Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Trimming Sheltie Ears

Here is yet another "How To" for Sheltie grooming. Or rather than calling it a "How To" and implying that it is the only way to groom a Sheltie, let's call it a "How I Do It". I realize there may be different ways to trim these hairy beasties, but these are the methods that I use.

The ears are tricky to get right, and take quite a bit of practice. The first couple of times I tried to tackle Romeo's ears, I ended up eye-balling them for days afterwards, attacking them with the thinning shears a couple more times to even things out, balance them, and smooth out corners that I never intended to put there in the first place. As such, I always like to trim the ears a couple of days before they need to be looking their best. For example, both boys are entered in a big obedience and rally-o trial this coming weekend. I planned to do the ears tonight, so that I have the next couple of days to tidy them up a bit before they need to be on display in the trial rings.

Another note, this trimming technique gets best results on tipped ears. Some Shelties, my Gio included, have prick ears that stand straight up. I tried this method on him once and it just didn't look right. I find that on Shelties with pricked ears, the fly-away scruffy look tends to look better. If you start trimming and trying to tidy things up, then it just emphasizes the size of their ears. So I only trim Romeo's ears as they are tipped very nicely.

For this task, you will need:

- a pair of thinning shears (you can purchase professional groomer thinning shears for upwards of $100, or you can pick up a pair from your favorite drug store for about $15)
- a fine toothed metal comb
- a small pair of blunt nosed scissors

Step 1
- Comb through the hair on the back of the ear completely to remove any snaggles or mats. Once the hair is smooth, place the teeth of the comb at the base of the ear and comb straight upwards towards the tip of the ear, holding the hair to the back of the ear with your finger. It may take a few swipes to get all the hair from the back of the ear gathered. Be sure to only gather the hair that is attached to the ear itself, don't take hair from the back of the dog's head or neck.

Step 2
- Using the shape of the ear as a guide, use the thinning shears to trim the hair that sticks outside of the shape of the ear. It is a good idea to do this in a couple of steps. Trim a bit, then comb the hair back up from the base of the ear again so that you do not miss any. Start trimming on the outside edge of the ear, and then on the inside edge. In the picture to the left, I am still holding all of the combed hair to the back of the ear, but all the hair that protrudes outside of the shape of the ear has been trimmed off.

Step 3
- Hold the edge of the ear between your thumb and forefinger so that you can feel the edge of the ear under your fingertips. With the blunt nosed scissors, CAREFULLY trim around the edge of the ear in a smooth curve that follows the top edge of the ear.

Step 4
- Repeat steps 1-3 with the other ear. Then take a step back and look at both ears. Compare to see if they are the same shape and evenly weighted by encouraging your dog to prick his ears up (time to make funny noises!). Trim with the thinning shears as needed. I prefer to leave the hair in the front of the ear intact, though if there are any great long fly-aways, I will trim them a little bit shorter so that they stay within the overall shape of the ear.

Other entries that I have written on how I groom my Shelties:
Grooming those Sheltie feet
Trimming Sheltie leg feathers and hocks
Trimming Sheltie ears
Homemade snood to prevent messy, broken hair

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