Grooming, trimming and coats.
When you buy a Laeken Shepherd dog, you get a dog that needs to be trimmed. Trimming is a kind of grooming wich is nothing more than just pull out the hard upperhair of the coat with your fingers or with a knife. This job has to be done about twice a year. When you never trimmed a dog before, it is a hel of a job. When you compare it to the grooming of the other varieties of the Belgium shepherd, the Laekengrooming is just as hard as the grooming of a Groenendaeler or a Tervueren. It also takes the same space of time. But when the Laeken is groomed, he is “ready” and you wil find no more hairs in the house.
Laekenois before the trimming
In general we recommand new owners to do the job themselves instead of going to a “groomingshop”. You are not only saving money (yes we are Dutch), but it is a very good activity to keep the relation between dog and boss clear. The dog doesn’t like it but he has to go through the treatment. At the same time he is submitting to the owner and the relation is clear again.
Just like the dog, the owner needs to get used to it. That is why we recommand to put the dog on a table when he is still a puppy. Let him get used to this activity. From the age of 8 weeks you can brush him now and than and work a little at the coat.
Around the age of 13 weeks the most of the dark puppycoat can be stripped. Most people don’t do this, because they don’t like the dog is loosing it’s puppy-appearence that soon. We agree this is a disadvantage. But as Johan Cruyff says every disadvantage has it’s advantage. And here this is that the pup is used to stripping at a very young age. For his whole life he will know that it is normal and there will be no stress and fighting when it needs to be done.
Same Laekenois dog after the trimming
The trimming technique.
There are two ways of trimming. The trimming as a part of the general grooming wich is to be done about every half year. And the trimming as finishing touch before you go to a show. The last is to get the dog as close as possible to the standard of the breed. Some people react a little condescending on this kind of stripping. The Laeken is a working dog not a showgirl. Maybe this is true, but nevertheless, when you go to a show with your Laeken it is a showdog. And reality forces us to admit there are very few Laeken in the working grounds.
We start with the grooming part of the trimming. This is the basic of coat treatment of the Laeken. The special thing of a roughcoated Belgian shepherd is that the hard uppercoat does not come out by itself. You have to pull it out because otherwise the hair will cause skinproblems and itch. When the coat is ready to be trimmed, you see the dog walking and scour aside and against the fence of the couch, or anything else he can rub against. When you pull out just a little part of the coat, you notice if it comes out hard or easy. When it comes out hard it is not mature yet and you will have to wait. When it comes out easy and without any reaction of the dog, the coat is ready. At the same time you can find hair in the house. That is also a sign.
When you start, first you comb the coat with a wide comb or rake. The loose hair, you pick them out and trimming will go more easy.
To trim is nothing else than to pull out the mature hard hair out of the upper coat. You can do it by hand or by knife. A good trimming knife isn’t cutting but it is only for a better hold. Between knife and thumb the hair are beeing hold and pulled out.
You start at the head and you move slowly backwards to the tail pulling out little pieces of the coat in the growing direction of the hair. Do not make a very thin tail and do not strip the legs below the elbows. The same goes for the beard and the moustache.When you comb the legs, the beard and moustache with a fine comb it will do. Every time you do so you pull out enough hair, further trimming is not necessary. The part of the head before the line you can draw from directly behind the eyecorners to the mouthcorner you do not strip.
The hair at the breast mostly don’t come out very easy. The week after the stripping job, you daily brush the coat with a rubber brush. The last hair that didn’t come out will be torn out by this treatment and in a few months you will get a highquality coat on your Laeken.
The undercoat you will recognize because it’s closer to the skin and it’s softer, shorter and more thin, like real wool. Do not remove the undercoat. It is for isolation, to keep the dog warm and protect the skin against the sun. Older animals sometimes need it to take of some of the abundance undercoat. You can do this with a fine comb.
The nice thing of a roughcoated dog is, I think, he never has the same look. He always looks different. Just trimmed, you can get a good impressoin of the way he is build, but the look is not so nice. Weak points in the appearance, you can see clearly now. After that, he becomes more beautiful each week. Mostly the colour is different after the stripping. Some dogs are getting darker, others lighter. That depends of the colour of the undercoat. Our Jente, for instance, has a very beautiful dark, gold brown in full coat. After the trimming she is grey-blue for two months.
To prepare the Laeken for a show.
When a Laeken isn’t trimmed properly, he get’s a soft fluffy coat. Mostly getting a light color at the end of the hair. When he’s trimmed right, he gets his most beautiful color, and than you can see how this coat can shine!
When the coat is growing and coming out again, the time comes to prepare the Laeken for the show (if you like). Grooming the dog in this moment is also knowing: what are the strong and the weak points of your dog. When the dog is a little too long in the back, then you can remove some of the coat the end of his body under the tail below. If his back isn’t totally straigt, try to manipulate the coat in a way that it covers this weak point. When the neck is a little short, take of some more coat out in this area. In this way the neck looks a little longer.
Strip off the cheeks, so the head looks a little longer. Don’t leave to much of the beard and the moustache. The ears need a sharp edge and have to sink in the head. So than they look more little. You have to remove the coat at the top and the sides of the ears. At the base you leave some coat. In the earshelve you leave some hair, in this way they also look smaller.
Feet: there is not so much coat at the feet. But if there is enough or too much, cut the feet round with scissors, so he gets the desired “catfeet”.