Grooming Your Aussie - By Lindsey Johnson (Pro Groomer)
While tumbleweeds of undercoat and muddy paw prints on the floor are a rarity in some households, these images may sound familiar to anyone who has ever owned an Australian Shepherd. With their seasonal (in some cases constant) shedding due to the double coat, and their love for running through the mud puddles in the backyard, grooming your Aussie is an essential part of caring for this breed. First and foremost, brushing an Aussie is extremely important. While the coat is not as high maintenance as that of a Poodle or Old English Sheepdog, the Australian Shepherd's coat will require at least weekly brushing sessions, sometimes more depending on the growth of the undercoat at the time. Using a slicker brush and undercoat rake, you will be able to tend to most of the Australian Shepherd's grooming needs. Also, bathing the Aussie with a shampoo formulated to stimulate the release of undercoat does great things for the dog's coat and your fur-filled carpet. By scrubbing this shampoo into the coat while bathing, and allowing it to soak for usually around 10 minutes, the amount of undercoat that is able to be blown and brushed out of the dog can be immense.
After a bath, use of a high velocity blow dryer allows most of the undercoat to be blown from deep within an Aussies coat. This step is especially helpful in the prevention of undercoat mats. After being bathed, dried, and brushed out, a quick #40 blade on the hair between pads, a bit of scissoring on what I like to call "grinch feet", some nail clipping and ear cleaning, and your Aussie is good to go. Essentially an Australian Shepherd has a low maintenance coat. But what happens when the undercoat just grows in too fast, or you didn't have quite enough time to keep up with the brushing schedule? In these instances, mats in the coat are likely to occur. Matting of a coat can vary in severity. Most of the time mats begin to appear in the furnishings of the hind legs and the neck area. If the matting is not too severe, it can be brushed out using a comb without much pulling done to the skin. When matting becomes severe and matts begin to form tightly and close to the skin, cutting and shaving parts of the coat may be inevitable. In my experience, using shears to cut any matt wound tightly to the skin is not only difficult but often dangerous for an untrained hand. Wounds to the skin can easily occur, and for this reason I believe shaving tight matts with a #7 or #10 blade is the best course of action. The real controversy with shaving an Aussie refers to the "summer shave downs" some owners prefer. Which usually entails an all over clip using a short blade like a #5 or #7 and blending the hair on the head with the shaved hair of the neck and body. While this clip greatly reduces shedding, the consequences include post clipping alopecia and poor regrowth of the hair.
The hair may grow back patchy or sometimes barely at all for a long period of time. This does not always happen, in fact, I have personally shaved many breeds with a double coat with no consequences at an owners request. Poor regrowth of hair is more commonly seen in older dogs, but can occur at any age. Truthfully,
no one knows what causes post clipping alopecia, but there are many theories and suggestions for stimulating hair regrowth in patchy areas. Should you cut your Aussie's coat down or not? The answer depends not only on your preference but your dogs preference too. If you try a shave down and end up with an
irritated or itchy pooch, or poor, patchy hair regrowth, sticking to regular brushing or a long clip using a comb on the blade may be better.