It’s one thing to talk about the importance of brushing your dog’s coat, but it’s an entirely different thing to actually do it. That is, it’s an entirely different thing to do it correctly and with the correct dog brushes. Depending on the coat type, incorrect brushing can ruin the look that’s characteristic of your dog’s breed. Here’s how to use a dog brush on your particular pet’s coat and avoid potentially embarrassing stares and muffled giggles.
Understand Why You’re Brushing Your Dog
Almost all of a canine’s most common pest issues can be prevented and corrected through simple dog grooming. Daily brushing and combing can remove fleas and other nuisances like dirt and plant debris. It also helps distribute dogs’ natural oils throughout its coat, helping to make the coat resistant to additional dirt and dust. If this important grooming step is ignored, you put your dog at risk for tangles and matting.
Understand that matted hair isn’t just unsightly. It’s a health risk that can spur a few troublesome behaviors even after it’s removed. For example, the skin of a shaven dog itches and prompts a lot of unnecessary scratching and self-biting. It’s also embarrassing and prompts an otherwise friendly and sociable dog into hiding. And as if that weren’t enough, a matted dog may have to contend with parasites, flea bites, and skins sores.
That’s why it’s important to know how to use a dog brush, especially since many of us think we’re doing an adequate job when we’re not. When we think we’re brushing a dog’s hair, for example, we’re more than likely only brushing a dog’s top coat and leaving the undercoat vulnerable to a host of problems.
Can’t Figure Out Which Tools To Use?
If you cruise the aisles of any pet store, you’re going to see a huge array of dog brushes that claim to do everything under the sun except teaching your dog how to speak French. Save yourself the trouble of buying the wrong brush by picking up a slicker brush and a curry brush (for short haired dogs — the bulldog, Cardigan, hounds, Labrador retriever, Pembroke Welsh corgis and pug are example dogs that sport the short coat).
A slicker brush is appropriate for all dogs (except smooth single-coated dogs) because it uses short wires to untangle mats. And a curry brush or curry mitt uses rubber nubs to work through a smooth coat since a brush’s bristles may be too rough on these dogs’ skin.
For puppies, pick the brush with straight or curved soft bristles. For dogs with a fluffy coat, get a double-sided stainless steel dog comb too. One side of this dog comb bears widely spaced teeth and the other side bears thinly spaced teeth. While you’re at it, pick up a flea comb and mat slicer as well (just in case). We’ll talk more about those tools a little later.
Prepare The Dog For The Brushing Experience
To thoroughly brush a dog, you really have to go at it while the dog is standing on all fours. Since you don’t want to do this in an uncomfortable bent over position, you’ll need to stand your dog on a waist-high table. You can find a dog grooming table at a pet store in addition to a couple of other items you might need: (1) a grooming post and (2) a grooming noose. All three of these items are designed to make brushing an easy and pleasant experience for your dog (no matter how scary the tools sound).
Once you coax your dog onto the table with a treat, secure him there with a leash. You probably won’t make much progress the first couple of tries, but shortly thereafter, your dog will soon learn what that table is for and what will happen when he jumps on it.
The Brushing Process
Using the brush or comb, reach all the way down to a dog’s skin and proceed to pull upwards in the direction of the coat’s hair strands and in short quick strokes – especially if you experience a few snags. The proper way to comb through snags, in fact, is with short quick strokes since you might pull the dog’s hair right out of its skin if you insist on yanking and pulling. Continue in this fashion around the dog’s entire body, lifting limbs to access hard to reach areas.
To brush a small dog’s belly, stand towards the dog face front, hold both front paws in one hand, lift and then brush its chest with the other hand.
If your dog has a double or flowing coat, brush in the direction of the coat’s lay. Never brush “against” the coat in other words unless you want your dog to look “poofy.” A poofy look is quite appropriate for Poodles, but it’s entirely inappropriate for a Yorkie. The Border Collie, chow chow, Keeshond, Newfoundland, Pomeranian, Shetland sheepdog, and Siberian husky are example dogs that bear the double coat – each bearing their own distinct texture and look.
If your dog has a northern coat, take advantage of the wide-tooth portion of the comb or the grooming rake. (See our article about northern dogs for a list of canines with this type of coat.) A wide tooth comb will reach down through a northern coat much easier than a fine tooth comb, and help unsnarl a few tangles hiding in the undercoat layer. If necessary, use a shedding blade tool on dogs that could use a little help with shedding.
If your dog has a short double coat, use the slicker brush and the rubber curry brush we introduced earlier. Both tools are not only effective brushing tools, they help reduce shedding and the shine the coat.
Areas to Concentrate On
Don’t be afraid to brush the dog’s delicate parts since they can hide the beginnings of mats. Take special care to brush all around the ears, armpits, and tail since mats will often hide there. And then follow up your brushwork with the wide-tooth portion of the comb first, and the fine- tooth portion of the comb second. The follow-up work will help you find tangles and knots that the brushing and/or wide tooth combing might have missed.
Should you find a mangled area, try to gently work it out with your fingers prior to reaching for the clippers or a mat slicer. Mat slicers are tools with small blades designed to cut through thick, dense tangles and if used incorrectly, could cut a dog’s skin. If you’re not sure how to use a mat slicer or if you’re simply not comfortable with using one, have your groomer remove your dog’s mats.
If you notice fleas, flea eggs or flea debris, use the flea comb to remove them. Flea combs have extra fine teeth that can trap the tiniest specs. Look for flea matter near the base of a dog’s tail since these insects like to set up base in this area.
Note that your dog needn’t have fleas to benefit from a flea comb. Flea combs are great tools for dogs with extremely short or smooth hair. The boxer, Doberman, Greyhound, the miniature pinscher, Weimaraner, whippet, and Vizsla are example short haired pups.