Grooming an Irish Water Spaniel

We are often asked how do we cut our IWS, or how do you groom the coat? Well we have been thinking how we could help people who have never groomed an IWS before, or maybe they send it to a professional Groomer as they do not have the confidence to do it themselves. So we thought we would give it a go, to try and give IWS folk a chance to try out grooming their own dogs

But being a Yorkshire lass the saying here is “there is only a week between a good hair cut and a bad’un”!

BUT!! Before we start I want to say this is NOT a show cut, this way of cutting is OUR way. For the gundog work it is perfect, you can see any briers, thistles, and feel any thorns, also when they have been out in the winter working and they are wet, they dry off so much quicker which is a lot better for them health wise.

For the IWS that is a pet, and you do not have the time to keep a long coat groomed, this could also be an ideal cut.

Please remember we are all amateurs at this, the written explanation and the videos, are all amateur, and we hope you can at least take something from it.

First of all I will show you the grooming tools that I use.

An ordinary straight comb

Poodle comb (big wide teeth)

8.5 inch Scissors (Roseline)
6 inch Scissors (Roseline)

Nail clippers.

Grooming table - not essential but helpful

Aeasulap Clippers
Blades number GT779 9 (Body)
Blades number GH 712 (hairy tails or face)
Blade oil

Shampoo, Grimeinator

All of these tools and shampoo’s can be found from any grooming shops. I usually use Christies from Ireland, but shop around and find something to suit you, and your pocket. 

Firstly groom your dog thoroughly, and when I say this, I mean get out all the knots, and get down to the bottom of the coat. This is done so that when you bath the dog the soap suds are not going to get trapped in the knots and not get washed out.

When this is done, you can then bath the dog, I bath ours in the bath upstairs and use the shower hose, I find this easier for myself, as I suffer with a back problem.

Wet the dog thoroughly then apply your shampoo, and massage it well in to the coat and then make sure you rinse off well, do not leave any soap in the coat.

Then dry the dog off with towels. I generally let the dog dry off naturally and either groom later in the day or the next day.

I do have a grooming table which makes it a lot easier to groom your dog, you can sometimes pick these up quite cheaply on Ebay. Size should be around (table top) no less than 32 inches long and no less than 20 inches wide, I hope that helps in your search.

Right here we go with the grooming.

Comb your dog through, so they are no knots, and the coat should feel soft and clean to your hands. If you are using clippers for the first time, I would start them running for a while and get the dog used to hearing them, I would then start on the body just getting the dog used to the feel and the noise of the clippers, you will feel the dog relax, so just take your time.

The Ear.

Comb through the hair and do not forget the underside, using the large clipper blades and following the lay of the hair clip down, feel for the top of the ear (near the top knot)  with your fingers and clip from there downwards, and the inside as well

To cut the edge of the ear, take hold of the ear and place your finger and thumb at the base of the ear (near the head) so that you can feel the edges of the ear between your finger and thumb, then when you start to cut using your small scissors, you will cut above your finger and thumb,  SO you do NOT cut the ear. Then run the clippers over the hair again and check that you have not missed anything. Now watch the video on how to cut ears.

Top Knot and beard.

Comb through the top knot, comb it forward over the eyes and taking your large scissors cut straight across the front of the eyes, in a straight line. Then comb backwards, take a firm hold of the dogs muzzle, and moving yourself round so you can see the back of the head cut up straight from the neck. Then comb through again, and taking hold of each ear, then just give a little shake and the top knot hair will fall back, then start to shape the top knot by taking off a little length, to your preference , shape round from the ears.

Comb through the beard, and cut to preferred length.  

Now watch the video on cutting the top knot.

Top knot and beard

Top knot


This can be done by scissors (Large) or clipped using electric clippers. I use the clippers with a number 9 blade, which does not scalp them, but leaves it a nice length.

Comb through, then start to clip the way the hair grows, starting behind the ears and top knot, and clip towards the rear, do the chest, shoulders and all of the body. If you want to, you can clip the legs too, I always scissor the legs, but it is up to you. Now have a look at the video, for Clipping the body.

Front legs.

As I have said you can clip the legs if you want to, but this is how I scissor the legs.

Comb through, and then I comb it all the wrong way, then starting at the top of the leg blend in from the clip on the body, then cut down and trim all around the leg, you are looking to make this look a cylinder shape, so the leg has equal hair all around. Now have a look at the video to see the leg cut.

 Hind Leg.

Comb through, and again I always comb the hair the wrong way, and starting at the top, blend in from the body clip and cut downwards, follow the shape of the hind leg down, and do not for get to trim on the inside as well, cut straight down the hock at the back, keeping it straight as you go. Now watch the video on cutting the hind leg.

Now watch the video for the hind leg


Using your small scissors pick the foot up so you can see underneath and trim off any excess hair between the pads, comb through the hair on top of the foot, trim around any hair that is sticking out from the foot, then as before comb up the other way and blend it in to what you have just cut on the leg. Please look at the front leg video to see it being done.


If your dog has a hairy tail, it may need clipping.

Leave on 2 to 3 inches at the top of the tail,  and using the small blade, take off any hair below, leaving a nice smooth Whip Tail.

Please see video on clipping the tail.

Nail clippers.

When using the nail clippers, be careful, and only clip a small amount of nail at a time, as it is very easy to cut through the quick., then it will bleed. 

Please remember that this is just my way of grooming my Irish Water Spaniels.