear infection should always be handled under the care of a veterinary surgeon.

Boracic powder of zinc oxide powder rubbed into the coat and left in is sometimes effective in removing eye and other stains