Trimming the Cocker Head
I typically use a #15 blade to clipper a Cocker face, especially if the dog is black or brown. If the dog is a parti with lots of white on the face, a light buff, or red/white, I might use a #10 blade. The reason is that dogs with darker coats tend to grow thicker, more dense hair all over their bodies, and that includes the face. A #15 blade provides a nice, tidy trim that lasts 3-4 weeks. On the lighter colors I find the hair isn’t as thick, and so you can run the risk of causing clipper burn by using the shorter blade. Also, the #15 simply takes their hair too short on the face, making them look almost hairless, which isn’t attractive. Also, if you’re quick at trimming the face, it works to only have one blade on hand. But if you’re a bit slow at it, especially when you’re starting out, I recommend having two blades handy, so you can switch off blades when the one you’re using gets hot. Hot blades can really irritate the skin, so once the blade gets warm, take it off and put a new blade on. Buy a single ceramic tile at a home improvement store, and use it for “quick cooling” of your blade. Place the blade face down on the tile, and it will cool more quickly.
I normally start by clipping the ear first. Trim 1/3 of the total length of the ear (including the fur, not just the ear leather itself). I trim against the grain of hair growth. I flip the ear over, and shave the entire ear leather. Please note that if you are planning to show your dogs, this is not ideal. This is only what I do for pet trims. Show dogs need the appearance of “full” ears, so do not shave the entire inner ear leather. On pets, I do this because it increases air flow around the ear canal and seems to keep the inner ear a bit cooler. It is also tidier if you are using ear medication for any length of time.
I then shave the face, always clipping against the grain of hair growth. This creates a short, tidy trim. I always clean out under the eyes really well, and also the lips. Pull out the bottom lip and trim carefully between the folds, to keep the area clean. Cockers can get lip fold dermatitis (a skin infection) in the lip folds if the area isn’t kept clean. When shaving the neck, I find the point of the breastbone on the dog, and shave up from there, all the way to the chin. I usually shave in several directions on the sides of the neck, where those little cowlicks grow. Don’t forget to shave the top of the nose too.
For the top of the head, I shave off the strip across the top from ear to ear, down to where the head meets the neck. I trim up the side of the face to an invisible line draw from the corner of the eye to the beginning of the ear leather. I use the thinning shears (46 teeth, with teeth on one blade only, and a regular blade) to blend the clipper line there. Rest the thinning shears on top of that line, and snip once. Hold the skin taut, so that you don’t catch the skin there, and hold the ear out of the way, so you don’t catch the ear leather. Use the slicker brush to clean the hair out of the area after your one snip, and see if it’s blended. If not, do one more snip. For the hair on top of the head, I leave a crescent shape between the ears, with the convex side towards the nape of the neck, if that makes sense. If your dog has a flat head, you want to leave a bit more hair in that area, to give the illusion of roundness. If your dog has a nice, round skull, you can take more hair off.
Comb all of the hair to one side of the head (like a bad comb over job). Line the thinning shears up with the non-serrated blade against the head, with the scissors perpendicular to the hair. Moving the shears forwards and rearwards, thin out any hair that is “overhanging” the side of the head. Then brush all of the hair over to the other side of the head, and repeat. Do this 2-3 times on each side of the head. That will shape the topknot to emphasize a rounded top skull. Then brush all of the hair forwards, so it’s hanging over the eyes like bangs. Trim anything that is overhanging the eyes, in a similar method. That will take care of any “sticky-outy” hairs. Make sure that the hair behind the eyebrows is well cleaned out. The key when using thinning shears is to snip no more than once or twice and then brush the excess hair out of the way with the slicker brush. If you get overeager with the thinning shears, you can leave areas that are gouged out. So when in doubt, BRUSH.
As a note, I always trim the eyelashes off when I groom. I know people think they look pretty, but the reality is that long eyelashes can collect debris, which can end up in the eye. You can, of course, do what you like, but if you leave long lashes, please check your dogs’ eyes thoroughly on a regular basis, so that nothing bad gets in there.