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Pee feathers (or furnishings) are the area of belly hair just in front of a male dog’s organ. This hair is under attack when the dog urinates. If care is not taken, the urine salts remain in the hair and can cause it to break and emit a gamey smell. English Setter males have white pee feathers that can become stained yellow if not tended to.
For pet males or retired show dogs, the simple solution is to keep the belly hair short so it doesn’t catch the urine. Pet dogs can be occasionally wiped down with a wet washcloth between baths to keep the gamey smell at bay.
For show males, the secret to beautiful pee feathers is that there is no secret. You simply keep the area very clean and well conditioned and don’t ever allow it to begin to turn yellow.
At least every other day, a male ES show dog needs to have his pee feathers washed and conditioned. You can do it on the table with a little shampoo in a basin of warm water and a sponge. Put the basin under the soiled area and saturate the hair with the sponge. Then do the same with warm rinse water and a little conditioner in another basin. Blot out the excess water with a towel and brush the hair very gently with a pin brush. You would never brush dry pee feathers if there is urine in them because the hair would surely break. If the dog’s hair lacks moisture, spray with a leave-in conditioner. It’s best to do this ritual at night after the dog has gone outside for the last time. Drying is optional.
Or, do the whole routine in a bathtub where you can use a sprayer to wet and rinse the hair. Some dogs hit the back of their front legs when they urinate, so be sure to clean anyplace that is in the path of the dog’s urine.
Various “garments” can protect hair from urine, especially at shows where you don’t want to give table baths every time the dog urinates. Some people use stretchy tube tops that they put around the dog’s middle and tuck the pee feathers inside. Others use an extended bib that ties around the neck and goes under the belly and ties around the back. You sometimes see these at vendors’ stalls at dog shows.
Some show sites have only cold water. Not only is a cold water bath very uncomfortable for the dog, especially in cold weather, but you risk getting a case of “cold tail” where the tail goes numb and dead and just hangs limply for a couple of days. A dog with cold tail cannot be shown because he just doesn’t look good. Many people travel with an electric tea kettle to warm the water for their dogs’ table baths if needed. Bitches appreciate this touch during ring prep too!
Some folks have magic potions and different routines that work for them, but all you really need is water, shampoo, conditioner, a brush, and diligence. Don’t let yourself go to bed unless your male show dog’s pee feathers are clean and conditioned. You will be rewarded with a dazzling white underline without a big hole near the loin where the pee feathers should be.