The Australian shepherd, despite its name, is a tough, intelligent ranch dog developed in the western United States. Australian shepherds have thick coats that require frequent brushing. If you want to keep your dog looking well-groomed but don't want to spend hundreds of dollars a year on a professional grooming service, consider learning the basics of grooming your Australian shepherd yourself. Most dog owners are capable of performing basic grooming tasks such as bathing and brushing their dogs' fur. Some tasks, such as nail trimming, are best left to professionals, whose training and experience minimize the risk of injury.
Lay an old towel or a sheet of plastic on the ground where you intend to groom your Australian shepherd. This will make cleanup easier.
Prepare a mixture of diluted conditioner to use as a detangler if your Australian shepherd's coat is particularly matted or tangled. Combine 1 tbsp. of unscented conditioner with 16 oz. of water in a spray bottle, and shake the mixture well. Spritz the mixture over your dog's coat prior to brushing.
Brush your dog's coat with a slicker brush to remove any mats. Grip the brush firmly by the handle, and brush your dog's coat in the direction of hair growth using short, gentle strokes. Work from the dog's shoulders down his back to the tail; then brush the sides, belly and legs.
Cut away any stubborn mats with a small pair of straight shears. Hold the mat between the thumb and forefinger of one hand, and use the scissors to cut the fur at the bottom of the mat. Avoid pulling on the dog's fur.
Go over your Australian shepherd's coat using a firm wire-pin brush with long, medium-spaced bristles. You can also use a soft- or medium-bristle brush. Brush your dog's coat, using long, gentle strokes in the direction of the hair growth.
Fill your bathtub with about 6 inches of lukewarm water, and place your dog in the tub. You can use a treat to encourage your dog to get into the tub.
Wet your Australian shepherd's coat by pouring water over his back. Massage your dog's coat to move the fur around so the water can penetrate. You may find it easier to use a pet sprayer or a hand-held shower head to force the water to penetrate to the skin.
Squeeze a teaspoon of dog shampoo into your hand, and work it into a lather. Massage the shampoo into your dog's coat. Apply more shampoo as necessary until you have covered the dog's entire body.
Rinse your dog well with fresh water to remove all traces of shampoo. Use your hands to massage your dog's coat as you rinse to ensure that all of the shampoo residue is removed. Shampoo left in the coat can cause skin irritation.
Drain the tub, then dry your Australian shepherd's coat with a large bath towel. Massage your dog's body with the towel to remove as much water as possible.
Finish drying your Australian shepherd's coat, using a hair dryer on the low heat setting.
Additional Grooming Tasks
Check your dog's ears for wax buildup and foul odors. Odor or excess debris may be a sign of infection. If your dog exhibits either of these symptoms, take him to your veterinarian for a checkup.
Clean your dog's ears with a dog-safe ear-washing solution. You must know your dog's eardrums are intact before you pour any liquid into his ear canals. If you are not certain about the condition of your dog's eardrums, have his ears examined by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can also discuss your dog's ear-cleansing needs and recommend a good ear cleansing solution.
You may need to restrain your dog, using your arm to keep him still while you squeeze a few drops of the solution into his ear canal. Massage the dog's ear to distribute the solution. While the dog may dislike having drops placed in his ear, he probably will enjoy the ear massage that follows. Step back and allow the dog to shake his head.
Wipe the dog's ear surfaces clean, using cotton balls. Do not push cotton balls or anything else down into the ear canal. Doing so risks injuring the eardrum.
Trim the hair on your Australian shepherd's docked tail. Grasp the tail by circling it gently with your thumb and forefinger. Locate the bone with your finger.
Use thinning shears to cut through the hair on your dog's tail. If your dog's fur is particularly long or thick, you may need to make several cuts and take a little bit off at a time.
Always use mild shampoo that is safe for dogs. Shampoos that contain dyes or perfumes may irritate your dog's skin.
When bathing your dog, avoid getting the inside of his ears wet. Wet ears could lead to ear infections. You may choose to pack your dog's ears with cotton balls prior to bathing to prevent water from entering the ear canal. If you do so, be careful not to push the cotton balls into the ears, where they could become lodged.
Do not attempt to trim your dog's toenails unless you have received instruction from a trained professional. Incorrectly trimming a dog's toenails can cause pain and bleeding.
Because Australian shepherds generally have medium-length fur, they should be brushed at least once a week to prevent matting. Daily combing or brushing can help to control shedding and keep your dog's coat healthy.
Most veterinarians warn against bathing dogs more often than about once every three months so you don't strip their coats of protective oils.
Items You Will Need
- Old towel or sheet of plastic
- Unscented conditioner
- Spray bottle
- Slicker brush
- Straight shears
- Wire-pin brush or bristle brush
- Dog treats
- Pet sprayer or hand-held shower head (optional)
- Dog shampoo
- Large bath towel
- Hair dryer
- Ear-washing solution
- Cotton balls
- Thinning shears
- Jade Dog image by Kelly Miller from Fotolia.com