Show Grooming

Amer & Can Champion Wildgoose Sidney Foxwood

Victor & Sidney

Can Champion Wildgoose Cookie Cutter

Victor & CC





This work is intended as a guide on how to groom the Norwich Terrier for conformation showing. In combination with your own creative grooming flair, to be successful at grooming you first need to know what the breed is suppose to look like according to the kennel club’s written standard. That will give you a picture in your mind’s eye of what the perfect dog should look like. What you should be able to visualize is a silhouette of the perfect dog. I have provided some silhouettes to help.


This work should be read in conjunction with our other publication, “Comparative Study & Illustrated Breed Standard of Norfolk and Norwich Terriers”. Read the written standard to refresh yourself about what, according to the words of the standard, the dogs should look like. For convenience of reference, I have included the relevant text from the American Kennel Club written standard with this document. That will help you apply the written standard to the particular dog that you wish to groom. Understanding the strengths and weakness of your dog is essential because show grooming is all about accentuating your dog’s strengths and hiding his weaknesses. With a little practice, like anything, the grooming gets easier. At worst, as you practice on your dog, if you remove the wrong hairs they will eventually grow back.


Grooming the show coat requires considerably more effort and understanding of the breed standard and functions of the dog to get a polished representation of that you wish to portray. Longer hair isn't necessarily better. In fact, less hair often looks like more hair when done correctly. Hair length of about one inch to two inches on the body looks best on the dogs. In my experience the black and tan coats are the toughest to work and are generally best kept short. The hardest coats generally have great difficulty in growing fullness for matter what you try.


Dependent on the dog, a show coat is kept at its best if you work the whole coat once a week. Giving time between stripping allows the dog to grow more distinct layers to hand strip in the weeks to come. Ultimately, it permits “rolling” of the coat. A rolled coat, rather than being all one length, has a number of layers in it. The top layer is the longest layer. Once this layer gets too long it is pulled out or “stripped”. Allowing a few weeks between stripping makes the layers more obvious and easier to identify. The layers below the longest layers are not quite ready to be pulled but show a healthy, hard coat growing beneath. The different layers lend to the look of a dense and vibrant coat.


I have included the written AKC standard along with the parts of the body to reinforce your grooming goals. You should also look at the pictoral essays that reinforce what I have in text following in bold.


Norwich Terrier

General Appearance
The Norwich Terrier, spirited and stocky with sensitive prick ears and a slightly foxy expression, is one of the smallest working terriers. This sturdy descendent of ratting companions, eager to dispatch small vermin alone or in a pack, has good bone and substance and an almost weatherproof coat. A hardy hunt terrier-honorable scars from fair wear and tear are acceptable.

Size, Proportion, Substance 

One of the smallest of the terriers, the ideal height should not exceed 10 inches at the withers. Distance from the top of the withers to the ground and from the withers to base of tail are approximately equal. Good bone and substance. Weight approximately 12 pounds. It should be in proportion to the individual dog's structure and balance. Fit working condition is a prime consideration.



Hard, wiry and straight, lying close to the body with a definite undercoat. This breed should be shown with as natural a coat as possible. A minimum of tidying is permissible but shaping should be heavily penalized.





When thinking about where to begin grooming start with considering the overall outline of the dog, the silhouette. A correct outline is the first most important grooming objective. Your grooming should reflect the “General Appearance” of the written standard. From a distance, it is the outline of the whole dog that catches the eye and makes the first and a lasting impression. Good grooming can reinforces the appearance of correct “type” and is the first thing evaluated by the judge. Consider ring procedure at a dog show. You walk in the ring. The judge is standing in the middle. What you are doing is presenting your dog’s outline. The judge hasn't touched your dog yet but he/she is in fact judging. The tail must be up and your dog correctly stacked. If the tail isn’t up for some judges you have already lost. Next the judge goes to the front of the line and looks at the head to see the dog’s expression. The judge still has not laid a hand on your dog. Portraying the correct outline of the breed is essential.





Norwich are sometimes referred to as a "head breed". If you haven't got a correct or “typy” head it can be tough going to achieve a champion title. Re-read the standard on the head. Now lets create a look and reinforce a groomed “type” into the dog.




I always start with the ears. Expressive ears are essential to the right look for a Norwich Terrier.


Ears medium size and erect. Set well apart with pointed tips. Upright when alert.



In front of the stop, on the flat part of the muzzle, I pull the hairs very short to give the stronger appearance of a good stop, regardless if it is there or not. This reinforces to an untrained eye that there is a defined stop. Keep in mind the correct muzzle to skull lengths from the written standard. The wording in the standard perhaps not as clear as it could be. Imagine a line that runs from the tip of the nose to the back of the skull. Now divide this into 5 parts. The length of the muzzle (from the tip of the nose to the stop) should be 2 parts. The length of the skull (from the stop to the back of the skull) should be 3 parts. The hairs on the end of the muzzle I brush up to try to give a fuller appearance of the muzzle. You can groom a longer muzzle to appear shorter by leaving the hair on the end of the muzzle longer. Think of this as a longer moustache. To make a muzzle that is too short appear longer simply keep the hair on the muzzle shorter.


Muzzle is wedge shaped and strong. Its length is about one-third less than the measurement from the occiput to the well-defined stop. The jaw is clean and strong. Nose and lip pigment black. Tight-lipped with large teeth. A scissor bite.


Norwich have a “fresher” look if some of the hair on the muzzle is shortened and removed from the front of the eye. Brush the head and consider how you want the beard to blend into the cheeks and rough. Pretty much the rest of the head is a blending job where one area blends carefully into the other. Do not use scissors at all on the head! With your hands and patience you can get a wonderfully sculpted, “typy” look. I have actually gone overboard in trying to have a perfectly framed face where every hair was so correctly in place that the head lost its rough and ready look for something artificial and “un-terrier” like. The look should always be a little rough and ready for a terrier. Balance is what is to be achieved and that balance is slightly different for every dog. Note also that there are annual trends set by the top handlers. If you get the opportunity to go to the National Specialty or bigger shows have a careful look at what the trends are. Remember these are just trends.



American Champion Wildgoose Johnny Quest (AKA Bandit)



As I said, you make your first impression when you are standing ringside ... and in view of the judge. Knowingly or not, the judge will start evaluating your dog the first time he/she sees it. I swear that I won Winners Dog at the a Terrier Specialty before I walked into the ring because the judge gave my dog a very thorough look before the judging started. My task then became to reinforce what I initially portrayed outside in the ring. My story reinforces that once you are ringside the dog has to be standing properly the whole time and groomed for the judge. If you have some waiting to do place the dog out of view of the judge either with your body or some obstacle. For body outline you should have clean shoulders blended into the neck as well as the perfectly flat and level topline, finishing with a tidy presented tail. Often overlooked is a clean looking bottom line. The legs look best when groomed into columns. Think of the perfect outline again.


Body moderately short. Compact and deep. Good width of chest. Well-sprung ribs and short loins.




Correct length and size of neck considerably adds to the overall balance of your dog as well as helps emphasize clean movement. The neck hair should blend and build into the ruff and mane. As it runs to the shoulders the hair should lie flat from the base of the ear to the point of the shoulder. I have found that grooming in a place for the lead helps not only with commands sent down the lead but also the polished look of the head when a lead is on it. Fumbling with getting the lead properly seated well forward and high on the neck can be distracting from the presentation of your dog.


Neck of medium length, strong and blending into well laid back shoulders.


Front and Shoulders


The front and shoulders should be clean and tidy so the hair lies close to the body giving the most polished look. Look at the two silhouettes that follow (Bad Front / Good Front) and the following photos. The mane on the neck and shoulders is longer and also forms a ruff at the base of the ears and the throat. We don’t see this all that often in the show ring simply because keeping the mane tidy is a lot of work and can make the dog look long if it is not done right. You do need some hair there though to reinforce a correct front assembly.



Bad Front

  • The head appears oddly connected
  • No chest,  
  • The legs are too far forward

Good Front

  • The dog has a reasonable neck
  • The dog has an obvious chest 
  • Legs are correctly placed. Well laid back shoulders. Elbows close to ribs.



Well laid back shoulders. Elbows close to ribs.




Now look at your dog straight on headfirst. See the three images above (all correct portrayals). The legs should be straight and the hairs on the legs running from the elbow to the foot should reinforce a perfectly straight line. I keep the hair at the elbow extremely short.


The stick dogs above are the most simplistic pictorial explanation of what you are trying to achieve. The left stick dog is the right shape that is balanced and even. The right stick dog demonstrates how the unbalanced bulky shoulders (or a fat dog) can look. If you remove the hair from the outsides of the red lines in right stick dog, you can groom it to be a balanced dog. This reinforces that you need to know what you want to achieve as your final product. Knowing the outline that you need to create you can groom quite a drastic difference into the true conformation of a dog.


Obviously, the final product should look something like the dog’s front and legs in the three photos of fronts preceding.



Side Views Outlines 

Level Topline


Topline is also something that is key to the outline. The standard says that the topline is to be level. Hair, too much or too little can mess that up! Even a dog with an incorrect topline can usually be groomed to have a perfect one. The most common fault is leaving too much hair on the back in front of the tail making the dog look high at the rear like figure 14 or the less obvious figure 17 (See how it unbalances the silhouette?). Of course side view stick dog at figure 12 below (or figure 15) is the correct outlines that you want to portray. Note also that the presentation of a topline is best done when the dog is standing at 90 degrees to the judge. If you look at figure 6 photo the topline is less stunning when the dog is at an oblique angle, compared to figure 1.


figure 12


figure 13

figure  14

The only differences in the stick figures above is the topline and bottom line. See how the sloped topline of stick dog figures centre and left  just doesn’t look right? Both make the silhouette unbalanced.  Below is the same portrayal as my stick dogs using my more realistic breed silhouette dog. 


figure 15

figure 16

figure 17 


Bottom Line. Look also at the bottom lines of these stick dogs. The bottom lines of figure 14 is best. Figure 12 doesn't show any spring of rib. Figure 13 is positively wrong. Your skirt length is what creates the bottom line and the overall finish look of the dog. Slightly longer dogs often look shorter in length with a bottom line that is slightly longer at the front then the back. Skirts can also give the optical illusion to make a long leg look shorter or a correct length leg look too short. Hand stripping bottom lines is a sensitive area for your dog. Pull less hairs than you might elsewhere. You can use thinning shears for errant hairs but as with using scissors elsewhere, the coat texture will soften, lose colour and a blatantly scissored look should be penalized according to the written standard.



Medium docked: The terrier's working origin requires that the tail be of sufficient length to grasp. Base level with topline; carried erect.

Natural tail (undocked): Tail of moderate length to give a general balance to the dog, thick at the root and tapering towards the tip. as straight as possible, carried jauntily, not excessively gay, completing a perfectly level topline.


Tails are literally the icing on the cake. Hopefully you have a tail that is correctly positioned, of medium length (When docked this means long enough for a man's hand to grasp, not a 1 inch nub!) and in balance with the rest of the body. Tails should be held in an alert manner that is either straight up or bent slightly forward over the back, the base level with the topline. A tail that can lie almost directly over the back is a called a "gay" or "squirrel tail" or "snap tail" and is not correct. The hair in front of the tail should be tidy and not too long. The hair on the back should blend at a 90 degree angle to the tail, accentuating these lines. The hair on the back closest the tail is usually kept shorter, but remember the whole top line is to remain level. The hair on the underside of the tail and around the anus should be very short and tidy. Just below the anus the hair can be longer and blend into some length to give a nice finished look to the dog’s hind end, sometimes called a "shelf". Be careful not to over groom the tail so that it looks unnatural. If the tail is set too low, leave the hair on the back longer in front of the tail to make it look more correct.


Front Legs


Short, powerful legs, as straight as is consistent with the digging terrier.

Pasterns firm. Feet round with thick pads. Nails black. The feet point forward when standing or moving.


The legs look best as straight columns of hair, much how an Airedale's legs are presented for show. These columns of hair give an illusion of greater substance. This is achieved by regular pulling of the longer hairs to keep a number of layers growing. Look at the legs in the preceding photos. Now apply that to your dog.


The left part of the illustration above demonstrates too much hair at the elbow, making the dog look "out at the elbow" when moving toward you. The best way to groom the legs is with a mirror. Look at the reflection of the dog vice directly at the leg you are grooming. This simulates what the judge might see. Another helpful trick is to photograph the legs to aid you see the shape that you are trying to create.


Behind the dog’s elbow the length is very, very short. The paws are to be kept as tight as possible, like a cat’s. The hair that lies flat on the top of the paw lies flat because it is too long. Strip some out and the new shorter hairs will start to help the rest stand straight out. The nails should also be really short. This lends to the cat paw look but more important a paw with shorter nails can push off and kick out with more strength. The pads of the feet should be kept clean by cutting the hairs short. Any hair around the foot ideally should be hand stripped. If scissors must be used use fine thinning sheers. Some judges will penalize you heavily if they see the scissor marks. One weekend a judge who strongly objects to scissoring dumped me in the group and the next day I got a group second…because of scissoring. (Know your judge is the other lesson here!) If your dog toes in or out you can also cosmetically adjust the fault by leaving longer hair on one side and shorter hair on the other to give a more correct look to the paw. Don’t forget to brush the inside of the legs as well. If you dog is a little wide between the legs leave more hair to fill in the width. Conversely, with a narrow width between the legs keep the hair shorter to accentuate width. Here is a pictorial look at the actual process of grooming the legs from start to finish.


Watch how the columns are created below.  Each photo, starting from left to right, is more shaping of the leg to eventually end up with a straight column and cat like paw.  Note also the shorter hair is darker.


Rear Legs


Broad, strong and muscular with well-turned out stifles.  Hocks low set and straight when viewed from the the rear.  Feet as in front.


Refer to the standard to reinforce what you are going to sculpt on the rear of your dog. Assess your dog’s rear angulations, length of leg and width between the legs. For good conformation the thighs should be strong, the hocks set low, and the dog should show strong rear propulsion in his gait. As with the front paws, the rear paws should also look cat like. Short nails and a tightly stripped paw gives this look. When the dog gaits you should clearly see the pads of the paw from the rear. Keep the hair between the pads very short. You can use scissors between the pads but the sides of the paws you should hand strip or you can use forceps. Brush the hair upwards using a small slicker type brush to train the hairs to stand straight out and make those columns like on the front legs. Regularly pull the longest hairs to keep new hair growth coming up. Don’t be afraid to regularly bath any of the legs at any time. In fact, weekly bathing keeps a show dogs leg hairs in best condition. Washing the hair keeps it clean, as well as a little softer so it won't break off as easily. Accentuate angles with more or less hair. As you look at the dog from the rear the legs should appear straight and the feet should also point straight forward. As for the front legs leave more or less hair to reinforce the correct conformation of the dog. You can optically lengthen or shorten a hock by leaving more or less hair on it. Add your product description that will be useful for your customers. Add the exclusive properties of your product that will make customers want to buy it. Write your own text and style it in Store properties on Style tab.





Final Tips


  • The best way to grow hair starts with a premium diet. Hair should grow at a rate of about 1/4 inch (1 cm) per month. 
  • You must pull (strip) hair to get hair. Short hard hair is more correct than longer soft hair. More hair is not necessarily better. Layers are the best look for a coat since it shows hair health, and the most vibrant natural colours. 
  • Some breed lines have hair that is so hard that it breaks easily and has great difficulty maintaining sufficient furnishing length. You still must pull hair to get hair but in this case pull VERY few hairs. Wash the furnishings and muzzle regularly to keep the hair clean and softer. This helps prevent breaking. 
  • Use a natural bristle brush over the coat regularly. Natural bristles won’t break the coat and help spread the natural oils of the coat to get a healthy looking shine. 
  • The simple daily wetting of the hair (particularly the muzzle area or furnishings) will keep the hair clean, softer and less prone to breaking. This is the fastest way to grow coat. Don't be afraid to wash and/or shampoo areas twice a week that you want to grow as fast as possible. We have tried many, many "miracle" growers and the best is without a doubt simply water. With all the canine shampoos currently available (their PH are designed for dogs) there are numerous safe and beneficial products available that won't harm coats even with frequent washing. 




It is practice that makes perfect in grooming. The more dogs you groom, even of different breeds, the more different grooming challenges you will face. Know what you want to achieve before you begin. It is just hair…it grows back. Good coats are a reflection of good care, good health and good nutrition. 


Grooming is an art form.  It takes time, patience and above all practice.  Keep your eye on the prize.  A beautifully presented Norwich Terrier.  This last photo is YOUR eye on the prize ...  


Runway BOS @Westminster