The Dog’s Barber and Hair-Dresser: 1884

A pair of Victorian Skye terriers

A pair of Victorian Skye terriers


Who Officiates as a Canine Barber and Hair-Dresser

A small black sign over the door of a frame stable in the vicinity of the gospel tent, back of Lincoln park, attracted attention last week. It was apparently painted by an amateur artist, and its white lettering on a black ground told the following story:

GuS fLOwer

Dog’s barber. Dogs

Washed, cLIppeD, and



Terms Reasonable

Without the preliminary of knocking, the reporter pushed open the door and bearded the Flower in his den. The place was perfectly clean, newly whitewashed from stem to stern, and well garnished with sawdust.

Two stalls on each side of the room were occupied by a couple of Newfoundlands, a St. Bernard and a mongrel; and Mr. Flower himself, in the center of the place, was just taking off his white shirt preparatory to beginning operations.

“You need not retire,” he said, deftly slipping the linen over his head and disclosing a short-sleeved gossamer garment beneath it.

Then he walked over to a thin, black coat hanging on a peg near the entrance and took from one of the side pockets a shaggy little skye terrier so overgrown with hair that it was impossible, without close inspection, to tell which end was heads and which tails.

He placed the dog gently in a small tub of warm water, and, after wetting him thoroughly all over, with the exception of the head, he broke a couple of eggs into a cup and rubbed the yolks well down to the roots of the little creature’s hair. A few drops of cologne were added, and the lathering began. For twenty minutes the terrier was softly manipulated, the perfumed foam coming out of his coat, and covering him to the neck like a blanket of raw cotton.

“In washing a dog I always leave the head to the last,” said the shampooer, “because if I don’t he is bound to shake himself while the operation is going on, and plaster me with wet lather. Between you and me, it is ignorance of this dodge among the public in general that gives me much of my work at washing dogs. A dog will never shake himself when his head is dry; by remembering this fact almost anyone can wash their pets with ease and comfort.

“Once a week in summer, and once every two weeks in winter, is not too often for every house dog to have a thorough bath. But, let me tell you one thing—never wash your dog with coarse, resin soap; use the finest grade of castile on him, if he is as big as the side of a house, and if he is a little fellow like this, the yolk of an egg is better yet. The coarse, harsh soaps are no more effective against dirt than the finer grades, and they inwardly destroy the gloss which gives an animal’s coat half its beauty, by clogging and burning out the glands at the root of the hair, which furnish an oily secretion producing this gloss, and at the same time protecting the hair from dampness.

“While doctoring dogs in an amateur way in New York city I once had a greyhound brought to me suffering from a loathsome skin disease which the owner thought to be mange. I asked him to bring me a piece of the soap with which he was accustomed to wash the animal. It was harsh, yellow bar-soap, and was the cause of the trouble.”

The perfumed lather was now washed away with clear warm water, followed by  a cold douche bath, and then the silky little creature was rubbed with a towel until every hair was as dry as a bone. He was then trotted up and down upon the sawdusted floor for some ten minutes, given a drink of milk and a piece of biscuit, and put to bed in a couple of yards of clean straw, until time came to carry him home to his mistress.

From a chest in the corner the barber produced a pair of horse-clippers, in shape precisely like the clipper in use in the ordinary shaving parlor, somewhat larger, however, and not so highly embellish with nickel-plate. He took a seat near the St. Bernard, and proceeded to clip away the animal’s heavy brown coat. First he cut away a circle of hair on a line with the dog’s fore-shoulders.

“I am going to give him the old-fashioned lion cut,” said he, “and this ring that I am cutting now is to be the boundary line; beyond it I will not go forward. I cut away every hair behind, of course, with the exception of a tuft on the tail. A full-blooded St. Bernard, when properly clipped, bears a very striking resemblance to a lion, mainly because the color of his coat is much like that of the king of beats. More than one small show that exhibits in the country towns to-day startle the rural roosters with bogus lions manufactured form these dogs. They invariably have the creatures muzzled, so that they cannot give themselves away by barking. I am not much stuck on the lion cut myself, especially for Newfoundlands, as it keeps their head and fore-quarters too blamed hot. There is not the slightest resemblance between a black dog and a lion, anyhow.

“But for a first-class, an A No. 1, artistic cut, the greyhound has the best figure in the world. Half of them will come from under the clippers a beautiful mouse-color, and no matter how slender they may have been before, they all seem to lose about half their bulk during the operation, most of them looking slim enough to pass through a key-hole.”

Daily Illinois State Register [Springfield, IL] 29 July 1884: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: For more on the history of dog breeds see this admirable blog, which has an excellent illustration of Ishbel Maria Hamilton-Gordon, Marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair awash in a positive sea of Skye terriers.