brushing of your dog's coat is important for several
reasons. To start with, proper brushing will result in
healthier, more manageable hair and hair that is easier to style and care for. Of course, regular brushing will also help keep the coat from tangling
and getting matted and removes dead coat. In addition to the above benefits, brushing
also helps stimulate coat growth and helps to clean the hair, hair follicles and skin by removing dirt, scale and
excess oils. Brushing also helps massage the skin and stimulates
the release of sebum, a beneficial coat oil, from the base of the dog's hair follicles.
Sebum is released in response to the gentle pull of
the hair when brushing and is then distributed down the hair shaft by the brushing
action. Sebum coats, protects, moisturizes and lubricates the hair shafts and
helps produce healthier, more flexible hair with a bright sheen.
As the above
information makes clear, if you want your dog to have a full, healthy,
shiny coat, you will need to brush the dog regularly. However, to
prevent damage to the coat and skin and to prevent excessive hair loss,
it's important that you use the correct equipment and techniques when
brushing your dog. The following information will help you choose
the right equipment to brush your dog, will help you teach your dog to
let you brush his coat properly and will help you care for your dog's
coat no matter how much or how little coat he may have!
need to begin by teaching your new puppy to lay quietly and allow you to
brush and comb her. You need to start this training before she has a
full coat of hair so that she gets used to letting you handle her legs,
feet, ears, etc. To do this you can lay the puppy in your lap while
sitting in a chair; or you can lay the puppy on the floor between your
legs while sitting on the floor; or you can stand and use a table or
counter with a towel or mat laid on it. If you plan to do most of your
puppy's grooming and trimming yourself, it may be worthwhile to invest
in a grooming table with an arm that can be used for this training as
well as trimming.
The first few times you do this exercise you will only ask the puppy to
lay quietly on her side while you rub and touch her. You will gradually
work up to picking up her legs and running a brush and comb over them.
You must insist that she lay still through this and allow you to use the
brush and comb on her. Be patient but firm and keep your sessions short
until she understands what you are asking her to do. Your puppy will
come to love this quality time if you train her properly and use your
you will want to use a pin brush, a small, soft slicker brush and
a fine tooth comb to work on your puppy. I recommend Chris Christensen
and #1 All Systems grooming tools. These brands are more
expensive than what you will find at Wal-Mart, but they should
also last for the life of your pet. Quality grooming tools
will help maintain and protect your dogs coat and skin
health, so please invest in quality products. Take my word
for it, quality DOES count!!
gets more coat, you may need to add a stiffer-bristle slicker brush,
an undercoat rake and a mat splitter. However, these tools
are ONLY for PET coats.
If you intend
to show your dog, you would only want to use the pin brush, the soft
slicker and the comb. The stiffer slicker brush and undercoat rake
are more likely to break coat off and/or to pull out excessive coat when
you are brushing and the mat splitter will cut a certain amount of coat, so you don't want to use these on show coats.
I prefer to
use the single blade mat splitter when brushing as it does less
damage to the coat and doesn't pull as harshly on the dog.
Multi blade splitters can be used to help remove tangles and can
help thin a dog's coat if you would like less bulk.
If you doubt my statement that quality
equipment makes a difference, I urge you to compare brands.
The simplest way to evaluate the difference in brush and comb
quality is to go to a Wal-Mart or PetsMart store and find their
cheap metal combs and pin brushes. Use one of
their combs and pin brushes to "comb" and "brush" your arm.
Stroke the comb and brush down your arm repeatedly just as you
would use them on your dog (the comb on one arm and the brush on
the other). Be sure to use the same amount of pressure you
usually use when grooming your dog. Notice the way your skin
is now scratched, irritated and may appear flaky. Remember
that when you brush your dog, you may go over the same area
quite a number of times. Look at the irritation on
your arm and think about how irritating that cheap equipment
must be when you're brushing tangles out of your dog!!
Now, find a store or dog show where my
recommended brushes are available. Find
some samples of these combs and brushes and using the
same amount of pressure, brush and comb your arms. The
difference in quality should be readily apparent. These
quality brushes and combs are not nearly as damaging and
irritating to the skin. This is
because the more expensive "quality" equipment
is polished and manufactured to not pull and damage the coat or
you're really interested in seeing just how
much different the equipment is, find a way to examine the
different brands of grooming equipment under a magnifying
glass. When magnified,
you'll see the metal pins of cheap grooming equipment are actually
quite ragged and dangerous looking! You'll have no doubt left that cheap equipment really can damage
your dog's coat and cause skin
How often you have to brush and comb your dog will depend on many
factors. The amount of coat, the coat texture, the dog's living
conditions, the dog's health, the amount of exercise and the place(s)
where the dog is exercised can all affect the number of times per
week your dog must be brushed. A minimum is about once a week and
this is generally done before or after every bath. (You should never brush an excessively dirty dog
before its bath or try to remove tangles from the groin area that
have sticky urine residue. Brushing these areas before the
bath will only break the coat.)
your dog has excessive coat or the texture is such that it mats easily,
you may find it necessary to brush your dog more often. You may
also need to brush your dog more often if she is the "outdoorsy" type.
Dogs that like to run in the yard or that you take to the lake or park
will pick up debris in their coat that can lead to matting. These
dogs will need more frequent brushing than the dog that stays indoors
99% of the time.
If you bathed your dog and know there were some tangles left in the
coat, the best time to remove these is just after her bath when she is
still damp. These minor tangles and other mats in the
really dirty spots will come out easier after they are
washed and conditioned and before they are dry. (I keep a
spray bottle of anti-static coat conditioner handy in case the coat
begins to get too dry - The Stuff, Crown Royale, Ice on Ice, #1 All
Systems Fabulous Grooming Spray.)
If you are consistently finding mats in your dog's coat, you may need to
increase the frequency of your brushing sessions. You may also need to
work on your brushing technique. Many people have a problem working the
brush and comb through the entire coat to the skin level. Tangles may
end up getting left at the skin level and these can quickly become
unmanageable mats. Especially if the dog is getting bathed with
tangles in the hair or you are having wet weather and the dog gets
damp regularly from going outside. To avoid this problem, follow these instructions:
Start your brushing session with the dog lying quietly on her side,
legs facing you.
Separate the coat in one area (say at the shoulder of one front leg),
so that you can see the skin.
Mist this area with a good coat conditioner.
the slicker brush, brush the coat BACKWARDS in small sections.
your way down and around the entire leg to the toes, misting with
conditioner as necessary and always making
sure you can see the skin before moving on.
If you find a tangle, pull it apart gently with your fingers and
then continue brushing.
you have finished with the brush, go back and follow the same
instructions using a fine tooth comb.
Be sure to get between the toes and deep into the "armpit" with
the comb to be sure you got all of the tangles in these hard to
If you have done your
job correctly, you now have one leg completely brushed out. And
only three more legs, 2 ears and the rest of the body to go! I
know it sounds like this is complicated and is going to take forever,
but once you get the hang of it, it goes quickly.
Be sure as you move over the dog that you brush/comb under the
front legs (in the "armpit" and chest area), between the toes and
rear legs and on both the inside and outside of the ears.
These particular areas can be more prone to matting as your puppy
gets older and has more coat. She will need you to pay
special attention in these areas so she doesn't get severely
There are a few secrets that can help you get your dog brushed
out correctly. The first is that when using the slicker brush, you
must apply pressure to pick up the hair and pull it though the teeth.
This is what separates any tangles. Keep in mind that you will
have to apply more pressure when brushing through thick sections of the
dog's coat, when removing mats or when the dog has debris trapped in the
coat. HOWEVER, you must always be careful when using any grooming
equipment on your dog. Applying too much pressure to brushes, rakes and combs can
scratch the dog's skin. You must brush the hair down TO the skin, but
not the skin itself. The slicker brush especially can really
scratch the dog (causing skin sores) and if you continuously scratch the
dog, she is going to learn to hate being groomed.
The other slicker-brushing secret is to LISTEN to the noise the
slicker makes as it goes through the hair. It will make a
"scratching" sound where there are tangles. This will let you know
what areas need more attention. Again, be careful when repeatedly
going over the same area as this can lead to skin irritation if the
brush is right on the skin.
If you find significant mats as you
brush and blow dry your dog, it may be advisable to work a little while
and then continue on and come back to the tough spots after
finishing the rest of dog. Once you have gone over the entire
dog and know where the problem tangles are, go back to the beginning
and start working through the first mat. Take each tangle in
turn. As you start back on the tangled sections, begin by checking for dampness. Spray the tangle
with coat conditioner if it is too dry. Begin breaking
up the tangle by holding it away from the dog and trying to pull the
hair apart gently with your fingers. After loosening the hair
this way, brush lightly with the soft slicker brush. Do the
same with the next tangle and the next until you have worked your
way around the dog again. Do this as many times as it takes to
get the tangles brushed and combed through. Don't worry about
how many times you have to go around the dog. Each session
will help loosen the tangles and before you know it, the mats will
be gone! (Keep in mind that you don't want the mats to dry
into the coat. Try not to take a break until all of the
tangles have been brushed through.)
If you find mats in your dog's coat, you may or may not be able to brush
them out. Mats that are left unattended for a period of time may
become so tangled or be so close to the skin that they need to be cut or
shaved off. Sometimes you or a professional groomer can use a mat
splitter to help break up mats, but these razor blade pieces of
equipment can be hard to use in certain areas and can be dangerous to
use if you are not familiar with the proper way to use them. Mat
splitters are only useful if the mats are not tight all the way to the
skin or overly large. While mat splitting may help you get mats
out of your dog's coat, you need to realize that if your dog is badly
matted, using a mat splitter will not make brushing out the mats an easy
or painless experience for the dog.
As a Cocker owner, you must understand that brushing out large areas
of matting or brushing out mats that are in sensitive locations, is
ALWAYS very painful to the dog. If you tried to brush the dog at
home and couldn't get the mats out without hurting the dog, don't take
the dog to the groomer's thinking that they can magically solve your
problem. Groomers are not magicians. If you insist on having
the mats brushed out of your dog, the groomer will most likely do so.
However, it won't be done painlessly. They will not intentionally
hurt the dog, but the only way to remove those mats is to apply a brush
and comb with elbow grease and time. This WILL pull the dog's
hair, may irritate the skin and is very uncomfortable for the dog.
If you, the dog's owner and care-giver, do not spend the necessary
time to keep your Cocker's coat in good condition, it's not fair to
punish the dog for your lack of attention. Brushing large matted
areas out of your dog's coat at home or insisting that a groomer
brush the dog out is not acceptable. "It will look funny" is not
an excuse for abusing your dog! You must either prevent your
dog from becoming badly matted or be prepared for the consequences!
You can reduce the amount of brushing your dog requires and help keep
her from getting mats by being creative when trimming her coat.
There are many options besides the basic "Cocker" cut when trimming your
dog. During hot weather a lot of people clip their Cocker's coats
shorter. You can shave off all of the coat if you don't mind the
"Beagle" look or, if you want the "Cocker" look but less hair, you can
do the regular Cocker cut and then hand scissor her legs and side coat
to a shorter length. Another option that I really like is to do a
"belly" clip. This is where you start from the "armpits" and shave all
the way down the belly through the genital area, leaving coat on the
legs and a thin line of coat down the sides. This greatly reduces
the amount of coat care required but the dog still appears to be in full
coat. You can also do this when you hand-scissor the legs for
extra relief. Dogs love the "belly" clip as they can lay down with
their bare belly on a cool surface when they're hot! (For information on
different clips and clip modifications, check out my
Another trick for preventing tangles is
to use a silicone coat spray after bathing. I use Show Sheen
horse spray. This product helps repel dust, dirt and stains
(urine in the groin areas) and makes combing out yard trash much
easier. After bathing, simply mist the coat and brush
through. (You will need to lay the dog on her side and pick up
each leg to spray into the chest and armpit areas and to get the
insides of the legs.) Use sparingly! A little goes a
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January 10, 2006