Learn How to Ride the Wave

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Since a Marcel coat is one of the most important factors in grooming the Kerry blue terrier, I'd like to show you how I prep a coat for grooming.

The Kerry coat varies in texture and density from dog to dog, continent to continent, and over the course of a single dog's life. The Kerry Blue Terrier, as a puppy, will have a dark coat with big loose waves or even a little straighter with a slight wave. As the dog ages, he will have a light coat with tighter waves or even a slightly poodlie coat.

From a breeder's standpoint, it is almost impossible to predict exactly how an individual dog's coat will mature. Some breeders put more emphasis on coat color and some on coat texture. The frustrating truth is there is not a greater consensus among breed fanciers as to the ideal or even correct coat type. With neither a cause nor a consequence, the coat variations in the breed are extreme.

The standard calls for a coat that is, soft, dense and wavy. As with all breed standards, the confusion comes from determining the correct degree of these characteristics. Can a coat be too soft? Can it be too dense? If a coat is too dense (number of hairs per square inch) it will not sit easily in the pretty Marcel waves that typify a correct coat. If the leg hair is too soft it will not stand naturally in a defined column. The standard severely faults a harsh, wire or bristle coat. If the coat is cottony or a poodle coat, it will look and feel absolutely wrong.

The challenge for the average groomer is to take all of these naturally occurring variations in a coat and turn out a beautiful rich show trim.

The Kerry show trim is unique to the breed, and should not give the dog a generic terrier outline.

All trims should be well-balanced and elegant. A Kerry blue terrier when groomed properly should look like it's wearing a well-tailored suit.

To achieve this look, it’s all about the prep. If the coat is not bathed and dried properly you will never get the desired look.

Here is my step by step guide as to what I do to prepare a coat for show grooming, I also prep my grooming client’s dogs this way in my salon as well.

Start with a really good bath, I like to use CHRIS CHRISTENSEN SPECTRUM 10 SHAMPOO, FOR STRAIGHT OR WAVY. If I have those really course poodle coats I like to use is CHRIS CHRISTENSEN TAME IT SHAMPOO SMOOTHING AND STRAIGHTENING. After the bath I like to use a conditioner with keratin in it, like GROOMER'S EDGE KERI-COT MOISTURIZING CONDITIONER, on the back coat. I find that keratin helps with the way in the coat, it also helps with the frizzy hair.

Squeeze off all the water from legs, body and head with a towel.

Take a slicker brush and brush out the back coat in the direction you want it to lay.

Use a high velocity dryer to get all the water off the legs, my favorite is a K-9 1. I like to force all the water off the coat down the legs, paying extra attention to the legs and the beard. For the back coat, let it air dry while continuing to dry the legs.

Use a heat dryer on the legs and beard.

Once all the legs and beard are all fluffed up, use the heat dryer on low air and high heat and brush the back coat with a boar bristle brush, brushing from front to back. You don’t need to completely dry the back coat, all you’re really trying to do is start the wave. Just like human hair, your Kerry coat needs to be trained.

My end result is to have a coat with the beginnings of a nice wave. As you can see this coat now has a full one finger wave in it. Once the dog is completely trimmed, use water to re pack the coat with your hand, sponge or boar brush to achieve that marcel look. Remember, without proper prep work before the trim you will never get the beautiful look that this dog in so well known for.

You are ready to groom your Kerry blue terrier! Good Luck!


Cheryl Purcell NCMG, began her grooming career in 1991. A Nationally Certified Master Groomer, Cheryl is known nationally and internationally as one of the industry’s top pet stylists. She has been successfully competing and winning at grooming competitions since 1993. Major wins include Multiple “Best-In-Show” wins and multiple “Best-All-Around” wins. She ranked as a GroomTeam USA Top 10 Stylist from 2002 to 2007 (a group composed of the top 10 groomers in this country).

Cheryl also served on the Board of NEPGP (New England Pet Grooming Professionals) for several years, was the 2005 Groom Team Liaison and is the current GroomTeam Coordinator.