By Daryl Conner
You may have had this breed of dog on your table before and never known it. English Shepherds, also known as “farm collies,” “old time collies,” and “farm shepherds,” were brought to America by early British settlers. They put the dogs to work on farms and homesteads, guarding both livestock and property, as well as herding and hunting.
According to some sources, English Shepherds were some of the most common dogs in the United States in the 1930’s. It was rare to find a farm that didn’t have one or more helping around the property. Relatives of the more common Border Collie, the breed is recognized by the UKC and has not rocketed to popularity of its cousin.
Ranging from 18–23 inches at the shoulder, and weighing between 40–60 pounds, with a rectangular build, this breed comes in a variety of colors. You may find them in black and white, tri color, clear sable or shaded sable. Their double coat is medium in length, and longer at the ruff and furnishings. The outer coat is normally straight, but may be wavy or (rarely) curly. The ears are low and semi–erect. This breed is a “loose–eyed”, upright herder, differing from Border Collies who crouch and stare at the animals they are herding to move them.
As a natural breed, they require little trimming. Their vibrissae (whiskers) should not be cut, as this is a breed that often works stock and relies on those sensory hairs to do their job properly. Heavily coated dogs may do well to have thick hair on their feet and hocks trimmed (Fig. 1), and some shaping of the ears and furnishings just to tidy the appearance is acceptable. This may be done with scissors, or, better yet, chunkers, to leave a very natural look. The coat should not show signs of being scissored or overly trimmed. Because of the double coat, if the dog is not brushed regularly, there may be some matting, but it should be easily removed with general grooming practices.
Begin with a good, basic cleansing shampoo to remove dirt from the skin and coat. Two or more baths may be necessary depending on the level of soil present. Using a product that helps remove loose coat and lessen tangles is beneficial. If there is a buildup of old undercoat present, following the shampoo with a good conditioner, especially where the coat is thick and on the furnishings, is helpful.
After rinsing and towel drying, spritz on a drying product and lightly brush it through the coat. Using a high velocity dyer, dry the back coat with the lay of the hair so it will lie smooth and close to the body when finished. Direct the air flow close to the skin and work out towards the tips on the ruff and furnishings, allowing the air to push dead coat up and away from the skin as it dries.
Once dry, brush any remaining loose hair out with a slicker or pin brush. Follow with a medium/fine comb, making sure there are no hidden tangles and that all dead coat is removed. Pay special attention to the soft fur behind the ears, the arm pit area, and where the furnishings are thick, such as the tail and the back of the thigh area.
Use a trimmer to neaten up the hair between the pads on the bottom of the feet (Fig. 2). Trim any hair that hangs from the top of the foot, over the pad area. Using a slicker, gently brush the hair up between the toes, and carefully trim it to shape a neat, tidy foot.
English Shepherds often have an excess of silky or fluffy coat growing on and around the ears. Using a pair of thinning shears, do a little bulk thinning close to the skin to remove excess coat. Snip a little, then comb and stand back to see where to remove more hair. Once the area is “de-bulked,” use thinners or chunkers to shorten the remaining hair so that it looks natural. You do not want to overly trim or sculpt the coat, just remove areas that are obviously too thick or bunchy so the coat lays smoothly and looks like it grew that way.
A well socialized English Shepherd is a delight to groom. They are calm, sensible, intelligent dogs, with a lovely, natural beauty. ✂