By Vet Nurse Becky
Grooming plays a big part in owning a dog. From brushing and bathing them, to going to a salon to be professionally clipped. The next few installments of my puppy behaviour series will be covering some of the basics of grooming.
Brushing is very important as it removes dead hair and dirt; this keeps the skin and coat healthy. Tangled hair does not allow the skin to breathe; this itself can cause skin irritations and infections. It also increases your bond with your pup, by spending time together and building trust between you both.
Another good thing is that there is scientific evidence that brushing your pet reduces your stress levels and lowers your blood pressure. It also gives you a good chance to check their general health by looking at their eyes, nails and teeth. By doing this regularly, you learn what your dogs body is like and will pick up any issues, such as lumps, cuts and tenderness, quickly.
The main question we get asked is when to start brushing your puppy. In short, the answer is as soon as you get them. Brushing should be part of a daily routine, and the earlier you start doing this, the easier it is for them to get used to it. They can start being groomed from 3 weeks of age. It also allows them to become accustomed to handling. This means you can check them over with ease and makes vet examinations a lot less stressful for all involved, including your puppy.
There are many brushes and combs on the market, how do you know which one to use for your dog? You must choose a brush that is suitable for yours puppy’s size and breed. The biggest mistake most people make is that they only brush the top coat. This allows the undercoat to matt close to the skin, which can be uncomfortable as they pull the skin. These get tighter and bigger the longer they are left and can become smelly and cause skin infections.
A puppy’s coat is different to that of an adult dog. It is much softer, fluffier and shorter. Use a soft brush on this fur, even if it does not need brushing, to set them up for future grooming.
Some of the brushes on the market have specific uses. We will go through some of these first and then determine what brushes is best used on what coat type.
These remove loose hair and dirt. They also maintain and condition the coat. They have fine, short wires close together on a flat surface. The angled pins avoid the skin while still going through the coat. Their use is to remove matts and tangles from short- medium haired or curly haired breeds. There are many varieties on the market, so ensure the one you choose is the correct size for your puppy. Be gentle when using these, as the fine, tightly spaced wires can cause discomfort if too much pressure is used.
These are good for massaging the skin and removing dead hair
These help break up matt’s and tangles and help remove loose fur from the undercoat, while leaving a healthy topcoat. They penetrate a thick coat. Use with minimal pressure. When choosing a undercoat rake, ensure the pins match your dogs hair length. A short rake will miss the inner layers on the undercoat, while too long could irritate your dogs skin.
These are good for removing matts and tangles.
Removes dirt, dust and dead hair. This is used for shorter coats.
These are the most versatile and can be used on any type of coat. Different brushes have different spacing between the bristles to accommodate the type of hair. Short, close together bristles work best for short hair, while wider apart, longer bristles work well for longer hair. The bristles should be stiffer for rough and course hair. These are for brushing the top coat and removing dirt and loose hair and stimulating the skin.
These tend to be longer than bristle brushes, which work very well on medium to long hair dogs. They are available with rubber tips at the end of each pin for added comfort. These are for brushing of the top coat and removing dirt but not useful for removing lots of loose hair.
These are made to help make it easier to grasp hair, and the teeth are designed to do a little light cutting as they pull. They trim out the undercoat and dead hair. These are used on specific coats and are very sharp, so be careful if you use them.
Now we are aware of what brushes are out there, we need to determine what coat your puppy has and therefore what brush is needed to keep their coat in a healthy condition.
SMOOTH COATED BREEDS:
Such as Bull Terriers and Dashchunds. For these coats you need to use a rubber brush or grooming mitt to bring dirt and loose dead hair to the top and then a bristle brush to remove it.
Such as Boxers, Beagles and Greyhounds. For these coats you need to use a slicker brush or a Pinhead brush to gently remove knots and matts. Then use a rubber brush or grooming mitt to bring all the loose hair and dirt to the top, and finally a bristle brush to remove the hair and dirt. Never use scissors to cut matts out.
LONG COATED BREEDS:
Such as Old English Sheepdogs or Bearded Collies. These have a coarse coat with a softer undercoat and matt easily. Use a slicker brush or wide toothed comb to remove matts and then an undercoat rake to penetrate through the coat to the skin and remove all the dead hair.
SILKY COATED BREEDS:
Such as Yorkshire Terriers or Shih Tzus. These breeds usually have long hair and no undercoat. This means this fine hair matts easily. Use and slicker brush or comb to remove matts and brush through. Then use a bristle brush to add the natural shine to the coat.
DOUBLE COATED BREEDS:
Such as Retrievers, Rottweilers or German Shepherds. They can be short or long hair. They have a soft undercoat, which sheds twice a year, and a weather resistant outer coat which shed once a year. These matt very easily. For both short and long hair use a slicker brush or undercoat rake to remove lose hair. For shorter hair breeds, brush the undercoat first and then the top coat. For the longer haired breeds, use a wide tooth comb afterwards to remove loose undercoat.
WIRE COATED BREEDS:
Such as Airedales and Wheaten Terriers. These coats have a rough texture and do not shed like other coat types. For these coats, you will need a fine, curved-wire slicker brush and a stripping comb to thin the overgrown wiry coat and prevent matts and tangles.
CURLY COATED BREEDS:
Such as Poodles and Bichon Frises. These have thick, soft curls. They do not shed as much as other breeds but they are harder to brush. For these coat types use a soft slicker brush.
Some dogs have different lengths and styles of hair on their coats; this may mean you need different brushes to do different parts.
Now you know what coat type your dog has and what brushes to use, in my next installment I will discuss how to introduce your puppy to being brushed and how to get them used to it.
IF YOU ARE STILL UNSURE WHAT BRUSH TO USE ON YOUR DOG, PLEASE BOOK AN APPOINTMENT WITH ME OR ONE OF THE OTHER VET NURSES AND WE WILL BE HAPPY TO HELP.