The Flat Coated Retriever

Grooming Advice

A beautiful, selectively bred bird dog, descending from likely the same family as the Labrador, with evidence of Newfi e, Setter, Sheepdog and Spaniel like water dogs. The “Flat Coat” is a dog whose character is of great importance exhibiting stability and willingness to please.

A devoted waterbaby, this dog has a thick coat allowing him also to work in rough ground cover. The coat ought to be trimmed judiciously so as not to distort his natural appearance but to control any excess feathering and for presentation of a tidy dog, such as ears, feet, underline and tip of tail. The overall appearance should be one of enhancement rather than contrived. However done well, trimming for this dog will not only enable him to work more easily but at the same time, give a glam silhouette for the show ring. Better not to do at all than do it badly so take the time to learn this from someone who knows how to trim and can teach it easily. It’s not diffi cult if one understands the fundamentals and one should practice with a good pair of thinning scissors/shears fi rstly so as not to make blunt harsh lines. Give the featherings a soft edge. Some toplines deserve a little hand stripping and this is another of those skills to be acquired. Just ask a Terrier person how to do this.

The coat should be of moderate length, density and fullness with good lustrous fi nish. A slight wave is permissible but never to be curly, woolly, short, silky nor fl uffy. The coat must at all times appear as fl at lying and thick with the thickly feathered tail waving in show of his responsive attitude. His mane is required to be longer, and a heavier coat on neck.

Your standard does state that his coat must be clean and well brushed and as I am fanatical about cleanliness, this article will help to assist those who work the same way!

There may be the righteous brigade who assert that a working dog is not a pampered super model but pampering these days is for everyone, people included, and the products and tools these days are there for us to achieve this. After all, how pleasurable it is for a judge to go over a clean sweet smelling dog, just as one would not expect a doctor to do an examination on a patient who has not showered nor used a deodorant for several days or weeks! I, for one, keep hearing the words of the standard, of high lustre and clean etc. If it’s in the Bible it must be true and your standard is your Bible.

Ok, so here’s how to get the best from that gorgeous coat and give the hair do dogs a run for their money!

Between shows I recommend oiling this coat with Plush Puppy Seabreeze Oil diluted at a ratio of 1 tbspn to 1 gal/4 lt water. Saturate this well through the coat with a large sponge or carefully pour over and squish well through. Do not rinse - leave in, as this dilution is not greasy. Then use the oil straight from the spray or apply undiluted to the areas around where the dog pees - his nether regions. This is a notoriously bad area for breakage plus, urine will bleach the coat. Keeping the coat oiled allows you not only to regularly bath and keep that high lustre and hydration, but also help prevent the coat getting brittle or tangled and dissuade accumulation of backyard debris.

Seabreeze oil is a super oil that is totally water soluble and thus will never build up nor be nasty to live with. It is all organic, from the fi nest extracts and oils such as Evening Primrose and Calendula Oils. There is nothing quite like this anywhere! We particularly like the depth of colour one gets to the coat as the coat starts to refl ect light rather than absorb light when a coat is dull. The coat will exhibit a healthy vigour and sheen with consistant use, like that of ducks who exude preen gland oil to give that waterproof sheen to their feathers.

I also recommend using Plush Puppy Sunshade every couple of days to keep the coat from burning especially in summer months. Blacks and livers are a nightmare to keep from fading in sun and often, despite best efforts, if you have a Flat Coat, he will be wanting to romp outdoors and likely work, doing what Flat Coats do! It can be a tough call to have a working dog who is on the job regularly and has to meet the call of duty in the ring too, so moisturising and hydrating with the discipline to do this is paramount. Spray just enough onto your hand and spread over the top of the head and topline.

For show grooming, the routine is thus - I recommend using Plush Puppy Whitening Shampoo which is actually a shampoo for toning unwanted warm tones and best suited to the Flat Coat, diluted at a ratio of 3:1 i.e 3 parts water to one part shampoo. It does sound weird to recommend a whitening shampoo but the Whitening Shampoo does not lighten but in fact adds cool tones and this tonal quality will assist in camoufl aging the red/brown tones from the coat which are more evident as the coat has faded and lost the cool hues of the coat colour. If these red/brown warm tones are unwanted, then use Plush Puppy Black Opal Shampoo which has stronger and longer lasting tonal qualities. It does not have a developer nor is it a dye so no damage will be done to the coat. It just really tones unwanted warm tones. It is translucent in tone but additional follow ups will add even more depth to the tones. Use again at 3:1and leave on for as long as the dog will stay still before rinsing off. This shampoo gives results that just get better and better the more you use it. I have seen some outstanding results on Border Collies and many others. Just keep it to the black areas. If your coat is perfect and stunningly black, then use Plush Puppy All Purpose Shampoo 5:1 for a great shine result or Plush Puppy Body Building Shampoo diluted 3:1 for those areas, that may not appear full enough due to shedding.

After shampooing, I only use conditioner on selected areas. You see we do sort of get to sculpt the outcome of this dog! The Flat Coat may not be a hairdo dog as such but he can be tweaked for optimum fi nish without losing integrity. Apply Plush Puppy Silk Protein Conditioner at a dilution of 3:1 on the feathers and a much weaker solution of 15:1 for the topline.

Now, here’s where the harder stuff begins. In order to get that softly draping fall to the lengths without wave, use Plush Puppy Swishy Coat . Some like to apply undiluted but for my mind, even dispersion and thorough penetration is paramount and thus I strongly recommend that you always dilute. This product was made to be diluted! You also have a large dog and it is a lot easier to get even application if you do so and you get an exact application that is able to be repeated each time. Dilute at a ratio of 1 tbspn to 3 cups water depending on the texture of the coat. You can dilute further or less but this is a good basis for most. Sponge or pour thoroughly though the coat ensuring you get it through to all required areas. Squeeze out excess, do not rinse, leave in and blow dry. Alternatively, I like for show baths, to include a tiny amount of the Seabreeze Oil to the Swishy Mix as a fi nal rinse - just add 1 tspn of oil and 1 tbspn Swishy to a gallon/4 lt bucket of warm water and use the whole amount of the mix through the coat - do not rinse. Avoid applying on top coat.

Blow dry using the Plush Puppy Oval Pin Cushion Brush till 3/4 dry so as not to overstretch the coat - never use bristle on a really wet coat. Switch to the Plush Puppy Porcupine Brush which is a 1/2 bristle 1/2 nylon cushioned brush for the fi nal drying stages for the smoother, straighter and glossier fi nish that is desired. Pin brushes have their purpose at the wet stage and the other for the smooth fi nish when almost dry. I also like to get in under the lengths with the brush and gently bend the ends around the curve of the brush. I never entirely dry with a top brushing action as I fi nd this flicks the shorter pieces of the lengths outwards and tends to give that fl y away look to the coat. We are after a polished, professional look that once you have mastered, is stunning.

Should you have a coat that is far too curly or wavy, then add a tbspn of Plush Puppy Blow Dry Cream to the Swishy/S.B.Oil (gal/4lt) mix to really fl atten the coat.

On show day, Plush Puppy OMG is an amazing grooming spray. Purchased either as a Concentrate or a Ready to Use spray, for a Flat Coat I would use at 1 part OMG Concentrate to 25 parts water. The Ready to Use is approx a 20:1 mix. However you can adjust the dilution to suit each coat individually and some will have a coat that is shedding and thus need a stronger concentration or others where the coat is brilliant and you may get away with a 30:1 dilution. Whatever, this product needs no fanfare as it does reduce static, it does allow for easy show day prep and doesn’t build up on the coats. Once tried, OMG will become another of your must haves in your tack box.

Also spray with Plush Puppy Odour Muncher, a deodoriser with light barely lingering fragrance, and Plush Puppy Shine & Comb sprayed from a distance to the topline, head, top of tail etc for that fi nal gleam. Now that you are really going for this fi nish, let’s go out with a bang! A light dusting of Plush Puppy Pixie Dust applied strategically and sparingly to areas where you want the light/sun to pick out the glints of light refl ection from the Pixie Dust. Yes, it is a white powder but worked well into the coat, the powder is not seen but the shimmer stays. If you can see this when applying, then you are too heavy handed! The dog is a working Gundog, not a glitter fairy!

Oh, how this dog does work and look a million bucks at the same time! His strong, clean “one piece” head, his level topline, his beautiful underline gently tapering with moderate tuckup, creating that blunted triangle image - the forechest a prominent prow! His tail is waving, his coat is draping and he gleams like the brightest star against a black night sky. His strength and quality, his style and symmetry are all there for exhibition and evaluation. He is endowed with optimism and friendliness and is quite the centre stage dog, for who could resist this wondrous breed?

- Cheryl Le Court