Bergamasco Sheepdog grooming instructions are very important, to help you look after your dog correctly. When a Bergamasco Sheepdog is a puppy he looks totally different from the dog he is about to grow up to be! Puppies are born with soft fluffy fur which needs to be brushed every month. You can bath him at this stage too but not too often or his skin will dry out.
At around 9 months to one year old, the dog begins to develop his flocks - the flat, felt-like cords for which the Bergamasco sheepdog breed is so well-known for. You'll probably feel these little flocks with the doggy brush before you actually see them.
As soon as you see (or feel!) them, then it's bye bye to the brush! From now on you have to use your fingers to groom your dog instead.
They'll probably start at the spine or the base of the tail where the hair is thickest and you'll be able to see the development of what is referred to as the "goat hair". This is the harsh, grey hair which is similar to a goat's.
picture from dogbreedinfo.com
This early flocking stage goes on for about another year.
Gradually the 3 types of hair which a Bergamasco dog has - the fine but dense undercoat which is oily and keeps the dog water tight, the "goat hair" coat which is made up of long smooth grey hairs which feel a bit harsh and the top woolly outercoat - will all combine and weave together.
photo courtesy of wikipedia
If you spot any puppy hair getting tangled all up in this, gently separate it by pulling the flock apart (from the ends up to the skin part) into smaller flocks of between 1.5-3 inches (don't make them too thin or the flocks will break off).
The puppy hair will mat too close to the dogs skin, stopping air from circulating properly and causing all sorts of issues such as skin rotting, rashes and infections. The part of the flocks which are attached to the dogs skin should not be woven, they should be flat and straight to allow the skin to breathe and the oils to be distributed correctly.
Your dog will look very scruffy at this stage (from age 1-2 years) so ignore anyone who suggests you groom him! Instead, help him on his flocking way by checking for any puppy hair matting or any other matting around the armpits, chest or behind the ears.
Keep pulling apart flocks which are too wide. The flocks will be naturally wider at the dogs base and the back where there is more woolly type of hair.
Once your dog reaches around 2 years on, the flocking should be well on its way. All you need to do now to keep an eye out for any getting too big or fat and peel them apart.
At 5 years old, your Bergamasco will have developed several layers of flocks and should look pretty much how he's going to look for the rest of his life. The flocks will be well formed and will be growing down towards the floor if they haven't already reached it.
Washing your Bergamasco now becomes an absolute mission as it can take an age to not only make sure he is rinsed thoroughly but it can also take several days for him to dry off completely too!
Never attempt to speed up the drying process by using a hair-dryer. It is way too hot for a dog and can damage his coat. Squeeze the flocks instead to try to get as much moisture out as possible.
The Bergamasco has a very efficient system in place which makes his skin secrete lots of oils which help to "wash" his coat to keep it clean, stops it from smelling and makes it resistant to dirt so bathing should be occasional only.
It is better to spot clean him where necessary such as around his mouth where food could get trapped or around his rear where poo can accumulate (ew!)
The hair around a Bergamasco Shepherd's face should be kept long as the dog used this as a visor to protect his eyes from the bright sunlight reflecting off the white snow.
Bergamascos should never be clipped either. The clipping stops the 3 types of hair from weaving together. Instead, it forms massive clumps of matting which is impossible to comb out. The matting blocks the skin which makes the oils unable to be secreted properly and causes skin complaints.
courtesy of k9-obedience.com
If you require a more manageable coat on your Bergamasco then his flocks can be trimmed to a minimum of 4-5 inches which is called the Sports Coat. You can also brush your adult Bergamasco Sheepdog with a slicker brush which will remove any surface debris.
If your Bergamasco Sheepdog is a male and happens to not cock his leg up enough whilst urinating, then it is advisable to consider buying a few human elastic hair bands designed for Afro/Dreadlocked hair and giving your dog a little ponytail between his legs!
It will be hidden from view by his other flocks and could save him from wetting his flocks every time he goes to the bathroom. Also advised for the rear end when your dog has diarrhoea!
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