Tips for Grooming the Show Papillon

By: Ruth Ann & Danny Ford

The Papillon is a breed that, according to the standard adopted by the Papillon Club of America and approved by the AKC, should only require minimal grooming and trimming. In a very short time, a novice to the breed can become just as proficient at bathing brushing and trimming as the experienced breeder/exhibitor. This article covers our view on grooming the Papillon. Our views are not necessarily the way others may groom their dogs. It will cover brushing, bathing and trimming of the face, body, front feet, rear feet, hocks and around the anus. All of these areas, excluding the body, may be trimmed to make the dog have a clean groomed up look. This gives an appearance that can be more competitive in the Conformation ring.

A Show Conditioned Papillon should be brushed daily with a pin style brush to keep small mats at a minimum and remove dead lose coat. If you are on a tight schedule a weekly brushing is a must. When mats are found, care must be used to remove the mat for minimal coat loss. For mat removal start by holding the mat with the thumb & index fingers of both hands and gently pull it apart dividing the mat into smaller sections. Next use the tip of a pin brush or small natural bristle brush to separate and remove the hair that is loosened from the mat. Repeat this process until the mat is completely brushed out. Never simply cut the hair with scissors or rip through the coat with a comb. This same method is used for tangles in the ear fringe, treating the fringe with the utmost of delicacy. It is suggested that a tangle remover or a water & conditioner solution should be lightly sprayed on the area to prevent any unnecessary coat breakage. Be aware that the use of any products with silicone can damage the hair shaft and that silicones should not be left on the coat for any extended length of time.

Clean hair promotes hair growth and a healthy look to the coat. For a show Papillon when they are not regularly attending shows should be bathed on a schedule of every 5 to 10 days. Five days is preferred 10 days at the maximum. Prior to bathing a good brushing and detangling, plus nail shortening & removal of hair from the pads of the foot is required. The nails must be cut or ground to proper length and the excess hair between the pads must be removed. The nail can be cut with a number of different nail trimmers or ground down with a dremel type tool. We prefer to use a battery-powered dremel with a sanding drum and start dremeling our dogs nails as young puppies so they are unafraid of the sound. The only danger of the dremel tool is preventing any fringe or coat from wrapping around the rotating bit. The nail trimmer tools that actually cut the nail are also easy to use, but care must be given not to cut into the “quick” or vein that is present in the nail itself. If the vein is cut bleeding will occur and a styptic or blood-stopping agent should be available to stop the bleeding. Cleaning out the hair on the bottom of the foot, between the pads is done prior to the bath. Taking some extra time to thoroughly clean out the extra hair between the pads will make trimming the foot after the bath much easier and look cleaner as an end result. Not only does a trimmed foot look clean it is for health as well as esthetic reasons. With care and sharp scissors, carefully remove the hair sticking out between the pads. Electric clippers, with a 40 blade, are good to get in between the individual pads and remove the hair. A 40 blade cuts very close to the skin and is the blade used when removing hair for surgery. This is a step that should be performed on any dog, pet or show, along with nail trimming. Wait until after the bath when the hair is clean to trim the hair around the outside of the feet.

The bath can prove to be an important part of the Papillon grooming and can many times assist in helping to give your dog that extra little finished look. Using a good quality dog shampoo & conditioner is highly recommended. We look for a shampoo that will clean but not coat the hair shaft, does not over bubble, rinses out easily and puts a nice soft bright sparkle to the coat. Occasionally if the hair is appearing a bit limp we would suggest using a clarifying shampoo to wash any excess build up of oils & dirt from the coat. Over clarifying can sometimes cause the hair to dry out and possibly break off so overuse is not recommended. We have found that Vellus Shampoos & Conditioner provide all of the above and turns out a Papillon coat better than any other product that we have used. There are a number of bluing shampoos on the market and there are just as many methods to using a bluing product. The biggest tip we can give when using a Bluing shampoo is CAUTION! Over bluing, letting the blue sit on the coat or, weekly use can soak color into the hair shaft and give your pretty white Pap the most lovely of lavender hues. There is no worse feeling than arriving ringside in a fluorescent lighted building to find out you have over blued your dog. We seldom use bluing products and will only use them when a dog’s coat looks very yellow and only after we have tried a clarifying and regular shampoo first

The next step in the bathing process is use of a conditioner. A conditioner should help soften
& nourish the coat plus reduce static. A good quality conditioner is important. We use a light conditioner that is lanolin free. Lanolin on the Papillon coat will eventually build up, cause a limp heavy look and sometimes give the coat a yellow dingy cast. Take special care to rinse and rinse again the fringe on the dog’s ears. Over conditioning will make the fringe clump and look oily. One of the biggest errors in bathing a dog is not totally rinsing the shampoo out of the coat. Lack of proper rinsing will cause the coat lay lifeless on the body and sometimes have a slightly oily texture. This is the reason why we look for a low sudsing and easy rinsing shampoo. Another common error in bathing the dog is not reading & following the directions on the product label. Most quality shampoos and conditioners require a ratio mixture of so many parts product to so many parts water. Making eyeball judgments or pouring straight from a bottle can cause a variety of different results from a limp coat and oily spots to a lack of cleansing.

On a regular basis we have Papillon fanciers ask our opinion about bleaching yellow dingy areas of their show Papillons coat. Prior to discussing the drying process we thought this might be a good time to address using bleaching products on the Papillon coat. The correct Papillon coat should be single and silky, and should radiate good health. Only in extreme cases is it ever recommended to use a bleaching product on the Papillon coat to whiten it. Bleaching ruins the silky texture of the coat, opens the hair shaft for re-staining and can cause severe coat damage. Frequent bleaching will only cause the hair shaft to break off. If you do decide to take the bleaching plunge, conditioning to prevent the coat from drying and breaking is a must. A novice at bleaching a dog should ask an experienced dog professional to teach them, prior to taking a chance on ruining a show Papillons soft coat texture.

Along with every pre-show bath, a good blow-drying is a must. A variety of blow dryers from stand dryers to hand held dryers are available. Dryers can cost hundreds of dollars or fewer than twenty dollars. At home we use a stand-heated dryer that give us hands free ease and use. If a stand dryer is out of your price range, pick a hand held dryer with a couple of heat settings. We do not recommend cage drying when preparing the dog to be shown. Proper blow drying of your Papillon is a vital key to the overall finished look of the dog. A Papillon coat should be abundant, soft, silky, long & flowing. It is not a double coat and is not supposed to take on the puffy appearance of a double coat or stand up on end. When drying, always dry the body coat down in a line brushing style. The air of the dryer most often should be blowing in the direction the coat lays. Back brushing or brushing against the grain can cause the hair to look puffy, curl backward or be somewhat unruly. Take special care when drying your Papillons ear fringe. When drying the ear fringe we usually start with the dryer blowing on the back of the dogs ear and by brushing from the inner side of the ear near the base going towards the outside of the ear. In this area we do not brush against the grain of the hair, but brush in the same direction the hair flows. After the back of the ear is dry we turn the dog or move the dryer to the front of the ear and dry any portions of the hair on the front side of the ear that may still be damp. Sometimes the short hair on the top of the ear may appear to clump together and give the impression that the ear is pointed. Occasionally we hear that some groomers will lightly trim this area. Trimming the ear in our opinion is a great big No No and will cause the groomer to continue to need to trim the ear in the future. Many times the short ear hair is in a growth stage that will be grown completely out in a few months. Instead of taking this drastic scissors measure we prefer to do the following. Take the ear leather in your hands and lightly separate the short hairs with our fingers or soft brush. The dryer should be on a low setting. Separating should be accomplished by going against the grain or brushing the short hair in the direction of the other ear, away from the potential point. By just taking a few extra moments in the drying time you can prevent that pointy eared looked. The application of moose, spray bodifiers, or oil products can change the overall soft texture of the coat. A most important key to blow-drying is making sure the dog is dry all over. That includes not only on top of the coat but near the skin. If the coat is not sufficiently dry it can take on a wavy appearance.

After drying the coat, it is time to start trimming. We usually begin with the feet. The front and rear feet should be trimmed to make the foot have a clean appearance and give the look of a hare foot. A hare foot resembles the foot of a rabbit. The foot should not be overtrimmed and should have a tuft or bit of hair coming to a point in the front of the foot. If this little bit of hair is missing, the dog will have what amounts to a cat foot. A cat foot is completely trimmed all around the outside of the foot, with no extra hair protruding from the front of the foot or toes. To trim in a neat looking hair foot the nails must be short enough not to stick out longer than the hair on the foot. If your trying to trim hair around a long toenail it will effect the overall neat look in the end. When trimming the foot of the Papillon we always start at the back of the foot and work forward, leaving the shaping of the toe tuft till last. Start trimming the foot by placing the scissors along the line where black pads and hair meet and cutting along the natural line of the foot. Trim from the back of the foot to the last toenail and then snip between the last toenail and the area behind the toe tuft. This is to be done on both sides of the foot prior to shaping the toe tuft. We have seen many Papillon feet that have long curling toe tufts. In this case, longer is not better. Trim the toe tufts to a nice shapely triangle. If your Papillon has any hairs sticking out after trimming the foot completely, a few snips with a small thinning shear will smooth out those unruly hairs.

Trimming the whiskers on show Papillons has always been debated among some breeders. We find that dogs with wider muzzles look more refined with the whiskers off. A cleaner look is also gained with the removal of the whiskers, but this grooming should be a personal decision. Use sharp scissors and have a bit of time to spend on this type of grooming. Some exhibitors even use small electric or battery powered clippers to remove excess whiskers on an around the face. If you choose the clipper method make sure that you do not trim to close to the muzzle. Trimming too close can give your dog a snippy look. Papillon whiskers are movable and you will need to look in different directions to make sure you have removed them all. There are also stray whiskers that come out under the jaw and around the head of the dog that need to be trimmed short. If you decide to remove the whiskers also remove the long eyebrow whiskers that grow out over the eyes and the whiskers on the cheeks.

We like to clean up the hair around the anus of a show dog. In fact we do this with all of our dogs. Trimming up around the anus does not mean we scissor around the tail set similar to a Pom. Do not over trim! Just a couple of simple snips of the long wispy pieces of hair that grow around the anus & the pigmented portions of the anus gives a cleaner look and also prevents any remnants of feces from sticking to the coat. Use special care when scissoring around the anus as a wrong snip could really upset you and your dog.

The last grooming tip is trimming and cleaning up the look of the hock on the rear leg. The hock is the area up the rear leg to the stifle joint or knee. On many Papillons the hair on the rear or back of the hock gets fuzzy, long or very thick. This extra hair should be removed so the hock does not give the impression of heavy bone. Papillons should not have a heavy boned look, as they are a refined breed of dog. The extra hair should be combed outward from the hock and trimmed within a ½ inch of the hock, following the contour of that portion of the leg. The next step is thinning this leftover hair closer to the back of the hock. This step requires the use of thinning shears. Use the shears to take off extra hair without making the back of the hock seemed scissored. The thinning shears cut only some of the hair with each snip, but special care must be used to always have the teeth side of the shears away from the dog. This method gives a more natural appearance. It takes a bit of time to take off just the right amount of hair and patience and practice are important. The best thing to do is practice on a non-showing dog. This way if you do make a mistake, and we all do, no harm is done.

The tools needed to trim your Papillon are very important. Investing in quality grooming tools is a must. A good pair of scissors and thinning shears will go a long way to improve the final look of your show Papillon. The basic tools are a sharp pair of scissors, thinning shears, a fine to medium toothed steel comb and a pin brush. Take care and spend the extra money for a quality pin brush that has flexible pins that will not cause unwanted coat lost. Use a pin brush with straight pins, as rubber or ball tipped brushes will rip out ear fringes. A dremel tool and electric or battery-powered clippers can also be helpful in show grooming. We use two pair of scissors, a small 5-inch pair for fine close cutting, as in doing the pads on the feet, and a 7 1/2-inch pair for more general use. You can get away with just the small scissors to perform all of the show grooming. Thinning shears come in various varieties. They have different numbers of teeth that take more or less hair off with each closure of the shears. You may want to borrow different ones to experiment with to see how much hair is removed and which type you find more comfortable to use. A good steel comb is used to separate and pull the hair away from the foot or leg. A small slicker brush can also be used the same way. As you can imagine it does help to train your dog to sit or stand still while grooming is performed. All of this grooming and trimming is easier if the dog is under control. Most small dogs are not thrilled to have their feet held and messed with or faces trimmed, so the best advice is to train your puppies to become show dogs at a young age.

Good grooming is only one facet of a show Papillon. Included in the winning package, the dog must conform to the breed standard with overall breed type, structural soundness, an outgoing happy butterfly like temperament, proper texture & sufficiently coat. Another plus is good ring presentation. Remember less is more when grooming this natural appearing breed. Outline sculpting is not part of the overall-winning look. Good luck in your show grooming and we hope some of these tips and practices are useful and helpful. There is nothing prettier than a lovely butterfly in the ring.