Australian shepherds are, in my totally unbiased opinion (okay, maybe I’m a little biased!), the most beautiful dogs in the world. With their floppy ears and feathering on their legs they are the epitome of loyal elegance. So it’s really important that we take good care of them and keep them as healthy and comfortable as possible. I groom Kodi myself because I wouldn’t trust leaving him in the hands of a professional groomer. I have seen many groomers treat dogs cruelly, brushing them roughly to the point of making the dog yelp and getting frustrated when the dog doesn’t cooperate. I’m not saying all groomers are like this and I’m sure there are a lot of really kind, gentle ones out there. But Kodiak is my baby and I will not take any unnecessary chances regarding his safety and happiness. That is why I groom him myself. I’m not professionally taught and I may not do as good of a job compared to the work of a professional groomer, but my dog’s wellbeing is my number one priority. And if that isn’t reason enough for you to start grooming your dog yourself, then consider this. At home grooming is much cheaper than taking your dog to a professional, especially during these rough economic times.
There are added benefits to gain from grooming your dog yourself as well. Brushing your dog gives you the chance to check over your dog for any abnormal lumps and bumps a regular groomer may have missed or been to rushed to notice. You can work on basic obedience skills and get your dog accustomed to some slightly awkward handling which will come in handy during veterinary visits. It will also reinforce the bond you already share with your dog, making it that much stronger. Which is reason enough to start an at home grooming regimen in my book. Are you convinced yet? If so then read on as I show you step by step how to groom your Australian shepherd.
*Please keep in mind I am NOT a professional groomer. This is just how I have always groomed Kodi, ever since he was a puppy and it is what works best for us. Feel free to change any of the following steps so that they suit you and your dog and meet your dog’s individual grooming requirements.*
Before you begin there are some necessary tools you will need to buy. Most of them are rather inexpensive, especially when you consider how often you will be using them. They include:
*Doggy Ear Cleaner
*Doggy Toothpaste & Toothbrush
*Doggy Paw Lotion
*Yow will probably also want to have some doggy nail clippers and styptic powder on hand to keep your dog’s nails trimmed although I am not showing you how to do that here. If that’s something you don’t feel comfortable doing than most vets will be happy to do it for you for a small fee. Most vets will also be happy to show you how to do it yourself at home if you ask.
Now that you have the necessary supplies it’s time to choose an appropriate place for you to begin grooming. Ideally you want to choose an area where you won’t mind some dog fur floating around. Basements, garages, and the great outdoors are all good places for you to groom your dog, assuming the weather permits. In the following pictures and video I am grooming my dog in my bedroom because it has good lighting and it was snowy outside. Usually I groom my dog outdoors so that I don’t have to worry about sweeping and vacuuming afterwards; however I sacrificed some extra cleanup time for the purpose of this piece. I personally advise against this though, unless you enjoy spending time cleaning.
TIME TO BEGIN
STEP #1: Start by using the slicker brush to brush through your dog’s coat. Work in the direction of his hair growth to remove any loose fur that’s eagerly being shed. Be thorough. Brush the back, chest, sides, stomach, and rump in this fashion. After you’ve removed as much hair as you can it’s time to begin brushing your dog’s coat against the growth of the fur. This will remove all of the dead hair that is trapped in the undercoat. Only brush your dog in this fashion along the sides, hips, and parts of the rump. Don’t brush your dog this way along the back, chest, and stomach as this won’t pull out much hair and can cause some discomfort to your dog as their hair isn’t as thick in these areas. *TIP: A little bit of peanut butter spread onto a door, fridge, or even a wall at nose height will keep your dog in a standing position and allow you to brush those hard to reach areas like the rump and backs of the legs.
STEP #2: Next comb the ears using the flea comb. I like using a flea comb because the teeth are close together which allows you to really separate all of the fine hairs that grow on the ears. Be sure to check for any signs of matting as this is a common area for dogs to get mats. If you do encounter any then wedge the comb through the mat as close to the skin as possible and keep the comb between your dog’s skin and the scissors. This forms a sort of barrier which will allow you to very carefully cut the mat out without accidently cutting your dog. If your dog won’t hold still or you have shaky hands then by all means please visit a trusted, well researched groomer to have the mat removed. When it comes to the safety of your dog you’re better off safe than sorry. Once you have combed the ears it’s time to comb the feathering on your dog’s front legs. Brush outward and down to separate the fur and follow the same information above on removing mats if you encounter any on the legs.
STEP #3: Now go back over the coat using the pin brush. Brush with the growth of the hair like you did earlier when you used the slicker brush. Brush every inch of your dog, starting at the neck and working your way over the back, sides, hips, rump, chest, and stomach. Doing this will ensure you’ve removed any loose hair that you may have missed earlier.
STEP #4: Next, it’s time to trim the feet hair. You must be EXTREMELY CAREFUL because if you’re not you could accidently cut your dog’s foot. If your dog doesn’t hold still very well or you are nervous about doing this then please visit a trusted, well respected groomer and have this done professionally. It is extremely important to trim your dog’s foot hair, especially in the winter. While your dog plays outside or goes for walks the snow will stick to the long hairs on his feet causing cold, painful ice clumps to form between the dog’s toes. Not only is this uncomfortable but it can also lead to frostbite on the paws if your dog is in the snow for too long. Harsh road salts can also get trapped between the toes and get accidently ingested when your dog cleans his paws. To avoid these painful and sometimes even dangerous situations then you need to trim the paw hair. Start by combing the hair to ensure there isn’t anything already trapped between the toes. After you’ve separated the hair it’s time to begin clipping. If the hair on the feet is long enough then you may be able to wedge the comb between the hair and the paw forming a barrier to ensure you don’t accidently cut your dog. This isn’t always possible though, so you’re just going to have to work slowly and carefully. Take lots of breaks and let your dog stretch if he’s getting antsy. You don’t have to worry about trimming all his feet in one day. Aim to trim one foot a day or the same foot over a few days to get your dog acclimated to the feel of it. You may need to restrain him or have someone help you by holding the leash and keeping your dog calm. It may take a while so please be patient and supportive of your dog. Offer him lots of encouragement and rewards. If you stick with it you’ll soon have a dog who will eagerly let you trim his feet hair (as long as you’re generous with the treats!). *TIP: While it’s important to trim the hair on your dog’s paws he may also benefit from a pair of insulated dog booties to help keep his feet warm when he’s outside. They come in many different colors and sizes and can be bought at most pet supply stores or online retailers. Take your time when getting your dog used to wearing them. The first time I put a pair on Kodi he grabbed it with his teeth, tore it off his paw and tossed it across the room. I can guarantee you no dog will instantly like wearing them! And don’t forget to wash your dog’s feet after each and every walk to be certain there isn’t any chemicals he may ingest while cleaning himself.
STEP #5: Now it’s time to clean your dog’s ears. You can buy specially formulated doogy ear cleaner from your vet, your local pet store or even stores like Wal Mart and Target may carry it. First get your dog to lay in a relaxed position and lift back his ear flap before generously pouring some of the cleaner into his ear. Then fold his ear flap back down and gently massage the base of his ear to evenly distribute the cleanser. After you do that you then want to fold his ear flap back again and very gently wipe out the wax and other residue using a soft tissue. Only clean the portion of his ear that you can see. DO NOT stick anything into your dog’s ear as you can damage or even pop his ear drum. Then let your dog stand up and shake his head. There’s a good chance he may have loosened some more gunk from deeper inside his ear so you may need to go back and wipe out his ear again. Then repeat this same process on his other ear.
STEP #6: Next it’s time to brush your dog’s teeth using specially made doggy toothpaste and toothbrushes which you can also find at pet supply stores. First put some of the toothpaste onto the toothbrush and encourage your dog to be interested in it. Then in a very happily and friendly manner pull back your dog’s lips and gently begin massaging his teeth, working the toothpaste into his teeth. Your dog may put up a fight or even try to eat the toothbrush but don’t get discouraged, just keep at it. Be consistent and brush his teeth every day if you can. In a short amount of time your dog will be eager to let you brush his teeth, especially if he knows there’s a treat waiting for him when you’re finished. There are a few different toothbrushes which you can get, the two most common being a brush that looks similar to something we ourselves use and the other is a finger brush. I recommend using the regular handle brush, especially when you’re first starting out because it’s easier to maneuver and if you’re not careful your dog can actually steal the finger brush right off your hand and swallow it. The finger brush can come in handy to help you clean those harder to reach teeth once your dog becomes accustomed to it, but I really like it for the front teeth.
STEP #7: Now it’s time to soften up your dog’s paws. Use a specially formulated dog specific lotion. The one I use not only helps to heal and soothe dry, irritated paws but it helps with the irritation caused by snow, ice, and hot pavements in the summer. It helps to repair the damage caused by problems commonly associated with the weather. First make sure your dog’s paws aren’t cracked open or bleeding . If they are then don’t apply any lotion as this can cause even worse irritation and pain for your dog. You will have to wait for his paws to heal completely before you can soften and repair them. If your dog’s paws are in good condition then you can begin applying the lotion. Very gently put some of the lotion onto the pads of your dog’s feet and massage it in until it is completely absorbed. Do this with all four of his feet.
STEP #8: Now you are ready for the final step. Take the currycomb and simply go back over your dog’s entire coat brushing with the growth of his fur. This will make sure you have gotten every last stray hair that may have been out of place and give your dog’s coat a healthy shine. Finish off with lots of praise and his favorite treats.
Congratulations! You have just groomed your Australian shepherd all by yourself! I hope this guide has helped you to see that you don’t need to spend a lot of money or take your dog to a professional to achieve a beautiful coat. You can groom your dog yourself right at home and improve your bond dramatically with him. Which is what having a dog is all about, right? If you have any questions or comments please post them below and let me know what you guys think. Thanks! And remember, IF YOU’RE GOING TO BARK THAN BARK LIKE YOU MEAN IT.