Keeping your dog well-groomed is not only for appearances but the coat provides vital protection for your dog against the sun, wind, and rain. This makes it very important to keep up with.
In dogs with longer or thicker coats such as Shih Tzu’s, Lhasa Apso’s, Rough Collie’s and Akita’s (to name just a few) the coat will form matts if not regularly brushed. The most common areas of the body for matts are the armpits, behind the ears, and the legs but matts can form all over the body.
Matts are not only unpleasant, but they can cut off circulation resulting in sores or even the loss of a limb if left for too long. If a dog has had a matt for a long time and you shave the matt off the area can bleed, this isn’t because there’s a cut but is because of the rush of blood back to the area.
Shampoos and conditioners
Believe it or not there’s a shampoo for almost every type of coat, skin complaint or allergy!
Ideally you should only bath your dog once every 4-6 weeks, bathing too often can cause skin problems as it can be drying, stripping the natural oils from the coat and skin.
It’s difficult to navigate which shampoo to use and if your dog needs conditioner or not. Using a conditioner when the coat doesn’t need it can cause the coat to look greasy and feel unpleasant.
Smooth, wiry and short coated dogs don’t really need conditioner at all and a good deshedding shampoo will help you reduce the amount of unwanted fur left all over the home.
Double coated and silky / long coated dogs will need conditioner to prevent knots and matts. Ultimately it helps brushes go through the coat with minimal discomfort to the dog.
If your dog has a skin condition, then you can use a medicated shampoo which will help the skin recover and avoid the loss of vital oils during the bathing process.
There’s also whitening shampoos for dogs that have white areas such as the legs, chest or to reduce the appearance of tear stains.
If your dog has skin allergies or sensitivities, then you can use an oatmeal or soothing shampoo which will reduce the risk of a bad reaction and also sooth any on-going allergy flare ups.
Types of brushes / tools
Let’s talk about types of brushes and tools first, there are a number of brushes on the market and it can be overwhelming (and expensive!) to buy the wrong ones for your dog’s coat type.
· Pin Brush – This is a gentle brush; it can be used on medium/long coated dogs and to remove dirt from short-coated dogs.
· Slicker Brush – This is perfect for removing excess hair and dirt from the coat. It contains very fine-toothed bristles which is able to get deep into the coat. Ideally this shouldn’t be used on smooth coated dogs.
· Bristle Brush – This is ideal for short coated dogs; the bristles don’t get deep into the coat so won’t damage the skin. They do very little for long coated or double coated dogs.
· Rubber Brush – Such as a Zoom Groom ideal for smooth coated or short coated dogs and can be used on both a wet and dry coat.
· Undercoat Rake – This is perfect for double coated dogs, it breaks up mats and pulls out the dead fur from the undercoat.
· Deshedding tool – Ideal for shorter coated dogs (and cats) as the name suggests the deshedding tool removes the dead fur from the coat.
· Finishing Comb – It’s best to use the comb on long, silky or poodle coat types but only once the coat is completely brushed out. A comb isn’t an effective tool to remove mats or dead coat.
· Stripping Knife – This tool is used on breeds with wire coats such as the border terrier.
· Clippers – These are used to shave the coat short, double coated dogs should not be clipped unless advised to do so by a vet.
· Comb Attachments – These go onto the clippers and allow you to have a longer cut than normal clipper blades.
· Blaster – A high velocity drier perfect for double coated or curly coated dogs cutting drying time in half and providing a nice fluffy appearance.
Start brushing your dog from a young age to get him used to being groomed. Reward him afterwards as this will help him associate being groomed with a positive experience.
Now we’ve covered the basic tools and brushes available, the next thing that we need to cover is the coat type.
The most important thing to know about grooming your dog is the coat type, the type of coat your dog has will influence how you groom your dog and what grooming tools to use.
· Smooth Coat – This is the easiest coat to maintain as it’s close to the skin and requires little grooming such as Bull dogs, Weimaraner and Greyhounds.
· Short Coat – These coats are short, can shed heavily and have no undercoat such as Chihuahua’s, Labrador Retrievers, Dalmatians, Pitbull’s and Staffordshire Bull Terriers to name a few.
· Silky Coated – These coats are long and straight when in a full show cut, they have no undercoat such as Yorkshire Terriers, Red Setters and Afghan Hounds.
· Double Coated – These coats are thick, the top layer often provides a “waterproof” layer and have an undercoat such as Shetland Sheepdogs, Rough Collies, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Chow Chows, Siberian Husky’s, Akita’s and Alaskan Malamutes.
· Curly Coated – This coat type is defined by its appearance; it’s has soft curls and requires regularly grooming to prevent matts such as Poodle and Bichons.
· Wire Coated – This coat type feels wiry to touch, it may be clipped or hand striped. Including German Wirehaired Pointer, Border Terrier, Airedale Terrier and Schnauzer.· Combination Coated – This is a combination of coat types including breeds like the Golden Retriever, Cocker Spaniel and Shih Tzu’s.
How to groom your dogs coat type
Smooth Coated Dogs
These dogs are the easiest to groom, they require minimal effort and although they shed it’s not as excessive as other coat types.
It’s recommended to use a Zoom Groom or rubber brush on either a wet or dry coat, this will pull out any dead fur and reduce the amount of shedding your dogs coat does.
You can use any shampoo with a smooth coat and no conditioner is needed. I recommend Pet Head Dirty Talk shampoo as it’s great for getting rid of smells and is perfect for short-haired dogs. Alternatively, you can use a de-shedding shampoo to help get rid of any loose fur.
You can use a simple pin brush to brush any dirt or dust out of your dogs fur, bathing a dog too frequently can cause damage to the skin by stripping the natural oils from the skin.
Short coated dogs have slightly longer and thicker fur than their smooth coated friends. You may notice clumps of fur that look different to the rest of the fur when they’re shedding (usually spring or the start of summer).
They don’t really require brushing often weekly should be enough; they do need help to shed the fur instead of it getting all over your house. They don’t really need conditioner, however a deshedding shampoo can aid in getting the dead coat out.
Brushing their coat with a deshedding tool or Zoom Groom and a normal pin brush can help not only remove dead fur but any dirt that has been caught in the coat.
Silky coated dogs have fur more similar to human hair, it’s thin and grows long. It can knot very easily so brushing daily is necessary.
As they don’t have an undercoat their drying time is relatively short compared to double coated dogs. I’d recommend using a slicker brush as well as a pin brush as it’s gentle on the skin and can brush tangles out easily. Additionally, a comb is great to do a final brush through to keep the coat looking shiny and smooth.
Depending on your personal preference you may decide to have your dog in a short cut, either shaved or hand scissor short. If you decide to clip the coat it’s best to use a 7 blade, as it keeps the coat short but not surgical short.
A silky coat requires conditioner as well as shampoo, it’s best to use a smoothing shampoo as other shampoos can make the fur tangle. I’d recommend Espree’s Silky Show shampoo and conditioner.
You can also use a detangling spray to help you brush out the knots.
Double coated dogs require daily brushing, twice a year they “blow” their coat and during this time you will notice large clumps of fur coming off your dog. These clumps need to be brushed off otherwise they can matt and cause problems for your dog.
Brush your dog daily, focus on problem areas such as the armpits, legs and behind the ears. Use a slicker brush to get deep into the coat, an undercoat rake to pull out any dead undercoat and a pin brush for brushing out any twigs or dirt.
You should never shave your double coated dog, their double coat protects them from the wind, rain and sun. Shaved double coated dogs are also at higher risk of overheating as their natural cooling mechanism has gone.
Shaved double coats never really grow back to their original quality and for these reasons it should only ever be done if the vet has suggested it. You can shave the bottom area or get your groomer to do a “sanitary shave”.
Shampoo and conditioner are required for double coated dogs. You can use a deshedding shampoo or one specifically aimed at double coated dogs. For dogs that should have a very large coat, such as Chow Chow’s you can add a volumizing spray to give the coat the added floof required.
For my own dogs (Shetland Sheepdogs) I’ve always used a combo bristle brush, which contains both nylon bristles and boar bristles to finish the groom (after the slicker brush) I’ve found it gives a nicer finish than a normal pin brush. However, my dogs are show dogs and the combo brushes are expensive so this step isn’t necessary for a pet dog.
Curly coated dogs such as Poodles require a lot of grooming, brushing daily will help prevent matts. Because their coat is so tightly curled you can use this time to check them over for any ticks or injuries that may be hidden by the coat.
Shampoo and conditioner are a must, using a blaster to dry the coat will help give the candyfloss type appearance we all know and love.
I’d suggest using a slicker brush, pin brush and finishing comb to get that beautiful shape. You can clip a curly coated dog and many owners like their curly dogs to have a short, easy to manage groom. Typically, this is done on a 7 blade however you can use a comb attachment to give a longer cut.
You can finish the groom off with a volumizing / holding spray to keep the fur exactly how you like it.
Wire coated dogs are a bit more complex, some wire coated dogs never require grooming and others need frequent grooming. For example, the Border Terrier grows a thick curly coat if it doesn’t get clipped or hand stripped regularly.
If your dogs coat needs hand stripping and you decide to clip it, please keep in mind that you will never be able to hand strip the coat again. It will only be able to be clipped from that point forward. This is because clipping changes the coat and makes it very difficult to hand strip.
You can use a coat rake before hand stripping, as well as a pin brush afterwards to add the shine back to the coat.
Hand stripping is easiest with a stripping knife. Hand stripping usually needs doing twice a year. You essentially hand pluck the dead hairs out, it is time consuming and if you allow the fur to build up it will take even longer to complete.
Wire coated dogs don’t need conditioner and it’s best to use a shampoo that won’t leave the coat too soft. It’s also advised to bath a dog before handstripping.
Dogs with combination coats have a mixture of long and short fur. Depending on the breed it may be best to avoid clipping, for example Golden Retrievers should not be clipped, however Cavalier King Charles Spaniels or Cocker Spaniels can be clipped.
Brushing the longer areas daily with a slicker and pin brush and typically, they benefit best from a shampoo aimed at longer coats, you can use conditioner on the longer areas of the coat as it will help add shine and weight.
A conditioning spray can also add some shine and reduce knotting.
Daily brushing of the longer areas may be required to keep matts at bay.
· Always brush in the direction the coat goes in.
· Give a treat after grooming as a reward.
· You can add a supplement like YuMEGA to help your dogs coat grow healthy and shiny.
· Carefully trim around your dogs paw pads if the hair starts to grow too long.
· Knots in the tail are common and easily missed so always check the tail.
· Always shampoo twice to get the coat fully clean.
· If you decide to use a groomer it’s important to still brush your dog daily to prevent the need to shave the dog.
· Bath and fully groom every 4-6 weeks with daily brushing in longer/double coated dogs.
· You can use deodorizing sprays or dry shampoos if your dog likes rolling in stuff.
· Don’t bath your dog for 24/48 hours after using spot on flea treatment.
As a groomer I’ve seen my share of matted dogs, the discomfort they feel just isn’t fair. I’ve found having a routine around grooming my dogs at home helps, I set aside a certain time of the week and spend half an hour brushing and clipping nails. It makes the shedding more controllable and helps keep on top of the coat.
Keeping on top of your dogs grooming is really important, it can be a valuable bonding time and you can make it a fun time for you both.
If you don’t feel comfortable clipping your dog at home then reach out to local groomers, they’d be happy to have you as a 4-6 weekly client. Although make sure you know exactly what you want (realistically, we can’t glue fur on or turn your wire coated dog into a Yorkie) from your groomer, they’ll be happy to run through the process with you.
I hope this guide has been of use to you and helps you be more confident with grooming your dog.