How to Groom a Shetland Sheepdog
Step-by-step instructions on how to groom a Shetland 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 task to relish and enjoy.
Do Shelties Shed?
Absolutely. 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, as well as preventing painful knots and blocked pores.
Male Shelties have a major moult once a year before summer. 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 much brushing. His fur is short and he's yet to develop his undercoat:
However, at around 5-6 months old, he'll begin to develop the classic thick Sheltie coat. That's when you need to get serious about learning how to groom a Shetland Sheepdog:
Shetland Sheepdogs have thick double coats selected for the harsh weather conditions of Scotland's Shetland Islands. The soft woolly undercoat kept them warm, and the rough waterproof outer coat kept them dry.
So what grooming brushes work best on the Sheltie coat? The answer reflects the different layers of fur, and your dog grooming kit should include four basics:
1. A deshedding tool like the Furminator for stripping out the loose furry undercoat.
2. A fine toothed comb for sensitive areas like behind the ears and teasing out any tangles.
3. A slicker brush to distribute the natural oils and maintain the outercoat's lustre.
4. A good pair of pet scissors for trimming between the paw pads, cutting out knots, and general tidying up.
How to Groom Your Shetland Sheepdog
Step 1: Groom The Fluffy Undercoat
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 under coat.
If your Shetland Sheepdog is shedding heavily , or it's been a long time since you last groomed him, part 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 should take at least 20 minutes.
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. 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, trim it out with 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, run a slicker brush over the outer coat. This removes 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 coat's natural oils for a smooth finish.
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.
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 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) so you can see where the inner pink "quick" begins. This is the part that contains blood and nerve endings.
Avoid cutting the quick (or even getting close) because it can be very painful for your Sheltie if you do. To minimize the risk of cutting the quick, make sure the cutting blade faces you, not your dog.
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 using the white nails as a guide.
Alternatively, to be safe, 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.
Hold the guillotine clippers so you make the cut vertically, as cutting the claw sideways causes crushing and splintering.
And 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, no matter how hard you look for them.
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 careful not to angle your scissors inwards as you may snip the hidden webbing between his pads. It's just like the webbing between your own toes!
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 Bathe a Shetland Sheepdog
You don't need to bathe Shelties too 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.
So only bathe your Sheltie when he needs it, for instance, every 1-2 months, or if he gets really muddy. Otherwise, let his natural oils do the cleaning for you and prevent any dryness, flaking and itching.
When you 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 outer coat will protect him - like water off a duck's back!
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 designed for dogs. 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. Avoid rubbing him vigorously or you'll damage the under coat, 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 the double coat, to nail clipping, to easy bathing, that's everything you need to know about how to groom a Shetland Sheepdog.