But I do brush him!” We’ve all heard it. We’re all cynical, because we all know the dog would not be matted if he had been actually brushed… right?

Except – have you visited a retail pet shop in the past 30 years? The top selling brush in America has pins on one side, bristles on the other. I have never used one on any dog of any breed I have ever groomed. The pin side? Possibly for the drape coated show dogs, but the bristles would grab the coat and cause static and matt it up. I am told the bristle side is good for a close, Boxer type coat, but I have Whippets, and I use a Vista slicker.

My point is that the retailers are not promoting slicker brushes, and certainly not curved slicker brushes. Obviously, they are not showing anyone how to use a dog brush, either. Our clients who love their dogs are using THE WRONG BRUSH.

Who should show dog owners how to brush their dog? I believe it is the person they got the dog from – be it a breeder, a backyard breeder, a pet shop, or a shelter/rescue. It does no good for the person selling, or handing off the dog, to tell the new owner, “Go to a groomer and they’ll tell you what you need to know.” First of all, as we all know, if the new owners aren’t prepared for the expense or time involved, the dog may be neglected. Is that fair to the dog? No, yet that is what’s happening.

As a teenager, I worked briefly for Fred Alderman of Dynasty Afghan Hounds. You did not get a dog from Fred until you had spent a day grooming with him. He didn’t want to hear that you had no idea how much equipment you would need, how much it would cost, how long it would take, or you didn’t want to do it. He would rather you just not buy a dog from him.

Well, what’s done is done. If you don’t take the time with every new client to show them what brush and comb you use, how you use it, and how often it will need to be done, who will? Most people will choose to keep their pets clipped short, but they will stretch out the interval between groomings. For those who want long coat, I explain that matting is caused by dirt, moisture, and static electricity. Matting starts at the moving parts of the dog: around the ears, the collar, under the chin, the armpits, the groin, the tail and the hocks and pasterns
(the ‘ankles’). They may need a curved rake in addition to a slicker brush and a metal comb. I also tell them that the collar (or harness) will matt up their dogs. Dogs shouldn’t be wearing harnesses as collars (the whole social cue problem is another issue). I tell pet owners to brush the dog once a week. For most dogs, it won’t even take five minutes! I urge them to get a bath matt and put it on the washer or dryer – up off the floor – for a small dog, and for the larger dogs, a small stand. Dogs behave better when they are not in their territory: the floor.

If owners have to wash their hands after brushing the dog, the dog needs a bath. Again, I strongly urge them to brush out those ‘trouble’ parts of the dog first. I remind them that suds do not clean the dog, but the active ingredients in the shampoo do. I tell them to keep an empty shampoo or dishwashing liquid bottle to dilute the shampoo, and to brush the shampoo through the dog’s coat. This will coat every hair, as well as pull out loose hair, and the dog will dry faster.

Also, if they are going to try to do some cutting, I advise my clients to get double edge thinning shears. I tell them I generally do not thin out coats because the short hair weaving into long hair makes the dog matt even more, but if they are compelled to clip around their dog’s eyes, they will not make a big boo-boo with thinning shears.

Since I have been showing my clients how to maintain their dogs at home, rarely do I get grief about having to shave a matted dog. The fact is, when you de-matt, you are not actually saving hair, but breaking it off. It’s painful to the dog. It’s one thing to do a show dog who has been trained to relax while you attempt to save coat, and quite another for the poor little dog whose owner won’t make any effort to bond with the dog and get the dog under control. We are not in the dog torture business.