Collie Grooming

Collies have two coat varieties: Rough (long, thick, and full, like Lassie) and Smooth (short and dense). Both coat types are double-layered and shed seasonally. Overall Collie grooming is different for the two coat varieties, with Rough Collies needing more frequent coat care.

Here you'll find details on caring for a Collie's coat, including plenty of info on brushing and bathing both coat types. You'll also learn how to maintain these dogs' teeth, ears, and paws--and you can find out why shaving a Rough Collie is never a good idea.

Get answers to your questions about Collie grooming in the following sections!

Collie Coat Care

Grooming Collies (of Rough or Smooth varieties) can be fairly time-consuming--and a majority of Collie grooming will consist of caring for their coats. Both coat varieties shed seasonally, and will need extra attention during the periods of heavy shedding. In regards to brushing, the two coat varieties have different needs:

  • Rough: Brush 2-3 times weekly with a pin brush, and daily during shedding season; some owners also use de-shedding tools during shedding periods
  • Smooth: Brush weekly with a slicker brush; daily during shedding season

Baths are necessary every 2-3 months, unless the dog becomes especially dirty or stinky.

Smooth Collies' coats are simply too short to sport any hairstyle other than natural. And while it's possible to cut a Rough Collie's coat, groomers and breed clubs strongly advise against doing it.

Though owners can learn all the aspects of grooming a Collie dog themselves, it's a good idea to take the dog to a professional groomer at least once. The groomer can give the dog a nice makeover, and provide tips on how to groom a Collie dog at home.

Maintaining these dogs' coats will also require the use of a few Collie grooming tools, including a pin or slicker brush and canine shampoo. Rough Collie owners may also want to have a greyhound comb, a de-shedding tool, canine conditioner, and a hair dryer.


Your Collie brush will need to happen fairly frequently, especially if the dog has a Rough coat. Brushing for the two coat varieties differs a bit, mainly in frequency and brush type. The best brush for Collies with Rough coats is a pin brush; Smooths will need a slicker brush. Roughs need brushing 2-3 times weekly, while once a week for Smooths should be enough. During shedding season, which can happen in the spring, fall, and after heat cycles or giving birth for females, daily brushing will be necessary for both coat types.

How to brush a Collie of both coat varieties: first wet the coat with mist from a spray bottle, then go through the coat section by section with either the pin or slicker brush, moving in the direction of hair growth. If you encounter a mat or tangle, follow the instructions described in the Getting Out Tangles section below.

A few additional tips for brushing Rough coats: sometimes it helps to use your greyhound comb on the longer hair on the neck, chest, and legs. Before each brushing, some people also like using a de-shedding tool on their Rough Collies, especially during shedding season.

Getting Out Tangles

Mats or tangles can develop in these dogs' coats, especially on Rough Collies. Two ways of dealing with them:

  • Use your fingers. Though a little more difficult, this is the preferred method, mainly because it's less damaging to the coat. With your thumb and forefinger, work out the tangle by separating the hairs, going strand by strand if necessary. You can also use the end teeth of your greyhound comb. And if a mat or tangle is extra stubborn, start the de-tangling process by using scissors to cut the snarl in half (or even in fourths).
  • Use a de-shedding tool. One way this helps is to keep the Rough coats from matting in the first place. When using a tool like a Furminator, Rough Collie coats have much less undercoat to shed (the main cause of tangles). The tool's sharp, fine teeth reach into the undercoat to pull out dead hairs--but the problem is, the tool often cuts away healthy hair as well. This leaves the coat looking uneven, so the finger method is best.


Do Collies smell? While not especially known for their "doggy odor," these dogs can get funky without consistent bathing, especially if they spend a lot of time outdoors. Overall, though, baths are only necessary every 2-3 months, unless your Collie is particularly grimy.

It's important to use canine shampoo (and for Rough coats, conditioner too) with your Collie bath, as the kind made for humans has a different pH and will irritate a dog's skin. Some owners like to use a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner combo. The best shampoo for Collies includes brands like Buddy Wash, Earthbath, and 4-Legger, most of which have 2-in-1 combo products.

How to bathe a Collie: first give the coat a good brushing. You can bathe your Collie either in a bathtub (hopefully with a spray nozzle attachment), or in an outdoor plastic pool using a garden hose. Wet the coat thoroughly, then apply some Collie shampoo to the dog's back. Lather well, working downward and outward as you go. (And don't forget the legs, underbelly, and tail!) Clean the face, head, and ears with a washcloth, then rinse the coat completely. (Then, for Rough Collies, you can repeat the entire process with conditioner.)

Towel-dry the coat next. With Rough coats, you can then use a hair dryer on its lowest setting to continue drying, brushing the long hair out with the pin brush as you dry; Smooths will be fine air-drying. Finish with another quick brush-through to make the coat look clean and neat.

Collie Styling & Haircuts

Smooth Collies' coats are pretty short, so they don't need Collie haircuts at all. Rough Collies have longer, full coats, and they can get Collie grooming cuts--but that doesn't mean they should.

"Can you shave a Collie?" owners often ask. Most professional groomers and breed clubs will answer with a definitive NO. Some think that shaving a Collie will keep the dog cool in summer, and will reduce shedding. Groomers say the Rough Collie Summer Cut (where the entire coat is shaved to 1-2 inches) and the Collie Lion Cut (to make the dog resemble the King of the Jungle) are two frequent requests.

In truth: a shaved Collie won't stay cool, nor will it shed any less.

Double coats on dogs serve to regulate body temperature, and act as natural insulation. They trap warm air between the layers in cold weather--and do the same with cool air in hot temps. This means a shaved Rough Collie doesn't have its natural climate control system! The dog will be much more susceptible to heatstroke and sunburn, and it'll get cold very easily. Plus, since it's a dog's undercoat that sheds, unless the Collie is shaved bald--which is not a good idea!--the undercoat remains, and the dog still sheds. The shed hairs will just be shorter. And when a shaved Collie's coat does grow back, it'll be uneven and even change texture.

So to anyone considering giving their Rough Collie a haircut or shave: put those clippers away!

Paw Care

Your Collie's paws need regular maintenance too.

  • Nails: If Collie nails click on hard surfaces, it's time for a trim. Use standard clippers to cut the dog's nails as close to the toes as possible. Take care not to cut into the nail's quick (the blood vessel running through it), though, as doing so can make the nail bleed and be painful.
  • Toe Hair: If the hair between your Collie's toes gets too long, it can collect dirt and debris and even get infected. Use scissors to trim the hair short if needed.
  • Paw Pads: Your Collie's paw pads can become dry and cracked, especially if the dog walks or runs a lot on hot asphalt or snow and ice. Apply canine paw pad moisturizer to the dog's pads weekly to keep them soft, moist, and healthy.

Other Care

Besides its coat and feet, a Collie needs maintenance in these areas:

  • Teeth: Just like a human's, Collie teeth need regular brushing to avoid the buildup of plaque and tartar, and to minimize that Collie bad breath! Brush the dog's teeth 2-3 times per week with a regular toothbrush--but be sure to use canine toothpaste (available at pet stores or online), as the kind made for humans can make dogs sick if they swallow it.
  • Ears: If your Collie's ears aren't cleaned periodically, they'll collect dirt, grass, and debris--which could lead to infection and even hearing loss. Clean the dog's ears monthly with canine ear cleaning solution. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions, but the usual process is to squirt some solution into the ear canal, fold the ear flap down, and massage the ear for a few seconds to work in the liquid. The dog will probably shake its head vigorously--this is normal--then you can use a cotton ball (never a Q-Tip!) to wipe out any remaining solution.
Collie Care

See the complete guide on how to care for Collies.

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About this Article

Authored by:Dog-Learn
Updated:March 20, 2020