Curly Coated Retrievers have long been a popular breed in the show ring thanks to their unique, tightly curled coat and wonderful temperament. First exhibited in 1860 in England, the breed nearly disappeared during the two world wars of the 20th century but steadily gained in number in the later half of the century. Today, the Curly Coated Retriever is not widely known in the United States, but still enjoys popularity in Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia, where it does consistently well in the show ring. If you're interested in showing your Curly in the show ring, here are a few tips on preparing your dog for the spotlight.
Obviously, proper grooming is going to play a big role in how a Curly Coated Retriever is judged in the ring after all, its name gives away its most astounding feature. The American Kennel Club standard for the Curly Coated Retriever states that the body coat is a thick mass of small, tight, crisp curls, lying close to the skin. It also states that curls should extend up the neck, part of the legs and the tail, while the rest of the coat is smoother. It certainly sounds like it would be a difficult coat to manage, and it certainly had that reputation for many years, but the coat is actually quite manageable.
There are as many different grooming recommendations as there are show ring participants, but there are a few tips that seem to be universal. Curlies shouldn't have very frequent baths, as this can deprive the coat of the natural oils it needs to maintain the tightly formed curls, although some handlers will use a specially formulated shampoo and conditioner regimen a few days before a show. Others recommend a swim in the ocean, if that's a possibility, as the natural salt is excellent for cleaning the coat. Another recommends a bath of water and beer! Most importantly, never rub the coat dry, but allow the curls to dry naturally in order to best keep their shape.
The coat naturally feathers in a few places around the body, including the tail, the feet and lower legs, the ears and the throat. Technically, it is not necessary to trim these areas, but many judges prefer a streamlined look and trimming these areas certainly brings out the Curly's athletic lines. Trimming the longer hair of the throat, ears and top of the head (although not all Curlies have longer hair there) a couple of weeks before a show will give the coat time to relax before the competition. When trimming the feathering on the legs, take care not to cut the coat too short, unless the dog is naturally thick boned. The hair on the underside of the tail should be cut fairly short, and the rest not too short, so the tail doesn't have the appearance of a tail.
As mentioned before, there are as many tricks and tips as there are Curlies in the ring, but every dog is different and will have different needs to make the coat look its best. The best way to learn to how to prepare your Curly Coated Retriever for the show ring is to find a mentor, a veteran in the show ring with Curlies that can give you advice.