Grooming the Papillon for Breed Competition

By Maxine J. Gurin

I have always believed that many of the factors which make a Papillon stand out in the show ring have nothing whatsoever to do with shampoos, brushes, combs, or scissors. Even the most expert use of these tools can’t make an underweight or flabby specimen look “bright-eyed and bushy tailed”. Additionally, it is simply foolish for any breeder to ignore the stresses imposed upon any dog by the show ring and multiple dog living situations. Both of these situations are unavoidable given our desire to better the breed. However, anyone ignoring this is foolhardy at best. It, therefore, follows that an optimum diet, along with plenty of exercise and fresh air are factors which separate canine couch potatoes from athletes. I guess this applies as much to four-legged beings as it does to two-legged ones.

I also believe that, in Paps, at least grooming begins on the inside of the animal. If you provide your dogs with the environment previously mentioned the grooming part will be a snap.

Anyway, back to the suds. You don’t just throw Fifi in the sink and start scrubbing away. As a matter of fact,
here comes the tricky part You have to put aside any kennel blindness you may have, (always a tough thing to do if you do it honestly), re your dogs’ coats and accurately assess the quality of the coat on each one you’re showing. The best and easiest way to tell whether or not your animal has perfect Pap coat is to simply take your hand and run it backwards against the dog’s hair. If the coat falls right back into place you’re home free-and lucky you Maintaining this coat will be “hair without the care”. It is single and straight. It has the flexibility of nylon but feels like “peau d’ange, (that’s French for angel’s skin-c’est vrai-a truly wonderful type of satin).

There are a few constants re shampooing. Tri’s, black and whites and deep sable Paps should be washed in clear, blue or white shampoos only. These colors will not yellow the coat and may be used all over the dog. There are some purple shampoos available. If you opt to try one of these I suggest first doing so on a dog that’s not being shown. If you don’t rinse extremely well your dog will come out with a bluish/purple cast on the white part of the coat. Not good-unless you want to have them looking like the “little old ladies” from THE PRODUCERS. Human preparations that are designed for Platinum Blondes or for silver hair can be used very successfully. There are many “doggy” shampoos that also fit the bill. Whitening shampoos do not drain color from blacks, tris or deep sables.

A true red I think requires a little more specialized care at least on the fringe and head area. A good dog shampoo that will not leach the color out of the head and fringes should be used. Use of a whitening shampoo on these dogs may wash out the red with prolonged use.

Now, re cream rinses-the same color parameters apply as with shampoos for dogs that require their use. If you are blessed with a dog with that 100% PERFECT Papillon coat, you shouldn’t even need any cream rinse, at least on the body. However, reds, or sables that phenotypically appear to be mostly red, may need a TINY bit on their fringe. I’ve noticed that red fringes are a great deal dryer than black, tri-color, or sable ones. I believe that this may be why reds seem to grow so much less fringe.

I find that cream rinse applied to other colors of fringe makes it look oily and stringy, neither of which are particularly butterfly-like. Also, some blacks have such oily fringe that, just the ear fringe, should be washed in a de-greasing detergent.

When you’re through with the shampooing do not towel dry the dog. Rather, blot dry. You don’t want to make your job harder by making mats with the towel. This is a no-brainer if you think about it. The other thing that you must always remember is that wet hair is 30 to 50% more fragile than dry.

If your dog’s coat is less than perfect you may have to not only cream rinse but also invest in that most dangerous grooming tool…the comb. Trust me, improperly handled, a comb can be a devastating instrument of torture to your dog and an interesting way for you to make his coat look like he just came from having a beautician give him a good layer cut.

So, now you are ready to start drying. Leave the dog wrapped fairly securely in the towel and dry the fringes and ears first. This will prevent fringe wrinkles. NEVER USE A COMB ON WET FRINGE. If you can avoid it, don’t use a comb on fringe period. As a matter of fact, try to avoid using a comb period. This is a very easy thing to do on correct coat; not so easy if that’s not what you’re dealing with.

The rest of the dog should be done section by section just like your own hair. Perfect Pap coat can be blown against the grain as it will always fall correctly. This will dry the dog more quickly and make sure that the coat stays straight. Less than perfect should be blown in the direction in which it should lay. Please remember to dry the whole dog-not just the hair on top

If you do encounter a mat DO NOT attack it viciously with the comb. Try a good, large soft pin brush first. You will be amazed at the effectiveness of a good pin brush. You just have to have the patience to separate the coat, and any mats, into sections, and work on each one separately. This can be a relaxing experience for you and your dog-and it should be. If you do have to use a comb make sure that the comb has both narrow and wide spaced teeth. ALWAYS check the troublesome area with the wide toothed end first. Once you define the matted spot use your fingers to gently move the non-affected hair away. Then, even more gently, use the wide teeth on the mat placing the teeth on the end of the mat closest to the skin. DO NOT YANK OR PULL. Gently push the comb against the mat. It may seem that nothing has happened. No biggy. Just keep repeating this and eventually the mat will move down the hair shafts. When it gets to the very outer ends of the strands you may be able to just ease it out the rest of the way with your fingers.

If you are unfortunate enough to run into a cotton-batting of a mat you may not be able to get the comb behind the mat. In this case you may have to take desperate measures. First pull apart as much of the mat as you possibly can with your fingers. Then hold the comb vertically and split the smallest section possible with the comb by gently pulling downwards. You’re probably going to loose coat by doing this but you’re already in a no win situation. If you leave that mat there it’s just going to get bigger. I find that they appear mostly when a bitch starts playing with her puppies or when the dogs go through seasonal coat changes. As we can’t change the seasons and we would never deprive a mother of her pups, nor the pups of their mother, it can happen.

One other thing-DON’T EVER, EVER USE ANY SLICKER BRUSH ON A PAP!! It will break the hair in an instant and you’ll have nothing but split ends. Unless they are cut off this hair will just keep splitting further and further up the hair shaft-frizz city!! Remember these aren’t Poms or Poodles.