A well-groomed dog is a happy dog. Over time, lack of grooming can cause a dog’s fur to become matted, disheveled and ratty. Poorly maintained coats can harbor bacteria and even pests – like ticks and fleas.
Brushing your dog is a simple and easy way to keep him looking – and feeling – his best. But brushing properly is the key to getting the best results.
Before we talk about technique, let’s take a closer look at the different types of brushes available and what they’re best used for.
Types of Dog Brushes
Walk into any pet store and you’ll find a dizzying array of different dog brushes. Each one has its own uses and benefits. Here are the most common types:
Simple and versatile, bristle brushes are great for most dogs, but are particularly useful for dogs with wiry or short coats.
These brushes remove debris from the coat, and leave behind a nice shine. They look just like the brushes humans use to groom their hair.
While bristle brushes are ideal for dogs with short or wiry coats, they can be used on all dog coats.
A slicker brush can also be used on all coat types, but is especially useful for pups with double coats, like huskies, Pomeranians and fawn pugs.
These brushes have either a flat or curved head with wire pins. These pins help remove debris form the coat while detangling the undercoat and removing loose fur.
While these brushes are great for dogs that shed a lot, you do have to be careful when using them. Too much pressure can cause the dog discomfort.
A pin brush is just like a slicker brush, but the pins are tipped with rubber or plastic. These brushes are ideal for dogs that have long and silky coats.
Most of you should be familiar with pin brushes, as we use them to brush our own hair, too. They’re usually oval in shape, and they’re great at picking up loose hair. They’re often used at the end of the grooming process to finish up the look.
Rake and Shedding Brushes
For dogs that shed a lot, like German Shepherds and Chow Chows, rakes and shedding brushes are ideal.
These brushes help remove loose fur while keeping the undercoat tidy.
Undercoat rakes look similar to pin brushes, but they have fewer, longer bristles. As you might have guessed, a rake is used to get deep down into the undercoat to remove tangles and debris. This tool also helps prevent matting.
Shedding brushes are shaped like a horseshoe, and they have small teeth that are close together. The comb is dragged flat across the dog’s coat to remove any loose fur that may be hanging on.
How to Properly Brush a Dog
Now that you have an idea of what types of brushes are out there, you can choose the one you need and get right to work grooming your dog.
Before you get started, you should have some idea of how often your dog’s coat needs brushing. As a general rule of thumb:
- Short, wiry coats (i.e. Terriers and Dachshunds) need brushing weekly.
- Long-haired dogs, like Collies and Retrievers, should also be brushed weekly.
- Short-haired dogs, like Labs and Greyhounds, only need brushing every few weeks.
With tools in hand, follow the tips below to brush your dog properly.
1. Use Gentle, Firm Strokes
When brushing your dog, use gentle but firm strokes to make sure you remove all of the tangles and keep the fur from getting matted.
The direction of each stroke will depend on the dog’s coat.
- Long-haired dogs: Brush against the grain. Start at the dog’s skin and work your way outward. When you’re done, go over the coat again, but this time, brush in the same direction as the hair growth.
- Short-haired dogs (and all other coat types): Brush in the direction of hair growth.
It’s important to get close to the skin when brushing, but make sure that you don’t actually brush the dog’s skin. Brushing your dog’s skin can actually cause brush burn, which is irritation of the skin and may need to be treated by the vet.
Make sure that you brush your dog’s entire coat, and always brush in the same order (i.e. chest, neck, legs, etc.).
If your dog has tangles or mats (or is prone to tangles and matting), you will want to spray his coat with a small amount of conditioner before you begin brushing. This is especially important with dogs like Pomeranians, whose coats should never be brushed while dry. The conditioner will make it easy to remove tangles and prevent the fur from breaking.
2. Don’t Neglect the Ears
Take the time to clean your dog’s ears weekly to make him feel more comfortable and help prevent ear infections.
Consider trimming your pup’s ear hair and brushing it lightly to keep it looking tidy.
3. Don’t Forget the Feet
Along with your dog’s ears, you also want to make sure that you brush and trim your pup’s feet.
Keeping your dog’s foot hair trim and tidy will keep him looking his best and prevent things from getting lodged in the fur, like burrs, bugs, ice chunks and tar from the road.
Brush your dog’s feet gently, and trim the fur regularly. The hair should be even with the pads of your dog’s feet.
4. Get Rid of Loose Hair
Using a comb or finishing brush, remove any remaining loose hair in your dog’s coat. Some people also use handheld vacuums to remove hair, but we don’t recommend doing this. The noise will scare your dog, and there’s a chance the suction will tug on the hair and cause pain.
While it may be tempting to give your dog a good shave, it’s better to groom your dog regularly than to shave down his coat – especially dogs with undercoats. The undercoat protects the pup from the heat, cold and sun. It acts as an insulator to keep him cool during the summer and warm during the winter.
The next time your dog needs a good brushing, follow the steps above to keep his coat looking its best.