THE FIRST show dog I owned came to me dripping in coat - the breeder gave me a demonstration on grooming, then I was left to my own devices. The grooming kit consisted of a comb, brush and a powerful hand dryer bought from Argos.

The comb was brilliant - it tore coat something shocking; the brush pulled out clumps of coat; and the dryer did just that - dried the life out of the coat.

After a limited amount of success in the show ring, my peers decided that the dog was going through the'terrible stage'and not to worry too much about the coat as coat was not everything (the terrible stage was me!), so at every championship show I would trawl the trade stands looking for that miraculous dog shampoo that would immediately put him back into full show coat - I patronised all the show vendors and they saw me coming a mile away. I could not close the cupboard door as it was full of potions, shampoos, conditioners and the like.

I now feel that in that first year the show vendors made exceptionally high profits, thanks to me. On I carried, steadily reducing the amount of hair on my dog - I was beginning to think 'three out of three' was the norm.

One of my fellow exhibitors told me the trusty 'flame thrower' was to blame and that I should buy a stand dryer - armed with this thought I bumped yet another show vendor's profits through the roof. I could not wait to try my new dryer - it was fantastic - the poor dog had to grip the grooming mat with all four paws to stop him from flying out the window; the two cats were last seen walking up the Al with sticks and handkerchief bundles on their shoulders - it was July and a visitor commented that autumn came early to Blyth!

Tear staining: my dog could tear stain for all of you - I was so proud that he had the best tear stains I had ever seen. The potions and concoctions I was told to use by my fellow exhibitors soon made his face nearly bald!

Knots: a sailor would have been proud of him - he grew Monkey Knots, Reef Knots, Half-hitches, the whole of the Boy Scouts' manual, and some he invented himself. I think the worst knots always came when we had been out for a fbur-mile walk in muddy fields and brambles - these walks were always a great pleasure as I got to use the 'Hurricane Sheila' stand dryer in the grooming room afterwards.

I think the finale came when I let him out in the back garden and he found the 'resident hedgehog'- you should have seen the fleas, they were everywhere. Three baths, two bottles of Nuvantop, five litres of tea tree oil and everything I had ever been told to use on fleas, ticks and mites - and half a bottle of wheatgerm oil was thrown in to stop the scratching. I had finally reduced the dog to three hairs and a nit - my little show dog was likened to a Chinese Crested (not the breed on the pedigree!).

People in my breed were very dubious about selling me another dog - I had to wait a year for the coat to grow. When it did grow I begged a very good friend to show me how to bath properly.

I arrived at his house with dog and a bulging grooming box - he took one look in the box, shuddered and screamed! Everything in the box, bar the nail clippers and dental kit, was promptly put in the dustbin. He gave me one of his old combs then we set about bathing - I could not quite grasp why he did not scrunch and kneed the shampoo and conditioner into the coat. He applied the shampoo gently, carefully keeping the coat straight; the same with the conditioner - who was I to argue, he had made up umpteen champions in coated breeds and his dogs were always immaculately presented.

He showed me how to dry the dog from the bottom up - what took me half an hour with the trusty 'force 12 tropical gale' took him two hours with an antique wind-up stand dryer. The difference was amazing!

Over the years I have developed this way of drying to suit myself - it works for me. You will all have your own way, and good luck to you.

They say that you learn a lot from your very first show dog.

David Chalmers
(fellow exhibitor)

More grooming tips from the experts...

MADALEINE LEWIS (Deelayne): / believe what you put 'into' your dog is as important in creating a luxuriant coat as what you put 'onto' it. / don't think there are any short cuts - the latest shampoolconditionerlspray-on product cannot work magic. I find best results are achieved by high quality food, physical and mental stimulation and basic good hygiene - plus a little patience!

The majority of this breed are not fully mature before four years old. I have never found oiling a coat to be beneficial as mine have too many outdoor adventures. Evening PrimroselStarflower oil or veterinary product Viacutin are all helpful with an overly dry coat that tends to break.

Quite by accident I have recently discovered a product that seems to work well on tear-staining - L'Oreal Plenitude 'Gentle Eye Make-up Remover'- it smells nice too.

ANNE-MARIE CASSIDY (Exephials): If like me you sometimes have to cope with coat blowing, try pure coconut oil - rub it between your palms to melt and comb it through the dog's coat, layer by layer - use plenty (he will look like a chip!). You can leave it in for up to two weeks, combing it through every few days, but be prepared to bath thoroughly - shampoo at least twice. Something like Vetzyme Insecticidal is good or a rinse designed to remove residue. Follow with conditioner. The oil will add weight to the ends and when the coat is repaired you can stop using it.

WENDY CAIN (Kutani): - The one piece of advice I can give is that the grooming product you swear by may suit your dog's coat but upon recommending it to someone else you are disappointed by their lack of enthusiasm for the same product.

The fact is that although the Standard says '...coat long and straight...' there can be a fair few variations on that theme. The hard coat, the soft coat, the woolly coat, fine, flyaway, heavy coat etc, and of course the coat that never grows!

For those who have the 'easy coats' - congratulations. I have had one or two like that but I have also had the "I'm going to clip him/her off' coat.

Shampoos and conditioners are so diverse that you have a huge choice - but choose wisely. I agree wholeheartedly with Madaleine Lewis that whatever you put into your dog no matter what the coat, you will reap the reward - no effort, no reward!

A poor coat takes time to perfect - it won't happen overnight with one or two 'miracle pills'. Any potion takes a few weeks to get into the system so patience and perseverance are needed. To sum up: there is no substitute for a good feeding regime, regular bathing and grooming with quality brand products (whichever one suits your dog), and of course exercise. If you seek advice, bear in mind what I have said - it may not be relevant to your dog.