Because of their long, thick, fluffy coats, it may seem like grooming a Shetland Sheepdog would be a daunting task. While it does require some dedication and patience, it is not nearly as difficult or time-consuming as one might think. Some owners choose to shave their Shelties to avoid having to groom, but this is not a good option. The Sheltie’s thick and lengthy coat helps protect the dog from extreme heat and extreme cold. Shaved dogs are also more susceptible to sunburn and frostbite.
Brushing your Sheltie’s coat and undercoat regularly is the single most important aspect of grooming for this breed. You should brush the undercoat first, as it has more difficulty shedding on its own and is most prone to matting. Part the fur of the topcoat and mist the area you plan to brush with water. (It is important to mist or dampen your Sheltie’s fur as you brush it due to the risk of breakage on course-coated dogs.) Using a pin brush, brush from head to rump, removing the dead hair as it collects in the brush. Do this all across your Sheltie’s body. This technique is referred to as “line brushing.”
After removing all the shed fur from the Shetland Sheepdog’s undercoat, you can move on to the area called the “skirt.” The skirt is the hair on your dog’s rump beneath its tail. This hair tends to be more coarse than the rest of the sheepdog’s coat and is harder to get a brush through. Gently and carefully using a fine-toothed metal comb can be a better, if slower option for grooming the skirt fur. This comb can also double for similar hair near the ears and on the legs of the Sheltie. Always remember to mist the fur as well, as it will not tug on the dog and make it uncomfortable for them.
After grooming the undercoat and the skirt, you can move on to the topcoat. Continuing to mist the fur before brushing, you can work your way through the topcoat with the same brush as the undercoat (after cleaning out the excess dead fur, of course) to help regain the normal sheen of the Sheltie’s coat.
Since their coats are so long and thick, Shetland Sheepdogs are prone to collecting dirt, dust, and grime in their fur. Over bathing can be problematic with any breed, as it can potentially strip the fur and skin of essential oils and minerals that help protect and keep it healthy, but since the Sheltie has so much fur, it is acceptable to bathe more often. Many groomers recommend a bath approximately every two months. If you choose to bathe your Sheltie at home instead of with your groomer, you may have to test out a number of different doggie shampoos before finding one that suits you and your dog’s needs best. Always watch for excessive scratching, which can result from dry or irritated skin and is an indication that you need to switch shampoos.