Border Collie Grooming 101 – Tips and Tricks

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Border Collies" by David Anderson. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: David Anderson

Border Collies are beautiful dogs, and you’ll want yours to look good all the time. Luckily, Border Collies are a fairly low-maintenance dog breed when it comes to grooming. Neither your smooth coated nor rough coated type will require regular trips to the groomer to be trimmed, which will save you lots of money in the long run! However, this does not mean that your Border Collie won’t require some work to look their best—but you can do so at home with a few special tools.

The Coat

Border Collies come in a short-haired, smooth type, and a long-haired, rough type. As far as ease of grooming goes, the smooth coated type is super simple to take care of. Its short coat does not tangle easily, so with some brushing to remove the shedding undercoat, your dog will be in good shape. If this dog gets dirty, cleaning may only require a quick wipe-down. This is why many smooth coated Border Collies work in the fields. Their coat does not get easily tangled in branches and is simple to take care of.

Carla Robertson Close up
Photo Courtesy – Carla Robertson

The rough coated Border Collie has long, flowing fur. If this coat is not brushed frequently, tangles and mats will develop. For this coat, you might need a few different types of combs and brushes to keep the undercoat from becoming matted, or the top coat from getting dull and tangled.

For either type of Border Collie, your basic pin brush is a good place to start. This resembles your average human’s hairbrush. Many of these brushes are dual-sided, with one side having metal pins to detangle, and the other side having natural or artificial bristles to smooth the coat and redistribute oils for shine.

With the long-coated type, you may find that this brush only detangles fur on the top coat. Especially in the summer when your dog starts to shed their winter coat, a slicker brush might be helpful in removing excess fur. These brushes have long, narrow pins that get deep down to the undercoat to remove excess fluff. If your dog has developed mats, there are de-matting combs that can thin knotted fur without yanking it out and upsetting your dog.

If you get into a situation where your dog’s tangles and mats are out of control, you may need to take scissors to the knot. If you have a squirmy dog, blunt-ended child’s safety scissors may be best. Carefully snip away hairs that cannot be detangled. Any excessive trimming to your Border Collie’s coat will leave them feeling bare and looking silly.

Bath Time

Your curious Border Collie is bound to splash in mud puddles or roll around in yucky stuff eventually. When this happens, you’ll need to give your dog a bath. Unfortunately, not all Border Collies like water, so bath time could prove to be difficult. When teaching your puppy to tolerate bath time, use lots of praise and treats to try to get your dog to associate baths with good things instead of the strange sensations and sounds associated with the bath. Because Border Collies can be very stubborn and strong, it can be a challenge to keep one in the tub if they don’t want to be there.

Border Collie outdoor
Photo Courtesy – Jo Hicks

It’s helpful if your tub has a removeable shower attachment that can be used to gently spray your dog’s coat. A cup of water and a basin with a few inches of water can do the same thing, but being able to spray your dog with the shower hose can cut down on bathing time. If your dog has a hard time staying still, you can try spreading a tablespoon or so of peanut butter on the back of your (clean) shower wall. This will give them something tasty to lick at while you get to work, keeping them distracted and calm for a few minutes.

Because Border Collies can sometimes be susceptible to skin allergies, it’s a good idea to use a gentle shampoo. A formula meant for dry or sensitive skin works well for most Border Collies. After scrubbing your dog, make sure to rinse very well. Soap buildup can cause dry, itchy skin and a dull coat. Also, try to bathe your dog as little as you can get away with. A bath every couple of months won’t cause too much harm to the oils in the skin and coat, but a weekly bath could dry out sensitive skin.

Also, take special care not to get water in your dog’s eyes or ears. Instead of rinsing the face with running water, use a washcloth to gently wipe around sensitive areas. If water gets trapped in the ear, the moisture can create a breeding ground for infection. Plus, an uncomfortable experience might create an aversion to bath time in general for a smart dog like the Border Collie.

Once your dog is out of the tub, towel dry them and allow them to shake off a little water on their own. Wait until their coat is dry before brushing them, as long fur can get tangled and break when it is wet.

Trimming Nails

Border Collie bath time
Photo Courtesy – Lori Steele

Many dogs do not like having their nails trimmed, but it is still necessary. Not only will trimmed toenails keep your dog from clawing you or your furniture, but it will prevent pain for them later on. When long nails dig into the hard ground, it can cause stress on the feet. Over time, walking around on long toenails can create a lot of pain and damage to feet and legs. Taking your dog for walks on concrete can naturally grind down the nails, but once you hear clicking on a hard surface, that’s when you know it’s time for a trim. This can be done by a groomer, but it’s much cheaper to do at home by yourself.

Again, you need to associate cutting nails with reward, otherwise your Border Collie will struggle to stay still. Before you ever cut a nail, work on holding your dog’s paw without them yanking it away. Once your dog is comfortable with someone touching their feet and nails, you can begin to trim.

Border collie taking a bathStart by trimming the very ends off. If you cut too much at once, you risk cutting into the quick, or the blood supply for the nail. This is very painful and will cause your dog to bleed a lot. Consequently, your Border Collie will remember this pain and will never allow anyone to cut his nails again. If your dog has clear nails, it is easy to see the pink quick in the nail. But if you’re worried about cutting too far, some dog nail clippers have a safety guard that will prevent you from taking off too much.

When you’re finished, give your Border Collie a treat for tolerating the clipping. If you find that your dog fights you too much when you start cutting nails, trim one paw and give your dog a break before doing another. You may find that there’s less struggle when you take four days to cut all the nails rather than all of them in one go.

Brushing Teeth

Brushing your dog’s teeth isn’t just necessary for pearly whites and good breath. Tooth and gum disease can make eating extremely painful for your dog, especially in old age. Diseases of the teeth and gums can also cause bacteria to spread to other parts of the body, including the heart. So, regular brushing can potentially extend the life of your dog.

Border Collie hair groomingYou will need either a small toothbrush or a rubber bristled brush that can slip over your finger. While the regular bristles can scrub more plaque off your dog’s teeth, the rubber bristles are softer for sensitive gums that bleed. Then you will need toothpaste that is designed for dogs. Human toothpaste won’t work because it foams and contains fluoride. Basically, you can’t use toothpaste that has to be spit out. Pet stores carry several varieties of toothpaste in a variety of flavors, like chicken, beef, and peanut butter.

Before you begin to brush, practice pulling your dog’s gums back and lightly touching their teeth. This is a good thing to do to prepare your dog for the vet, too. Once your dog feels comfortable with someone poking around in their mouth, it’s time to brush. Focus on the outer sides of the back teeth, as they tend to collect the most plaque. The sides of the teeth that face the inside of the mouth should already be fairly clean, as these surfaces are frequently scraped by crunchy dog food.

In addition to brushing your dog’s teeth on a regular basis, give your dog plenty of chew toys and rope toys to gnaw on. The hard bones can clean teeth, while the rope toys work as floss to make your dog’s teeth shiny.

One reason that it’s important to brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis is that it prevents serious plaque and tartar buildup that can only be cleaned by a vet. These deep cleanings require your dog to undergo anesthesia, which is expensive and can be hard on some dogs. But with just a few minutes every few days, you can seriously reduce the amount of plaque on your dog’s teeth to the point where you are able to avoid professional cleanings altogether.

Cleaning Ears

Your Border Collie’s ears should be cleaned when they appear to be dirty or if your dog is scratching or shaking her head a lot. To do this, buy an ear cleaning solution from the pet store or your vet’s office. For breaking up wax further in the ear, squirt a little solution in the ear canal and massage the base of the ear. Your dog will shake her head, causing wax and extra cleaning solution to come out. Then, take a cotton pad or a cloth, wet it with cleaning solution, and gently clean the outer ear flap. Never insert anything small, like a Q-tip, into your dog’s ear canal.

If this cleaning does not diminish your dog’s itchiness, or the ear looks excessively waxy, bloody, or inflamed, this might be a sign of an ear infection. Have your vet take a look to make sure your dog does not need any antibiotics or other medication. If you find the process of cleaning your dog’s ears to be outside of your comfort zone, most vets offer this service at a low price.

Border collie combingOf course, if you find any of these things to be too difficult, you can always enlist in the help of a professional. While you may be capable of grooming your Border Collie in your home, it’s not always easy to wrangle a squirming dog, especially on your own. Either a groomer or a vet can provide many of these services for a price. It can be frustrating to try to cut your dog’s nails when they keep snatching their paw back at the very moment you’re ready to clip. Professionals have a lot of experience and can take care of your dog’s grooming needs when it’s just too much for you to handle.

A little bit of grooming on a regular basis can keep your dog looking gorgeous and feeling healthy. Simply brushing your dog while you sit on the couch and watch TV can be a nice experience that shows your dog you care while making sure their coat looks good. Also, being able to touch your dog’s mouth and paws are an important part of getting your dog to be comfortable with you and trust you. Border Collies are beautiful dogs that want to look and feel their best, and by spending a few minutes a day cleaning them up, you’ll make them much more confident.

To read more from "The Complete Guide to Border Collies" by David Anderson, or purchase on Amazon, visit the link below:

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