Brushing and Combing
Nothing looks and smells better than a freshly bathed and coiffed dog. Your dog feels better too. After all, who doesn't like the way they feel after a scalp massage and a haircut? But caring for your dog's coat isn't just about making him appear more beautiful. It's about taking care of his health.
While most people think that a dog's heart is his most vital organ, the skin or coat is actually larger and requires more attention. Take one look at your dog's coat and you'll have an insight into his physical and mental condition.
When a dog has inflamed, itchy, or flaky skin, it isn't the coat that's the source of the problem. It's usually a sign of an internal issue, such as liver, adrenal, or thyroid disease. Other culprits of skin irritations and abnormal hair loss are allergies, mange, and bacterial and fungal hair follicle infections.
By brushing or combing your dog regularly — daily for dogs with long, curly, or very fine hair, or weekly for short, wiry, or hairless canines, you can check to see if he has any fleas, ticks, cuts, lumps, or tender areas. When you spot a problem early on, you can obtain treatment before the condition worsens.
Dogs love nothing better than to roll around in dust and dirt. As a result, pet fur is a magnet for this grime and debris, trapping it on the skin. While most dogs groom themselves to some extent by using their teeth, tongue, or paws, they can't eliminate all of the toxins. Even if they could, it's not a very healthy way to do it. Combing or running a bristle, wire slicker, or rubber curry brush through the coat rids the hair of the dirt and secretions before they have a chance to accumulate. If left alone, these particles provide the perfect conditions for germs and parasites to thrive.
Introducing a Routine
Begin a grooming routine with your dog the day after you bring her home. Turn off the phone and choose a time when you're not likely to be interrupted. You need to focus your attention on your dog; you increase your chances of hurting her accidentally if you're distracted.
Never leave your dog alone on the grooming table, even if he's secured in place by a grooming noose. He can accidentally fall off or he may decide to take a flying leap off the edge. Either way, he can be seriously injured.
You don't have to perform all of the grooming tasks during the first few sessions, but it's a good idea to introduce her to the new experience so she can become accustomed to being touched or having her nails trimmed. Put her up on the grooming or picnic table and let her sniff the tools. Brush her for a few minutes, trim one or two nails or paws, and let her lick some toothpaste off the toothbrush. After this brief session, tell her she's a good girl and give her a small food treat as a reward.
Repeat the process over the next few days. When you feel comfortable with the procedure, set aside a regular day of the week and a time for grooming so you'll be sure to get the job done.
Taking care of your dog's coat is just as important as feeding your dog a healthy diet and giving him plenty of fresh water, regular exercise, sunlight, fresh air, and a safe environment. Until he becomes accustomed to the pampering, he may not appreciate the effort and you'll need to do some training. You're grooming him for his own health, so be patient and don't give up.
For the first session or two, put him up on the table and spend a few minutes petting and talking to him. Let him sniff the brush and lightly brush his front legs where he can see what you're doing. Even if he wiggles around a little, give him a little food treat as a reward. Having the right type of brush for your dog's coat type will make the job easier. Here are the various types of brushes:
Bristle brush. Short-haired dogs need shorter, tightly packed bristles; long-haired dogs need widely spaced bristles.
Pin brush. A pin brush is best for long, wavy, or wire coats. It is designed to be gentle enough that it doesn't break off the hair; however, if the coat has mats, you will need to demat it with a comb and slicker brush or other dematting tool because a pin brush is designed to brush out hair without mats.
Slicker brush. This brush works for removing mats and tangles and smoothing out the hair after using the bristle brush. This ever-versatile brush is the one to use on long, curly, or silky coats.
Undercoat rake. Use this tool to remove dead hair from the undercoat on double-coated breeds.
Rubber nubby brush. Use this brush on short-haired or hairless dogs.
Dog hair has a life cycle. It grows, rests, falls out, and grows again. This is what shedding, or blowing coat, is all about. Dogs shed a little throughout the year, although the hair thickens in the fall to add protection during the cold winter months and drops out during warmer weather after it's no longer needed.
By brushing your dog's coat, you remove the dead hair before it falls on your clothes, carpet, and other parts of your household. Brushing also helps stimulate the natural oils in your dog's skin, giving the coat a healthy, shiny appearance. For heavy shedding, brush and bathe your dog and be sure to dry him thoroughly. This will remove the excess hair and help loosen the hair that's nearly ready to fall out.
Brush heavily shedding dogs with the bristle or rubber brush once a day and use a wire slicker brush, shedding blade, or pumice stone twice a week. This helps remove extra hair. Don't use the sharp slicker or blade more than once a week or with too much pressure or you'll take off too much coat and your dog could wind up looking bald!
How to Brush Your Dog
With shorthaired dogs, use a rubber brush, glove, or mitt with nubby ends. Don't use a bristle brush because it will tear out healthy hair that's not ready to come out yet. If there are tangles, use a steel comb with wide teeth at one end and narrow teeth at the other. Start brushing from your dog's head and continue backward toward his rear. Vigorously brush in the direction the hair grows. If you haven't brushed your dog lately, you will dislodge quite a bit of dirt, debris, and loose hair.
Are there any purebred or mixed-breed dogs that don't shed?
No. Every dog has hair that goes through the normal growth, rest, loss, and replacement cycle. A few breeds, such as Poodles, Portuguese Water Dogs, Havanese, and Bichon Frises, don't shed as often because they have a longer growth cycle.
If you have a longhaired dog, use a bristle or slicker brush and begin brushing at the front of your dog and continue toward his tail. Brush in small sections against the direction the hair is growing.
Don't ignore mats. They need to be removed to prevent external parasites from taking up residence inside them. They're also uncomfortable when your dog lies on them. Separate the hair into small sections and use a shedding or dematting comb. To help untangle the mats, spritz the problem areas with a little detangling grooming spray before combing through the hair.
Brush shorthaired dogs once a week and longhaired dogs once a day, especially if the coat mats easily. Dogs with thicker coats can be brushed two to three times a week.