Bearded Collie Frequently Asked Questions
About Grooming 1
Some people say that Bearded Collies should be groomed twice a week. These are usually people who show their dogs. Usually they need more grooming when they are young and their puppy coat is gradually being replaced by their adult coat. Some people even talk about "Blowing Coat", which are times when it seems like there is an endless amount of excess hair wanting to either mat up or fall out. During these times you could probably groom a little every day.
We normally groom the adult Beardie at least once every week or possibly
two. Some Beardies have heavier coats and need it more often.
Why do I have to groom them? Seems like nature should take care
If you want to own a Beardie, you better get past that sort of thinking. Grooming removes excess dead hair. You will be amazed how much there can be. And it is better groomed that becoming knotted into mats or falling out on the carpet. More to the point, when mats form they block the air from getting to the skin, this can cause severe skin problems. If you do not groom frequently you will eventually have to clip off most of the coat and start over.
Sure, nature takes care of part of the problem. It is trying to drop out the dead hair. But the Bearded Collies of the old days before grooming didn't look much like those today. Nature has changed them, and their coat. Better foods (for a more healthy dog) also encourages hair growth. Some say that in the early days, when Beardies were strictly used for herding, they would have their hair clipped along with the sheep. Nature gives the Bearded Collie a thick coat for insulation against the cold (and possibly against the heat as well). But also recall that in the old days problems like mange were common.
When (how old) do I start grooming my Beardie?
As odd as it may seem, you start grooming as soon as you get your puppy.
Of course you are not going to groom them like you will when you have
an adult. The first months are just to get puppy used to the idea. You
are very gentle with them, it is almost like petty them. The idea is
to let the puppy understand this is a normal part of their life. At
first you might just show them the brush, and the grooming table. Gently
run a soft brush over the body, maybe for a minute the first day. Then
gradually make your daily session last a bit longer. Use the time to
give companionship to your puppy, they will love it and so will you.
Talk to puppy, praise him, make the whole thing a great experience
OK - so how do I start grooming a puppy?
For the first few days go over all his body, head, ears, paws, belly with your hands. After a few days begin using a soft brush. You don't need to use the brush everywhere, just run your hand over each area. Do this or a minute or so, and gradually extend the length of time over a few days. Make sure to check in the ears, open the mouth and in general look everywhere. This is not only good for getting used to grooming, but later to find problems before they get out of hand. At some point introduce puppy to a comb (Poodle Comb), you don't really need to use it at this point, just gain familiarity by touching it here and there. After a couple weeks pass, you can extend the intervals between these sessions to a couple times per week. Never spend too much time in one area, later when they really need the grooming you can go back and forth between areas and reduce stress.
One of the toughest things to do is to clip the nails. If you are uncomfortable with this, have your vet show you (you will be visiting him frequently during those early months). There are a couple types of nail clippers, one type will seem right to you (guillotine or scissor type). It is important to get puppy familiar with this too. You may not need to clip anything at first, just go through the motion. When the time comes don't over do it. Remember that the feet can be sensitive so don't grab hold too hard. If necessary, trim a nail a day.
As they start to get older, you will start to see some hair come out on the brush. In fact, you will start to see little mats at some point. Gently separate these with the brush if they will come apart, or use your fingers.
Routines are for you, not necessarily the dog. Except you will want to be sure to keep up with grooming on a regular basis. So if you set aside a Saturday morning each week, then fine. One behavior specialist recently told me she finds variation to be good for dogs in any type of training. Sometimes you will get better results by changing routine - and that is nice when you later find you don't have that Saturday morning available one week. So think of it more as an interval. A little variation will put grooming on your terms.
My puppy (or adult) struggles, should I force him to stay still?
The old school thought is to be firm but gentle and establish dominance in all sorts of training. During the past 5 years trainers and behavior specialists have begun to warn against certain techniques. Grabbing on and shaking the scruff of the neck, looking directly into the eyes, and so on are all dog language for dominance. Dogs often stare each other down - and you would be doing the same thing (you are just another animal). the result can be behavior problems, even though you may get your way this time. Sure, you need to be firm - but the method is really confidence. Dogs see and feel you body language - that is plenty. Better to take your time, work on it, and establish the relationship on good terms. The Beardie will pick up on your confidence and will want to get all that praise you dish out.
What? A grooming table - why that?
At first you will wonder why you need a grooming table. Heck, it is
just a couple minutes. But puppy gets bigger (fast) and you won't be
able to hold him on your lap for long while grooming.
Watch it! Don't allow your pup to jump up on or down off the table! Later you will be using a little attachment that clips on the collar to hold them in place. We have seen dogs jump off the table, sometimes injuring themselves, and other times even injuring the Groomer as the table tumbles over. Never leave the dog unattended on the table. Of course we have seen dogs trained to get up and down from the table, even they have had accidents. Gently lift the dog up to or down from the table or you can obtain portable steps for this.
Most use a table that is about waist height and three feet long by two feet wide. There are adjustable height tables available as well. We prefer the portable type that folds away.
What position should my Beardie be in when I am grooming?
This is a good question. Some people prefer to have them stand the entire time, and others prefer to train them to lay down for some periods during grooming. If they are laying down, you can get to some spots (on the tummy or under the legs) easier. But this is not a natural position if the dog is under stress. It is probably best to train them to lay down, slowly, if you anticipate you will do this as an adult.
One of the first things taught in many puppy kindergarten classes is having you pup lay down while your stroke its belly. But, the new philosophy is to never force or imply you are being dominant. Rather, you should use praise and rewards. We believe you should be able to gain this position on the floor before you try it on the grooming table (else you may never get the results on the table).
Once you are able to get puppy to allow you to get him to roll over on the floor, then you can try it on the table. Never use force, but gentle persuasion. The table may shake and cause some anxiety at first. Try just leaning the dog part way while holding him gently. After a few days of this, gradually put him in the down position, using praise when you get there. Don't groom at this point, come back another day and use a few stokes with your hand, then later try the brush - you will get there.
What happens if I just wait a few months and then start this whole grooming process?
You will likely be in over your head. By that time those little tangled hairs could be serious mats. Your Beardie won't like this strange new thing, and may even try to stop you by grabbing on to you. It will be a struggle. If you wait until the coat is heavier, it will hurt your puppy and you may never get him to sit still for grooming. Remember, you have another 12 to 17 years more of this!
We'll get into equipment and procedures for their use
in a future section.