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Australian Shepherd Grooming


Fortunately, Australian Shepherds are not a ‘high-maintenance’ breed. Other than the basic brushing, nail-trimming, tooth, eye, and ear care, there is not a whole lot involved with keeping them looking wonderful. Like training, grooming is something that should begin right away. A new pup should learn right away that he must accept regular grooming as part of his life. And, you may even find that, with time, your pup may actually look forward to grooming as his special time when he gets extra attention. Start by picking a spot to be your regular grooming place. This may be an area on the floor or on a platform such as a picnic or grooming table. Start by letting the pup smell the grooming tool before using it on him; then use the tool very gently at first.

Talk the pup through this and give him lots of reassurance and praise. If the pup resists, hold him firmly but not roughly. Let him fight until he finally gives in, talk softly to him and then continue to use the tool again. If the pup fights again, follow the same procedure. It may take a while, but eventually the pup will relax. And then, when you use the grooming tool in a gentle manner, he will soon realize that it won’t hurt him and that it is easier to give in than to fight something that really isn’t so bad. It will also teach him that you are the boss; he must do whatever you ask; and, if he fights, he cannot win. A slicker brush, a pin brush, and a metal comb are the only three brushes you should ever need to use on your Aussie. The slicker brush works well on the general body; the pin brush is good for some of the denser areas like the ruff and the rear feathers; and the metal comb is good for behind the ears and for removing knots and tangles. A young pup should be brushed 3-4 times a week to get him used to it and to have him handled as much as possible. An adult Aussie only needs to be brushed about 1-2 times a week to stay in good condition. Though you will probably want to brush every day when they are ‘blowing their coat.’

Start trimming your pup’s toenails right away to get him used to having his paws handled and to keep his feet in proper condition. Long nails can cause the paws to splay and make the dog walk improperly on his foot and even weaken his pasterns. If you have never used dog nail trimmers, ask your breeder, vet, or groomer to show you how to use them correctly. If you are unsure how much to take off the nail when trimming, it is better to take off too little than too much. Trimming too close can cause the dog to bleed and to become overly sensitive to future trimmings.

Remember, making these first experiences positive, non-threatening, and non-painful will make your job a lot easier when your dog is full grown and weighs a lot more. Toenails should be trimmed every 2-3 weeks on a regular basis. Getting your pup used to having his teeth and gums looked at and touched at a young age will also make dental care easier later on. A good exercise for you to do with your pup is to take your index finger and rub it gently along your pup’s gums; not only will this feel good to him but it will also get him used to having your hands in his mouth. You should also keep an eye on your pup’s teeth during teething (usually from 16-30 weeks) to make sure the baby teeth are being replaced with permanent adult teeth. If you find that a baby tooth is not being pushed out properly, you may have to have your vet remove it so it does not interfere with proper placement of the adult teeth. Later, you will want to be able to get into your dog’s mouth to clean his teeth.

There are commercial dog tooth care products available, or you can use a soft bristled human toothbrush with a dab of baking soda on it to gently massage your dog’s teeth and gums. Excessive tartar build-up needs to be removed with a tooth scaler or by your veterinarian. Also, the mouth should be regularly checked for cracked or broken teeth and for inflamed or infected gums. If any of these signs appear, the dog needs to be promptly checked by your vet. Good oral hygiene is a must in responsible dog ownership. During grooming, get your pup used to having the outside of his eyes washed with a cotton ball dampened with water to remove ‘sleepies’ or tear stains and to having the inside of his ears examined and gently wiped out with a cotton ball dampened with alcohol.

Any discoloration, tenderness, inflammation, or foul odor in the ears should be looked at by a vet right away. Although Australian Shepherds tend to love water, they are typically not fond of baths. Fortunately, Aussies tend to stay fairly clean and do not have much of a doggie odor and, therefore, do not need to be bathed too often. When you do give your pup or dog a bath, be sure to use a shampoo especially made for puppies or dogs, since people shampoos, as well as excessive shampooing, can dry out the skin and coat. As with other first new experiences, a pups first bath can be quite traumatic, so take care to make it as least stressful and as positive as you can. It is a good idea to start in a tub or sink so that you can get warm water instead of cold water straight out of a hose.

Put the pup in the tub or sink without water and talk to him gently until he is comfortable in this strange new place. Then, using a plastic cup, gently pour luke warm water over his shoulders and back. If he resists, follow the procedure mentioned earlier. He will be a little more slippery, so be careful not to let him get away.



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