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Grooming Question from Newbie - clipped v natural


DanBar Ranch
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Hello! I am VERY glad to have found this forum. I am a LONG time dog nut, have shown in performance events for over 40 years with other breeds. I'm getting old, fat, crippled up and arthritic, so switching over to a smaller breed. I had a FANTASTIC Patterdale bitch for 14 years, who I rather think had a dose of Cairn in her (she was strictly hunting lines) as she looked very Cairn. She was my absolute best friend, so after looking at all the terrier breeds, I just couldn't stay away from the cairns, as they seem the most "natural".

Now, i'm new here, and I *think* this might be a "loaded" question - but I honestly don't know. I've ALWAYS had smooth coated dogs except for the Patterdale who was broken coated.  But going to shows like I do, I see something that I am really curious about, as I hope hope hope to be able to show my pup in the future.

OK, so here goes. Any and all opinions appreciated.

I have seen two distinct type of presentations in this breed. The first I call "natural", in that the dog's hair looks like it has not been clipped excessively. I really like that look. I like hair on the neck, shoulders and head to all look natural.  The second is what I call the "Westie Look"... this is where the neck *appears* to have been shaved down (I don't know if it has or not) and the head looks rather like a cotton ball stuck on the end. The head almost looks round instead of being able to see the dog's natural head shape.

I really don't care for the "Westie" look, it does not appear natural at all to me, nor attractive. I have just recently gotten several old Cairn books, and man, I like the looks of the dogs for back in the 30, 40, 50s. Rugged, natural little guys. Nothing "foofy" about them.

So, since I am so new, I don't know if these dogs are being groomed like this, or if some lines come with less hair on the neck and then the grooming is just done to exaggerate the head, or what. I don't want to groom my dog like that, so will I have a chance in the ring if I don't? I must admit, I don't see ALL the dogs looking that way, but do see a great many win shots with the "Westie" look.

Thank you in advance for the information. My little Wee Mikey and I appreciate having a place to come and learn!

Diane

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I believe the "standard" is for a "fluffed out" face and a well plucked body for a Cairn--it takes a lot of work on the part of the groomer and a ton of patience for the dog.  We leave ours natural except for trimming the ears and tails from time to time.  I think grooming is probably a taste thing for the owner, as well as how much time one wants to spend grooming.  Since Cairns don't shed much, even holding on to all that dead hair (which can be controlled with regular brushing) heavy grooming isn't necessary.  Clearly a show Cairn requires regular hand stripping and tho I like that look, I'm not willing to go to the work to get there with my Cairns.
I agree that pictures of Cairns in the teens, 20's, and 30's show a "rougher" looking dog.  When and why the change came for the hand stripped look,  I'm not sure.
Here are our girls in the middle of summer--we keep them full coated all year round but then we don't have any problems with fleas or ticks in this part of the world.

Cairns in shady summertime.jpg

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As a self-described "dog nut", you've come to the right place! Most of us are obsessed with our cairns, so you should feel right at home here. Welcome!:)

You mentioned that you've gone to shows and seen several "presentations" of the breed. It might be helpful when visiting shows to talk to cairn terrier groomers/handlers, to get their perspective on the "proper" or preferred look, as well as grooming tips from them.

More convenient would be to look at recent and past posts on this site under the topic of "grooming". You will find loads of info here. This is a never-ending topic among us cairn owners, :chat:hence, the separate sub-category of "Grooming"!

(There are also some grooming videos on you tube. A few are ok, but some are of varying quality in terms of proper grooming techniques and some are downright wrong, so view with caution).

You are absolutely correct in rejecting the "Westie" cut for cairns, particularly the Westie "skirt" that some groomers create on cairns. This is a sore point with many of us. Many groomers in salons have never groomed a cairn and some don't even know what they look like. Too often cairns come from the groomers looking like Westies or Schnauzers!:crybaby:

P.S. In your post, you mention the term "clipped" several times. Ideally, cairns are never clipped - they are "stripped" instead. This is an important difference, but I won't go onto that here. I'll leave that topic for others to cover.

Edited by sanford

FEAR THE CAIRN!

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On December 13, 2015 at 6:23 PM, DanBar Ranch said:

So, since I am so new, I don't know if these dogs are being groomed like this, or if some lines come with less hair on the neck and then the grooming is just done to exaggerate the head, or what. I don't want to groom my dog like that, so will I have a chance in the ring if I don't? I must admit, I don't see ALL the dogs looking that way, but do see a great many win shots with the "Westie" look.

It's purely a grooming fashion thing. With many hand-waving disclaimers, exceptions abound, etc.,  my suspicion is that the Westie look has drifted in over the years from the relatively few, but immensely successful, professionally handled dogs.

I think handlers may be gently inclined to overgroom for a few reasons some of which may include:

  • time and availability due to repeated grooming over the course of long campaign
  • a desire to "add value" to their handling and care of the campaigned dog
  • accidental (or non-expert) cross-application of other terrier grooming styles
  • desire for a flashier outline to get attention in the Group
  • related to the above, the Cairn is considered a "head breed" by some (not all), so the focus of grooming becomes highlighting the head above all

The perfect Cairn hewing close to the standard is almost the perfect nondescript dog. Utterly medium and fully ready for a day in the weather but not flashy AT ALL. Pro handlers are there to campaign champions mostly, and to win in the Groups I think they feel a more stylized dog is more likely to catch attention (incorrect tho it may be for the breed).  It takes a pretty knowledgeable and confident judge to put up a Cairn when the high compliment is "that's a really medium dog you got there" :) 

That sets up a feedback loop where ordinary folks who want to experience some the success of the "top dogs" start to drift  grooming styles to incorporate more of what we see winning. Not correct, but human nature I guess. As you noticed, some dogs are shown in correct coats. Breeder-owner-handlers are more likely to favor more traditional grooming. One of our more famous breeder-owner-handler-judges is fantastic and fearless about putting down a dog in correct coat and I love her for that. She has the justifiable confidence to do it. 

Just some thoughts.  

gallery_3_3_10458.jpg

One of my faves from the archive gallery: Brindie of Twobees

 

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THANK YOU everyone! That really helps. And yes, that Brindie IS PERFECT!

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 It takes a pretty knowledgeable and confident judge to put up a Cairn when the high compliment is "that's a really medium dog you got there"

I totally get that. In  my other breed, the American pit bull, the breed is described as "medium" in just about every way, but what do you see put up? Over done, over done, over done. Heck, the UKC has even went so far (low) as to recognize mixed breed results of "fad breeding", as "American Bullies" which are nothing but taking every fault possible in a healthy, medium breed and exaggerating it. I guess I am attracted to the medium dogs.

OK, I feel much better now. I will keep my little guy Natural and hope for the best! Thanks again, very glad to be here.

 

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