Grooming a Border Collie

This double-coated dog breed requires regular bathing, brushing and trimming.

Q. I am really interested in how to groom Border Collies. I do not own one, but I might get one soon. What trimming and thinning of the coat is involved, and if any, which areas? Which scissors should I use? Also, is the coat supposed to be thicker, like an Aussie, or flatter to the body (as in using an undercoat rake)? I am talking about the longhaired, bench-variety Border Collie.

A. As beautiful as this ancient breed is with its shiny coat, well-muscled body and indefatigable driving gait, in the eyes of those who treasure it, its most important features are its agility and workability. This is a blue-collar dog, bred to herd sheep in the border between Scotland and England. Immortalized by Scottish poet Laureate Robert Burns in the 18th century, this dog attracted royal attention a century later when Queen Victoria spotted one at work and became an active enthusiast. At this point, the divergence between our modern Collie (think Lassie) and the Border Collie began.

As to your coat question, two varieties are permissible, both having close-fitting, weather-resistant double coats with the shinier topcoat either straight or wavy, and a softer, downy undercoat beneath. The rough variety has a thicker coat, medium in length and requiring more brushing to keep shed hair from building up, especially in the spring and fall. The shorter-coated type looks sleeker but has feathered hair on its forelegs, haunches, chest and undersides, while its face, ears, feet and fronts of legs are short and smooth.

On all Borders, excess hair on the feet, hocks and pasterns may be neatened for the show ring. Whiskers should be left untrimmed. Believe it or not, these are the only references to trimming in the official standard for this breed. In the show ring, dogs that appear to be overly groomed (trimmed or sculpted) would be penalized according to the extent of the deviation from the normal, natural coat.

In the grooming salon, we mainly brush and bathe this breed, but some clients like us to thin and trim the coat, especially in warm weather. We use both scissors and clippers to shape the body all over, following the natural contours of its outline. We also edge the ears with thinning shears, and neaten pads, feet, hocks and pasterns. When bathing, we always use conditioner in the final rinse, and like to finish the grooming with a fine mist of coat polish to enhance coat sheen.

Home maintenance includes a thorough brushout once a week, making sure to penetrate the coat all the way to the skin. Double-check your work with a wide-toothed comb. Since this highly intelligent dog has a mind of its own, it’s a good idea to get it used to brushing, combing and nail trimming while it’s a pup.

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