How to brush your dog

Brushing your dog’s coat is important. As well as providing excellent bonding time with your dog, regular brushing keeps a coat healthy, looking good, and can prevent knotting (where hair is tangled together) and matting (a tight, compacted knot which forms a flat patch of hair). And that means your groomer won’t have to shave off all of your best friend’s hair on their next visit.

Clipsters’ Chief Groomer Charlotte brushing Olive the Labradoodle.

There are lots of different types of brush and comb for different hair/fur types. L-R: a slicker brush, metal comb, pin brush, rake, curry brush/comb.

If you have a woolly or curly coated dog, breeds like Bichons and anything ending in ‘-oodle’ or ‘-oo’, then you have a lifetime of brushing ahead of you. But it doesn’t have to be daunting.

So what do I need to do to brush my dog properly?

Firstly, you need the right tools. A slicker brush is going to be your most reliable friend if you have a fluffy dog that could be prone to matting.

Examples of slicker brushes

It may look a bit scary, but used properly, in a rocking motion, it helps to clear knots and tangles, but you must brush the full length of the hair down to the skin. Brushing from the middle to the end of the hair is the easy bit – it’s the base of the hair near the skin that can be overlooked. This is the risk many owners run. Overlooking the base of the hair means it can become matted lower down, where it’s less obvious. If the matt becomes compacted and felt like, the only way to clear it without risking hurting the dog is to shave it off, hence it’s really important to make sure you brush ALL of your dog’s hair.

What are matts? Why do they matter?

Matts – fur or hair tangled and then compacted together with dirt, water and/or natural oils – can form close to a dog’s skin. It can irritate them and pull on other hairs and their skin making movement uncomfortable. It some cases it can even lead to patches of dermatitis. Dogs also need air to circulate through their fur, and matts prevent that from happening.

As a groomer, when matts occur I cannot cut or clip through the compacted hair itself. I can only clip under the matt, quite close to the skin. If there’s any particularly bad matting the dog has to be very closely clipped. Having their hair cut short doesn’t hurt a dog, but they might not look their best (at least for a few weeks until it starts to grow back).

When a dog has to be clipped close to their skin they may experience some itchiness for 48 hours or so as their skin reacts to being exposed to air again. That will pass, but as ever, any concerns, speak to your groomer.

When a matt is left unattended large parts of the dog’s coat can stick together and it can become felt-like. It can’t be untangled or cut through. It has to be clipped off between the matt and the dog’s skin by a professional groomer.

(The photo here is a particularly extreme example. It’s no reflection on the owner. Once a matt starts it can quickly develop into something bigger.)

I brush my dog regularly. They look great.

You might feel like you’re brushing your dog sufficiently and it looks lovely and fluffy. That fluff, however, might be the ends of the hair only and you could still need to brush right down to the skin. Can you get a metal comb through their hair from the base to the end? If not, some de-matting might be needed.

Ask your groomer about effective brushing, especially if your dog is double-coated where it might helpful for them to demonstrate the technique of line brushing to you. No groomer wants to send home a shaved dog, but when the matting is really bad it is the kindest option.

Owners sometimes brush only the middle-to-top of a dog’s coat, missing the end nearest the skin. Knots can develop into matts which need clippering off.

How and where do knots and matts appear?

Areas on a dog to check and brush regularly are the ‘friction’ areas; where the collar or harness rubs, the back legs and sitting patches, armpits and behind the ears. Many dogs are sensitive on their legs so be gentle when brushing (and possibly have a treat on hand), but also be thorough and consistent – it will pay off!

If your dog is a water-lover then you need to be extra vigilant. Knots and matts will only worsen if they get wet and are then allowed to dry out. Brush out any knots before a walk that could end up in a lake or a puddle. There are specialised tools as well as sprays and other products to help you loosen and remove knots. Every dog is different so as ever, have a word with a professional groomer for the best advice on coat maintenance and brushing.

Puppy coats are often easier to deal with and knots are generally easier to remove, but as their adult coat comes through it will be more prone to knotting, so start them young. Introduce them to a brushing routine and save yourself headaches later on.

My dog has short hair so brushing’s less of a problem.

Curly or woolly coated dogs aren’t the only ones that need regular brushing. Any owner of a shorter-haired breed such as Pugs, Staffies and Jack Russels will know they shed A LOT of hair.

You might feel it’s a never-ending battle, but when they are shedding a thorough bath with shampoo and conditioner will help. After a good towel dry, end with a rubber curry brush/comb (a soft rubber-toothed comb) to remove the shedding hair. It’ll give your arm a good workout (you can have a week off from the gym) and you will be amazed at how much hair is collected.

The Zoom Groom curry brush. Curry brushes/combs come in a variety of shapes, sizes and tooth arrangements.

Combine all that with regular visits to the groomer where we can use safe, specialist products and equipment, take our time, and blow out loose hairs with a blast dryer (note that owners should generally avoid using domestic hair dryers on a dog – they’re usually too loud and, most importantly, too hot).

My dog has loads of hair so I know brushing’s important.

Malamutes, Chow Chows, long-haired German Shepherds, Akitas and similar obviously require a huge amount of brushing, and when their coat is ‘blown’ (that means you can pick clumps of hair out easily with your fingers) then a visit to the groomers and a good blast with the dryer will help ease the amount of brushing out you need to do at home. For a groomer, it is so satisfying when the brush out on dogs like this is finished, and you soon forget about your dead arm after two hours or more of working through the coat. The clean up takes another hour too!

Double-coated dogs (like some of those mentioned) will need a rake to be used to remove undercoat hair. Again, there are lots of different types and sizes so speak to your groomer before buying.

The undercoat rake is essential for owners of double-coated breeds to make sure they brush both layers of hair.

Whatever type of dog you have, long-haired, short-haired, double-coated, wool-coated, mixed coat, silky coat – they all benefit from regular brushing all over. Your dog will love the bonding time and a knot-free coat helps them to regulate their temperature whilst avoiding matts means avoiding the discomfort of pulling on their skin.

If you are not sure which type of brush or comb to use, talk to your groomer. They will be more than happy to offer advice and recommendations, to show you examples of what they use, and how to use them most effectively.

At Clipsters, we do everything from washing and brushing your dog to a full groom, including detangling knots and cutting out matts if required (see details of our costs here). It is recommended that most dogs are groomed every 6-8 weeks, depending on breed and lifestyle.

If you have any questions, need some advice, or want to book a groom, please get in touch to discuss your dog’s needs.

© Clipsters 2020