Notes From The Grooming Table This Month: Brushing Your Dog

A common question I am asked is “How often should I brush my dog?” Depending on the breed and the type of hair, the answer varies dramatically. If you own a whippet or greyhound, for example, you may never have to brush your dog, or only have to do so once or twice a year to assist in the shedding of dead coat.

If you own a labradoodle, however, you’ll find that the task is a daily requirement of dog ownership. Many people who own dogs like this, (as well as spoodles, cavoodles, old English sheepdogs, etc) like to keep their dogs coats long. The reality is that unless the dog is brushed regularly enough, matts begin to form from knots which become extremely hard to detangle. Once sufficient matting is formed, it becomes impossible – even for groomers – to brush the coat out; and the matt, if not the entire coat, must be clipped off.

It is probably worthwhile to point out here that matting cannot be clipped through or over. Clippers can only cut UNDER matting, where there is a slight gap between that and the skin in which hair is not tangled. In particularly bad cases, the required blade can be so close to the skin that clipper burn becomes a worry and a risk. The chances of ‘nicking’ the dogs skin with the clippers is also increased in this situation.

Such a task, whilst sounding awful, is still preferred over the alternative: A matted coat encourages flea reproduction and the holding in of moisture. As we found out last month, water in the coat promotes hotspots and is the ideal environment for bacteria to form! And to make matters worse, if a hotspot forms under a matt, it may go undetected!

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So… how do we prevent matts forming, how often should I brush my dog and just HOW exactly am I supposed to brush my uncooperative puppy?

Matts generally form in particular places more than others. The top 5 places I find matting are:

1.      Behind the ears

2.      Around the neck (where the collar sits)

3.      Under the armpits

4.      On the flanks (side of the dog above/in front of the back leg)

5.      Tail

In our busy schedules, it can be difficult to find time to brush our dogs, so if you were to concentrate on one or two of the above areas every couple of days, you would be doing a lot to combat matting in your dog!

In order to properly brush out the coat, you should have at least a slicker brush, and parting the hair down to the skin, brush outwards in sections. Done regularly, this will probably take very little time. If left for long periods it can be a tedious job and even painful for your puppy!

If possible, start getting your puppy used to the brush as early as possible, even just 5 minutes a day in one or a few of the above areas. Puppy may wriggle profusely at this point, but the key here is perseverance and consistency. Eventually your dog will get used to the routine of brushing and not wonder what it is you’re trying to do to them! If your puppy is a little older than that, you may use the same routine, it just may take them a little longer to accept the process.

Maintain a calm and assertive, but gentle nature while you’re brushing and then give your puppy a treat afterwards for being a good boy or girl! If you are getting easily frustrated with your uncooperative pup, this will just make the situation worse as they mirror your energy.

Remember it’s all about CONSISTENCY, PERSERVERANCE and YOUR ENERGY. Once your dog gets a matted coat, there is no other option than to shave it all off, which is generally more traumatic for the owner than the pet…

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