Collie Grooming Tips


Grooming Tips*

Grooming is an essential part of keeping your dog healthy and happy. Not to mention looking great! Here are the basic steps.

Brushing is not only an opportunity to keep your dog looking good. It’s also a good opportunity to check his skin for anything out of the ordinary, such as hotspots. Hotspots are moist areas that usually occur when the dog continually chews on a particular spot. Sometimes this is caused by flea bites, or not rinsing well enough during a bath. They can also occur under un-noticed mats. To prevent them, when you bathe your dog, rinse well. When you think you’ve rinsed enough, rinse for 15 to 20 minutes more.

Use a good flea preventative, also. Many dogs are allergic to flea bites and start chewing these areas to relieve the itching.

Collies have a double coat; a topcoat and an undercoat, and they are “seasonal shedders,” meaning they don’t shed large amounts of hair continuously. Females will “blow” their undercoat after each heat cycle (typically every 7-10 months), and spayed females and males will “blow” their undercoat once a year, typically mid to late summer. A lot more grooming is needed during these blowing seasons. Collies are noted for not having a “doggie” odor frequently found with some other breeds, but a bath is recommended about 4 times per year.

A collie should be professionally groomed at least four times a year. Better still, every eight weeks. Brush at home at least weekly.

WEEKLY: Once-a-week brushing is usually sufficient for a collie that is not shedding. During this time, the following steps are recommended:

Be sure to mist (not soak) the coat with either water or a grooming spray to prevent the coat from breaking.

Use a slicker or pin brush and go over the dog’s entire coat, brushing with the way the hair grows. Continue brushing deep into the fur until it sounds smooth and you no longer hear the “ripping” sound of tangled hair.

Make sure you brush the “pants” at the collie’s rear, and the fringes along the backside of his front legs as well as under the “armpits” using the brush.

Pay special attention to the finer hair behind the ears (directly behind the ear and about 4-5” down toward the neck). Gently pull each ear forward (toward the nose) and brush the opposite way – away from the ear – using the slicker brush first. If there are tangles, work a small area at a time with the comb, holding the hair at the skin with your fingers to make sure you don’t pull – this area is sensitive. After you have removed any tangles and mats, you should be able to run the comb through this hair, all the way down to the skin, without it getting caught. Feel with your fingers to make sure there are no tangles left – that’s how mats begin. A small amount of leave-in hair conditioner or talcum powder can be used to help prevent tangles from forming in this fine hair. Do not try to remove the mats by cutting with scissors. You may accidentally cut the skin. If there is a large, hard to remove mat, it is ideal to take your dog to an experienced groomer.

Trim the hair on the feet between the pads when necessary (see details below).

This will probably take you between 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the amount of coat your dog has, the time of year and whether or not you have trained him to cooperate. Start grooming your puppy while he is young. If you get him used to staying still while being groomed at an early age, your job can actually become enjoyable for both of you when he grows up.

Example Of Training A Puppy To Be Groomed

Make your puppy lie down when being brushed. You will need to MAKE him do this at first, being firm, but also petting/praising him and telling him to stay. Brush him a little, then praise and encourage him (reassuringly tell him what a good dog he is), and brush again. You may have to firmly say “stay” several times while making him lie down, but also keep petting and praising him – brush some more. Don’t stop brushing if he is still resisting you. Make sure he knows that you are the one who decides when you are done – and it’s not while he is still squirming and complaining; instead, it’s when he has stopped resisting. A little treat at the end of a short grooming session may be used as a reward in addition to the petting and attention he receives from you. Be sensitive to the age of your puppy, requiring less time from a younger pup and increase the time as he gets older.

Grooming When Your Collie Is Shedding

You’ll know when your collie is shedding – small tufts of undercoat start to peek out of the topcoat and can just be plucked out. Below is a brief description of how I groom my collies when they are shedding.

You should give your collie a complete grooming before you give him a bath. Baths given before grooming tend to tighten mats and make loose undercoat more difficult to remove. Also, it is a lot more work to bathe a dog that has a large amount of loose undercoat, not to mention the increased amount of drying time that will be needed. Remember though, a warm bath will also serve to loosen the hair when your dog is shedding – shedding is a process that takes several weeks to complete. So, be prepared to have a few more brushing sessions during this time to truly remove all of the loose hair. An additional warm-water bath in a couple of weeks will loosen even more hair, hastening the shedding period. Get as much hair out as you can, and you will have a lot less hair in the house and on your clothes.

To begin grooming, think of your dog’s body in terms of “SECTIONS,” this way you will be sure to get all of the areas that need to be brushed.

I start by going over the entire dog with a slicker or pin brush first after lightly misting with water or a grooming spray. Then I like to back-brush, especially on the top of their back. Back brushing is when you brush against the way the hair normally grows.

BACK LEGS: Have your dog lie down on his side. I begin to work from the feet – up, starting with one back leg. Start at the bottom of the leg and work in sections, like de-thatching a lawn, until you have removed all of the loose undercoat. As you brush, use your other hand to hold the longer hair, above where you are brushing, out of the way. The first brush you should use is the slicker brush, then the V-rake, followed by a comb. The comb should pass through the hair freely without snagging before you move up to the next “section.” Make sure you are getting all the way down to the skin. If you come across a mat, work slowly to separate it with the comb. Keep brushing in this same manner, section-by-section, working up the leg and up across the rump of the dog. Make sure you include the back “skirt” area and under the tail as well. The undercoat on the tail sheds too. First brush the tail hair with a slicker brush followed by a V-rake to remove loose undercoat.

SIDE OF BODY AND BELLY: Now move to the side of the body and the belly area. Begin at the belly. The steps are the same as for the back leg. “Part” the hair (lifting up the top portion of the coat) and:

First brush with the slicker or pin brush with the way the hair grows, then back brush.

Move along in a “line” (from behind the front leg along to the back leg) using the V-rake to remove as much loose undercoat as possible, again, like de-thatching a lawn.

Finish with the comb, getting all the way down to the skin, until it moves freely through the hair.

Go to the next section above, moving along “line by line” until you get to the top of the dog’s back.

I find it easier to brush the inside of the opposite back leg while the dog is lying down at this point.

Before you move on, make sure you have brushed the hard-to-reach areas, like under the tail and the inside of the back legs. If there are mats in the private areas, you can just carefully cut them off. Males will stay cleaner if you trim the hair on their tummies and near/around their genitals, leaving a little right at the tip to help direct the pee.

FRONT LEGS: The next step is to go to the front leg area and move up to the shoulders, using the same steps as above. Back brush with the slicker and use the comb against the way the hair grows for the short hair on the front of the legs. Pay special attention to the fine hair under the dog’s “armpit” where mats easily form. This area is very sensitive, so work carefully and take your time.

If by this time, you have spent a while removing a lot of undercoat and/or mats, allow your dog to get up and move around. A well-deserved break is always appreciated – by both you and your dog. You may want to accompany this break with a treat.

When you are ready to resume grooming, you will repeat the exact same process, but on the other side of the dog.

NECK AND CHEST: You will need to work under the neck and down the chest in a similar fashion, making sure you get deep into the chest with the V-Rake, working section by section from the bottom-up. For some reason, the undercoat in the chest area seems to be the last place where the hair loosens and sheds.

HEAD: The head is done with a fine/medium-toothed comb. The finer hair behind the ears (directly behind the ear and about 4-5 inches down toward the neck) has a greater propensity to mat. Hold the ear itself forward, toward the head, as you brush the hair away from the ear. Begin by using the slicker brush then follow up with the comb, working on small sections that may have tangles. This is a very sensitive area and you need to work slowly and carefully. If you have brushed this hair weekly, you should not have a very big job. However, the fine hair behind the ears on a neglected collie will be a disaster, and you may need to actually cut the mats out. This won’t hurt the dog, but it does leave ugly “bald” spots. This skin behind the ears is extremely tender and thin. If you have several large mats, you may need to do a little at a time, giving the dog a break by brushing somewhere else, then coming back to the mat. When the hair behind the ears (and down several inches) is free of mats and tangles, and a comb glides through easily, you are done here. You can clean the inside of your dog’s ears, only as far as you can see into the ear, with a small amount of alcohol or ear cleaner on a cotton ball. Continue cleaning out the ear, perhaps using several cotton balls, until no more dirt or wax can be removed. Dry well with a tissue.

FEET: I like to trim the hair between my dogs’ feet pads with a small, sharp pair of scissors about once a month. Cut the hair as short as you can between each pad on the bottom of the foot. Remember, there is thin, sensitive skin between each pad, so be careful! Trimming the hair on your dog’s feet on a house dog will greatly eliminate the amount of dirt and/or mud he brings into the house with him. Check the feet for any injuries or burrs stuck in the hair between the pads. The hair on the feet seems to grow twice as fast as the hair anywhere else! Now brush up the hair on the tops of the feet  (toward the leg) and trim the long hair to give the foot a nice, neat shape. Also, trim the hair on the lower area of the back legs, just above the foot up to the first joint. This area is called the “hock.” Comb the hair straight out, and away from hock, and (from the side view) trim at an angle, cutting the hair short at the foot and angle it to about ¾” long as you go up. This makes the back legs look much neater and they will stay cleaner.

NAILS: If you can hear your dog’s nails click when they walk on cement or a hard surface in the house, it is time to trim them. When trimming the nails, you can use one of two styles of nail clippers or a rotary tool like a Dremel or a combination of the clippers and Dremel. To avoid cutting the quick in the nail, take small bits off the nail. When you see a small, black dot in the center of the nail, you’ve gone far enough. White nails are easier as you can see the vein through the nail. If you do get the quick, take a dab of styptic and hold it on the end of the nail for a few seconds. This will stop the bleeding. If you don’t have styptic, corn starch or flour will do this also. Most dogs are not used to having their nails trimmed and will resist. Make sure to calm, praise and treat the dog to get it used to the experience. The noise of a Dremel may also scare a dog, so before trying to use it, get the dog used to the sound. A Dremel will leave your dog’s nails smooth, unlike a nail clipper alone. However, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you only grind in short spurts – no more than 3 seconds at a time per nail – because heat builds up extremely quick. Grind one nail for 3 seconds, then go on to the next nail, grind, then the next, etc., allowing the previous nail to cool off. Go back and make several passes on each nail until you’ve reached the desired length, checking to see if you are getting close to the quick. When you just begin to see the quick – stop. You can round the top and side areas of the nail to make it smooth.

TEETH: Brush your dog’s teeth regularly (it’s recommended about once every 2 weeks) using a dog toothpaste and brush. You can purchase a tooth scraper/scaler and remove any tartar build-up. If you start near the gum and get under the tartar, it is fairly easy to just flick it off in small pieces. Continue lightly scraping until all of the brown tartar is removed. When I’m done doing this, I like to go over the gums with a cotton ball dipped in peroxide to prevent infection.

BATHING: Once you have the dog completely brushed and there are no mats, you are ready for the bath. Start by wetting the dog completely. Start at the head. In this way, when the dog shakes you won’t get completely soaked. If you have trouble getting the coat wet, you can put a little shampoo on the dog and then wetting. This is particularly useful for the tail. Once you have the dog shampooed, take the pin brush and work the shampoo into the coat. At this point, you can also put conditioner on the dog. Or you can rinse the shampoo out and use the same steps for conditioning. When you are sure the dog is clean, start to rinse. Start at the head and work your way back. RINSE WELL! Shampoo residue left on the dog can cause skin irritations, including hot spots. When the water runs clear off the dog, you have rinsed enough.  Towel dry. To dry the dog, you can use a hair dryer on a low setting, or there are several animal dryers available. Using your pin brush, dry in sections starting at the rear. Lift the hair and dry, always moving the dryer to avoid burning the skin. Dry the dog completely.

Pay particular attention to the inside legs and the under side. Dampness in these areas can also cause skin irritation.

Some Additional Tips:

Sometimes I will spread out my grooming on a dog that is shedding over a period of a couple of days to give the dog, and my back, a break.  (i.e. brush out one side, under the tummy and tail on one day, brush the other side and around the neck the next day, and bathe on the third day.)

When working on a mat or large tangle, hold the hair by the base (against the skin) so that you don’t pull the hair out or hurt your dog.

If your dog has an odor, you can sprinkle talcum/baby powder or corn starch into the “smelly” areas, work it in, then brush it out with a slicker brush.

Some “goo” may accumulate near the inside corners of your dog’s eyes. Just wipe with a tissue. This is normal.

*Information copied from Lynn Nelson with Sunfield Collies