An important part of the general health and care of your dog is routine grooming, including brushing your dog’s coat. This may seem like a pretty easy task, but all dog breeds have their own characteristic coats and dog brushes are not one size fits all.
When choosing a brush for your canine companion, you’ll want to think about the nature of your dog’s coat and what brush is going to tackle it the best. Naturally, a dog with thick coarse hair will need a sturdier brush with a heavier bristle than a dog with fine willowy hair. You’ll also want to consider picking a brush that isn’t going to inflict pain or distress of your pup – because like brushing the hair of a toddler, our pup children can get a little emotional about their hair!
First, we’re going to discuss the nitty gritty reasons why you should care about brushing your dog, then I’ll give you a list of the best brushes for your dog’s fur type along with the elements of each – because let’s face it, dogs want to feel like they have fabulous healthy hair too!
Why Brush Your Dog – The Science
I was an English major in college, so science is definitely not my favorite subject, but this kind of science isn’t too hard to figure out because it’s something we personally deal with everyday – maybe without even realizing it!
You check the news and see that it’s going to be a sweltering day, so you snatch a pair of cut of jeans out of the closet and pair it with a tank top and hit the road. Though our pups might certainly look cute in a pair of cut off jeans and a tank top, our fur children instead have a fur coat to help regulate their body temperature. Unfortunately, dogs do not get to decide to shed a little extra fur on a hot day or throw on an extra layer of fur if Snowmageddon is on its way.
According to a research article published by Purdue University, dogs are unable to perspire like humans, which explains why your dog pants excessively in the heat and why your Siberian Husky might be shedding like crazy during the summer months (I personally know this struggle, my Husky sheds like he’s trying to create a second dog!).
To help your dog maintain a healthy protective coat, you should take the time to routinely brush them. Depending on the type of coat your dog has, you may have to brush it more or less frequently. During warmer months, it is important to brush any excess fur from your dog’s coat. This will enable your pup to cool itself much easier, and will make the natural shedding process more efficient. Brushing your dog isn’t just for the hot seasons though! Routine brushing will keep your dog’s hair safe from matting and will enable their coats to be healthy and grow.
However, I do think putting your pup in a pair of cut off jeans and a tank top is a sure way to make sure your pup is the most stylish at the dog park – I think that’s science too, right?
Types of Dog Brushes
Don’t let yourself get too overwhelmed by all the brush options that you see in the pet store. Just remember, there are four types: slicker, rake, bristle, and pin. I have learned the hard way that buying the wrong brush can not only feel like a waste of time when you try fighting with your dog’s fur, but can also cause discomfort for your dog. We will introduce each type of dog brush in turn.
From left to right: bristle, slicker, pin, and rake brush.
Slicker brushes have tightly compacted wires or bristles. They are useful for dogs with long hair that is prone to matting. The wired bristles are great for keeping your dog’s hair neat, but can pull and snag on your dog’s coat, so it’s important to be gentle when using this type of brush.
Slicker brushes have tightly compacted bristles that are used for pulling out mats and tangles. These brushes work best for dogs with curls or lengthier hair. Slicker brushes can come in different sizes, so if you decide to purchase a slicker brush, you may want to consider which will be the most comfortable for your hand and which size will best compliment your dog.
Examples of dogs who have coats that may require a slicker brush are: Golden Retrievers, Spaniels, Collies, and the Maltese. It’s important that you not get in a hurry when using a slicker brush, because the wired bristles can get snagged or cause discomfort for your dog if not used gently. You might even accidentally let out a yelp of your own if you catch the wire against your finger! Be patient and soothing when brushing with your slicker brush, and you’ll find that your dog’s coat speaks for why they call it the “slicker” brush. It will be slick, beautiful, and neat!
Rake brushes look similar to a rake with pins that vary by length. Some rake brushes will have one or two rows of pins and can be consistent in length or have various lengths in one brush. You should choose your rake brush based on the length of your dog’s hair and use minimal force when brushing the pins through your dog’s fur coat. Rake brushes work best on dogs that have thick double undercoats.
Rake brushes look exactly like what you’d think – a mini rake! The rake brush is a personal favorite in my home because two of my dogs have double layered coats. The purpose of a rake brush is to pull out the dead undercoat. This brush works well for both my Siberian Husky and my German Shepherd and require minimal pressure when brushing.
You’ll be absolutely amazed at the amount of dead fur that will pile up on your floor as you rake away at that dead undercoat! These brushes are also great for dogs that frequently shed, especially during the warmer months. Rake brushes are perfect for dogs like Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, Great Pyrenees, and Australian Shepherds. The main difference among rake brushes is the length of the pins, so you’ll want to estimate the appropriate pin length based on the length of your dog’s hair.
When brushing your dog with a rake brush, take care to not push down on your dog as you pull the brush along. The pins can have a point at the end and can irritate or harm your dog’s skin if you push the pins down too far into the dog’s coat. Again, choosing a rake brush with the appropriate pin length will also keep you from causing your dog added discomfort while brushing.
The bristle brush pictured above is an example of the bristle and pin brush combo that you can find in most pet stores. The bristle side is great for pulling out loose hair that short haired dogs are prone to have, since they are surprisingly some of the most notorious shedderes, and the pin brush side helps with finishing off your brushing session.
Even short hair dogs need a good brushing from time to time. The best brush to use for dog’s with thin short hair is the bristle brush. Bristle brushes help with shedding and will also keep your dog’s coat smooth. You can use a bristle brush on dog breeds like the Pug, the Labrador Retriever, the Boston Terrier, or the Beagle.
Just like with the rake brush and the slicker brush, you’ll want to practice patience and gentle brush strokes. There are many different kinds of bristle brushes, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. There are less details to mull over when picking out a good bristle brush, but you’ll want to find a brush that is gentle on your dog, while also keeping your dog’s constant shedding at bay. One of the varying aspects of the bristle brush is the spacing between the bristles.
If you’re using a bristle brush on a shorter haired dog, then you may want to use a brush with more tightly spaced bristles. A bristle brush with larger spacing would be more appropriate for a dog with long hair. One perk of the bristle brush is that some bristle brushes will come as a bristle brush and pin brush combo! Usually this comes in the form of a bristle brush on one side and a pin brush on the opposite side. We will discuss pin brushes more in depth in the next section.
A pin brush looks similar to a normal human hair brush and will have neatly spaced pins with rounded heads. Pin brushes are useful for catching loose hair and gently pulling out tangles in your dog’s fur.
Pin brushes can look similar to your very own personal hair brush. They consist of symmetrically placed pins with rounded heads and normally on a oval shaped brush head. The pin brush is a common brush that you can find in your general pet store and are great for pulling out loose hair. They are often combined with bristle brushes because they are great for pulling out those last few loose hairs that your bristle brush missed, and are typically better for getting out tangles.
Depending on what you need your pin brush for, the pin brush can be a great general use brush for any dog breed. For dogs that have hair prone to tangles, the pin brush is a great tool for getting out mats and detangling.
For your constant shedders, you may want to pair your pin brush with a bristle brush or rake brush. With that said, a pin brush can be used for shorter hair dogs like the Yorkshire Terrier, Poodles, or for dogs with double coats.
So Which Should I Use?
If your dog has a thick double layered coat (like my Siberian Husky, for example) you’ll want to find a rake brush, and maybe a pin brush to keep in your doggie care kit. If shedding is stressing you out, then look into using a bristle brush. Ensure that you are keeping your dog’s unique coat characteristics in mind when you’re browsing the aisles at your local pet store. As long as you choose the appropriate brush based on your dog’s breed, you’ll find the best dog brush for your pup.