If you go to your local pet store and walk down the grooming supplies aisle, you might be overwhelmed by all the tools and products. There are combs, rakes, and brushes of all sizes and styles, scissors, clippers, shedding blades, and more. Then there are all different kinds of shampoos and conditioners. Grooming dogs is big business, and all these supplies support the industry.
You don't need all that to get started, though. Listed below are some basic tools, along with a description of how each tool should be used and the coat types on which it can be effectively used.
♦ Pin brush: This brush has a solid handle and head, with metal or plastic pin-type bristles set into a rubber base. The pins may have flat ends or tiny rubber balls on the ends. Those with balls are gentler on sensitive skin. This brush can be used on any coat type except hairless dogs and those with cords (dreadlocks). It is most effective on long, silky coats and long double coats. Brush the coat in the direction it grows or falls, from the base of the hairs all the way to the ends. Sometimes parting the hair with one hand while you brush with the other is most effective. This brush is not effective at removing mats and tangles.
♦ Bristle brush: A bristle brush is like a pin brush except that it has natural or synthetic bristles instead of pins. A soft bristle brush is very good on smooth and short coats, and even some medium-length silky coats. The hair should be brushed in the direction it grows and falls, from the skin all the way to the ends. This brush is not effective at removing mats and tangles.
♦ Slicker brush: This brush has a handle and head of hard plastic with curved metal pins set into a rubber base. The pins are very fine, with a lot of them set close together. This brush can be used on most coat types—short, medium, and long coats, both silky and double coats. It also can be used on curly coats. This brush should be used in the direction the hair grows and falls. Part the coat with one hand so the brush can reach into the coat, down to the skin, and then brush outward. Be careful not to scratch the skin. This brush alone will not get out tangles and mats.
♦ All-purpose combs: There are a variety of comb types. These are for specific coat types or just to suit the needs of the individual groomer. Rat-tailed combs, for example, are great for parting hair, and stripping combs pull out excess undercoat. In most cases, the all-purpose comb is used after a brush. The brush gets most of the dirt and debris out of the coat, as well as the hair that is clumped together (but not mats). The comb can then be run through the coat, removing any mats or tangles, giving a clean, finished look.
♦ Flea comb: This is a small metal or plastic comb with very small teeth placed close together. The comb is run through a smooth or short coat, dragging any fleas out of the coat. It will not go through heavy double coats, so it's most effective on the face of heavily coated dogs.
♦ Hound glove: This glove is usually made of rubber and is designed to pull dead hair out of a smooth or short coat. Although it can be used on a dry coat, it works best during a bath. Wet the dog, lather in the shampoo, and then, using the glove in a circular motion, rub the dog all over. The shampoo will provide lubricant for the glove and all the shedding, dead hair will come out.
In conformation shows, each individual breed must be shown in a certain way—which includes how the dogs in each breed must be groomed. Australian Shepherds, for example, are called a natural breed and must be shown as natural as possible, although the whiskers on the face are usually trimmed, and the paws are trimmed to make them look nice and neat. Poodles, on the other hand, have a very elaborate grooming regimen.
Although pet owners can certainly keep their dogs in a show-dog cut and condition, for some breeds that can be very time-consuming. Most pet dog owners find a happy medium, keeping their dog in a cut or condition that lets the dog look like its breed but in an easier-to-maintain condition.
♦ De-matter: This brush has three or four blades in place of bristles or pins. The blades are sharp on one side. When pulled through the coat, even a heavy, tangled coat, the blades will split any tangles or mats.
♦ Shedding blade: This U-shaped blade has a plastic handle. It is designed to be run over the outside of a short or medium coat. The teeth on the blade catch shedding hair and pull it out. Although it may catch some undercoat, it is primarily designed for the outer coat, or guard hairs, when they are being shed.
Other grooming tools include a set of clippers with blades and guards. Learning to clip your dog is definitely an art, and first attempts are rarely attractive. But the hair will grow out in time! Even if you don't clip the entire dog, you can use clippers to clean up paws and to remove the hair from around the genitals and under the tail. Coarse terrier coats can be clipped (for pets) or more correctly stripped. Stripping a coat is just as much an art as clipping, so ask your dog's breeder for help in learning to do it correctly.
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