When it comes to dog grooming, many only think of the Australian Shepherd's coat. After all, that's what first catches your eye about this beautiful dog breed.
However, there is so much more to all-round care: eyes, mouth, ears and paws also need to be checked and require a certain care routine. Read on to further understand the Australian Shepherd grooming needs.
Australian Shepherd Grooming Needs and Shedding
The Australian Shepherd puppy looks like a small ball of wool, with its thick and woolly coat, but around the age of six months this coat is replaced by the adult Aussie version. Because the Aussie is a dog that needs to be brushed regularly, it is advisable to get the dog used to the fact that you have to touch them at an early age.
The Australian Shepherd has an undercoat and its coat is quite long. Yet the coat care is not too bad. Brushing through a few times a month and checking regularly for ticks is sufficient.
Australian Shepherd Shedding: Do they shed a lot?
Twice a year they shed enormously and the tufts of Aussie hair come towards you from all sides.
For some of the Aussies, it would be nice if a groomer helps them get rid of part of that thick undercoat. The coat care is therefore different from dog to dog.
Ask ten Aussie owners how they groom their dog and you will likely get ten different answers. One is enough with brushing and removing a few hairs, the other is busy for hours with a hair dryer and foam. As a guideline we can take the breed standard, in which the words average and medium occur remarkably often. And those words make it immediately clear: the Australian Shepherd is not a flashy ‘brush breed”‘.
A well-groomed appearance, sure, but the Aussie is definitely not an Old English Sheepdog or Long-Haired Collie, breeds where the standard in the coat part speaks of abundant. That term does not appear in the Australian Shepherd breed description. The hair of the Aussie is of medium texture, straight to wavy, weather resistant and of medium length by FCI standard. So here we come across the word “medium” twice.
The Australian Shepherd should have an undercoat. It varies in thickness, depending on the climate.
Hair on the head, ears, front of the front legs and below the heels should be short and smooth. The back of the front legs and the pants are of medium hair by standard. The collar and neck hair are (there you have the word again) medium. Typically, the males show a more pronounced collar than the females. Non-typical coats are considered a serious fault with the Aussie.
Australian Shepherd Coat Stages
Puppies have a woolly, densely planted coat. Around the sixth month of life, the puppy coat slowly make way for the adult coat. Light brushing and possibly combing to remove dirt and to prevent tangles is sufficient for the puppy coat. The cutting and picking work will come later. But start grooming early, only pretend if necessary.
Australian Shepherd Coat Care
Most Australian Shepherds have a good molting period twice a year. Now is the time to get rid of the loose undercoat. If you tackle the coat regularly, it will continue to regenerate.
Coat care starts with thorough brushing and combing the coat to remove loose hair and any tangles. The Aussie's coat is not very sensitive to tangles. A weekly care and check-up is sufficient. If matting develops, it is usually in the frizzy hair under the ears, in the thick coat by the legs or in the armpits and groin. They are usually easy to comb out; or cut them gently if necessary.
‘Violence' is definitely not necessary for the Australian Shepherd. With sharp cutting material you run a great risk of damaging the coat. With a rake or slicker brush, the hair comes off easily, even in the thickest coats. Work the coat all over the body (chest, neck, back, stomach, legs, tail) up to the skin.
After some brushing and combing, the Aussie is already taking shape quite naturally. Now it is a matter of grooming the ears, feet and tail with the help of the regular grooming scissors and the thinning shears.
Grooming Australian Shepherd Ears
According to the FCI standard, the Australian Shepherd's ears are triangular, of medium size and thickness, and set high on the head. With full attention they stand forward, but they can also hang to the side like a rose ear. Excess hair should be removed. You often come a long way with your fingers. Especially the often lighter colored, fluffy and frizzy ‘dreadlocks' on and behind the ears are easy to pick away.
Especially in dogs with rose ears, don't be too enthusiastic with the thinning shears. As long as the ear hangs forward, the result may look neat, but as soon as the dog flips their ears back, part of the inside will be visible. If too much hair is then removed from under and behind the ear, the dog will get a bit of a bare bottom face with airplane ears! So make sure that the ear remains in contact with the collar hair.
Grooming Australian Shepherd Feet
Australian Shepherds' feet should be oval in shape. They are compact by the standard with tightly fitting, well-arched toes. On the underside of the front and rear feet, trim the excess hair that protrudes from between the soles of the feet.
Remove the “flossing” on the toes at the top of the front and rear legs with thinning shears if necessary. Be careful not to cut too much, the toes must remain closed. In addition, the more you cut, the coarser the hair will grow back and the more you have to touch up again. Finally, the finish: cut the hair around the feet and nails.
The nails can be shortened if necessary.
The hair on the back of the front legs can be cut up a little at the bottom, up to about halfway up the highest leg cushion. The advantage of this is that less dirt sticks to the foot, and you can also use it to accentuate the ‘wrist line'. The midfoot should be very slightly curved for the Aussie.
So do not cut perpendicular, but slightly diagonally upwards, away from the foot. Excess and protruding hair on the back of the heels can be removed with thinning shears.
In many show dogs the heels are sometimes combed up a bit to accentuate the angulation of the rear legs. For the same purpose, you can also thin out the inside of the legs at the height of the heels. But beware: here too mediocrity comes into play again! The hocks of the Aussie should be moderately angulated.
Grooming Australian Shepherd Tail
Since tail docking is prohibited in some countries, we see Aussie tails in all shapes and sizes. From the natural bobtails (dogs born tailless), quarter tails, half tails, three quarter tails to whole tails. The tail can be full and bushy, but also longer and thinner and may or may not curl. In docked dogs or natural bobtails (also called NBT's) the tail line is filleted.
The long tails don't really need to be cut. If necessary, the tip of the tail can be trimmed with the thinning shears. With quarter or half tails it is different per Aussie what looks neat; sometimes it doesn't look really good when a whole curtain of hair flows underneath.
For Australian Shepherds who go to the show, the finishing touches must be done before each exhibition. As a finishing touch for shine and volume, use a soft brush in combination with a coat conditioner or spray, or even more simply, a light mist of water over the coat.
Whether the Aussie should be bathed before show depends on the condition of the coat. If only the white is a bit yellow or dingy, it is sufficient to wash the belly and legs. If the dog needs to be washed completely, don't do it too soon before a show. First test how the hair reacts to the wash, because some coats can become very fluffy. If the coat on the back curls a lot, you can let it dry under a towel for a ‘tighter' result.
Summarizing the grooming of the Aussie: only do what is really necessary, use the scissors in principle only to feet, ears and tail, ensure in all cases the most natural result with as few clipping marks as possible and keep those two common words from the standard in mind: average and medium.
Keep in mind that drastic cutting will only make the hair grow faster and can also change its structure (thinner, fluffier), causing the coat to lose its self-cleaning ability.