Winter Coat Care



$45 Furminator versus $5 Rake Comb


Since there is so much hoopla about the Furminator grooming tool that has been out for awhile now, I decided to write and give you my two cents worth as a professional groomer.


If you are not long in the business this is a great tool for those that need something to card out dead undercoat in your sheltie. The cost however is quite steep for something so simple as the top part of a clipper blade set into a plastic handle.


Since I have been grooming since 1980, I have found my $5 wooden handled rake comb to be just as effective for the past 27 + years I have been doing grooming. I also have the same rake comb I have been using since the beginning of that time.


Hearing about all the wonders of this new fangled devise I did feel it would be worth trying. After all if I could make it a bit more easy on these old shoulders and arms so much the better. I do not use this devise at all anymore after giving it a couple weeks try.


I also loaned it out to another groomer and she did not like it any better than I did. She was of the younger generation but like me, had been using the $5 rake combs I have had all along in my grooming career.


If one has had no other way of carding out dead undercoat and discovers the Furminator for themselves it is much better than nothing, but I say stick with the $5 rake and save the extra money.


Left: Furminator.  Right: Rake Comb


That said, lets go on to grooming our Sheltie for the winter months.

Your sheltie should be brushed at least twice a week throughly depending on the thickness of the coat and how much outdoor activities he or she engages in. The more outdoor time the more brushing. 


I card out undercoat and bath my dogs once a month. My girls do not have much coat and do not go outdoors except to potty or for training.


Since they stay fairly clean I don't get much doggy odor and therefore do not bath them too often. When I do, I use a conditioning shampoo and spray the coat with leave in conditioner. This keeps the coat from breaking and splitting while blow drying.


I also use a power dryer without heat settings to dry the coat which also helps any drying out of skin and/or breakage of hair. The best thing to do with sheltie coats is to let them air dry naturally, but this is an ongoing all day thing with heavy coats and is not recommended in the winter time.


Probably the most important thing is to get the dog completely dry to the skin before letting them out into the cold air even for potty trips. So bathing first thing in the morning after their morning outing is going to be the best thing to do so that the coat is dry by the noontime outing when using a dryer. Setting a fan behind your dog while brushing and using the blow dryer also will help get your dog dry faster. I would use a fan behind a wire crate with the actual dryer on the front of the cage.

This is one of my client's dogs I did with

my $5 rake comb.  Took me 20 minutes

to rake out her undercoat.


Keep in mind however, the dog will look much better if you brush as you dry the dog by hand. The coat will fluff out better and you would be sure that he or she would be completely dry before letting outdoors.


Pay special attention to the area behind the ears and in armpits and private area as this will be the first areas to mat. Combing this area out twice weekly will keep painful grooming to a minimum and be much nicer for the dog's next groom time.


If your sheltie does happen to mat before you can get to it, if it is not too close to the skin the mat would be better off cut out with scissors. If you don't want to do that and want to try to work it out, spray the area with detangle solution and try to work it out with your fingers. Sometimes splitting the mat in two with the scissors is a good idea. Just make sure you work the point of the scissors between the skin and mat and split it towards the end. By doing this a few times and making the mat into several sections, you may be able to work the mat out with fingers or a comb.


Be gentle, even the nicest sheltie will nip if he is hurt. If you have a sheltie that does not tolerate much grooming, it would be wise to invest in a muzzle for any mat or tangle removal.


Pay special attention to the feet in the winter time for any salt or ice that can stick and tangle in the pads of the feet. Shelties have the tendency to have a lot of hair that grows from the bottom of the foot in between the pads. Cutting this hair out with scissors or clippers would help here to keep down the amount of ice, snow or salt they drag into the house.


When your dog comes inside from a nice romp in the snow he may be wet on the outer coat. That's OK as the inner coat will keep him nicely dry and warm. The sheltie is bred for cold weather. The Shetland Isles are very cold and wet in the winter even though there is not much snow (too much salt from the sea air). Even temps in the summer are not much over 60 degrees so the sheltie can handle just about any winter weather that Indiana can dish out.


Shetland is foggy, damp and gets a lot of rain. There also is not much shelter on it's rocky land and certainly shelter from trees is scarce since trees are non exhistant. Our little shelties can take a lot of weather abuse as long as it's cold and not hot and humid, so don't worry too much about play time outdoors unless we have sub zero weather. If we should experience sub zero temperatures it would be wise to check paw pads and ear tips upon coming indoors if your pal has spent quite a long period outdoors.


Probably the dry air in our houses in the winter can contribute a lot to our sheltie's dry skin condition. Help here can come from a spray bottle filled with warm water or better yet that spray on, leave in conditioner I mentioned earlier on. Spritz this over the coat and let it soak in. Towel in or just let air dry. By using a little doggy cologne with the spray will keep your sheltie smelling their best as well.


Another baddie to check for is burrs. Handle them the same way as mats. If you choose to work them out be careful you don't get stuck yourself as these things hurt. After a walk in the woods or on the farm check your dog over for anything sticking on the coat. It is a good idea to remove burrs before they get too embedded in fur. Getting them out early is the trick to easy burr removal. Besides, left too long, and I have seen these things embed into the skin. Ouch!


Winter brings a few problems to the grooming industry and I think I have covered most of them. But look out for spring when shedding season starts. Nobody around here ever blows coat at the same time and it's a never ending job keeping up with just my crew. I don't mind the grooming, but man if only I could afford a housekeeper!