Grooming the Australian Shepherd | Groomer to Groomer

Grooming the Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd is one of America’s most popular and intelligent dog breeds.  It is an American breed—not Australian—as their name would suggest. The origins of the “Aussie” are truly international with links to British herding dogs, the Basques of Spain, and the migrations of sheep and their herders from Britain and Spain to North America, South America and Australia. 

Calling them “Australian” may have begun in the western United States in the 1800’s when referring to the Merino sheep with their prized wool being shipped to Australia, along with their herding dogs. 

Aussies are born naturally with either a normal tail, a shortened tail or that most breed–recognized bobtail—a genetic trait that served to avoid injury when running among the legs of large herds of cattle and sheep. They come in variety of beautiful colors such as blue or red merle and red or black tri–color coats, and are of the double–coated variety. Their eyes are often uniquely marbled and sometimes different colors from one another.

There are three common myths that can cause clients to wrongly ask their groomer to cut the natural double coat of an Aussie. These require us to take time to educate the client about the proper care and function of the double coat.

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If the client is concerned about shedding around their homes, explain to them that clipping does not stop shedding—it just makes it worse as the thickened undercoat grows back. Tell them that you offer a de–shedding service, then put them on a regular schedule for low–cost maintenance brush–outs if the client does not want to groom at home in between services.  

Second, if they are concerned because their dog is panting during warm weather, explain to them about how panting is the normal way dogs cool themselves, and that the outer guard hairs of the double coat actually prevent the sun’s damaging rays from reaching the dog’s delicate skin. Educate them about the benefits of de–shedding undercoat while preserving topcoat. 

Finally, if they have seen what some in our industry are calling “contour trims” on the internet and like this scissored–sculpted look because it is pretty, tell them about the damage being done to those dogs when the guard hairs are removed and the puffy undercoat is scissored up like a poodle.  

Excessive trimming is a disqualification in the AKC show ring. This should guide us also in the pet grooming world. These so–called “contour trims” cut up to, and into, the undercoat. We can destroy the natural balance of the topcoat and undercoat with this excessive trimming.  

The Australian Shepherd is a beautiful dog in its natural coat—help to keep it that way!

To begin the groom, shampoo the Australian Shepherd and then rinse. Shampoo opens the cuticle of the hairs, making them easier to shed out and remove using your high velocity dryer while still in the tub. Blowing at a right angle, perpendicular to the skin, will help to loosen the undercoat for a better de–shedding result because the open cuticle makes the hair bigger, enabling the air of the dryer to get a better “grip” on it. Wet hair is also better contained when blown in the tub.

Apply high–quality, mineral–rich conditioners to nourish this natural coat with collagen, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, etc. which a medium coat needs.

Finish drying the dog with an emphasis on keeping the coat along the torso and spine as flat–lying as possible. A damp shammy towel laid over the spine can be helpful to keep it flat–lying during the drying process. Continue to use the drying process to remove dead undercoat.

Using an undercoat rake and/or larger–tooth comb, thoroughly comb the coat from head to tail to pull out as much dead undercoat as possible. A soft slicker or pin brush may be used to help loosen clumped coat. Trim the nails as needed. 

Remove excess hair from the surface of the pads of the paws and under the nails, but do not scoop out inside the pads so that a clean line along the bottom of foot can be seen while the dog is standing. 

Scissor around the edges of the paws and remove any stray hairs that detract from a clean edge. Leave the furnishings neat and natural. 

Fig 1) On the rear hock hair, use a scissor to blend the corner where the longer hair meets the foot.

Fig 2) Using thinning shears, remove excess coat from underneath and around the ears. 

Fig 3) Use a very fine thinning shear or careful scissoring to edge the ear in the triangular shape that the breed standard calls for. Do not trim the whiskers.

If the Aussie has the natural bobtail or the tail is docked, neaten the hairs of the tail to form the look of a “smile” walking away from you. 

Fig 4) Laying a curved shear horizontally outward, cut parallel to the rectum. 

Fig 5) Using thinning shears, round and neaten the end of the docked or natural bobtail. 

Fig 6) The finished Aussie “smile” tail.

Fig 7 & 8) If, and only if, the Aussie has exceedingly long furnishings (which is most common in older Aussies of certain genetic lines), it is acceptable to trim dead ends of outer coat just to tip them off. Do not cut into any undercoat. On this dog, the pantaloons and underline were neatened.

Our job as groomers is to understand the magnificent Australian Shepherd and to protect its beautiful topcoat, remove any shedding undercoat, and neaten the ears, feet and tail only as needed. ✂️

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Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, ICMG

Jennifer Bishop–Jenkins, ICMG, owner of Love Fur Dogs in Glencoe, Illinois, was named Best Groomer in Chicagoland by the Chicago Tribune. She is the founder of the Illinois Professional Pet Groomer’s Association and serves on the board of both IPPGA and NAGA. Jennifer is a retired school teacher and author of The Groomers’s Guide to the 15 Coat Types, which will be available in 2021. Her academically–rich webinars can be found on Facebook under Groomer’s Guide, or by emailing [email protected]

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