The Australian Shepherd has a medium-length water-resistant coat to keep him comfortable in rain and snow. Aussies in cold climates have a heavier undercoat than those who live in sunnier areas.
Straight or wavy hair covers the body, with short, smooth hair on the head and ears, the front of the forelegs, and below the heels (known as the hocks in dog terms). Moderate feathering, or a longer fringe of hair, covers the back of the forelegs and the britches — the pantaloon-like fur on the upper part of the hind legs. There's long, profuse hair — which is especially thick and full in males — on the neck and chest.
Australian Shepherds come in several colors: blue merle, red merle, red, tri-color (white, black, and tan), and black. A merle coat has a patchwork of dark blotches against a lighter background, so a blue merle dog has black patches on gray and a red merle dog has red patches on beige. Merles tend to become darker with age.
If you're wondering whether the Australian Shepherd sheds, the answer is yes. The breed sheds year-round, but more heavily during spring as he loses his winter coat.
Brush the Aussie's coat weekly, perhaps more often during shedding season, to prevent matting. Before you start brushing, spritz the coat with a dog hair conditioner diluted with water to detangle. Then, using a slicker brush, stroke in the direction the hair grows, being sure to get all the way down to the skin — don't just run it over the top of the coat. An undercoat rake is also handy for removing excess hair. Mats are common behind the ears, and you may need to work through them with a stripping comb. You can find any of these grooming tools in a good pet supply store.
If you keep him brushed, your Aussie should need a bath only when he's dirty, which probably won't be more than a few times a year. Use a shampoo made for dogs to avoid drying out his skin and coat.
Grooming sessions are a good time to check your dog's overall condition. Before you start brushing, check your dog for sores, rashes, dry skin, or signs of infection such as inflammation or tenderness. Check eyes for goopy discharge and ears for foreign objects such as burrs or foxtails. The coat should look shiny, not dull. A dull coat could indicate a need for a better diet or more frequent grooming.
Trim nails on a regular basis to prevent painful splintering. If you can hear the nails clicking on the floor, they're too long.
You may also want to keep your Aussie looking tidy by trimming the hair on and around the ears, on the feet and between the toes, and around the tail area. If you're uncomfortable handling anything but the grooming basics, try a professional groomer.
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