English setters are known for their feathered coats, which are typically white with flecks or patches of orange, black or brown. The coats of English setters are described as feathered because the hair grows long and silky on their ears, legs and bellies. Because the English setter has such long, silky hair, weekly grooming and occasional baths are required to keep the coat soft and healthy. Although show dogs may need to be groomed more regularly, weekly brushing is sufficient to control shedding in most English setters kept as companion pets.
Go over your dog's body using a mat breaker to break up any large clumps of matted hair. Hold the mat breaker in your dominant hand, and gently saw through the mat, starting at the end and working your way closer to the dog's body. Mat breakers are designed to break up mats without loss of hair length.
Spray your dog with a mist of detangling solution before you begin brushing, particularly if his coat is matted or if it has been a long time since you last brushed him. Mix your own detangling solution by combining a teaspoon of mild, unscented conditioner with 16 ounces of water in a spray bottle.
Brush your dog, using a medium or large wire-pin brush. These brushes are particularly suited to dogs with long or thin coats. Start at your dog's head and work your way toward his tail, moving the brush in long, gentle strokes in the direction of hair growth.
Go over your dog's body with a fine-toothed comb or slicker brush to remove the dead hair you loosened with the wire-pin brush. Move the brush in long strokes, following the direction of hair growth.
Fill your bathtub with 6 to 8 inches of warm water, and place your English setter in the tub.
Wet your dog's coat thoroughly, using a hand sprayer to work the water down into your dog's undercoat. If you do not have a hand sprayer, you can pour water over your dog's body and use your hands to move the hair around to expose the undercoat.
Fill a squeeze bottle one-third full with whitening dog shampoo then fill it the rest of the way with warm water. Shake the bottle vigorously to combine the mixture. Diluting the shampoo will make it gentler on your English setter's sensitive skin and coat. Repeat this procedure, using a second bottle and dog hair conditioner instead of the shampoo.
Squirt the diluted shampoo all over your dog's body and work it into a lather with your hands. Massage your dog's body to loosen dirt, concentrating especially on the feathered areas of the coat, which are most likely to attract dirt.
Rinse your English setter thoroughly with fresh, clean water, using the hand sprayer. Take your time, and be certain you remove all soap residue from the coat. Soap residue not removed can cause skin irritation. Squeeze the excess water from the coat by hand.
Squirt some of the diluted conditioner onto your dog's body and work it into his coat by hand. Let the conditioner sit for a minute before rinsing it out. Rinse your dog thoroughly again.
Dry your dog by hand with a large bath towel. Once you have removed most of the moisture from the dog's coat, finish drying the coat with a blow dryer using the lowest heat setting. Keep the dryer moving to avoid scalding your dog.
Use thinning shears to remove excess hair from your English setter's head and back. Hold the shears so they are closest to the dog's skin at the base, and the tips are angled away. Move the shears along your dog's body in the direction of hair growth. Repeat the cuts until the hair is the desired length.
Trim the hair under your dog's feet using a pair of straight shears. Cut the hair between the toes so it is even with the pads. This will help to prevent matting and will give your dog a cleaner look.
Use the straight shears to trim the feathers under your dog's belly and on his tail. Trim the feathers to the desired length, and cut them into a uniform shape. You may also trim the hair off the hock, clipping it to a half inch in length.
Check your dog's ears frequently for signs of infection. English setters have drop ears which do not allow for proper air circulation and can lead to an accumulation of debris in the ears. Symptoms of infection include redness, discharge and foul odor. If you detect such symptoms or if the dog shakes his head frequently and shows other signs of ear discomfort, take him to the veterinarian for a checkup. Your veterinarian can also comment on ear cleaning needs and possibly recommend an ear cleanser for your dog.
Clean your English setter's ears twice a month using a dog ear cleanser. Squirt several drops of the cleaner into the dog's ear canal and massage the ear to distribute the cleanser. Use cotton balls to remove debris, wax and extra cleanser. Do not put ear cleanser drops or any other liquid into your dog's ears without knowing that his eardrums are intact. If you do not know the state of your dog's eardrums, have a veterinarian examine his ears before you begin cleaning them.
Brush your dog's teeth once a month to prevent plaque buildup and to keep your dog's breath fresh. Simply squeeze a small amount of dog toothpaste onto a dog toothbrush and rub it gently over your dog's teeth.