Ordinarily, our response to concerns regarding ‘problems’ with the condition of a dog’s coat is ‘leave it to the professionals, we’ll take care of it for you but these are no ordinary times and, at least for now, we professionals have no access to take care of any of our clients’ dogs, whatever the condition or problem. Due to Coronavirus, it may be months before we can start to help with a hands-on approach but for now, we can offer you our advice and knowledge.
Some dog’s coats are easy to maintain, while others require almost constant attention. Smooth and short-coated dogs, like Boston Terriers, Boxer Dogs and bulldogs, benefit from occasional brushing & massaging with a rubber curry brush to keep their coat in good condition.
Double coated breeds need more frequent attention to ensure their coats are free from dead undercoat and tangles that will, if not removed by regular brushing, start to form mats and tangles pretty quicky. If you are an owner of any breed with this coat type, you already know this. These breeds include Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Chow Chow, Golden Retriever, Labrador, Spitz, Pomeranian, Shiba Inu, Siberian Husky, Old English Sheepdog, German Shepherd Dog, Bearded Collie, Rough Collie, Bernese Mountain Dog, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Leonberger and Saint Bernard.
Wool or Curly coated breeds like Poodles, Bedlington Terriers and Bichon Frisés have a coat with little undercoat but also tend to easily mat without continued maintenance due to friction from harnesses & collars and the hair wrapping around itself to form mats that can be very difficult to remove if left unattended.
If you mix two breeds, one with undercoat and one with a curly or wool coat they will appear to shed very little but there lies the problem because the undercoat becomes trapped in the curly hair as it is shed. This will be worse during shedding seasonal periods such as summer and winter when shedding is heavy. The same can be said for breeds with a long coat, Bearded Collies or Rough Collies for example also tend to matt easily.
As groomers, we need to ensure that matting does not get out of control due to a lack of proper maintenance for the breed. This is why we recommend six to eight-week professional grooming appointments for these breed and coat types and strongly recommend effective home maintenance between visits. In extreme cases, the dog’s coat will become what groomers call “pelted” or “felted” when matting is very tight to the skin, preventing proper airflow.
Matting and felting prevent proper temperature regulation, can cause skin irritation, hide parasites like fleas & ticks and causes discomfort and pain. If not removed the undercoat continues to grow faster than the topcoat, feeding the felting to form a thick pad, this often looks like the skin to the untrained eye and can mislead owners into thinking they are brushing down to the skin but sadly is not the case.
The most important thing you can do to prevent this from happening is to brush and comb your dogs’ coat regularly enough to prevent tangles turning into knots, knots turning into mats and mats turning into a felted coat. In the case of wool or curly-coated breeds mixed with double-coated breeds, effective daily brushing and combing are required, sorry it’s just how it is. These mixed breeds include the Cavachon, Cavapoo, Cockapoo, Labradoodle, Golden Doodle, Shihpoo and most other poodle mixed breeds.
So where does it all go wrong? From the paragraph above you can see that the number one mistake is not brushing down to the skin. Surface brushing is the error that leads to most problems.
Brushing promotes healthy skin, removes dead hair that may otherwise end up on your furniture and clothes and prevents matting and tangles. Brushing strengthens the bond between you and your dog. We know it may not seem that way when your dog dives for cover every time you get the brush out but if the coat is not healthy it will hurt to brush and dogs don’t do hurt and will avoid that experience next time. Keeping the coat free of knots and tangles will ensure your dog loves being groomed. Trust us, we groom dogs all day long (usually) and if they have a healthy coat they really do love it. Regular brushing helps you spot any potential health issues with their skin, such as lumps, warts, growths, sores and parasites. Brushing stimulates the sebaceous oils glands and distributes these natural oils over the coat and skin, lubricating the coat, making it shine and easier for you to brush.
We recommend brushing all coat and breed type every other day. Double coated dogs and wool or curly coats should be brushed through every day.
If your dog likes to walk in any weather, jumps in water or you bath your dog at home, even more reason to ensure there is no undercoat left in. The undercoat is like cotton wool. It shrinks when wet and holds on even tighter to the skin and surrounding hair. So brush out before bathing. Brushing is by far more important than cleaning with shampoo and water. You can brush a healthy coat clean. A well-maintained coat is ready for all occurrences, if your dog rolls in an unsavoury patch of organic nastiness, no problem, bath, brush and go.
Using a good quality slicker brush, regularly, will remove the undercoat. Check through the coat with a metal comb to ensure it glides through the coat from the skin outwards. Dip into the coat with your comb and lift the coat up in segments. If it stops and gets stuck, brush the area again until the comb glides through. Sorry to throw another spanner in the works here but you can over brush. Brushing too vigorously in the same spot for too long can result in sore, red or broken skin, known in the trade as slicker or brush burn. Keep an eye out for that. If this does happen, a dusting with medicated talcum powder will cool and soothe the area.
The trick is to brush methodically in quick, light strokes in the direction of coat growth. Longer coats may need segmenting so that you get down to the skin. The longer the coat gets the more you will need to keep on top of your maintenance schedule, but unless the coat is matt and tangle-free do not attempt to use clippers, it will hurt. Preparation in professional grooming is vital before finishing and styling can even be considered. The same is true for home grooming. Brushing and condition are far more important than length. We can do anything with a long coat in good condition but a long coat in bad condition may need removing. So, don’t get the clippers out, get the brush and comb out instead.
Our tip for reducing friction-related matting is to always remove collars and harnesses after a walk. This also helps settle a dog after their walk. Mats are often created underneath your dog’s collar or the parts of their chest and armpits where their harness rubs. These areas need particular attention when brushing along with the backs of the ears, ears, armpits, inside legs, bottom and tail.
Regular Professional grooming and keeping the coat trimmed to a reasonable and practical length are the way to go but times have temporarily changed. Your dogs’ maintenance is now in your hands. You can do it.