The summer is always a challenge for hunting dogs. An alternative hair style can help keep the Boykin Spaniel cooler and also help prevent bacterial skin infections. We do "hair cuts" on many Boykin's that hunt or swim in the summer months. A shorter coat will keep them cooler by allowing the air flow to the skin. It also allows them to dry more quickly after swimming. This is not only helpful for the seats in your car but also keeps bacteria from growing on moist, wet skin that has no air flow to it. With the humidity levels we have in the South, a full coated wet dog can take hours to dry completely to the skin. This allows the bacteria from the pond or mud puddles to grow in a perfect environment. This in turn can cause a skin infection and hot spots. Skin infections cause dogs to scratch. Scratching causes broken skin which can then turn into a staph infection. We have found that dogs prone to skin infections do much better with a shorter coat.
To ensure the Boykin keeps the look that we all love, I groom the body only, leaving the head and ears. I also trim or clip the hair from the underside of the ear canal to help airflow to the ear. I prefer to use a # 4 or #5 blade on the body, blending the back of the head so that it connects the head and neck rather than an abrupt stop. I also like to leave some of the feathers (fringe on the back of the front legs) and some of the pants (fringe on the back of the hind legs): Trimming it down so it is proportionate to the body. In my opinion, this keeps the Boykin look while allowing a much cooler, healthier dog for the summer.
If you are going to work your Boykin in dove fields or on upland game then a clip is recommended to keep the briar damage to a minimum. The soft coat of the Boykin acts like velcro to cockleburrs, foxtails and sandspurs as well as blackberry brambles that wreak havoc on your Boykins' coat as well as your fingers when you tried to pry them loose. A coating of cooking spray, like PAM, sprayed before you go into the field will help ease the combing out if you leave the coat intact.
Of course, the best time to clip your Boykin is in the late spring or early summer. Don't clip all of your pups' coat off late in the fall if he is going to spend the winter outside.
Whether you clip or don't clip, brush your Boykin's coat once a week to keep the shedding down to a minimum. It's recommended not to bathe your dog more often than once a month and then to only use pet shampoos. Never use dishwashing detergent as it will dry out your dogs' skin.
While you are grooming, check the inside of your pups' ears. Some spaniels have chronic ear problems and a once weekly application of a veterinary-recommended ear solution will help keep the ears dry and clean. Proper ear care on dogs that swim or hunt in tall wet grass is very important. Heavy eared dogs, mainly the spaniel breeds, tend to have chronic ear infections. The two main causes are internal (nutrition) and external (ear care and maintance).
Nutrition for both the working dog and dogs with heavy ears should be corn and wheat free, low or no grains, and a moderate protein of 26 – 35%. This protein level enables the muscle and organs to work properly during times of work. The lack of grain, corn or wheat means less fillers or empty calories. Low or no grains makes for less allergen, which can contribute to ear infections. It also prevents the growth of yeast in the ears and on the skin.
To maintain the ear eternally, it is recommended that you keep the hair on the underside of the ear clipped to allow air flow which keeps the ear canal dry and cool. This can be done with scissors. Simply flip the ear back over the dog's head, cut any excess hair that is on the bottom of the ear canal opening to expose the opening completely. You can also clip away any excess hair that is on the underside of the ear leather to allow more air flow. This is not seen from the outside and therefore keeps the natural look to the ears and head. Secondly, it is recommended that you clean the ears after swimming or working in tall we grass to dry out excess water from the ear canal. To do so, use a cotton ball soaked with ear cleaner . Gently insert the cotton ball into the ear canal. While squeezing the ear cleaner into the ear move the cotton ball around to pick up any debris or ear wax. Holding the ear down, rub the ear for a few seconds before releasing. The dog will shake his head to remove the excess ear cleaner. Look for ear cleaners that contain drying agents and antibacterial such as low amounts Tea Tree oil. Never use straight Tea Tree oil in a dog's ear. You can also ask your veterinarian for an ear wash that will balance the PH in the ear for those that are very prone to ear infections or yeast. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to medication or ear wash they have prescribed.
Whether you clip or don't clip, start grooming habits as a puppy - messing with his feet, making him sit or stand still - and your pup will look forward to being groomed (making your job not only easier, but enjoyable for both of you.)