Benefits of Brushing Your Dog's Coat
Regular brushing prevents matting. Mats can cause serious skin issues, painfully pull and pinch at your dog’s skin, and can hide some nasty critters such as fleas or maggots ... gross! Once mats have formed in your dog’s coat, it can be painful for your dog and difficult to remove them yourself — and it’s best done by a professional groomer.
Regular brushing keeps your dog cooler. Dogs with undercoats need to avoid any fur impacted against the skin to allow airflow and stay cool.
Regular brushing builds the bond between you and your dog.
Regular brushing helps you spot anything unusual, such as parasites, lumps, or sores.
Regular brushing keeps your dog’s skin and coat healthy. Brushing helps to distribute your dog’s natural oils throughout their coat, keeping their fur nice and shiny.
Brushing helps cut down on your dog’s shedding. Better the fur on the brush than on your microsuede couch!
How Often Should You Brush Your Dog’s Coat?
While maintaining your dog’s coat health can seem daunting, it’s important that you make sure you’re brushing it correctly based on your dog’s fur type, and that you’re brushing it regularly. I recommend brushing your dog’s coat at least every couple of days, even for short-coated dogs.
If you have a dog with a higher maintenance coat, such as a poodle, poodle mix (these coats can be especially prone to matting), or a double-coated dog (e.g., Akita, Husky, Sheltie, Great Pyrenees), brushing daily is best. If you keep up on brushing, you’ll only need to do it for a few minutes each day to keep their coat in tip-top shape.
If you have a breed that requires regular clipping and you’d like to keep their coat length long, you will need to stay on top of brushing. Otherwise, they will have matting when they go in for their grooming appointment and most likely will need to be clipped to the length of the coat left under the mat (which is most often pretty short and close to the skin). If maintaining a regular brushing schedule at home is too difficult, you can schedule simple brush out appointments with many groomers, or just a bath, blow-dry, and brush out service in between full grooming appointments.
After Swimming or Getting Wet
It’s a good idea to brush and thoroughly dry your dog's coat after any swimming to prevent mats (and painful "Hot Spots"). A super absorbent dog shammy towel is great to keep on hand if you don't plan on blowing them dry after a swim. Take a minute or two to brush out leg and foot fur if they get wet running around the yard or after a walk in the rain — this will help prevent painful matting on their legs and feet.
Before and After a Bath
Brushing out your dog's coat before bath makes your job easier. Removing any loose fur with a brush first means you'll have less of it in your tub drain. It also means that your shampoo and conditioner will be able to penetrate your dog's coat more easily, resulting in a cleaner dog and healthier skin! (See the Pro Tip below about another pre-bath Blow Out technique.)
Take the time to blow dry, and brush out your dog after a bath as well, to remove any fur that was loosened during the bath and prevent matting from forming as their coat dries.
During Shedding Season
If you have a dog with an undercoat (e.g., Labrador Retriever, Corgi, Husky), you’ll notice that there are certain times of the year when they blow their coat. This is when their fur is changing between winter and summer coats. Full-on molting time! Brushing them every day for at least 15 minutes during their coat blow will help speed up the process, keep them comfortable, and stop the furballs from falling out all around your home.
How to Brush Your Dog
1. Start brushing at the top of your dog.
The key in grooming the head is being gentle. The skin and hair around a dog’s face are particularly sensitive and you need to take care not to harm eyes or ears.
If your dog’s coat or the hair on her face is short, use a soft slicker made specifically for the face. If your dog has long facial hair — a fall over the eyes or a beard — put your fingers behind the long hair and gently comb it out so that your dog’s sensitive skin is protected from the sharp, pointed teeth of the comb.
2. Tend to ear hair carefully.
To groom long ear hair, put your hand between the comb and your dog’s tender skin. If the ear fur is matted or in knots, use a washcloth dipped in detangles solution to slowly comb out the tangles. If the knots of ear fur are too big, (many dogs get them behind the ears), use electric clippers (sliding your hand between the skin and the clipper) to remove them or just ask a professional to do it for you to avoid cutting the skin
3. Smooth your dog’s neck ruffs.
Start brushing with a soft slicker. If your dog has a ruff (the longer, thicker fur around the neck, shoulders, and chest), use a comb or undercoat rake. Comb through the hair you just brushed before brushing it back the way it should lay.
4. Feather pup’s forelegs.
Short hair on a dog’s forelegs usually doesn’t need to be brushed, but if your dog has feathering — long hair on the backs of the legs that runs from armpit to paw — you have to comb it out as has a tendency to tangle more so than the rest of your dog’s coat. Use a detangle solution or a mat splitter or mat comb as necessary.
5. Go gently on the soft underbelly.
Use a slicker to brush against the lay of the hair (if appropriate — otherwise, brush with the grain) on Fido’s chest and belly, being keenly aware that your dog’s underside is sensitive, especially around the belly and private parts.
6. Move around the sides and up the back of your pet.
There are probably the easiest areas to groom, you brush against the lay of the fur as appropriate and follow up with a comb over.
7. Now head for doggy’s rear end for more grooming.
Use a slicker brush to find out how tolerant of being touched on the rear, as this can be a sensitive area. Do a regular brush and comb being extremely careful around the base of the tail near the anus and around the dog’s, um, equipment.
8. Catch the hind legs for a quick brush up.
Like the forelegs, your dog’s hind legs shouldn’t require much brushing, but if your dog has feathering, you have to comb it out. If your dog isn’t a show dog and has feathering down her back legs, you can use an electric clipper with a guarded blade to keep it neat.
9. Tweak the tail.
If your dog’s tail is short, fuggetaboutit! But, if it’s long and furry, you need to use a comb. For mats, use detangler solution and a mat splitter or mat rake.