Aussie's are an interesting case when it comes to brushing: their long coat is prone to matting, but they're also heavy shedders. Problem is we can't deshed them properly until we deal with all the tangles first (some of which are deep in their coat).
Here's the gist of it:
- We want to remove all the mats & tangles first with a long-pin slicker brush.
- Once they're clear of tangles all you need is a soft pin brush (used twice weekly) to maintain their coat and remove loose hair.
- If you're still having trouble with stubborn tangles or the crazy amounts of shedding, we have a few extra tricks for that below.
BEST BRUSH FOR MATS + TANGLES
Extra Long Slicker
Extra Long Pin Slicker
Incredibly efficient at removing mats and comfortable for your dog. Extra long pins remove tangles deep within long undercoats.
BEST BRUSH FOR MAINTENANCE + DESHEDDING
Oval Pin Brush
Oval Pin Brush
Exactly what you need for daily maintenance and deshedding, while very comfortable on your dog's skin.
Steel Greyhound Comb
Steel Greyhound Comb
A long-pin steel comb is a perfect (and inexpensive) tool for removing deep tangles that a slicker can't reach. We recommend using this comb in combination with a slicker brush.
Aussie's unlimited energy and drive to play and run tends to get them in trouble with their thick coat. Before long all that long fur is a mop of tangles and debris, not to mention all the shedding hair around your house.
If you've ever wondered how a professional groomer deals with your dog (and how they make them look so nice) I'll reveal exactly how I groom each one in my shop.
Why Australian Shepherds Shed
First a quick lesson on why dog's shed in the first place.
Dog hair is similar to human hair in that old and damaged hairs are released to make room for new incoming hairs, dogs just have a lot more hair to lose. Therefore, shedding is a completely healthy and normal response that you can expect year round.
In some cases extreme hair loss can be attributed to conditions such as stress, physical pain, or nutritional deficiencies. Also, hormonal changes such as pregnancy, or being spayed or neutered, can cause temporary fluctuations in shedding.
Itchiness can lead to more scratching, which can lead to a lot of extra shedding. Check your dog for fleas, tickets, or parasites, or if they may have developed allergies.
In each case you must consult with a vet to better understand the root of the problem, so that you may resolve it.
Twice a year you'll be treated to a full "blow out", where you'll be faced with a seemingly endless amount of shedding hair. You have entered the dreaded Shedding Season.
Double-coated breeds will naturally adjust the thickness of their coat based on temperature and daylight hours, therefore you can expect two big spikes in shedding every year - Spring and Fall. We call this "Blowing their Coat", and it often causes owners to question their own sanity.
This hurricane of shedding typically lasts for 4 - 6 weeks, during which owners have to weather the storm until it's over. Thankfully, there are ways to control this shedding period with a few quick tools.
This is great and all, but how do we control all that shedding and tangles?
Australian Shepherd Grooming
Australian Shepherds are a double-coated breed, meaning there is a top layer (often called the guard coat), and a hidden layer underneath (called the under coat). And it's the undercoat which is responsible for the hair all over your home, car, and clothes.
So how do we control shedding, remove tangles, and keep our Aussies looking their best? With proper brushing, bathing, nutrition, and a few other little tricks...
Brushing Like a Pro
The tried and true method of brushing is still the best way to control a shedding dog.
Why Do We Need A Slicker AND A Pin Brush?
You may be asking why we don't just buy a slicker brush and call it a day (or vice versa). It's because they're tools each designed for a specific purpose.
A slicker is made up of hundreds of tiny sharp pins that separate twisted hairs as it combs through their coat. But excessive use leads to brush burn, irritating your dog's skin, so we only use this as necessary.
A pin brush has dulled pins and is comfortable for daily or weekly use of removing loose hair. But a pin brush isn't strong enough to work through tangles on a thick coated dog.
But together, these tools make up the ultimate team to keeping your Aussie looking and feeling great.
Don't Use This Brush!
We do not recommend using Furminators or other similar deshedding tools on your Aussie. While they do indeed get a lot of hair out, deshedding tools actually cut the cut hairs instead of brushing them out. This results in a very choppy and rough looking coat over time.
Bathing to Maximize Deshedding & Remove Tangles
Brushing is a great start, but to remove an absolute ton of hair, or to help loosen up stubborn tangles, we recommend bathing with a good deshedding shampoo.
These are full of extra conditioners and omega oils that slick the hair down and allows for easier removal. And it works!
Simply bathe your dog like you normally would, while applying a generous amount of deshedding shampoo to scrub into their coat. Let the shampoo works it's magic for 10 to 15 minutes before thoroughly rinsing and drying.
While they're still a bit damp, gently brush them out with your pin brush or comb, and just see how much extra hair comes off, it's actually quite amazing.
Groomers Ultimate Weapon: The High Velocity Dryer
Many professional groomers have a high-velocity dryer which blows all the loose hair off your dog in a short amount of time. Think of a leaf-blower with a hose, designed specifically to dry and remove dog hair. It's extremely effective, and reduces shedding for 2 or 3 weeks afterwards.
Another option is to buy your own high velocity dryer, which can save you many trips to the groomer, and be a huge life saver in terms of shedding. Check out this video I found to see just how effective it is.
Healthy Diet = Healthy Coat
Food can make all the difference. Up to 30% of your dog's daily protein requirement is used to grow and maintain hair follicles, meaning that a poor diet can lead to an unhealthy (and excessively shedding) coat.
Understanding the nutritional requirements of your Aussie, and ensuring they receive a balanced diet of proteins and fats will help improve skin elasticity, and hair follicle strength. And not to mention an Aussie's active lifestyle requires a strong diet to keep them healthy and happy.
What Are The Best Brushes for Australian Shepherds?
When it comes to Aussie's we have a 2 pronged approach in my grooming shop. We start with a slicker brush to remove any thick tangles or mats, and then a pin brush to remove loose hair. Using this combo also "fluffs" their coat out, and gives them a nice finish.
Finally, we'll often reach for a greyhound comb (a long pinned steel comb) to work out any deep tangles near the skin (which the slicker or pin brush can't reach).
1. Slicker Brush
Paw Brothers Extra Long Pin Slicker
You won't need a overly expensive or fancy slicker here, but you do need one with a high pin count, and long bendable pins. The idea is that the hundreds of tiny pins will separate twisted hairs as they brush through, while the bendable structure will relieve some of the pressure applied as to not irritate skin (causing nasty brush burn).
2. Pin Comb
Paw Brothers Extra Long Pin Slicker
Now that your Aussie is free from tangles, it's time to move onto deshedding, and for that all we need is a good pin brush. There are plenty of pin brushes out there, so what makes a good one?
The ideal pin brush has a large surface area so we can work quickly, has long pins that reach deep into their coat but don't stab or cause pain (rounded tips), and the long pins remain sturdy and won't break down quickly. And of course, the ideal brush pulls out all that loose hair.
3. Greyhound Comb
Andis Steel 'Greyhound' Comb
So we have a Slicker and a Pin brush, why do we need a Greyhound Comb?
This is the perfect (and inexpensive) accomplice to everything we've mentioned so far. I call it my "seek and destroy" tool, after using a slicker I'll glide through their coat with a greyhound comb to find any left over mats I may have missed. It's perfect clearing out all the loose fur trapped deep in their undercoat (especially around their butt, neck, and mane)
Other Useful Tools
Here's a few other very useful tools we use for deshedding in my grooming shop, they are completely optional but great for living in a shed free home.
4. High Velocity Dryer
SHELANDY 3.2HP Pet Dryer
While not quite as powerful as your professional commercial-grade pet dryer, this is a really great personal dryer that can most certainly get the job done (and is quite a bit more affordable).
By blowing out your dog's coat you'll release a shocking amount of loose hair, and you can massively reduce shedding for a few weeks. Not to mention it'll save you from making constant trips to your groomer.
Please Note: Use this outside if possible, or else you'll have hair or water stuck to every part of your room.
5. Deshedding Treatment
FURminator deShedding Shampoo / Conditioner
This is an absolute life saver with Aussie coats, and works great if you use it along with regular brushing.
This will take care of that final 20% of shedding that never seems to go away - and really help with keeping their coat free from mats.
Quick note: You might notice an increase in shedding for 24 hours after use. Since you've loosened up so much hair it will continue to fall out for a short time, but then they'll be shed free for a week or two.
Katlin is a 7-year certified advanced professional groomer, a registered veterinarian tech assistant (working in emergency, exotics, and general practice), and even owns her own popular collar and leash brand. You might say she's multi-talented when it comes to pets.