When many people hear the word "Collie," they think "Lassie," and envision a dog with a big, shiny coat of golden-sable and white. In fact, Collies' coats come in a few color combinations and two varieties: the rough variety -- the Lassie type -- with a straight, harsh outer coat and a soft, very dense undercoat; and a smooth variety, a "short, hard, dense flat coat and an abundant undercoat," according to the breed standard. An optimum coat for a Collie of either variety requires a healthy Collie to grow it, a high-quality diet, and plenty of brushing and grooming.
Without frequent brushing to remove dead hair, a Collie's dense coat will form mats. Mat removal often cannot be done without damaging the coat. To avoid such problems and maintain the full beauty of a healthy coat by distributing natural oils through the hair, brush your Collie two or three times a week with a slicker brush. If mats form in the coat despite your care, use a mat comb to remove them. It is important to be sure your collie's coat is mat-free all the way to the skin, and not just on the surface. Skin problems can develop under mats that are allowed to remain in the undercoat. If your Collie is the rough-coated variety, regular appointments with a professional groomer will keep the coat in top condition, remove excessively dense undercoat, and make the brushing work at home easier. Grooming a rough-coated Collie is complicated, and is best left to a professional.
Collies don't require frequent bathing. Brushing the coat several times per week will keep it clean. Too-frequent bathing will remove natural skin oils that are important to the condition and shine of the coat, and can also lead to skin problems. Bathe your collie every two or three months, and more frequently only if your dog needs it because the coat has become dirty.
Brush your Collie and remove excess hair, tangles and mats from the coat before bathing. If you don't, the result will be formation of tight mats that will be difficult or impossible to remove without cutting them out.
Shampoo your Collie with a high-quality dog shampoo, taking care to keep soap out of the ears and eyes. Rinse carefully, ensuring that every bit of shampoo is removed from the coat. Follow with a conditioner, applied according to manufacturer's instructions. Rinse your collie thoroughly, and towel off excess water. Go over the coat carefully with a comb to ensure all mats and tangles are out of the coat.
When your Collie is completely dry, brush the coat again.
A high-quality diet is essential to the health of a Collie's coat. Hair is primarily keratin, a protein, so growing a healthy coat requires adequate intake of usable protein. Growing puppies require higher protein; adult dogs require less. Look for high-quality commercial dog foods that list a meat as the first ingredient, rather than grains, vegetables or meat by-products.
If you decide to feed your Collie a homemade diet, use high-quality ingredients. It is difficult to provide a properly balanced homemade diet for a dog, so it is important to consult your veterinarian or a canine nutrition expert to ensure your efforts will be beneficial.
Whether you feed a homemade diet or a high-quality commercial diet, consult your veterinarian regarding additives intended to improve your Collie's coat, such as Omega-6 fatty acids or extra vitamins. High-quality commercial dog foods include many such additives in amounts needed to ensure optimum skin and coat health.
Parasites and Allergens
Fleas, ticks and other parasites can irritate and damage your collie's skin, causing a dry, flaky coat. Some dogs develop an allergic reaction to fleas, causing severe skin and coat problems. Consult your veterinarian on the best monthly flea and tick preventatives to use on your collie, as collies are more sensitive than other breeds to some chemicals.
Food allergies and inhalant allergies, including allergies to house dust and pollens, can wreak havoc on your collie's skin and coat. If you notice frequent scratching or a dull coat, ask your veterinarian to test your Collie for allergies. Some common foods that cause allergies in dogs include meats, corn, soy, wheat, and food additives or supplements.
The health of a properly groomed Collie will be reflected, for better or for worse, in the appearance of the coat. A greasy feel to the coat may indicate a yeast infection. Very dry, flaky coats can indicate endocrine problems such as hormonal imbalances or problems with the thyroid gland. If, despite proper care, brushing and nutrition, your collie's coat looks lifeless, dirty or sparse, consult your veterinarian.
More on Grooming
Should You DIY Your Dog's Haircut?
A Dog Brush Buying Guide
Top Products To Stop Dog Shedding
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.