After many hot summer hikes with our Australian Cattle Dogs (ACD), we were left wondering, would it help keep them cooler if we trimmed their coats or had them shaved? We quickly learned that trimming or shaving an ACD, or Heeler, is not recommended for a few key reasons.
The Australian Cattle Dog’s double coat regulates body temperature and protects its skin from the elements. Additionally, trimming or shaving an Australian Cattle Dog’s coat may cause uneven or even thicker regrowth.
Why does shaving an ACDs coat ruin it? How do their coats perform critical protective functions? Let’s take a closer look at a Cattle Dog’s coat.
Do Cattle Dogs Have a Double Coat?
Australian Cattle Dogs typically have a dense double coat with straight guard hairs and a shorter, finer undercoat. The combination of an outer coat and undercoat provides natural water resistance, body temperature regulation, and sun protection.
While most ACDs have a thick double-coat, like our Blue Heeler, Bindi, others can have a softer single-coat, like our Red Heeler, Banjo. Although Bindi and Banjo are siblings, they inherited very different coats.
Should I Groom My Australian Cattle Dog?
Regular brushing and bathing can provide necessary hair removal, avoid matting, and keep an Australian Cattle Dog’s coat well-oiled. It is not necessary to trim and not recommended to shave a cattle dog.
It’s important to release any loose undercoat which can get trapped beneath the thick outer guard hair. Shedding left under the outer coat can create mats and restrict the airflow between layers. Brushing an ACD not only de-sheds but also releases natural oils for a shinier, healthier coat.
Bathing an ACD is optional depending on the outdoor activities. For light outdoor exposure, the natural oils in the Cattle Dog’s coat will repel or expel dirt. For ACDs in more demanding outdoor settings, a bath may be necessary.
Fortunately, most Cattle Dogs enjoy the water and will voluntarily jump in for fun. If there are no lakes or rivers nearby, a baby pool or collapsable dog pool can provide convenient outdoor dog baths.
Why You Shouldn’t Shave or Trim a Double-Coated Dog
A Cattle Dog’s double coat helps prevent sun damage, keeps them warm in the cooler seasons, and cool in the warm times of the year. An ACD’s double coat is also dirt and water-resistant.
Shaving a Cattle Dog with a double coat removes their sun protection which can lead to sunburns and potentially dangerous skin conditions.
Even lightly trimming back the coarse outer coat exposes the undercoat and removes the natural air-regulating system. The outer coat performs an important function. It cools or heats the air trapped between the layers to regulate the Cattle Dog’s body temperature.
The outer coat also takes longer to grow back than the undercoat, which leaves the short fuzzy coat unable to repel water, and dirt, or shield the Cattle Dog from the sun’s unhealthy rays.
So, other than medical procedures, there shouldn’t be a reason to trim or shave an ACD.
What is the Best Way to Groom an Australian Cattle Dog?
The best ways to groom a Cattle Dog are brushing, occasional bathing, and drying if necessary.
- Brushing: It is recommended to brush a Cattle Dog once a week to remove loose hair, distribute natural oils through the coat, and clean off surface dirt. Regular brushing with a brush like Hertzko’s self-cleaning also helps stimulate the skin to help avoid build-up.
- Grooming mitt: Gloves with soft prongs on the palm side allow the hands to function as a brush. Grooming mitts like this one on Amazon make it easy to brush while petting your Cattle Dog and it can be softer on their skin than brushes. Since it is basically petting, it’s not a big deal for skittish dogs. I used these mitts to get my female more comfortable with grooming. Now she loves grooming time!
- Bathing: An ACD shouldn’t need regular baths as their double coats help to repel dirt. Additionally, frequent bathing can remove the natural oils which can lead to dry skin. But, giving a Cattle Dog an occasional bath can remove excess hair during the summer and winter shed cycles and clean up after particularly messy activities. A gentle shampoo or if necessary, a natural flea or tick-preventing shampoo will clean without drying the skin. Make sure to wash out shampoo thoroughly, as soap residue can actually attract dirt and dust.
- Drying: Blotting the coat with a towel should suffice in removing most of the water and any leftover dirt. Blow dryers can also be used to finish off the drying process.
- Hydrating spritz: Spritzing the coat with products like Vet’s Best spray can add back moisture and can also relieve dry, itchy skin. Scented hydrating sprays can also help keep a Cattle Dog smelling fresh longer.
So although shaving and trimming are not necessary, grooming is a great way to keep an ACDs coat healthy, display affection, and create a stronger bond. Cattle Dogs can have slightly different coats and therefore different grooming needs, so it’s always recommended to discuss grooming options with your veterinarian or local groomer.