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Combs and Brushes for Your Dog

By: Dr. Amy Wolff

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An important aspect of health care for your dog is regular grooming. No matter what type of hair coat your dog has, there are combs and brushes designed to keep him looking and feeling great.

Most dogs enjoy being groomed. The act of grooming is part of their natural social order and, when done properly, can add to their sense of bonding and well being. Grooming can be a great time for you, too. You spend quality time with your pet while keeping tabs on skin problems, parasites, lumps and bumps, and any other unusual problems.

Consider your dog's hair coat before selecting any grooming tool. Even dogs with short coats benefit from regular grooming. Short-coated breeds such as the basenji, Parson Russell terrier and German shorthaired pointer are best groomed with a soft bristle brush. The brush will pull up any dead hair or skin and distribute natural oil throughout your dog's coat. The soft bristles are also gentle on the underside of dogs, where the hair coat may be thin and in some areas may even be bare. Brushes range in size, type of handle and bristle. Choose one appropriate to your dog's size and coat and one that fits in your hand comfortably.

Medium coated dogs, such as the Labrador retriever, German shepherd and Chesapeake Bay retriever, require a bit more than just brushing. Coats of medium length should be first groomed with a slicker or wire brush to pull up dead hair or undercoat. A slicker brush contains small metal pins set into a rubber backing. They may have a plastic coat on the tip for comfort. A wire brush has small thin wires that are angled at the tip and do an excellent job of combing out loose hair and undercoat. Comb your dog first, and then finish with a good brushing to distribute oil. Some grooming tools are double-sided containing both brush and comb.

Long coated dogs such as the Afghan, shih tzu, or collie need the most grooming attention to keep their coats beautiful and healthy. These pets should be brushed every day, just as you would your own hair. If you are attempting to groom a neglected coat, you may want to begin with a mat rake. Mat rakes and shedding combs are designed for loosening matted hair and removing it comfortably, provided it is not matted down to the skin.

Once the hair is mat and tangle free, a wire or slicker brush can be used for removing the undercoat and a brush for final smoothing. Pets that have coats matted to the skin need to visit their groomer or veterinarian. Most of these dogs will need to be shaved. Keep up with grooming as the hair grows in to keep mats from recurring. Always comb and brush before bathing. Wet hair makes mats worse and harder to groom.

You might also want to try some other tools. If you have trouble holding on to your pet's grooming tools, there are implements that are ergonomically designed for a comfortable hold.

  • Grooming gloves, also called palm shedders, are mitten shaped gloves that are made with small plastic teeth that are easy to guide over your pet.

  • "Sensitive area" brushes are shaped for grooming around the eyes and muzzle.

  • If you see fleas on your dog, try a flea comb, a small metal or plastic comb with very close set teeth designed to trap fleas as it passes through the hair.

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