Coat Care - The Long and Short of It
by Karla Addington-Smith
The most important aspect of good grooming is regular brushing with the correct brush. Brushing removes undercoat as it separates topcoat. Brushing prevents matting as the process distributes natural oils throughout the coat, making the skin healthier and the coat shinier. Your dog will not only look better...your best friend will feel better! And you won't find as much hair on your furniture and carpets. To do the best job, you need the right tools. (See 'Tools of the Trade' below.) Once you've decided which brush and comb are best suited to your breed's coat type, you will want to get your dog off the floor, out of your lap and onto a raised surface to effectively brush all parts of his body. A grooming table, or bath mat placed on a counter, works well but a grooming table is even better! Keep one hand on your dog at all times, or secure him by a grooming arm and noose to prevent him from jumping or falling. (Remember never to leave your dog unattended on a table!) Beginning at a rear foot, work your way up and over the entire body by parting the coat and brushing from the skin out in short strokes. Pay special attention to friction points, behind the dog's ears, under its front legs and around the hocks on the rear legs, which are easily matted. Be sure to remove the collar or harness so that you do not miss those areas.
Use a comb to test what you've brushed by placing it in the coat parallel to the skin. Do not drag the tips of the tines along your dog's skin...this can cause un-necessary discomfort. The diameter of the individual tines should be narrow with a coarse spacing. This allows the comb to penetrate the hair, instead of pushing it flat.
One, Two, Three - Groom
Now you're ready to apply the basics of good grooming to your dog. First of all, what kind of coat does he have? The following categories of coat types will help you identify - and groom - your about-to-be-spiffy pal.
Smooth-coated breeds like the Smooth Dachshund, Doberman Pinscher and Basset Hound posses a short, close-lying topcoat with little or no undercoat. This coat type is the easiest to care for because matting is not a consideration. A smooth coat has specific shedding issues as the individual hair is pointed at the tip and will penetrate fabrics making it more difficult to remove than shed undercoat. Use a Rubber Curry Brush to remove loose hair and to polish the coat...or a stiff bristle brush, or hound's glove against the growth of coat to loosen dead hair and skin. Then brush with the growth of coat to remove debris and distribute natural oils.
Short double-coated breeds
The Australian Cattle Dog, Anatolian Shepherd and Labrador Retriever are examples of breeds that have short, double coats consisting of coarse, straight topcoat approximately 1/2" to 1" long with thick, downy undercoat held against the skin. Though considered short coats, some of these breeds will have slightly longer furnishings in the rough of the neck, rump and tail. These breeds' water-repellent coats keep them warm and insulated while working in water or cold climates. This coat is easily maintained although excessive shedding occurs seasonally. A slicker brush used against and then with the growth of coat will loosen dead hair and skin. Be sure to lift the coat, brushing from the skin out. Pay close attention to the ruff of the neck and the rump, where undercoat is thickest. A comb will help remove undercoat from these areas. A DeShedding tool is suitable for use on this coat type but should not replace the regular use of a brush.
Medium double-coated breeds
The Golden Retriever, Norwegian Elkhound and Rottweiler are medium-double coated breeds consists of straight, coarse topcoat approximately 1" to 2.5" in length and may be longer on the neck, rump and tail, creating a soft finish to the outline of the dog. The coat is water-resistant with dense undercoat all over the body and especially heavy around the neck, rump and tail. This coat type requires frequent routine brushing to remove shedding undercoat. A slicker brush used against and then with the growth of coat will loosen dead hair and skin. Be sure to lift the coat, brushing from the skin out. Pay close attention to the ruff of the neck and the rump, where undercoat is thickest. A comb will help remove undercoat from these areas. A DeShedding tool is suitable for use on this coat type but should not replace the regular use of a brush.
Long double-coated breeds
Due to the length and amount of coat on breeds such as the Chow Chow, Collie, Samoyed and Newfoundland, the grooming process can be back-breaking work. Sticking to a regular grooming schedule is important to keep these dogs in peak condition. A long-double coat consists of straight, coarse topcoat approximately 2" to 5" in length and may be longer on the neck, rump and tail, creating a soft finish to the outline of the dog. Brush your dog thoroughly with a slicker brush, making sure to part the coat and brush from the skin out. Remove the loose undercoat with a large, wide-tooth comb. The wider tined end of a small stainless-steel comb can be used for the smaller breeds, such as the Pekingese and Pomeranian. Use a mat comb for severe matting around the neck, rump or tail. Or matts can be isolated and removed inconspicuously with a coarse thinning shear. The coat is water-resistant with dense undercoat all over the body and especially heavy around the neck, rump and tail. This coat type requires frequent routine brushing to remove shedding undercoat and reduce the potential for matting in the rough, rump and tail coat.
Long-haired, Drop-coated breeds
The texture of long coats will vary from coarse to silky depending on the breed. Some breeds have double coats, others only single coats, but all the dogs have naturally long coats that "drop" or hang down from the body.
As beautiful as the Lhasa Apso, Maltese and Afghan Hound (to mention a few breeds) are, the challenges of caring for a longhaired breed may not be practical for some pet owners. Their long, profuse coats can easily become matted, necessitating a lengthy and expensive grooming session. A mat comb can help, but sometimes the coat just can't be saved. If this is the case, clip the matted hair off the dog before bathing. An alternative would be to keep the coat at a shorter, more manageable length.
These long, straight coats need delicate treatment. While exhibitors generally use the rigid, straight bristles of the pin brush to prevent splitting and thinning - the pin brush glides through well-maintained coats and is excellent for finishing or fluff drying - this brush is not ideal for pet owners because it doesn't remove the undercoat, which is one culprit behind troublesome matting. Pet owners should use a slicker brush when working on these drop-coated breeds.
Brush out, systematically, in layers from the skin out. Test with a comb as you move through the coat, dematting if necessary.