I have always loved the gorgeous full coat of the Shetland Sheepdog breed. Their long luscious hair seems to have a life of its own. Over the years I have learned more than I ever thought I would about caring for and grooming a Shelties coat.
Brushing a Shetland Sheepdog is a very important part of grooming and maintaining your dog’s health. Brushing your dog’s hair in the correct way with the correct tools is critical. It is important to help them enjoy the process so that it can be a bonding experience for both dog and owner.
This article will go into depth on the best ways to brush your Shelties hair as well as how to handle any problems you might run into. We have talked with 100s of owners to get all the tips and tricks just for you!
Why should you brush your Shetland Sheepdog?
Brushing your Sheltie on a regular basis is important not only to keep your dog looking and smelling nice but also essential for their health and wellbeing. Dogs that go for a long time without being brushed can get mats and debris in their hair that will lead to problems such as pests like fleas and ticks.
Regularly brushing your dog will help with the following:
🐾 Controls shedding
🐾 Removes dead hair
🐾 Distributes natural oils for a healthier coat
🐾 Prevents mats
🐾 Removes dirt and debris
🐾 Early detection of pests such as fleas and ticks
🐾 Helps to prevent your dog from getting hot spots
🐾 Keeps your pup looking beautiful
Your Shetland Sheepdog has a unique and beautiful double coat of hair!
There is an inner layer of hair called the undercoat that is short and soft. This coat of hair helps to regulate your dog’s temperature. It grows thick in the wintertime and sheds profusely in the spring.
The outer layer of your dog’s hair is called the top coat or the guard hair. This hair protects your dog from the elements, is water resistant, and keeps dirt and debris from getting to your dog’s skin.
When you brush your dog’s hair you will need to make sure that you are not just brushing the top coat, but also getting down underneath to where the undercoat is.
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The undercoat is generally the hair that tangles the most. It is also the hair that will be shedding the most when your dog blows its coat twice a year. You need to be sure to brush it out otherwise the dead hair will get stuck under the top coat and cause build-up.
If mats are allowed to build up in your dog’s undercoat they can trap moisture with will create harmful bacteria to grow. This bacteria can attract pests such as fleas, mites, and ticks as well as create painful hotspots on your dog’s skin.
Note: You should always brush your dog before giving it a bath. If you don’t the water will act as a glue setting in mats and tangles and making them even more difficult to get free.
Do Shetland Sheepdogs like to be brushed?
There are usually two categories when it comes to Shelties and grooming time. Those that LOVE it and those that HATE it. Sometimes the personality of your dog will play into that love or hate, but most often their attitude develops from the experiences they have with grooming and brushing over time.
Shelties that get used to being brushed can learn to enjoy it. They often perceive it as bonding time with their owners. Shelties that are not brushed often will generally develop mats in their hair that can make it painful for them to be brushed. This will cause your dog to dislike being brushed.
It takes some time to build up that trust with your dog to make sure that they love being brushed and have a positive experience every time.
Tip: The more positive interactions it has when it’s time for brushing the easier it will get in the future.
If you want your Sheltie to love being brushed you will need to do everything you can to make it an enjoyable experience. Be sure to read our tips section to get all the info on how to help your dog LOVE being brushed.
How to properly brush a Shetland Sheepdog
Have you ever heard the saying there are a lot of different ways to skin a cat!? Well even though it may seem simple there are also a lot of different ways to brush your Sheltie. Some of these ways are better than others.
Line Brushing & Dematting (seen below) are 2 popular ways Sheltie owners like to brush their dogs. But first, you need to make sure you are ready.
The first step is to make sure you gather all your tools!
If you have been a Sheltie owner for long then, you know that there is no way you can get away with having only 1 brush for your dog! That may work for a Bulldog, but not for a fluffy dog like a Sheltie.
Tip: To learn about all the different brushes you will need and to see what Sheltie owners use most often read this article: Best Brush for Shelties.
The Second and biggest task ahead of you is to make sure to get to that elusive undercoat on your dog. You will need to focus on getting any tangles and mats out of the undercoat before you can move on to de-shedding or making that outer coat nice and sleek.
Here are the 2 most popular ways Sheltie owners like to brush their dogs.
This technique is good for dogs that are used to being brushed and will tolerate you going through their hair with a systematic approach.
Focus on brushing 1 section at a time.
Use a spray in conditioner mixed with water.
Start from the bottom of your dog. Lift a layer of hair about an inch up from the bottom and brush in a straight line from your dog’s front leg to the back leg.
This technique is better for dogs that may have gone longer between brushing than recommended. This will give you a chance to focus on the biggest problem areas while making the most progress.
- Use your fingers to gently run them through your dog’s hair. When you encounter a mat use your fingers to separate what you can from the rest of the hair.
- Spray the matt with the detangler. This will help keep the flyaways down as well as create less friction for the matting comb.
- Use a de-matter like this one to gently pull through the mat. Start at the end of the hair and slowly work up an inch at a time. Careful not to yank or tug too harshly or this will be painful for your dog.
- Once you have made it through your dog’s undercoat with your fingers and gotten all the mats out with the de-matting brush then you can start working through your dog’s hair with the undercoat rake or the de-shedding tool.
- Start at your Sheltie’s neck area using short gentle strokes with the de-shedder gently rake through the mat. (We have more tips about de-matting your dog below)
Tip: If the mat is too large and combing through it seems painful for your dog then use haircutting scissors to cut the mat out. Cutting out a few mats to make grooming less painful and over more quickly will be better for your dog in the long run and can avoid the need to shave your dog completely.
How often should you brush a Shetland Sheepdog?
Shetland Sheepdogs are pretty easy to keep groomed IF you keep up with it.
The amount of time and how often you brush your dog will vary depending on where you live and what your dog gets into.
Note: A dog that lives in a more wooded area and is very active outside will need to be brushed and bathed more often than a city dog that only goes out to jog with its owner in the mornings.
With that being said here are some general guidelines for how often to brush your dog.
Type of Sheltie
How long to brush
2-3 times a day for 5 min. or less
Long Hair Sheltie (Show Coat)
Every day for 10 min. a day or 2-3 times a week for 20 min. sessions
Short Hair Sheltie (Working Coat)
Every day for 5 min. or 2-3 times a week for 15 min.
Tips for brushing your Shetland Sheepdog at home
Brushing and de-shedding your dog at home can sound quite intimidating, especially during high shedding seasons, but doing it at home can save you a lot of money over time.
Note: See how much Sheltie owners spend on grooming their dogs. Cost to Groom a Shetland Sheepdog (Owners Surveyed)
The first 2 tips for brushing your dog at home are my favorite, but we hope all of these tips can help you better enjoy the process.
#1 Make sure you have the right tools
Using the wrong tools to brush and de-shed your dog is not only frustrating for you, but it can also be very painful for your dog. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all solution. There are a lot of tools that work great for most owners, but the best way to find what you love is for you to be willing to try a few different ones until you get what works for you and your dog’s hair texture.
Some of the tools you will need for brushing your Sheltie are:
🐾 Pin brush – This type of brush is the most commonly used brush on dogs to get out tangles and rats.
🐾 Slicker brush – This brush has thin wires and is used to get debris out of the top coat of your dog.
🐾 Dematting comb – A dematting comb has sharp edges that can cut through mats. This comb should only be used on thick and difficult knots in your dog’s coat.
🐾 Steel comb – A steel comb has long strong rounded teeth and is very sturdy and useful to comb out rats. This comb works great to get all the way to the skin of your dog.
🐾 Spray bottle– Brushing dry hair can cause your dog’s coat to break and be damaged more easily. Using a spray bottle with water and about a tablespoon of detangler or dog conditioner can help to keep the hair soft and healthy.
🐾 Detangler– Using a detangler isn’t absolutely necessary, but it can help to soften knots, as well as make them slick and easier to get through.
#2 Train your dog to expect it
Sometimes as dog owners, we may dread grooming and brushing our dogs as much as they do. Please note that your amazingly smart canine can sense this and will learn to dread it as well.
If grooming your dog has been an issue in the past the best way to overcome it is to start a new routine where you and your dog can get used to and expect it to happen.
Pairing the new habit with another routine that you both enjoy can help. A favorite at our house is after our evening walk my pup and I sit on the couch together and I brush him for 5-10 min. as we listen to some calming music.
Note: Putting off brushing your dog’s hair because you know it will be unpleasant will make things worse for both of you in the long run. Your dog’s hair will get more matted and dirtier and could even become so bad it may be necessary to shave it.
Make sure to read the next section on how to brush a puppy if you have an older Sheltie that’s not even close to being considered a puppy the tips on there will help you get your dog used to getting its hair brushed.
Tips for Shelties who hate being brushed and groomed
🐾 Be patient and consistent. Sometimes you can only get in a few minutes of brushing at a time, but if you don’t give up a few minutes will start to add up.
🐾 Focus on small sections. Try and find which area your dog doesn’t mind being brushed and expand from there.
🐾 Make sure to have their favorite treat ready. Pairing the brushing with their favorite treat, or better yet their favorite chew toy will give them a distraction and a reward.
🐾 Use a grooming glove to make it feel like they are being petted. While this won’t get out the big tangles it can help them get used to being brushed.
🐾 Make sure they are comfortable while a grooming table can work wonders for some dogs, for others they will do a lot better with having a comfortable place to lay down and relax. You can try both to see what works best for your dog.
🐾 Make sure they are not distracted. If they do better without an audience then make it just the 2 of you. Sometimes my well-meaning kiddos can distract my pup and ruin the progress that we are making.
Tip: Do yourself a favor and invest in a grooming table. It’s a one-time cost that will save your back as well as make grooming so much easier on you and your pup!
How to brush a Shetland Sheepdog puppy
Have you ever noticed that Shetland Sheepdog puppies have different coats than their full-grown counterparts?
Sheltie puppies are born with a single layer of soft puppy hair and don’t develop their full coat until 4-6 months of age.
Around 4-6 months of age sometimes later your puppy will start to lose/shed its puppy coat. At this time it begins to go grow its full double coat of hair.
Sheltie puppies don’t really need to be brushed. Their coats are clean and easy to take care of. Brushing a Sheltie puppy is all about training them to enjoy being groomed.
Note: The most important aspect of brushing a puppy is not the actual brushing. In this stage of life you are teaching and training your puppy what brushing is and what it means.
Take advantage of this time to teach your puppy to LOVE being brushed! Grooming and brushing your dog will be so much easier for both of you if you do this.
Teach a Sheltie puppy to love being brushed!
🐾 Puppies are full of energy. Choose times in the day when your puppy is calm and sleepy to practice brushing your puppy’s hair and teeth.
🐾 Use a soft brush like this to begin with.
🐾 Let your puppy sniff the brush and play with it or mouth it once (and only once) before you start using it. Be sure to not allow your puppy access to chew on the brush.
🐾 Use the brush slowly and calmly as if you are petting your dog with your hand.
🐾 Reinforce your brushing with praise and treats.
🐾 Brush them in 2-3 short sessions a day instead of one long session and only once a week. As their age increases the short sessions can become longer and brushing sessions can become every other day.
🐾 After a few weeks with the soft brush add in a different type of grooming brush such as this one.
How to get mats out of a Shetland Sheepdog’s hair
#1 Start with assessing how matted your dog is. If there are a few problem areas that need to be brushed out then it’s likely going to be just fine.
Note: If your dog is extremely matted and has gone for a long time without being groomed you may need help from a professional groomer.
It is generally not a good idea to shave a Sheltie, but on rare occasions, the matting can be bad enough that it’s better to shave the dog for its health.
#2 Use a detangler to spray your dog’s coat in the areas that are matted. This helps to keep the loose hair from flying all over the place and getting in your face.
#3 Use a slicker brush to gently go over the matted area removing as much dead hair as possible. Start from the bottom of the hair and work upwards towards the skin.
Tip: Changing back and forth between a metal comb and a slicker brush can help break up the matt a bit quicker than just using one or the other.
#4 If there are large mats that you are not able to get out using this method then using a mat breaker/cutter tool will be your next option. This one is most recommended by Sheltie owners.
Start at the outer edge of the mat and brush in the direction of the hair growth.
Note: Since the mat cutter will actually cut through the hair on your dog you do not want to use this on its entire coat, only in places that have extremely difficult mats to remove.
Should I cut or shave my dog’s hair if I can’t brush through it?
If it really has been a long time since you have brushed your dog’s hair and it is extremely matted our recommendation is that you get help from a professional groomer.
Some groomers for the health of the dog may suggest that you shave your dog. Please be aware that this is not always the best solution. If your groomer wants to shave your dog I would strongly suggest you talk to your vet or get a second opinion before you proceed.
You can see in this article why shaving your dog is not always the best idea.