Border Collie Shedding | Tips & Advice
Border Collie fans love the intelligence, energy and desire to please this working breed is well known for. However, despite all these great qualities, one down side of the breed is significant shedding.
In this article we will review various shedding triggers, techniques for controlling shedding, and some common do’s and don’ts.
Do Border Collies Shed, What Causes It?
The Border Collie is a double-coated breed which means they have a downy undercoat for extra insulation from the cold and weather elements, with a longer and silkier top coat which acts to give thorns and burs the slip when these dogs work long hours in the field.
Dog shedding is something that can be triggered by a variety of factors:
- Seasonal shifts: All canines with double coats have a seasonal shed with a major under coat shedding in the spring, and a less but still significant shed triggered in the fall. Expect to do extra grooming and maybe a blow-out.
- Individual differences: Experienced Collie owners know that there can be a lot of variability from one individual Border Collie to another in terms of shedding.
- Over washing: It is possible to over bath dogs. Their coats produce and hold oils that keep skin and coat in top condition. Continually stripping the coat with shampoos can actually open your pup up to bacterial infections, dry skin and other issues which can contribute to shedding.
If shedding seems excessive (after considering the time of year) or is accompanied by dry fur, flaky dandruff, itching, bald spots, or excessive paw licking, then it is time for a vet visit. There are several possible problems your vet can diagnose that can be signaled by excessive shedding:
- Allergies: Allergies can be in the form of food, inhalants (such as pollen), or contact (such as poison ivy). If you are noticing excessive paw licking or scratching, this may be the issue. A veterinarian will help you identify what may be triggering your dog’s allergies.
- Fleas and Ticks: Pests such as fleas and ticks can cause problems, particularly for canines that are allergic to their bites.
- Demodectic or Sarcoptic Mange: These conditions are caused by an infestation of one or more of several species of mites that attack hair follicles. Mange can be difficult to treat and requires immediate veterinary attention.
- Diet: In some cases your dog may not be getting what they need from commercial diets for a healthy coat. Excessive shedding may be a sign of such a deficiency. Holistic vets are generally very good with identifying nutritional deficiencies and it may be a good idea to get a consult if you suspect a nutritional deficiency may be going on.
- Other medical conditions: Poor coat quality or excessive shedding can also be a symptom of other medical conditions such as hormonal imbalances and autoimmune issues that require veterinary care.
Border Collie Shed: Get It Under Control!
You can’t stop your them from shedding, but you can keep it from taking over your home. There are 6 main techniques to keep fur out of your house and making sure you keep your Collie’s coat in top condition.
1. Brush, brush, brush.
In between the spring and fall molts, it is still a good idea to brush your Border Collie several times a week since continued shedding of the top coat goes on year-round. The best tool for the job is one of any number of pin style brushes that penetrate the top coat and reach the skin.
It is best to do any brushing outside, otherwise you are going to be contributing to the fur problem that you are probably trying to eliminate.
If you have a garage, it is a great place for grooming in the winter months because there are less surfaces for fur to stick to. If you don’t, then the bathroom is usually the next best option.
2. Stripping: Using an undercoat rake
During seasonal shedding, you will need to use a specialized tool called an undercoat rake a few times. The undercoat rake has a single line of prongs or pins, usually slightly curved, which penetrate the coat and grab the dead undercoat hair to loosen it from the coat.
Using an undercoat rake takes a little practice. If you are keeping up with the coat you may be able to use long strokes the length of your pups body to get all of the undercoat out. If it is already starting to mat, or your dog is sensitive about brushing, you may have to life the top coat and focus on small areas at a time.
If you are dealing with serious mats that have been in place for a week or more, it may be wise to take your dog to the groomer since skin under mats is particularly sensitive to cuts and/or bacterial infections.
Be firm but gentle when using an undercoat rake. You do want to penetrate all the fur, but you don’t want to scrape your pups skin either.
We recommend the Oster° Undercoat Rake. Here is a video showing how to properly use this tool for maximum results:
3. Blow it out!
If you happen to have a vacuum cleaner that lets you reverse the air flow, then a technique called the “Blow-Out” may be an excellent choice to use for after brushing or a bath to really get all those loose hairs out of your dog’s coat before letting them back inside.
You will want to do a blow-out after a brushing or bath. Also, this is an outside job!
To teach your pup to love this treatment, you can’t just jump right in and force it. Use the following steps to get your dog to associate the vacuum cleaner with treats and give them time to build trust that it is going to be a positive experience.
At each of the steps towards your ultimate goal you are going to click/treat or just treat often before escalating to the next step. If your pup starts to have a negative reaction, back up the escalation and spend more time rewarding that level.
With conditioning work like this, it is always more important to keep it positive than it is to achieve an arbitrary goal you have set for your dog. Set them up for success, and keep training sessions to 15 minutes or less.
To train your dog to love a blow-out, use these steps:
- Have a treat pouch full of small sized, high value treats on the ready, and a clicker if you have one.
- Get the vacuum out but leave it off, and click/reward every few seconds your pup is near it. Any voluntary movements towards the machine should especially be rewarded.
- Pull out the vacuum tube, but don’t point it at your dog.
- Gently touch your pup with the vacuum tube.
- Secure the tube back on the vacuum cleaner and turn it on. Click/reward until your dog is standing or sitting by the machine and totally ignoring it while it’s on.
- While the cleaner is on, pull out the tube and point it to your pups fur from a distance for just a second then click/reward.
- Over time, increase the duration you hold the air on them, rewarding generously and often.
- After your dog is fully accustomed to being “blown-out” you can decrease reward frequency to right at the beginning and at the end of the experience.
4. Suck it in!
If you don’t have space outside, or the weather just won’t permit this technique then you might try the opposite of the blow-out: you can actually vacuum your dog!
We recommend a shop-vac for this job because bagged vacuum cleaners will fill fast and it will cause extra wear and tear on the machine.
Use the same techniques we shared for a blow-out to get your dog accustomed to this trick that many professional groomers use. Like the blow-out, this is meant to be used after you brush or bath which loosens the fur first.
Use the head on the vacuum cleaner that looks like a T, and don’t ever let it get “stuck” by making a seal with your dog’s skin. (This is why you use the T attachment because it is very unlikely to make a seal.)
If you have access to water in a stream or pond, your pup is likely to love a swim, especially if it involves a game of fetch! If you brush your dog before they take a dip, the water will help to remove the loosened fur that the brush didn’t catch.
We are listing bathing last because it is the most labor intensive of all of the options, and, because some owners have a tendency to over-do it with bathing their dogs, causing any number of skin and coat problems.
However, bathing (either with shampoo or without it) can be a great way to get the loose hairs that remain in the coat after a brushing session so that they do not get on your furniture.
Be sure to either bath outside or use a special drain filter to keep the fur from going into the plumbing. In a pinch you can use a piece of stocking over the drain. Check out our review of the top 5 dog bath tubs if you want to make this a much easier job that doesn’t require bending and stretching.
Border Collie Shedding: Some DO’s and DON’Ts
Let’s review some of the principles about BC shedding we shared in this article:
- Brush often, particularly in spring and fall.
- Brush outside whenever you can.
- Wash dog bedding frequently to cut down on dander and loose fur in the house.
- Consider a brush then a blow-out or suck-in a few times in the spring and fall during the major shed periods.
- Brush BEFORE a bath or swimming session.
- Let dirt and mud dry then brush out rather than a bath when possible.
- Let your pup have access to non-chlorinated water for a swim or rinse rather than over-bathing.
- Shave your Border Collie.
- Brush inside your home, especially near carpets and furniture.
- Over bath. Your dog probably doesn’t need a bath unless they stink. The exception is if they are prescribed a medicated shampoo for allergies or other skin conditions by a veterinarian.
- Bath your pup without a filter to keep the fur out of your plumbing.
- Ignore shedding if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as scratching, poor coat condition, dry skin, bald spots or excessive paw licking.