Expert Advice


Posted by


Zach Newton -

The beautiful tresses of the Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Shih Tzu, Afghans and others can be a challenge to grow and maintain. In this article we will discuss the necessary tools, techniques, and recommend products that will help your dog’s drop coat stay conditioned for success in the ring.

Train From The Beginning 

Ideally, you start out with a young dog and a clean slate. If you are raising a puppy, the most important thing you can do is encourage cleanliness. We do not keep toy dogs under the age of 6 months crated with the exception of sleeping in a crate at night. Each puppy has a plastic pen, either of the Rover Pet variety or Iris brand pens, for use when the puppy is not actively supervised. This allows the puppy to maintain a separate area for sleeping, eating and pottying within his pen. Allowing a dog to mess a crate by asking him to stay in one for long periods of time when he is physically unable to “hold it” creates what we refer to as a crate-dirty dog. If your puppy does get excrement on its coat, you need to remove it at the earliest opportunity. If you cannot perform a full bath, we recommend the use of dry shampoo such as Pure Paws - Star Line No Rinse Shampoo. We generally prefer the use of plastic pens and/or sleeping crates instead of pens and crates made of wire because there is less risk of catching or rubbing off the hair you are trying so hard to grow. Recommendation:

Pet Gear – Home ‘N Go Pet Pen

Grooming Tools

Insofar as grooming tools, we recommend the use of a stand dryer that has a variety of heat settings, Recommendation:

Double K – Stand Dryer OR Tableworks – Dryer Holder

Pin brushes such as Chris Christensen - Fusion Pin Brush with the 27 mm pins (we use an oblong one for drying coat and a large oval brush for daily maintenance), a deep tooth comb (our preferred comb is the Chris Christensen - “The Brat” Buttercomb—although it may seem like overkill for the toy breeds, it really is more effective and gentler on the coat than combs with shorter teeth), and a combination parting comb/fine tooth comb for making the part and for use on the face, such as the Chris Christensen - Tail Comb with the fine tines.

Bathing Routine

For dogs that are not yet showing, we bathe the dog every 4-5 days, sometimes stretching it to a week if the dog is a clean dog and is not “kept in oil.” For those weekly maintenance baths on dogs not “in oil” we recommend Isle of Dogs - Tearless Puppy Shampoo followed by Isle of Dogs No. 51 Heavy Management Conditioner.

When necessary, we use Plush Puppy - Seabreeze Oil. Fill up the sink with warm water to a level half way up the dog’s leg, and add 2 tablespoons of the oil, and 2 tablespoons of a conditioner, mixing it by using the hand sprayer. The dog is placed in the sink and the water, oil, and conditioner mix is poured over the dog. It is not rinsed out and the dog is dried with a stand dryer. For dogs that are kept in oil, baths are given every 3-4 days using a clarifying shampoo such as Plush Puppy Deep Cleansing shampoo, again conditioned with the Isle of Dogs No. 51 Heavy Management Conditioner, and then placed back in oil. Oil can be very drying to the coat, and it attracts dirt, so we do not encourage its use unless wrapping fails.

Topknots & Wrapping

We start getting young dogs used to having their topknots banded as soon as there is enough hair to band. It doesn’t have to be left in all day, but the earlier your dog gets used to having something in its hair the better. We also start banding facial hair on the muzzle, and the back “skirts” of bitches, early on. Preventing your dog from chewing off its facial hair and staining the skirts with urine is important, and teaching young dogs to accept banding these areas is a good precursor for wrapping the hair.

At around 7-8 months of age we start wrapping portions of a dog’s coat, in male dogs we wrap the area that could get stained when leg lifting starts, and in females we generally start with the back skirts. We start with a wrapper on each side and then gradually increase the number of wrappers over the course of weeks. We recommend the use of tissue paper wrappers on the body and face coat, and plastic wrappers on the dog’s legs, but sometimes the use of plastic wrappers on the body coat is necessary to discourage the apparent fun of tearing out—and up—the wraps. All wraps are folded so that no sharp edges come into contact with the coat, and all are secured with two latex bands (in case one breaks).

When wrapping, we generally do not put extra product in the coat when a dog is first wrapped after her bath. When the wrappers are taken down, the coat is brushed through, and re-wrapped on a daily or every other day basis. We spray the coat before brushing with a conditioning spray such as Pure Paws - Reconstructing Shine Spray. If the coat feels dry, we will use a conditioning cream such as Plush Puppy - Protein Coat Balm and apply it before re-wrapping. Fresh clean wraps are put in after every bath, and in between baths wraps are replaced if they become damp or tear. Ultimately the entire dog is wrapped, in a manner such as pictured in the below diagram although depending on breed and the individual dog’s structure the placement of the wraps can vary.

The key to wrapping is twofold- first, when sectioning hair, make the parts as straight as possible, and second, part the hair for the wraps so you are not restricting the dog’s freedom of movement. The point of wrapping is so that the dog can enjoy doing “regular dog stuff” without breaking off or staining the coat. Hog-tying the dog with its own wrappers defeats that purpose. Have fun with your wrappers and bands - there are lots of colors available which makes the work more fun. If you find that the dog is matting in the wraps despite daily comb outs you make need to increase the number of wraps. Dogs with thick coats get two rows of wrappers along the side, one row on top of the other. This prevents matting and also helps the hair from breaking along the part if the wraps are too heavy with hair.

Care After The Show Ring

Once the dog begins to show, depending on the frequency of shows we change the conditioning routine to add more protein and moisture to the hair. The use of styling products, blow dryers, and flat irons required to prepare some of these breeds for the ring can destroy the coat you cultivated. For dogs who are showing, it is important to bathe the dog as soon as possible after showing to remove products used to create the topknot, prevent static, and to add shine. Many such products contain alcohol, which is extremely drying. For dogs that are showing, we perform maintenance baths with Plush Puppy - Natural Conditioning Shampoo with Evening Primrose and condition with Plush Puppy - Natural Silk Protein Conditioner. If there is a lot of product in the coat a clarifying shampoo can be used to remove it, Recommendation:

Chris Christensen - Clean Start

but if we are bathing the dog frequently and immediately after shows we try to avoid its use as it too can be drying. Most top of the line shampoos are quite capable of removing a moderate amount of product without the need for a clarifying shampoo. For extremely dry coats we recommend using once or twice a month a masque type conditioner such as Pure Paws - Silk Cream or Chris Christensen - Spectrum 10 HydroPac Intensive Treatment. Unfortunately, in some breeds the preferred coat texture, i.e. fine silk, is not conducive to being in the ring week after week. For those lovely coats, the combination of heat and products can be damaging, with the only thing to be done is to keep the coat as clean, moisturized and “fed” protein, as possible.

The sight of a beautifully conditioned and groomed coat is hard to ignore, and can put you ahead of the competition in these breeds. Growing and maintaining a drop coat is a labor of love. The work that you put in, both insofar as training the dog to accept grooming and in maintaining the coat, will pay off in the long run if you are persistent and consistent in your grooming choices. 

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