Your dog’s coat type tells you how much to brush, comb or bathe it. Her lifestyle — couch potato or a canine athlete — dictates the rest. No matter your dog’s fur type, we’ve got tips that help with all dogs. We gathered up some professional groomers and got them to spill their secrets to help make your dog the envy of the dog park.
Brushing vs Combing Dog Fur
There are a variety of different coat types: short, medium or long, also single or double coat, and the coat can be wiry, curly, rough, silky, smooth, corded or hairless. And don’t think a hairless breed makes grooming easier, as it often requires more baths. Getting the right grooming tools and knowing the right way to use them on your dog’s coat type is key. Here are some tips that can get you brushing in the right direction.
- Catherine Juarez, owner of Bubbles & Barks dog grooming salon in Passaic, New Jersey, says that fur-type dogs (like German Shepherd Dogs, Labs and Huskies) “will need a curry brush, undercoat rake, slicker brush and comb.” While hair types (Poodles, Yorkies, Shih Tzu, etc.) will need “a slicker brush or pin brush, and a comb.”
- Don’t just brush or comb your dog’s top hair. Groomer Kimberly Rines, owner of The Grooming Shack in Duluth, Minnesota, says, “Comb your dog in layers, so you are getting all the way to the skin.”
- When brushing or combing, “watch out for friction zones — underarms, groin, behind the ears and under the collar — as skin tends to be more sensitive and knots are more common,” advises Stephanie Zikmann, founder of The Holistic Grooming Academy in Scotland, United Kingdom.
- Always dry and brush your dog out after getting wet from a bath, swimming or the weather,” says Brandie Gitzendanner, owner of The Paw Spa Elite in Oklahoma City and Mustang, Oklahoma. “Allowing your dog to air dry without combing and drying can lead to matting.”
- “Comb!” says Elly Linam, owner of Elly Scissorhands Dog Grooming LLC in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. “After you brush your dog’s coat, make sure to comb it to catch any small mats that are hiding. Greyhound-style combs work great for this.”
Need more help? There is an easy-to-understand video on YouTube in which Andis Grooming Educator Diane Betelak walks you through it, titled Proper Brushing and Combing Techniques and created by professional grooming company Andis.
How to Give Your Dog a Bath
How often you bathe your dog depends on her coat and on her lifestyle. Typically, a dog can be washed about once a month, but keep a close eye on her coat’s oil or dryness so you don’t offset her coat’s natural balance. Dogs with oily skin and hairless breeds need to be bathed more often. Beyond the basics, here are some bathing secrets from groomers.
- “Use an exfoliating mitt! “says Stephanie Z. “This helps to lather up shampoo and clean a dirty coat efficiently. It is also a great way to carefully shampoo and rinse a dog’s face without getting any soapy residue in the eyes”
- “Keep rinsing!” advises Stephanie Wilson of Wüf Pet Spa in Cincinnati, Ohio. “If you think you rinsed out all the shampoo and conditioner, rinse more. It’s crazy how easy it is to leave product in the coat.”
- “Use conditioner,” Catherine says. “Conditioner helps to replenish the oils that have been stripped out by shampoo.”
- “Drying the coat takes a few steps,” explains Liana Carver, a groomer at Roch & Gertrude Pet Spa in Pasadena, California. “First towel to soak up dripping water. A second towel is to dry the coat as much as possible. Comb out to make sure there are no tangles before moving to the dryer. If your pup is OK with it, comb while using the dryer.”
Shh! Other groomer secrets
It’s not all shampoo and brushing. Here are some other simple secrets you may not be in the know about.
- “Don’t leave collars and harnesses on 24/7,” says Stephanie W. “If you need to, rolled leather collars or silk are less likely to cause friction matting.”
- Brandie reminds us to grab the cornstarch. “It is good for loosening mats that aren’t too tight. Just sprinkle and work it into the matted area and then brush out.”
- And dry completely! “Many pet parents will towel dry their dogs and let their dogs air dry,” says Nadia Lee, owner of 4 Legged Tribe in Lomita, California. “Damp plus wet coat will lead to a ‘wet dog smell,’ and pet owners will not be able to execute a salon styled ‘blow out’ look.”
Tips for single- and double-coated dog fur
A dog with a double coat has two coats: an outer coat and an inner coat. Elly explains, “A double-coated dog’s coats act as insulation in both hot and cold weather. It keeps them cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather.”
The outer coat is longer than the inner coat, doesn’t shed as much as the inner coat, and it’s the coat you see that shows the dog’s color. The inner coat is close to the skin and soft, which you feel by parting your dog’s fur. Many popular dog breeds have double coats: Labs, German Shepherd Dogs, Border Collies and Golden Retrievers. Brush up on these expert tips for dogs with single and double coats.
- A double-coated dog with fur should never be clipped, says Liana. “Doing so can ruin the guard coat — outer layer coat. You risk it growing back patchy, change in texture or it may not grow back at all.”
- Brandie tells us that the second coat does tend to release in cycles. “This undercoat should be blown out with a force dryer or brushed out to prevent an impacted coat. Impacted coats can hold in moisture that sits on the skin causing irritation, hot spots and infection.”
- Single coated dogs do not have undercoat. “This coat tends to mat easier and requires more brushing to maintain proper coat health,” says Stephanie W. Popular dog breeds with single coats are Dachshunds, Greyhounds, Poodles and Chihuahuas.
Dog hair vs. fur
When it comes to dog hair versus dog fur, what is the difference? Our groomers solve this mystery for us.
“Dog hair is like human hair,” Elly explains. “It keeps growing and must be cut. Dog fur does not continually grow and will shed out at the end of its growth cycle.”
Kimberly adds, “Dogs with hair don’t shed like a pup with fur. They require regular grooming to manage the length and health of the coat, while dogs with fur tend to shed more and have periods of time when they ‘blow’ their coat. This means all the dead fur from the season comes out and, depending on the breed, it can be quite a bit!”
How to maintain your dog’s coat between professional groomings
My pup enjoys wiggling around in a well dug-up dirt patch, which means he is always filthy. His BFF and groomer is Elaine Moyers, who splits her time between Louise’s Dog and Cat Grooming in La Habra, California, and her studio in Yucaipa, California. She shares some simple tips of what I can be doing in between visits.
- Brush and comb your pup thoroughly.
- A bath, dry shampoo or even a wipe down with a wet towel as needed if dirty, as well as conditioning coat spray can help keep your pup smelling good.
- Check and clean ears using ear cleaner, pet wipes or a cotton ball with alcohol. Only clean what you can see. If there are sores/redness, excess debris or a bad smell, check in with your vet.
- Use plain water on a cloth or paper towel to clean debris from around the eyes.
- File down pointed nails in between clipping with a nail file or Dremel.
- Use positive reinforcement. Anything you can do to help get your pup comfortable with being touched, the less stressful her professional grooming day will be.