You've just come home from the pet store with yet another dog brush and you think (not for the first time) that with the assortment of brushes you've got, you could open your own grooming studio!

What's the deal with this? Why are there so many different brushes, and how are you supposed to know which one you need?

Well, here's the lowdown:

Dogs' coats can be broken into three basic categories: those with short or medium hairs that shed but do not need cutting, those with long hairs that tangle and usually require cutting, and those that enjoy both of these traits. You'll need to know where your dog fits in before you decide on a brush. 

Brushes on the other hand are divided into either the shedding camp, or the tangles camp. However, if your dog exhibits both of these features, you'll want brushes for both as well.

First we'll talk about shedding coats. If your dogs hair is short, such as a Labrador Retrievers or a Pugs, you will want a brush you can rub on his coat in a circular motion, keeping constant contact with his skin. This action loosens both the guard hairs (or top coat) and the undercoat, and causes them to fall away from the body. A rubber currycomb with big rubber nibs works best, but there are a few variations of this brush - some with small nibs, some with soft nibs, some in the form of a mit, and some with hard plastic nibs, but they all act on the same principal. Additionally, some short haired dogs have quite alot of undercoat, while others have very little. A carding tool such as a Furminator will pull out this additional undercoat, but a good rubber currycomb is all you need to get started. 

If your dog sheds medium length hair, such as a Border Collie, Golden Retriever or Pomeranian, a slicker brush will help you work through any mats as well as remove loose undercoat. A rake however, will be your workhorse - this tool rakes out all the excess undercoat not easily removed with a slicker. A pin brush is a good maintenance tool on this coat for everyday brushing as it's gentle on the skin, but lacks the strength to tackle mats and bulky undercoat. It's a nice addition, but not a necessity. Finally, you can finish with a carding tool such as a Furminator, when the rake can pull no more hair out. This is also a nice brush to have, and will keep you one step ahead of the furballs under the sofa. If you only want to buy one or two brushes, get the slicker first, then add the rake and you'll do fine. 

Now, long coats which are prone to tangling or matting require a little more attention than other coat types. A slicker is used to remove mats and loose undercoat, followed by a metal comb to check for small tangles and pull out undercoat the slicker misses. A pin brush is a nice maintenance tool here as well, when used daily, and will not irritate the skin, which can happen when slicker brushes are used incorrectly. If you want to start with just one brush, get a slicker, then add a metal comb later. 

A note on slicker brushes: knowledge of the correct method of use for a slicker brush is important both for good results, and to prevent skin irritation. Read our blog post on correct use of a slicker brush, or visit your groomer to have her give you a demonstration.



02/01/2013 4:51pm

We have Weimaraner's and their coat is very short, they tend to have really sensitive skin as well. I usually use a very short toothed comb, but never have tried using it in a circular motion before. I appreciate the helpful hints and will also forward this to my sister as she has a black lab that sheds pretty bad all of the time. Do you have recommendation for a good dog shampoo for sensitive skin?

04/01/2013 3:25pm

Hi Jennifer,

Thank you so much for your inquiry and comments!

Is it a rubber curry comb you use, with soft flexible nibs on your Weimaraner? This is the correct brush/comb for this type of coat, and dogs usually love the massaging circular motion, although not all do.

Labs especially love getting brushed! Your sister can try using it to give him a good scrub in the bath as well.

The shampoo which we and our clients have found to be the absolute best for dogs with sensitive skin is our own Black Sheep Organics shampoo. We have two formulas for sensitive skin. Gently Soothing with organic essential oils of Lavender, Geranium, Rosemary, Ylang Ylang, Sweet Marjoram and Carrot Seed, and we also have Allergy Free with no essential oils, just the base made from organic: coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, and shea butter.

We hope to have our webstore up and running in the near future, but you could order via email at getintouch@spadog.ca, or phone at 604.629.6767. Alternatively, depending where you live, you can pop into our grooming studio in Vancouver.

Thank you again for your interest!

Keep your dog clean and green.

Hilary Barchash
Spa Dog Organic Dog Spa

23/01/2013 10:17pm

These are some great tips! I've just recently gotten an Anatolian Shepherd dog with medium hair and, being a cat owner for most of my life, I'm still trying to figure out the whole dog routine. How often should I brush a medium haired dog?

25/01/2013 12:17pm

Hello Ruth,

Thank you for your inquiry!

When it comes to often you should brush your dog, there are no hard and fast rules. Each dog will have varying degrees of the amount of coat they grow and shed. Additionally, your tolerance level as to how much hair you're willing to live with in your house, or how much vacuuming you are willing to do also come into play.

The main thing is keeping your dogs coat healthy and free of dead hair buildup - the coat needs to have air circulation to function well, and to keep his skin healty.

Keep in mind, when you brush your dog, some hair will always come out.

My recommendation for how often you brush would be to start with every day. If this is too often for you, try extending to every other day, etc. You'll get to a point when you see alot more hair coming out during brushing, at which point you can adjust your schedule accordingly. This will be a trial and error exercise for you to find what works best for your dogs coat, and your lifestyle.

If you are still worried you are not brushing correctly, visit a reputable groomer in your area and have them direct you. They will be able to show you if your dog has dead hair buildup, or good air circulation.

Thanks again for your interest!

Keep your dog clean and green.

Hilary Barchash
Spa Dog Organic Dog Spa


Your comment will be posted after it is approved.

Leave a Reply