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  • Lydia Scarpari

Which Brush Should I Use on My Dog?

Most dog owners know that brushing is important for healthy skin and a shiny coat. Regular brushing distributes the natural oils in your dog’s coat, helps to manage tangles and prevent mats, removes dead hair and reduces shedding, and also removes dead and dry skin. But what many pawrents don’t know is which tools to use for their dog’s coat type. We asked our friend Lydia Scarpari from Organix Dog Spa to shed some light on the best grooming tools for your dog’s coat.

I ask people all the time about what kind of home grooming they do with their dog. I’m very glad to say most do in fact brush their dog, but the main question I get is, “What brush should I use?”. While there are heaps to choose from, I’m sure you can imagine you wouldn’t use the same brush on all dogs. It can still be incredibly tricky to choose the right one without ending up with one of everything!

One for shedding, one for the long-haired areas, one for the smooth parts and one for knots. There are many different types of brushes all designed for different types of coats (dog hair) and for different purposes.

Below is a list of common brushes and their uses. There are many, many more but as a pet owner, there’s no need to have a drawer full like I would! You may only need one or two. Don’t let the pet shop lady push you into purchasing one for each day of the week 😉

The Comb This is all you need for a long haired dog! Other brushes are useful too, but if you keep on top of your dog’s hair with a comb, you should not need to use anything else. You can get a double-sided comb or a straight comb, long teeth or short teeth, ones with soft handles, wooden handles or no handle. Make sure you get one with steel teeth and two different sized teeth spacing. The handle you choose is completely up to you and what’s most comfortable.

A comb is used on any long-haired dog and is best used for removing knots; the different sized spacing will help in removing bigger knots through to smaller knots. Comb your dog just as you would your own hair, if the comb gets stuck it usually means there is a knot, find the knot with your fingers and use the end of the comb to break the knot in half if possible. Once it’s small enough, use the comb as normal again over the knot and it should slide out easily. If your dog has a thick, double coat like a Bernese Mountain Dog, it would be best used in conjunction with a long-pinned slicker brush, but is not essential. Common Breeds: Golden Retriever, Maltese Terrier, Yorkie, Poodle etc. Uses: Any long hair & to remove knots.

The Slicker Brush

These brushes come in an array of widths, pin lengths and pin firmness. Generally speaking, you would choose a small width for a small dog or area (if you feel more comfortable using a smaller brush on smaller areas like their face), a longer or shorter pin length depending on the depth of their coat (A samoyed would use a longer pinned slicker to a Husky and the longer the pins the less pressure you need to reach the skin so be careful!). Softer pins are for softer, easier to remove knots but I would stick with soft/medium pins anyway as the harder the pins the more chance of brush burn on the skin. I’ve personally not felt the need to get a hard pinned slicker.

If your dog has no knots but has some undercoat coming out, I like to use a slicker to loosen it all up and then collect anything I’ve missed with a comb. For a particularly stubborn knot I would use a slicker over the knot again to loosen the knot. If it doesn’t come out, I switch to a comb.

Common Breeds: German Shepherds, Samoyeds, Husky’s etc. Uses: Any long hair and to loosen the undercoat.

Rubber Curry

My favourite brush! This one is designed for the short haired breeds (or to give any dog a massage while having a bath!). I have pulled soooo much hair off a dog just by misting the dog with a conditioning spray and brushing them over with a rubber curry in circular motions. Most love a good massage with it and you can see what you’ve removed from them if you look under the brush at the rubber teeth. Very satisfying!

Choose a size and shape that fits your hand nicely and that moves around your dog’s body comfortably. If they have any loose skin it’s best to pull it firmly (but gently) so that the brush isn’t skipping over their skin folds like receiving a massage without massage oil! Ouch.

Common Breeds: Jack Russel, Dachshund Short Haired, Pug, Staffy etc. Uses: Removes loose hair.

De-Shedding Rake

The de-shedding rake is great for long-haired breeds. If you’ve been brushing your dog regularly (or not) and the hair has built up into clumps you may find it easier and even quicker to use a de-shedding rake instead of the comb and slicker brush. These tools have either one or two rows of metal teeth that are quite thick. They’re designed to pull the under coat (those clumps) up and out. They can help with knots but the teeth aren’t really designed for this purpose and that’s when you may want to switch to a comb. If you find a knot, the de-shedding rake will feel like it’s gotten stuck in the coat, remove the rake gently and try to remove the knot with the comb, then continue with the rake. Be careful running the rake over sensitive areas such as the leg joints and underbelly. It’s best used over the torso of the dog. Stick to the comb and slicker method for sensitive and hard to reach areas.

Common Breeds: German Shepherd, Alaskan Malamute, Newfoundland, Chow-Chow etc. Not really suited to drop coated breeds though. Uses: Removing clumps of hair during high shedding times.

De-Matting Rake

Not to be confused with the de-shedding rake! This is a serious grooming tool that requires care. A mat, when referring to a dogs coat, Is a knot that has become so knotted and twisted, it has formed a large, tight hair mass (mat), often quite taught on the dogs skin. They generally need to be cut out or shaved off, carefully. To avoid, bruising, skin irritation, itchiness and infection. The teeth on this tool are actually cutting blades. You can use them to try to cut portions of the mat which are intertwined in the hopes of avoiding shaving the coat. The de-matting rake is used essentially to break mats into smaller pieces which can then be brushed out with a comb and slicker. Use with care… if a mat is too big and too close to the skin it can be painful and you risk breaking the skin. If in doubt, shave it out.

Common Breeds: Not specific to any coat type. Uses: Slicing knotted hair to aid in mat removal.

If your dog has short or smooth hair you really only need a rubber curry for maintenance in between grooms, or just a nice massage. If you are blessed with a long coated or heavy coated dog then I do hope you enjoy brushing! You can get away with a steel comb and slicker brush to keep on top of any thickening or extra fluffy areas as the hair begins to shed. Drop coated breeds like Maltese Terriers can get very tangly so daily or weekly combing is ideal. Remember to always brush your dog before giving him a bath… knots and especially mats will shrink and tighten once wet and be more difficult to remove without cutting or shaving. And if all else fails? Talk to your friendly neighbourhood groomer for advice.

For more tips on keeping your dog's skin and coat in healthy, join our Facebook group Natural Skin and Coat Care for Dogs.

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