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Australian Shepherd Shedding & Using an Undercoat Rake

In my opinion, Australian Shepherd shedding is a bigger problem than shedding from most other dog breeds.  Part of the shedding problem is a result of their thick double-coat.  The other aspect to Australian Shepherd shedding is that their hair is usually long and wispy (think tufts of hair that cling).  So when it comes off their body, it either floats around on the floor like an independent entity or it clings to your clothes.

Here are three undercoat management options – the professional Oster, a more standard rake and the famous FURminator:

Oster Professional Pet Grooming Undercoat Rake

Coastal Pet – Safari Long Tooth Undercoat Dog Rake

FURminator Long Hair deShedding Tool for Dogs

Trooper has a lot of hair and he is a master of Australian Shepherd shedding; especially after a bath.  I’ll vacuum the house one morning, and later that day there will have appeared a multitude of floating hair tufts.

The positive side of Australian Shepherd shedding is it usually means you’re doing at least a semi-good job of brushing them out.  When Trooper goes un-brushed for awhile, his hair clumps together against his body and doesn’t shed off as well.  Or he gets what I call “Dreadlock Butt” because his pants will get matted and disorderly looking.

We use a two-tool approach to grooming the dogs but I’m interested in doing a more thorough job in the future.  Specifically, I’d like to find a spray-on, dog hair conditioner that helps during the super dry seasons here.  I’d also like to get some kind of comb that works better on the tangled areas (like behind their ears) than the wire brush or undercoat rake.

This is a ‘self cleaning’ slicker brush that has really great reviews. Our slicker brush, which we have had for ages, can occasionally prick the dogs. Based on what others have said, that is not an issue with this model.

This is the exact slicker brush we currently use. I do not remember where it came from or how we got it. It does the job well enough but can occasionally deliver a painful poke to the dog recipient.

Do you need to give them a bath first?

I only bathe the dogs when they really need it – like when Sydney rolls in something dead or made of poop.  They rinse themselves in rivers and streams often enough that a bath is really only needed for the dire stench or when I feel like it.  But when I do, I like AvoDerm or Earthbath.  Earthbath seems to be in stock more often.

Bathing the Australian Shepherds does help with preparing them for a big undercoat rake and brush out session.  Once they are fully dry (usually the day after the bath), it’s much easier to tackle their coats and manage the shedding chaos.

Reducing Australian Shepherd Shedding

The solution is manual and requires a willing human.  There is no ‘quick fix’ for a dog with a thick coat.  There isn’t a pill that you can give them that will POOF, remove all the hair that is about to fall off and put it in the garbage.  You just need to groom them.

If you don’t already have one, you must pick up an undercoat rake.  They are essential in removing the thick undercoat.  A slicker brush is helpful in loosening up the coat in preparation for using the undercoat rake and it also works well as a normal brush.  In the pictures below, I show the stages I go through to brush out Trooper’s coat and reduce his exemplary Australian Shepherd shedding.

Using an Undercoat Rake & Slicker Brush

When you first run the undercoat rake through their hair, you’ll notice it pulls undercoat out and deposits it on them. The rake does not necessarily do a great job collecting these initial flocks of hair.

When I try to collect the fluffy undercoat with the rake, it just skips the rake and falls down to my hand.

I use an old slicker brush to both suck up the fluffy undercoat tufts and also to work out tangles.

Work in sections. Sometimes I start near a foot and work my way to their spine. Other times I work in the opposite direction. Use the non-brush wielding hand to keep the other hair section out of your way.

Empty the undercoat rake every now and then. Otherwise, the compressed hair will reduce the depth of the rake and make your motions less effective.

I have brushed out this one leg every night for the past two nights. This was the third brushing and I still got two huge clumps of hair out. (Why do the same side over and over again? Funny you should ask.  Trooper prefers to lay on his other side, so this side is often more readily available.)

As you work toward his head, change the direction of your hair sections to continue brushing with the grain.  A strategy for being more thorough is to go through a section again; but this time, work perpendicular or against the grain.  This can help dislodge any hair you missed.

I managed to get Trooper to flip over so I could address the other side.  This side has missed out on the last two brushing sessions.  The undercoat did its usual wispy, spiderweb routine.

This is dreadlock butt. You do NOT want to use the undercoat rake here until you have loosened things up with a different kind of brush – a bristle or slicker brush should do the trick.

Slightly better shot of the “dreads”.

In Summary

So, in summary, you need two tools – an undercoat rake and a slicker brush – and some time.  Twenty minutes per evening for a couple of nights in a row usually gets the job done.  Trooper will loose patience with me after 20-30 minutes so I keep our grooming sessions short and tackle different hair chunks on different evenings.

Rundown of the steps –

  • Loosen up the hair with the slicker brush
  • Use the undercoat rake to brush out the undercoat.  Work in sections
  • Use a combination of short brush strokes near the skin and longer strokes through the hair.
  • Use the slicker brush to go through the hair one more time.  This will smooth things out and collect any loose tufts that didn’t get worked onto the undercoat rake.
  • Move to next section

You know it’s feeling good when you start to get the air licking. Happy Grooming!