If you own a dog with a long or thick coat, you’ve probably struggled to stay on top of his grooming schedule at some point. Even if you try to brush him very regularly, dreadlocks behind the ears and or mats on his backside can appear quickly.
So here are some tips to help you make sure his fur looks (and feels) great, without any tangles!
Dog Coat Types
There are two main types of dog coats: double and single. Regular brushing is important for both types of coats.
Single coats have only one kind of hair … called “guard hair.” Guard hair is coarse and sheds minimally. This makes dogs with single coats highly popular. The hair length can range from very short to very long. A Whippet and an Afghan Hound both have a single coat! The longer a single coat is, the more involved the grooming will be. While you don’t have to deal with shedding, you’ll have to keep on top of small tangles or they quickly become big mats and dreadlocks.
Most dog breeds have double coats. This means that they also have a woolly, thick undercoat under the guard hair. This undercoat sheds twice a year (extensively in some breeds) and can also shed continuously. With these dogs, you need to regularly remove the undercoat, as well as brushing out tangles in the guard hair. Otherwise, the undercoat can get caught and form mats and dreadlocks.
When it comes to brushing, the more often you can do it the better. Many owners make the mistake of believing that they can stay on top of the grooming by brushing occasionally (like once every 3 weeks), This is false!
The longer you go between groomings, the worse your dog’s coat can mat. If you let the coat of a Maltese go for weeks in between brushing sessions, it may mat so badly that you need to shave off the mats. On the other hand, if you brush your Maltese for just 5 minutes every single night, you can easily stay on top of his grooming needs.
It’s also much easier for your dog to tolerate frequent (in many cases daily) and brief brushing instead of a big grooming session once a month. Especially for puppies and young dogs, it can be challenging to hold still for a long time. You can make this a lot easier on your dog and yourself by brushing him quickly, but daily.
For your quick daily brushing session, a slicker brush works great. These brushes can penetrate the guard hair and undercoat and remove any tangles and dead hair. They come in different sizes so make sure to pick one that works with your dog’s coat length. If you have a very thick-coated dog such as a Siberian Husky, you need a slicker brush with long wires. For a dog with a long but thin coat like a Papillon, get a slicker brush with short wires.
If your dog’s coat is very delicate or you want to show your dog, you should also use a pin brush. These look like regular human hairbrushes and are very gentle on the coat. Pin brushes are also perfect if you want to include your children in the dog’s grooming regime. Hand them a pin brush and let them help!
The very popular Furninators and other de-shedding tools should be reserved for heavily shedding breeds only. If you brush your dog too much with a de-shedding brush, you can break his topcoat and even give him a so-called “brush burn.” This is a rash caused by vigorous brushing. It’s not comfortable for the dog at all and you should avoid these tools.
How To Deal With Dreadlocks
If your dog already has dreadlocks or tangles, you have two options to get rid of them: brushing them out or cutting them off.
The first thing to consider is how uncomfortable it would be for your dog if you tried to brush out a matted part of his coat. Just like for us, pulling on tangled hair hurts! This is especially true in sensitive areas such as the stomach. If your dog’s coat is badly matted, it’s often best to just cut off the clump and start over. It’s not your dog’s fault his coat is tangled. He shouldn’t have to be in discomfort if you want to brush out an especially bad part!
Especially if your dog has dreadlocks behind his ears, the easiest way to deal with them is to cut them off. Then be better about brushing this area in the future. The spot behind the ears is a very sensitive area for dogs and brushing vigorously might be very painful for your dog.
If your dog’s tangled areas are not that bad, you can try to very gently brush them out. It helps to use detangler spray. Some of these sprays have toxic ingredients, so look for one that’s as natural as possible. Spray a liberal amount onto your dog’s dreadlock (it can be so much that the area is soaked) and then gently brush it out with a slicker brush.
A tangled area is a sure sign you should be brushing your dog more often. Make brushing a daily habit for the whole family. Kids can learn how to gently use a pin brush at around kindergarten age.
The Bottom Line
Most owners underestimate the amount of grooming their dog regularly needs. Many dog breeds with long or thick fur do best if you brush them daily. This is especially true if you walk somewhere your dog can pick up burrs or foxtails. You should make brushing a part of your dog care routine just like feeding and walking your dog.