Bathing / Grooming Tips For Shelties That Work

First and foremost, the main tip is frequent grooming, even just the basics will make your job easier in the long run. Shelties’ coats can mat pretty quickly and in my experience this breed is generally wimpy when it comes to tugging and tearing at those clumps of fur.

So minimize the trauma for both him and you by keeping it all under control.

First Of The Grooming Tips For Shelties: Bathing

When the coat looks or feels dirty, it needs to be washed. You don’t have to worry about frequent bathing if you use a decent dog shampoo. It is pH balanced for the dog’s skin.

Most of you have only one Sheltie so you probably bathe him in your bathroom tub. If you have more than one dog, this can get rather painful for your back. I used to feel like I was standing on my head after a while. Here's the first of several tips...


I broke down and bought this relatively inexpensive dog tub Booster Bath 3039 Blue Medium Pet Dog Grooming/Washing Tub

Depending on the size and configuration of your bathroom, you can stick the back two legs in the bathtub so it drains directly into the tub.

The tub is light and you can dismantle it in between uses if you wish. 

But, even with the legs on the tub, it is short for me (I’m only 5’3”) and I found I was still bending over enough to hurt my back by the end of the bath. Look at the video ad below and see where their waist is in relation to the tub and how they would need to bend over for a small dog. 

Notice the adults bathe a big, tall dog in the ad so they don’t have to bend over and the youngsters bath the little guys.

I also had the recirculating dog washing system that makes bathing faster but I needed a way to recirculate the bathwater.

I initially tried putting the pump in a big plastic tote with about 1/3 filled with water and soap under the Booster Bath discharge hose, but even that was a pain.

I had to empty it rinse it out and put it back after each bath. UGH! Not to mention if I put just a little too much shampoo in it, I’d have soapsuds overflow onto the floor.

Then I tried the power washer in the dog bath tub itself but the ledge where the dog gets in is too shallow to hold enough water in the base of the tub. UGH again!!

But…. There is a way that works for me. Call it white trash ingenuity but sometimes its the best you can do.

Only put the two front legs on the dog bath tub and place each on top of overturned 5 gallon buckets. That lifts the dog bath tub further. The trick is to stack overturned buckets so the bottom of the bath eventually sits flat on the edge of your utility sink with the discharge hose inside.  

I used two buckets nested inside each other for each leg. Believe it or not this has yet to wobble or tip over. Even with antsy dogs in the tub. This set-up gave the very slightest tilt towards the sink. Great for draining the tub.

I also cut the discharge hose so it wasn’t taking up the entire tub.

Then I put the power dog washer in the utility sink, used a sink stopper, and fill with 2-3” water and a little soap. There’s your recirculating system.

Have a short hose attached to the utility sink faucet for rinsing the dog after the bath.

Now, being short, this elevation, while great for attaching to the utility sink, made the whole gizmo too high for me. 

What to do?? What to do?? Oh, dear, there must be something I can find to make me taller. What could it be??

DUH! Took me a whole day before the light bulb moment. (Sometimes I wonder how I lasted on this planet so long). It’s called a step stool!!!!

I put the foot switch for the dog bathing system on the step stool.

So, all I have to do is plug the sink drain, add warm water and shampoo, put the sheltie in the dog bath tub, and use the foot switch for the power washer!

Just unplug the drain when done, rinse the shelties with the attached hose and VOILA! Done!

It isn’t pretty but it works so easily, I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of this long before moving to this house.

Recirculating Power Washer

So what is this recirculating power dog washing system I'm talking about? I’ve had one for many years and love, love, love it! 

Problem is, the original company is no longer in business so when my machine finally died, I was unable to find another one. So this grooming tip for shelties was almost eliminated from my list of things to recommend.

But using a little Yankee ingenuity, I decided to create one similar to the one I have (but better) based on what I know from experience.

What I came up with was 

  1. portable.
  2. You can use it in your bathtub.
  3. You can use it in a dedicated bathing station if you are lucky enough to have one in your home.
  4. The pups do very well with it.
  5. You save lots of money on the amount of water and shampoo you use. (About an ounce of shampoo per bath.)
  6. Unlike a lot of cheaper systems that require you buy their brand of shampoo, you can use any you choose. (I’m a control freak that way.)
  7. Rinsing the coat is quick.  (How many times have you THOUGHT you rinsed well and as you were drying the coat found a patch of suds?)

After many, many, many trips to various stores experimenting with this and that, looking for what I wanted, I finally got all the pieces together. 

The dog washing system includes:

  • 1/6 HP submersible sump pump you can get at any hardware store..
  • A one gallon paint strainer bag to (optionally) put the pump in to make sure it never clogs no matter how much hair gets shampooed out! 
  • 5 feet of Flexzilla brand hose, the most flexible hose on the market. Makes it easy to maneuver under, over and around your pup. No more fighting the hose.
  • Easy-to-grasp outflow valve from the garden center to soften the force of the water output for puppies.
  • Compact spray end I made by drilling 5 small holes in a garden hose end cap. That would give a great massage while washing your pup. 
  • Easy, plug-in GFCI adapter, in case your outlet isn’t protected. After all avoiding accidents with electricity and water is a good thing!
  • Hands free On/Off foot switch. Press once to turn on and keep things running, press again to turn off.

A Cut Above The Recirculating Power Washer

I never stop trying different things to make my life easier, which is good for my readers because that means I can add more grooming tips for shelties as I find better ways of doing things.

After years of using the recirculating bathing system, I decided to upgrade to something even better. Yes, it is expensive, but oh, baby! After looking at several, I decided on the Davis ProPet Dog Washing System. Here's why:

  1. You don't have to hook up to any electric. It operates using only water pressure that runs through the machine.
  2. You can hook up 4 bottles so you can switch from specialty shampoos or conditioners with a flip of the switch.
  3. You can accurately dilute shampoos and conditioners with lots of interchangeable filters so you don't waste product. This is a bigger deal than you can imagine as there are quite a few products I use that have different dilution rates. Having just some variable dial of mixing "less to more" product doesn't tell me much. 
  4. Customer service from the company is awesome. 
  5. You don't need to put a pump in a tub with sufficient pre mixed shampoo with water giving you more room in the tub
  6. You hang the whole gizmo up with two screws into the wall. Another wire shelf is provided to place 4 gallon bottles of product near the machine.

The Cons to this machine are:

  1. You do have to have sufficient water pressure for it to work. As someone with a well and old, rinky-dink pump and holding tank, it works just fine. But check the specifics of what you need on the product page before purchasing..
  2. The nozzle they send with the machine for my shelties was too big and awkward to get under their bellies to wash easily. You can opt for a smaller nozzle that they can send instead which is the same size as a typical garden hose trigger nozzle, but I've found even that can be too big. So I simply swapped out my small nozzle  from my recirculating system.
  3. The hoses they send are super duper heavy duty. Which for the one that hooks up to the faucet is fine, but to use the same stiff hose for attaching the nozzle... again... awkward with a small dog in a small tub. I substituted 5 ft of flexzilla hose and I, Goldilocks, think that it is now, juuuussst right! Dog washing has never been so easy!

This awesome dog washer is listed in with the shampoos and conditioners below.

Dog Shampoos & Conditioners

There’s enough out there to make your head spin. The brands below are the ones I use on my shelties and on my client's shelties. A grooming tip for shelties is to always dilute the shampoo used to make it easier to get into the coat and down to the skin. Just use a squeeze bottle for easy application.

After Bathing

Never brush a dry coat. Always damp. After your sheltie's bath begin line brushing. As the coat dries, if you haven't used a conditioner right after the bath use this leave in conditioner. It can be used full strength or diluted 8:1 which makes it last a long time. 

It helps de-mat the coat, protects the hairs from dirt longer than if you didn’t use it. Spray a section of coat, brush and move on.

If you have used a conditioner after the bath, plain water in the spray bottle should work just fine. Just another grooming tip for shelties to save a few pennies.

Blow Dryer

I've had the Chris Christensen Kool Dry Dryer for years and love it! It has a variable speed dial so you can adjust the strength from very soft for puppies to blowing the water off your dog in sheets! I've had it for about 6 years now and it works perfectly.

Trim, Trim, Fuss and Brush

The things we do to make our shelties look their best! If you want to go past the basics of grooming, here is a great illustrated book specifically for show grooming. It's a classic:

Line Brushing Your Shetland Sheepdog

Line brushing a sheltie is really important in order to remove all the dead undercoat that will mat down over time. Yes, it takes time. Once they have a full double coat, there is no rushing it. Get yourself set up and comfortable because it will take quite a while.

What You Need To Line Brush Your Sheltie

  • Pin brush (without the little balls on the end),
  • Coat rake 
  • Wooden bristle brush
  • Spray bottle with water or leave-in conditioner
  • Small slicker brush (for ears and feet/hocks)
  • Slicker brush for the body (not necessary but makes it easier getting heavy undercoat out)

Another Step: Dog Ear Cleaning Solution and Techniques

A grooming tips for shelties page isn't complete without instructions on ears. Get rid of gunky, stinky ears! Here's the dog ear cleaning solution to your problems. Learn how to do it and what to use.

There are a myriad of cleaners and any one could probably do the job, but here is one that is good for routine cleaning:

First take a cotton ball and pour some of the cleaner on it. Gently wipe as much of the inside as possible to get the dirt and grime off. Then take a Q tip wet with the cleaner and gently get in all the crevices to remove the remainder of the dirt.

grooming tips for shelties

The next part can make some people a little nervous but it is pretty fail safe. Pouring some cleaner on a clean Q tip, gently put it down the canal. Most Shelties tolerate this rather well, unless they have a raging infection.

You can’t accidently puncture the eardrum if that is what you are thinking. First the canal is rather long and secondly it makes a sharp 90 degree turn that the Q tip can’t follow.

With the Q tip inserted, gently pull the Q tip up and out as you scrap along a side. Do this several times around the canal using as many clean Q tips as necessary.

Cleaning sheltie ears

If you have gobs of debris and are worried you are simply shoving the debris down, you can flush the canal with the dog ear cleaning solution. After squirting cleaner into the canal, massage the base of the ear for a minute or so to loosen the dirt.

Then take a bulb syringe (the baby kind) filled with warm water place it in the canal and gently flush. When you are done, with the syringe still deflated, release the syringe in order to suck out the water left inside. Take the syringe out, empty it of the dirty water and repeat if necessary 2 -3 times. 

Finish with a flush of dog ear cleaning solution.


If you think you are dealing with an ear infection, the skin will probably be red, hot and painful. Certainly going to the vet at that point is reasonable for a diagnosis, cleaning and medication to take home.

However, if you feel comfortable with dealing with the infection yourself there are a few home remedies that you can use.

At this point I have to say, this information is based on what I have read and what I feel prepared to do if necessary. However, it has been literally decades since I had a pup with an infection, so I cannot verify the efficacy from first hand experience.

First Determine What You Are Dealing With


If you have black stuff that seems to keep coming back no matter how much you clean, it may be mites. This is a parasite not an infection per se. The easiest way to determine if it is mites is to take some of the gunk and put it on a paper towel then pour some hydrogen peroxide over it. If there is the telltale red from the mites ingesting blood, you will know what you have.

The easiest ways to handle mites is either with Ear Mite solution from the pet store which is a pesticide or simple Mineral Oil.

Mineral oil will smother the mites if used 2-3 times per week til clear. Just use an eye dropper to fill the canal.

Yes, the pup will shake his head and most of whichever dog ear cleaning solution you used will go flying. So try to keep his head still for a few minutes before letting go.

You can try putting a cotton ball to hold everything in, but that rarely lasts long. 

Yeast or Bacterial Infection?

Again, you could go to your vet and get some antibiotic or antifungal dog ear cleaning solution which is certainly the traditional route.

Whole Dog Journal had an article several years ago that applies to any breed of dog so I can't say it is a grooming tip for shelties specifically, but worthwhile nevertheless. They discussed the use of a thick cream called Pellitol was injected in the canal and left until it dried out a week later. Well, of course Pellitol is no longer available but a replacement ointment is available here. I probably will give this a try if I come up with any ear infections, but at present I can't personally vouch for the effectiveness.

Another homemade dog ear cleaning solution I found:

4 oz. Zinc Oxide (non-nano sized particles)

4 oz. Boric Acid

1/2 oz Excel Powder

Mixed together and sprinkled in the ear. (Don't let the pup ingest this).

If you aren't particularly into playing chemist and prefer a commercial ear treatment, this is a good one to try:

Other Pages About Grooming Tips For Shelties

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