Coat Care
Grooming By Betsy
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Flat-coated breeds
Breeds such as the Irish and Gordon Setter, American and English Cocker Spaniel possess a flat-coat consisting of coarse straight, or slightly wavy, flat-lying topcoat with longer silky furnishings. Undercoat may or may not be present and can be sparse or abundant depending on the breed. The body coat is generally easy to maintain, however, the longer furnishings which can adorn the dog's legs, rump, undercarriage, tail and ears can easy become matted as any groomer who has ever worked on an American Cocker in full coat can attest! Brush with a slicker brush, paying close attention to the long furnishings. Test with a comb and use a mat comb on problem areas. Or matts can be isolated and removed inconspicuously with a coarse thinning shear.

Curly-coated breeds
The Kerry Blue Terrier, Bichon Frise and Poodle are breeds that have a curly-coat consisting of crisp topcoat and woolly undercoat. Together, the two coats create a dense yet soft hair covering on the dog. Curly coated dogs are generally shaped by scissor to achieve the correct breed profile for show. Many pet owners opt for a shorter clipped style to allow for easier care. Curly coats must be prepared correctly for shaping by drying the hair straight from the skin out, known as fluff-drying. This procedure stands the coat up and off the body and will retain a freshly groomed finish for a longer time.

A properly dense coat will hold the shed coat against the skin. This is why many believe the poodle and other dense, curly coated breeds to be good pets for people with allergies.

Brush your curly-coated dog thoroughly with a gentle variety slicker brush, paying close attention to friction points. Test with a comb and use a mat comb if necessary.

Hard-coated breeds
Special treatment maintains the desired hard coat texture of breeds such as the Cairn, West Highland White, Airedale and Welsh Terriers. A hard coat consists of a crisp, wiry, flat-lying topcoat and a soft undercoat. Some breeds may have a hard jacket and silky furnishings making these dogs more vulnerable to matting. Special treatment known as "hand-stripping" or "carding" is necessary to maintain the desired harsh texture of hard coats.

For most pet owners, however, hand stripping is viewed as unnecessary. Proper breed silhouette can be achieved by a combination of clipping and scissoring techniques, though after time will soften the coat.

Hard coats rarely become so matted that a clip down is needed. Unfortunately, coat texture will vary from soft to hard due to breeding, grooming technique and upkeep. Some dogs may have a harsh jacket and silky furnishings, which is more vulnerable to matting.

Brush your hard-coated dog thoroughly with a gentle variety slicker brush, paying close attention to friction points. Test with a comb and use a mat comb if necessary.

Matted coats
Dematting your dog's coat is absolutely no fun for you or him! Regular brushing and combing will eliminate the likelihood of having to participate in such un-pleasantries. In the best case scenario, you can use a dematting spray worked into the mats, making it easier to pull them apart with your fingers. They can also be loosened with a slicker brush and split with a mat comb. There are no magic tricks when it comes to getting out mats - nothing replaces elbow grease!

Mat combs are extremely sharp; always work with the sharp edges facing you. Secure the dog's skin by pulling it taut. Place the mat comb behind the mat and with short, quick strokes pull the mat comb through the mat. Do not use a sawing motion. This is rather like taking off a Band-Aid: it hurts much less if you do it quickly.

Matting can hide a variety of skin afflictions. If the dog's coat is in firm clumps or, worse yet, is matted like a rug onto his skin ("bullet-proof" as one groomer friend calls it), the coat must be clipped as short as needed to remove the mats. By this time, the dog's health and comfort are definitely suffering, and esthetics should be the last consideration.

Tools of the Trade

Slicker brush: The bent wire bristles of the slicker brush are best for removing undercoat from most coat types. This brush also aids in dematting long and curly coats. The slicker comes in a variety of sizes and bristle stiffness. A light-coated small dog would require a small, gentle slicker. A big, double-coated breed would benefit from a large, stiffer slicker. Use the slicker by parting the coat and brushing, from the skin out, in short strokes.

Bristle brush: Bristle brushes come in a variety of sizes, shapes and firmness. The bristles may be made of boar's hair or nylon. This brush is effective on smooth, short coats only. Use this brush against the coat growth to loosen dead hair and skin, then with the growth to remove debris and polish the coat. A very soft bristle can be used to apply grooming powder or chalk on coated breeds.

Pin brush: The long, rigid metal bristles of the pin brush work well for fluff drying and general care of long coats in good condition. Since this brush does not remove undercoat, it is best used by the exhibitor on dogs that receive daily grooming attention. Part the hair and brush from the skin out. Pull the brush through to the hair ends to distribute natural oils throughout the coat. Wide-tooth comb: This type of comb typically has long tines, set apart one-quarter inch, for easy penetration into long, double coats. It is perhaps the best undercoat-removing tool available.

Combination comb: The best multi-purpose comb is stainless steel with fine tines that easily penetrate the thickest of coats. One end has teeth narrowly spaced; the other end is more coarsely spaced. This comb is used to test what you have brushed and for helping hair to stand for shaping with scissors.

Rubber curry brush: My favorite for smooth-coated breeds! The firm, rubber nubs of this brush grasps and removes the loose pointed hairs from smooth coats as it distributes natural oils and polishes the coat. Mat comb: The blades of the mat comb are placed under the mat and pulled through. This action splits the mat into smaller clumps so that it can be brushed out more easily. Much care should be taken when using this tool - the blades are extremely sharp.