One of the most distinguished features of a Shetland Sheepdog is its thick luscious fur! Their flowing hair not only flows all over us our house and our furniture it can look quite messy and disheveled on them.
Keeping a Sheltie’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 Sheltie’s hair!
The first question we need to get out of the way is….
Do Shelties have hair or fur?
Yes, there is a difference!
Technically Shetland Sheepdogs have fur, not hair. Shelties 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.
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.
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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.
Shetland Sheepdogs 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 a Sheltie in different ways.
What Kind of Coat (Hair) Do Shelties (Sheepdogs) Have?
Shelties 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 a Shelties 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.
A Shelties 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 Shelties shed so much has to do with this amazing undercoat. Every spring a Sheltie 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.
Shelties Top Coat / Guard Hair
As we discussed even though Shelties 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 a Sheltie 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 a Sheltie’s 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 a Shelties (Complete Grooming Guide)
There are many aspects to think about when keeping your Sheltie well-groomed. Here is a list of all the things you need to do to keep your Sheltie groomed.
- Brush their hair regularly. 1-3 times a week, more during shedding season.
- Bathe your Sheltie 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 a Shelties is so important that they deserve careful and detailed instruction. This is why we have an article for each aspect of grooming a Sheltie.
Here is a list of all our important Sheltie Grooming articles:
Sheltie Short Hair
Some Shelties have a shorter sleeker less thick and less puffy coat than other long-haired Shelties. Short hair on a Sheltie is often called a working coat compared to a longer show coat.
There really isn’t a big difference in the length of the coat on Sheltie. It’s generally the thickness of the undercoat that can be dramatically different. Shelties bred in colder climates may have thicker coats. Genetics also make a big difference in whether a Sheltie has a long show coat or a short working coat.
Should you trim or cut a Shelties hair?
Many owners wonder if it is ok to trim their Sheltie’s hair. Trimming your Sheltie’s hair is not needed, but a small percentage of owners prefer to. In fact, there are many beautiful styles for Sheltie’s hair that we will discuss in the next section, but the important thing is to know how short is ok for a Sheltie trim.
Generally, you do not need to trim a Sheltie’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.
Cutting your dog’s hair very short causes the guard coat and the undercoat to become the same length. When the guard coat is the same length of the undercoat it can’t do it’s job to protect the undercoat from the elements.
The undercoat also can’t insulate and cool the dog like it needs to if the outercoat is cut too short.
Sheltie Haircut Styles
As stated above most owners don’t trim or cut a Sheltie’s hair. Generally brushing the hair and keeping it clean is all you need to do. Some owners do prefer to have their Shelties get a very basic haircut. If you do want to choose a fancy style for your dog you can choose from the following.
There are many different grooming styles available for Shelties that are all unique in their own way. It is up to the owner to decide which grooming style works best for their dog. Some of the most common grooming styles include:
- Puppy cut – Shorter haircut to look like the dog’s hair has yet to grow out to full length (not recommended, see below).
- Teddy bear cut – fluffy and soft look, rounded corners vs. sharp angles, the legs will have a slimmer look and the face will have a rounded style.
- Minimal cut – Only trim the hair around the feet and sanitary areas. Everything else is left natural. This is the breed standard.
- Simba style – Fur around the head and neck resembles a lion. The body will be trimmed down and there is oftentimes hair left in tufts around the feet and tail.
Note: Learn more about how to cut and take care of your Shelties tail by reading this article: Shetland Sheepdog Tail Complete Guide (Position, Docking, Meaning)
Why you shouldn’t cut a Shelties hair?
Because of the special nature of a Shelties 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 of the two times a year that it blows its coat it is genetically engineered to grow and replace fast! If you cut or shave a Sheltie 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 a Shelties 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.
Shelties’ 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.
Sheltie Hair Length
Genetics will determine how long a Shelties 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) Sheltie.
Is a Sheltie a long-haired dog?
Some people consider Sheltie’s 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 a Sheltie that it’s really quite subjective.
Long-haired Shelties 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.
Sheltie hair loss
There are several reasons that your Sheltie 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 Sheltie 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 Sheltie 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.
Sheltie losing hair around the eyes
If your Sheltie 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 Shelties have straight wavy or curly hair?
Shelties don’t usually have curly hair. Their hair is generally very straight or occasionally wavy. On rare occasions, Shelties can have a more tight wave that looks curly, but if it is a true tight curl then the Sheltie is probably mixed with another curly-haired dog breed.
Certain parts of Shelties may be wavier or appear somewhat curly. Behind the ears, along the back, and under the chest are parts of the Sheltie 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 Sheltie’s hair grow?
Generally, Shelties’ hair will replace itself about every 6-12 months. How fast a Sheltie’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.
Why isn’t my sheltie fluffy?
It takes 2-3 years for a Sheltie to grow out its coat completely. Before then it is hard to know what your dog’s coat is going to look like.
Shelties puppies go through an awkward stage of losing their puppy fur and gaining their adult fur which can leave them looking very scraggly and not fluffy at all.
If your dog is over 2 years old and still not very fluffy, it could be that they are a mix, or their genetics lends them towards growing a bit of a shorter coat than the bigger fluffier coats that Shelties are generally known for.
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.