One of the most distinguished features of an Australian Shepherd is its luscious locks! Their flowing hair not only flows all over us our house and our furniture it can look quite messy and disheveled on them.
Keeping an Australian Shepherd’s hair groomed and tidy can be tricky even for the most seasoned dog owner. This grooming guide will be your one-stop shop for everything you may want to know about your Aussie’s hair!
The first question we need to get out of the way is….
Do Australian Shepherds have hair or fur?
Yes, there is a difference!
Technically Australian Shepherds have fur, not hair. Australian Shepherds have a double coat and all double-coated dogs have fur, not hair. Chemically fur and hair are the same, but hair and fur have different growth cycles. Fur sheds more easily and is shorter and more coarse than hair.
Here is a table to help you see the difference.
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Shorter in length
Longer in length
Shorter Growth Cycle
Longer Growth Cycle
As you can see hair and fur have many differences. Strangely enough, they are still made of the same protein called keratin, this is also what nails and skin are made from.
So why is it important to know if your dog has hair or fur? Because there is a big difference in how you take care of and groom a dog with fur as opposed to dogs with hair.
Australian Shepherds not only have fur they have two thick layers of it. The top coat or guard hair consists of longer courser fur and the undercoat consists of shorter thinner more fuzzy fur.
Both of these types of fur help protect an Aussie in different ways.
What Kind of Coat (Hair) Do Australian Shepherds Have?
Australian Shepherds have 2 coats of fur. The soft undercoat helps regulate their temperature and a course thick overcoat or guard hair that helps protect them from the elements.
The texture of an Aussies hair is in between soft and coarse. Show coats will feel softer and thicker. Working coats will be a bit sleeker and not quite as soft.
Australian Shepherd Undercoat
An Australian Shepherds undercoat is the short thin fuzzy hair that helps to regulate the dog’s temperature. It has an amazing ability to keep the dog warm in the winter as well as cool in the summer.
One of the reasons Aussies shed so much has to do with this amazing undercoat. Every spring an Aussie will “blow its coat” which means that over the span of several weeks their thick winter undercoat will shed and a completely new undercoat will grow.
This new undercoat is specially designed to help them stay cool in the summer. Think of it as a light jacket in the summer and a heavy coat in the winter.
Similar in the fall time they again over several weeks lose this undercoat and regrow a new thicker woolier undercoat meant to trap more body heat. This will help them stay warm in the cold winter months.
Tip: It’s extremely important to keep an undercoat brushed and matt-free. It can’t do its job if it’s all tangled up with debris and mats.
Australian Shepherd Top Coat / Guard Hair
As we discussed even though Aussies have fur, not hair it’s generally acceptable to use the terms interchangeably. Their topcoat is even referred to as guard ‘hair’ and not guard ‘fur’.
The topcoat on an Aussie is the longer coarser hair. This hair is there to protect the dog from the elements. Also called the guard hair it is water-resistant and meant to keep debris insects and other items from reaching an Aussies tender skin. This long hair also keeps your dog from getting sunburnt.
The topcoat sheds year-round but also needs to be brushed regularly to keep it from forming mats.
How to Groom an Australian Shepherd (Complete Grooming Guide)
There are many aspects to think about when keeping your Aussie well-groomed. Here is a list of all the things you need to do to keep your Aussie groomed.
- Brush their hair regularly. 1-3 times a week, more during shedding season.
- Bathe your Aussie every 6 weeks to 6 months depending on how active your dog is.
- Control the shedding, especially when your dog blows its coat twice a year.
- Keep your dog’s teeth clean and healthy.
- Make sure their ears are clean and healthy.
- Groom and care for their tail.
Each of these areas of grooming an Australian Shepherd is so important that they deserve careful and detailed instruction. This is why we have an article for each aspect of grooming an Australian Shepherd.
Click on each picture link to learn how to care for all parts of your Aussie.
Australian Shepherd Short Hair
Some Australian shepherds have a shorter sleeker less thick and less puffy coat than other long-haired Australian Shepherds. Short hair on an Australian Shepherd is often called a working coat compared to a longer show coat.
There really isn’t a big difference in the length of coat on Aussies. It’s generally the thickness of the undercoat that can be dramatically different. Aussies bred in colder climates may have thicker coats. Genetics also make a big difference in whether an Aussie has a long show coat or a short working coat.
Should you trim an Australian Shepherd’s hair?
Many owners wonder if it is ok to trim their Aussie’s hair. Trimming your Australian Shepherd’s hair is not needed, but a small percentage of owners prefer to. In fact, there are many beautiful styles for Aussies’ hair that we will discuss in the next section, but the important thing is to know how short is ok for an Aussie trim.
Generally, you do not need to trim an Australian Shepherd’s coat. You should also avoid cutting the hair too short or shaving the dog completely. Trimming certain areas of the dog such as the sanitary regions or around the paws is ok and good for the dog’s health.
Tip: Want to know how much Aussie owners typically spend on grooming? Check out: Cost to Groom an Australian Shepherd (Owners Surveyed)
Australian Shepherd Haircut Styles
As stated above most owners don’t trim or cut an Aussies’ hair. Generally brushing the hair and keeping it clean is all you need to do. If you do want to choose a fancy style for your dog you can choose from the following.
Tip: Learn more about grooming styles by reading this article: Australian Shepherd Grooming Styles
Why you shouldn’t cut an Australian Shepherd’s hair?
Because of the special nature of an Aussies double coat cutting the coat too short can result in the undercoat being the same length or longer than the outer guard hair. This becomes a problem because then the outer coat can’t do its job to repel water and protect the dog from the elements.
The undercoat often will grow faster than the guard hair because the two times a year that it blows its coat it is genetically engineered to grow and replace fast! If you cut or shave an Aussies coat the undercoat will grow back and overtake the outer coat not allowing the outer coat the time it needs to grow back properly.
Cutting your dog’s hair can result in a different textured coat that is very fuzzy and easily matted.
Definition: -To blow coat- is referring to when a dog loses a lot of its undercoat at once and seems to be shedding a lot in a short period of time. This generally happens during season changes of spring and fall.
How Short Can you Cut an Aussies Hair?
Sometimes for very matted dogs, you will need to cut part of the hair in order to get the mat out. Even though sources like Wiki How say it’s ok to shave your dog with a razor you should avoid that if at all possible.
Australian Shepherd hair should not be cut more than 1/4 to 1/2 an inch off its coat. Certain areas like paws, sanitary areas, and legs can be cut somewhat shorter.
Australian Shepherd Hair Length
Genetics will determine how long an Australian Shepherd’s hair will grow. Males tend to have thicker and fuller hair, but that’s not always the case. There is a slight difference between short-haired (working coat) and long-haired (show coat) Aussies.
Is an Australian Shepherd a long-haired dog?
Some people consider Australian Shepherd fur to be long some think it’s short. It depends on who you talk to. There is such a wide variety of lengths textures and colors in an Aussie that it’s really quite subjective.
Aussies that have thick “Show Coats” tend to have longer fuller hair than working coat Aussies.
Long-haired Aussies will have the longest hair in certain parts of their bodies. Generally, the hair is the longest around their neck & chest. Their tails also have immensely long fur. Grooming their long fluffy tails and keeping them healthy can be a challenge.
Note: Check out all these Beautiful Long-Haired Australian Shepherds (25-Gorgeous Pictures!)
Australian Shepherd hair loss
There are several reasons that your Australian Shepherd may be losing hair. We will discuss a few, but it’s important that you consult your dog’s vet to get a professional medical opinion.
- Atopy – Environmental or food allergies that cause hair loss on your dog. This could be seasonal. You may want to treat it with antihistamines prescribed by your vet.
- Mange– a parasitic skin disease caused by microscopic mites. Look for patches of fur missing and a lot of itching. Many cases will clear up on its own, more severe cases should be treated by a vet.
- Fleas – Very tiny wingless insects that will bite and feed off of your dog. Look for small red bumps on your pet’s skin. Fleas may irritate your dog enough that he will be biting or scratching so much his fur starts to come off.
- Hormonal Problems – Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism can cause hormonal imbalances that may cause hair to fall out. If your dog is not biting or scratching its tail but they are still losing hair this may be the cause. Watch for a tired or lethargic dog. This can be treated with medication or surgery. Consult your vet.
- Old age– If your Aussie is a senior (9-12 years old) hair loss on their tail may be caused by aging. If this is the case you can do your best to help them feel comfortable and make sure that they are not in any pain.
Tip: Make sure your Aussie gets dried off completely every time it gets wet. Because of the thick double coat, any wetness that gets trapped close to the skin can cause irritation and bacteria growth.
Australian Shepherd losing hair around the eyes
If your Aussie is losing hair around its eyes it’s likely because they have an infection called conjunctivitis (commonly known as pink eye). This infection will cause puffy watery eyes as well as pinkness or redness and itching. Your dog may itch and paw at its eyes which can cause hair loss.
In any case of hair loss, it’s best to get advice from a vet.
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Do Australian Shepherds have straight wavy or curly hair?
Australian Shepherds don’t usually have curly hair. Their hair is generally straight or wavy. On rare occasions, Aussies can have a more tight wave that looks curly, but if it is a true tight curl then the Aussie is probably mixed with another curly-haired dog breed.
Certain parts of Aussies may be wavier or appear somewhat curly. Behind the ears, along the back, and under the chest are parts of the Aussie that can appear wavy. The wave may also cause the dog’s hair to be more prone to matting in those areas.
How fast does Australian Shepherd hair grow?
Generally, Aussies’ hair will replace itself about every 6-12 months. How fast an Australian Shepherd’s hair grows depends on how healthy the dog is and what kind of nutrition it receives, as well as how well it is groomed.
A matted and dirty coat will not grow as fast as a clean and well-groomed coat. An extremely neglected dog coat could cause hair loss as well.
Brushing a dog regularly will help get rid of dirt and debris as well as stimulate growth and distribute oils into the dog’s coat that can enhance hair growth.
The undercoat of a dog grows and replaces itself much faster than the guard hair. This is part of why it’s important to not shave a double-coated dog.
While we strive to give the most accurate and helpful information about your pet’s health that we can, this article is meant to be informational only and not medical advice. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your veterinarian or other qualified veterinary health care provider regardless of what you have read on this site or elsewhere.