Crown or Crap? (The Collie Coat)
Our standard calls the coat the crowning glory of the Rough Collie and, indeed, it can be, but it needs to be correct. As in so many coated breeds some folks seem to think more is better. Actually it’s the right type of coat that’s what we should shoot for because it’s not only the correct coat, but it’s easier to groom without a lot of “aids.” Great big fluffy, soft, voluminous coats take away from the Collie’s desired outline and make exhibitors work much harder. Such coats also can be virtually impossible for any pet owner to handle.
When I was breeding and exhibiting I learned a lot about coats and how to groom the Collie. In addition to having a clean dog and one that is properly trimmed the essence of grooming the Rough Collie coat is to add moisture without adding so much that it looks soggy or really wet. To accomplish this takes skill acquired over time, hard work, and a Collie with correct coat. That correct coat will not only absorb the moisture applied, but hold it longer without continuous need to reapply.
The coat that we desire is one where we can feel the harshness of the outer coat particularly along the back and have a denseness of the soft undercoat that makes it hard to see the skin. It should “fit” the dog not billow around it like a halo. The correctly fitting coat will not only accentuate the Collie’s outline, but shed rain and carry snow without melting it. It is not just a coat for looks and the dog shows, but one which is useful.
To work moisture into the coat one has to know how the coat grows and which direction it lays. To get moisture into the coat you need to “open” the coat against its normal direction of growth while applying and working in the moisture. You can do this with your hands, as I used to, and then with a brush as you continue to mist the coat. If you’re at a show don’t forget that timing is very important to your grooming efforts.
Almost any Collie when set down on the floor after grooming will shake. Allow enough time to settle the coat and round off the rough edges that result from shaking. If you can’t see the ring have someone watch it for you and advise when it’s time to be ready. You don’t want to run into the ring with a Collie that looks like a hedgehog while you brush, brush, brush, because you weren’t ready.
If you have a Collie with proper coat and have learned to groom properly then all you need is a great head and expression, sound body, good movement, and a born show dog and you may be in business if the judge knows their job.
Over time you should get a system down that works for you, but it must start with a good dog. All the grooming, trimming, and training won’t make “a silk purse from a sow’s ear.” You will develop your own routine and realize that all dogs don’t require the same type of attention. A lot of grooming is just common sense, but some folks find that a tough commodity to acquire. I always tried to do all trimming at home before the show. In that environment the dog isn’t as distracted and the trimming goes more smoothly. It also allows you to concentrate on grooming and doing a good job with the moisturizing.
To be able to groom properly as I said before it helps to have a good dog with the right kind of coat. They also need to learn to accept grooming and trimming. My puppies started having nails trimmed at one week of age and had it done weekly thru their lives. They were subjected to grooming (gently) in my lap at the same age and frequency. They went on the grooming table as soon as they could stand and were leash trained at about six to seven weeks. Leash lessons always followed the grooming table and occurred when it was time for a meal so they were eager to follow a piece of baked steak.
We can make breeding, grooming, and training harder than it needs to be or we can spend some time planning each move. You don’t breed your bitch to the second cousin of the great producer, but to the producer himself. You can learn to groom and to train, but if you don’t feel good about your efforts hire someone whose results you admire and use their skill.
Above all take however long it takes to understand how to breed correct Collies. If that doesn’t work buy your show dogs from someone with the skill you don’t possess. Beware, however, of the breeder whose dogs only win for them. A good Collie can win for anyone with reasonable skill at grooming and handling. Don’t fall for cheating to get your wins, dog showing is a sport and all sports have rules. Play by the rules and you enrich our breed. Break them and you weaken the gene pool to a sad degree. Puppies are not whelped with tape on their ears, or makeup on their faces, or hair spray on their coats.
My only experience with doctoring a coat came years ago the first time I showed at the garden. I had heard that beer would make the coat hold up longer in the ring so I decided to give it a try. I was showing Windsong Dealer’s Choice, the blue who would be my first champion in the open blue class. Mike Kennedy of Bellhaven was standing next to me with a dog that was impeccably groomed, the judge was Emily Tharp, President of the CCA who looked like everyone’s idea of a white haired grandmother. When Mrs. Tharp went over my dog the coat almost snapped, crackled, and popped (no one told me the beer should be stale). Since his coat was a bit sticky and she had trouble running her hands thru it, Mrs. Tharp looked up at me and said sweetly “my, my he does have a harsh coat.” I probably turned red and Mike Kennedy was convulsed with glee. So ended my using anything but water.
Oh yes, I did breed dogs with correct coats.
Think about it!