The Greater London Old English Sheepdog Club

Pet Grooming

Many people who own Old English Sheepdogs as pets often end up clipping them off because they are unable to maintain the level of grooming required.  Clipping is not necessary under these circumstances and hopefully, the following tips will help to maintain an apparent fully coated dog.  Basically, by using a comb to strip the undercoat from the dog, the coat can be maintained at full length or part length if trimmed periodically.

I personally find a smaller sized medium toothed comb with a handle being the best for the job.  The technique is simple and as explained in the general comments section, it is more convenient if the dog is laying down preferably on a grooming table or alternatively, on a blanket on the floor.

Referring to the "Pet Grooming" diagram above, starting with the outside edge of the rear leg, lift the coat to expose the lower 1-2" of coat just above the pads.  Now begin to gently comb through the hair to ensure that this section of coat is free of tangles.  If the coat is heavily knotted, then this should be eased before combing by gently using both thumbs and forefingers to tease the knot apart so the comb will not pull too heavily against the knotted coat (remember how you feel when you get a small tangle in your own hair and try to comb it).  From this starting point, gradually work your way up the outside edge of this leg and around the rear quarter of that side.  Then, following the same process, recommence from the inside edge of the other rear leg, gently lifting or moving forwards/backwards the other rear leg to enable you to comb the coat up to the underside of the dogs body.

Having worked so far with the legs, you should then commence with the main body of the dog starting from just in front of the rear leg and working in convenient strips upwards and along the body to the front legs and shawl.  By this point, if you have not dealt with the underside of the dog between the front and rear legs then it should be done at this stage.

Next you will need to start to work on the outside edge of the front leg, remembering that most dogs in this breed have a great deal of sensitivity along their front legs, particularly up the front edge - so take extra care and be gentle.  In the same way as you worked up the back legs, start again with the front, working from the bottom up and then repeat on the inner edge of the other front leg.  Care should be taken to ensure that the chest area between the front legs is also gently dealt with to clear any knots from this area which tends to be prone to severe knotting.

From here, you should work upwards through the shoulders and chest to the neck, until only the head remains on this side.

Sometimes, for personal convenience at this point, I start the other side of the body leaving the head to be dealt with completely at the end.  However, for the purpose of these notes, I will deal with the side of the head at this stage.

The head itself is not particularly easy to comb and also includes many sensitive areas.  It is probably easier to start from the neck and chest working from the lowest point upwards towards the mouth and ear.  Leaving the ear flap for now, continue to work upwards around the head to the top gently working around the side and top of the nose and then carefully around the eyes, being particularly gentle at this point.  Now for the ear flap.  Starting at the top of the ear on one edge, very carefully work your way around the edges of the ear flap.  You must be very gentle at this point and tease out as much as possible before using the comb, as bleeding can easily occur from these areas if you are too heavy handed.  You can then work upwards across the outside edge of the ear flap, then turning it over to carefully deal with the inner edges.  Whilst the ear flap is turned over, it is a useful opportunity to check the ear, making sure it is clean and that any soft brown hairs are gently plucked from the ear.

The dog should now be turned over and the whole process repeated for the other side.

By now, the whole body of the dog has been groomed and some final finishiing points can be carried out.  The hair between the pads should either be combed carefully and trimmed flush with the pads, or carefully clipped away altogether, depending upon personal preference.  The genital areas of the dog/bitch should also be trimmed carefully around the edges to reduce the opportunities for knotting and infection.  The hair around the anus should be trimmed away back to the skin, approximately 1" all around it.  Finally, the opportunity should be taken to check that the claws are not in need of cutting.  If they are, then in preference, use guillotine type nail cutters to trim them back, cutting small amounts regularly and not cutting back to the "quick".

Having taken the trouble to clear the dogs coat in this way, weekly brushing with a stiff bush will help to maintain the appearance between these major grooming sessions.  On average, if you comb the coat once a month, with a good brush each week, you will probably find that it will be sufficient.  However, you should remembeer that all dogs are different and you will need to learn and respond to what is right for your dog.