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How to Groom a Shetland Sheepdog

By Becky Casale - download her Sheltie Anthology today

Step-by-step instructions on how to groom a Sheltland Sheepdog and tame that Sheltie undercoat. With advice on the best dog grooming shears and brushes, you'll learn how to systematically defur so dog grooming becomes a thing to relish and enjoy.

How to Groom a Shetland Sheepdog

Part of the attraction of Shetland Sheepdogs is their luxurious double coat. But that comes with the responsibility of weekly brushing sessions. Don't worry - our detailed step-by-step guide will teach you how to groom your Shetland Sheepdog so he's ready for action.

Do Shelties Shed?

As a long-haired dog breed, your Sheltie will shed a lot.

Frequent brushing will stop much of it ending up all over your living room couch. Male Shelties have a major moult once a year before summer, while female Shelties moult before summer and after every heat cycle (every 6-8 months if you don't have her spayed).

As a puppy your Sheltie will hardly shed and won't need any grooming. His fur is short and he's yet to develop his undercoat.

You Don't Need to Groom Sheltie Puppies

However, around 5-6 months old he'll begin to develop the classic thick Sheltie coat and that's when you need to begin your Sheltie grooming routine.

Do Shelties Shed?

We recommend your basic dog grooming kit includes a deshedding tool, a fine toothed comb, and a slicker brush. This takes care of the three stages of brushing Shelties. A good pair of scissors are also necessary for trimming between the paw pads, cutting out knots, and general tidying up.

How to Groom Your Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdogs have thick double coats selected by breeders for the harsh weather conditions of Scotland's Shetland Islands. That's why your furball now has a soft woolly undercoat to keep him warm and a rough waterproof outercoat to keep him dry.

The question is, what grooming brushes work best on the Sheltie coat? The answer reflects the different layers of fur . We've broken down all the tools you'll need depending on which part of the coat you're working on and what you're aiming to do.

Step 1: Groom The Fluffy Undercoat

For the woolly undercoat, you need a decent undercoat rake or de-shedding tool. We recommend the Furminator (read my full review here).

Slowly draw the brush down in long strokes over your Sheltie's back, rump, legs and tail. The stainless steel teeth reach through the outer layers and extract the loose dead undercoat .

If your Shetland Sheepdog is shedding heavily , or it's been a long time since you last groomed him, we recommend parting the fur in sections and brushing in smaller strokes.

Either way, you'll soon accumulate lots of loose fluff . Keep going until you've systematically groomed all the thick areas. This can take 20 minutes.

Grooming The Sheltie Undercoat

Step 2: Tease Out or Trim The Knots

Now turn your attention to the long wispy fur behind his ears, under his armpits, and along his soft underbelly. This is where you're going to encounter knots and possible matting , which can become really sore for your Sheltie. So don't let it build up over more than a fortnight.

Take a fine toothed comb and tease out any light knots. It helps to pinch the fur at the base so you take the tension in your fingers, rather than pulling at his skin.

If a knot is too big or matted, use scissors to trim it out . If you're at all wary of doing this, use pet safety scissors which have rounded tips so you don't accidentally snip the skin. Show dog owners loathe to cut out knots because it may be unsightly - but pet owners need not worry; the important thing is your dog's comfort.

Step 3: Groom The Rough Outercoat

Finally, get a slicker brush and run it all over the outer coat. It removes any light knots, debris, and dead hairs from the rough outer layers of the Sheltie coat. The slicker brush also stimulates the skin for better circulation and distributes the natural oils for a smooth finish.

Here's a summary of the tools we recommend for the above process. Remember you'll need an undercoat rake, a fine toothed comb, a slicker brush, and scissors.

How to Clip Your Sheltie's Nails

About once a month, you need to clip your Shetland Sheepdog's nails. If left unclipped, your dog's claws will grow long and arch the toes away from the ground. This is not only awkward but it puts extra strain on the tendons, causing limping and eventually arthritis .

How to Clip Your Sheltie's Nails: Before


Step 1: Clip The Nails

Clipping your Sheltie's nails is much easier when you understand the structure of the nail and exactly where to cut.

Get a decent pair of guillotine style clippers - we recommend Safari Professional Nail Trimmers - and hold your dog's paw up. Depending on his temperament he may get a little jumpy here, so you may have to be firm . Talk in a calm soothing voice and work quickly so it's over sooner.

Start with any white claws (found next to white fur) because then you can see where the inner pink "quick" begins. This is the part that contains blood and nerve endings . Avoid cutting this part or it'll be instant regret. To minimize the risk of cutting the quick, make sure the cutting blade faces you.

As a general rule, cut only the hooked part of the nail. It's also the thinnest part. With black nails (found next to dark fur) cut to the same length as the white nails. Alternatively, you can make several small cuts , getting closer to the quick each time. When you see a gray/pink oval in the claw, stop cutting as this immediately precedes the blood-lined quick.

If you do cut the quick, it will bleed for several minutes so hold a tissue over it and reassure your dog to minimize upset and future nail clipping fear. Guillotine clippers should be held vertically so the nail is cut straight up or down. Holding it sideways crushes the nail and causes splintering .

Remember to clip the dew claws on the front legs! These sneaky little scoundrels are thin thumb-like nails on the inner surface of the leg, a few inches further back than the toes. If left to overgrow they'll curl right round in a circle . There are no dew claws on the back legs.

Step 2: Trim The Fur Between The Paw Pads

Overgrown hair between the paw pads makes it harder for your Sheltie to walk properly. He'll skid on polished floors and get dirt and debris stuck in the fur.

After cutting the nails, take a pair of scissors and trim the fur under his paws until it's flush with the pads . Be cafeul not to snip the hidden webbing between his pads. It's just like the webbing between your own toes and would be very sore if cut. Then trim the fur around the outside of the claws into a nice neat arch.

Finally, a little tip from the show dogs. On the hind legs only, brush the fur from the back of the paw up to the first joint on the leg. Slightly trim the excess fur in a straight line , but not too close to the bone. This keeps the legs looking neat and prevents dirt and debris accumulating.

How to Clip Your Sheltie's Nails: After


How to Bathe a Shetland Sheepdog

You don't need to bathe Shelties very often. Like many dogs they lick themselves clean . Shelties in particular tend to avoid swimming and rolling in animal poop which are the main culprits of bad smells.

In fact, you can leave them unbathed for months and you'll find they don't develop any nasty smell. What's more, if you wash them too often you will strip away their natural coat oils , causing dryness, flaking and itching.

So only bathe your Sheltie when he needs it, for instance, if he gets really muddy. Otherwise, let his natural oils do the cleaning for you.

When you do bath your Sheltie, use warm water to shower him in the tub. Part the hair, getting the nozzle right against his skin . Otherwise the waterproof outercoat will protect him like water off a duck's back.

How to Bathe a Shetland Sheepdog

Be extra careful not to shower water straight into his ear holes . Use cotton balls to protect them if you're worried.

Only use shampoo design for dogs - we recommend the bestseller Oatmeal Pet Wash - because human products have different pH levels which can damage your Sheltie's skin. Take extra care to wash the shampoo out thoroughly .

After bathing, gently pat your dog dry with a towel. Don't rub him or you'll damage the undercoat which is more prone to breakage when wet. Allow him to dry off naturally indoors. Or, if your furniture can't take a wet Sheltie rubbing himself all over it, carefully blow dry the coat on a low setting, parting the hair as you go.

And that's it. From grooming to nail clipping to easy bathing, that's everything you need to know about how to groom a Shetland Sheepdog . Thanks for reading our guide!

Shetland Sheepdog Grooming

Related Article: 101 Shelties in The Bath

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Author Bio

Becky Casale is a blogger and zoology student. She's been in love with Shelties ever since her first puppy 11 years ago. Download Becky's popular Sheltie Anthology and check out her illustrated blog Science Me.