by S. Terri Giannetti, PHA
Beowulf Kennel, New York
Exhibitors new to the Beagle ring are often surprised at the amount of grooming involved in this small breed which is "shown in its natural state." Of course there is a direct relationship between the number of hours that you put in, to the density of your little hound's coat.
Taking a dog "out of the raw" is always something that I prefer to do at least two months prior to the show. Allowing yourself this time frame will result in a much better blend in your trimming. Always start with a freshly bathed dog and limit the time he is up on the table to avoid marathon-like conditions. Removed any dead coat by using a Classic butterknife or McClellan stripping knife in a raking fashion, starting behind the dog's back skull and working all the way to the base of the tail. Do not use the stripper on the tail except if hair growth is excessive at which point you would only work the top side...never the brush. If the coat is very dense, start with a coarse knife and then graduate to a fine.
Clippering begins on the underjaw and proceeds all the way down the neck, chest and stomach to the inside of the hind legs staying on the white hair only. Beginners should use a number 10 blade on thier Oster clipper and plan to switch to a number 15 when they become very skilled at blending. The clipper is held "upside down and backwards" and moved in a raking fashion, up to down covering about 3 to 4 inches at a time. Be careful not to nick the teats on your dog or bitch...I prefer to hand trim around them with a small (3 inch) curved scissor.
Blend the neckline on the sides where the black/tan meets the white with a thinning shear. At this time you may wish to pull out more undercoat with a stripping knife to prevent holes. Use the same procedure on the rear to tidy up the pants. The back of the dog's legs where the brown meets the white should be blended with a thinning shear and stripping knife. Round the tip of the tail to resemble a paint brush and trim any excessive scragglies on the brush itself. The brush should look full so proceed conservatively here.
Trim any other "loose ends" such as whiskers and behind the front legs using a straight-edge shear....for the ear leathers and the tuck-up use a curved shear. The feet should resemble a tight cat paw so clipper the hair out of the V that is formed between the big pad and the four digit pads. The hair around outside of the dog's paw should be trimmed to the pads and the nails shorten by use of a grinder or dremel. Of course the ear canals should be clean and the teeth scrapped.
The day of the show you will want to spray your dog's legs with a waterless blueing shampoo such as Self-Rinse. Dry the legs with a clean towel and rub in a dab of Kolestral or Chalk-Mate. Brush powdered chalk up and into the legs, then brush out. Chalk may also be padded onto the muzzle with a cotton ball. Brush the top coat with a natural bristle brush and comb out the tail.
Knowing exactly where and to what degree you should trim your Beagle will come along with your better understanding of the standard. For example: if your dog is lacking in depth of chest, you may want to leave some volume of hair on the chest when clippering. I rarely groom any two Beagles alike since I first access the strenghts and weaknesses on the hound and then proceed accordingly. Learning to trim to maximize the Beagle to its optimum comes with time and patience, so if you have a dog that is not currently being exhibited (even the neighbor's field Beagle)...that is a great way to practice.
Much of what I have covered in this piece has been presented to you in a rather condensed form. Alot of what I have discussed is best learned by visual instruction. Because of the numerous requests that we have had over the years to help Beagle exhibitors with this subject, my husband Ted has produced the video, "A Show Beagle Groomers Guide" featuring Ralph Aldefer of Pin Oaks Beagles. In the tape, the tools needed to do the job are presented as Ralph walks you step-by-step through the grooming proccess. He begins with the trimming that is done at home right through the day-of-show grooming with chalk and brushing.
Good luck and see you ringside!!
For more information about Terri, Beowulf Kennel, or to order the video visit......
Any of the tools mentioned in this piece can be found through the following dog show supply merchants: