The Only Brushes You Need for Your Dog or Cat
River, The Black Lab
Reality Check for Pet Owners Only
About how many brushes/combs have you purchased for your pet(s)?
Which Brushes are Best for My Pet?
I’ve used a number of dog brushes over the years, trying first one brush and then another to try to cut down on the overall “fur load” of my house and the dust bunny population in the corners. None seemed to remove much hair.
At the moment, I have donated all but three brushes, which is all I need. Of course I find this out now, after wasting tons of money on numerous other brushes that do little or nothing…
The two brushes that I use almost exclusively are the pricey FURminator® brush and the easy-grip, even when wet, rubbery Zoom Groom® brush made by Kong, maker of some of my dog’s favorite and most-durable toys.
Both brushes are available in multiple sizes for cats and dogs with different types of hair, but my only experience is with my black Lab so please keep in mind that your results may vary if your pet’s hair is very different from mine or if you have purchased the wrong size or kind of brush for your pet.
Note: Special-purpose Furminator® tools are available for puppies and kitties; do not buy the adult-sized tools to use on puppies and kitties!
Fast facts from the Furminator® website:
- The Furminator reduces shedding up to 90%
- A cat ingests 2/3rds (almost 70%!) of the hair that it sheds while grooming — the Furminator would cut that amount down to as little as 7%. Imagine reducing hairballs by 93%!
- Removes your pet's undercoat and loose hair without damaging its delicate skin
The third brush that I use occasionally is a standard slicker brush, which doesn't get out much fur at all but helps make my dog's coat shinier and more tidy.
The Many Benefits of Brushing Your Pet Thoroughly and Regularly
- Better indoor air quality—less pet dander floating around
- Reduces allergens in the air that might affect residents or guests
- Change your furnace filter less often
- Keep your pet healthy and its coat shiny by distributing oils throughout your pet’s coat
- Brushing can become quality time between you and your pet
- Vacuum the house less often and/or use fewer vacuum cleaner bags
- You will become very familiar with your pet’s physiology and will be more likely to notice an injury or other problem that a veterinarian should look at
- Your first cup of coffee in the morning is much less likely to contain a piece of fur
Reality Check: for Pet Owners Only
How often do you brush your dog or cat?
Do you own a Furminator brush for your cat or dog?
The FURminator® Brush
There are some copy-cat products now on the market, but there weren’t at the time I bought my size large (about $70 at the time) FURminator® brush, which it turns out has been worth every penny in my war against fur throughout my house. I’d guess that the FURminator® works at least 10 times better and faster than every other brush I’ve tried on my Lab.
The FURminator® brush is really more like a rake with short, closely spaced and fairly sharp tines. This is undoubtedly why the tool comes with a plastic protector that snaps over the tines, effectively protecting them from damage as well as protecting you and other dog things that it may come in contact with from damage.
Because the tines are sharp and delicate, I recommend keeping the FURminator® tool away from children and pets and supervising children very closely if you choose to allow them to groom your pet with this tool.
When You First Begin to Brush Your Pet Using the FURminator® Tool
IMPORTANT: Always brush in the direction of the hair growth!
When you first begin to use the FURminator®, you will get a LOT of dead hair off of your pet, no matter how much you had been brushing the pet with other brushes in the past. So, plan accordingly to keep your house from suffering a fur-storm.
To keep the fur under control when first using a FURminator®, I recommend going outside (dogs and cats on a sturdy leash that you step on to keep the animal contained yet leaving both hands free for grooming). If the weather is inclement or for some other reason you don't want to or can't go outside, especially cat owners, go into a small non-carpeted bathroom, if you have one in your house, and bring a small trash can to fill with the raked-out dead hair (even if you're grooming outside, otherwise the fur will blow around you and into your face, and so on). Lure your pet into the bathroom, use a tiny treat if necessary, and close the door so that it can’t get out: your pet won’t like these first experiences any more than you will, but you must try to keep the dog or cat from having a horrible experience. Keep things as positive as possible!
With the protective cap off of the FURminator® and placed safely out of reach of your pet and small children, speak softly and reassuringly to your pet and approach it from behind without sneaking up on it (approaching head-on with a weird new tool is likely to scare your pet). Eventually the dog or cat will need to stand so that you can brush as much as possible, but at first sitting or lying down is fine.
When you first use a FURminator® brush on a pet, you may spend the entire session taking one stroke, pulling a massive wad of hair off the FURminator® tines, taking another stroke, pulling off another big handful of hair, and so on until your pet, in my case a Labrador retriever, loses its patience for the process, at which point you should definitely stop and praise your pet excessively to avoid giving your pet negative associations with the FURminator® tool or with brushing.
Use extreme caution or avoid altogether brushing small areas and sharp angles such ears, knees, legs, and other tender spots—you don’t want the sharp tines to injure your pet. Good luck brushing the tail and tail end of your pet, that’s all I can say about that. Also, don’t forget to brush the animal’s chest, but I skip brushing the belly to avoid injury to the mammary glands on my female dog, River’s, tummy.
Give your pet lots of praise, tell him/her how pretty or handsome he or she looks, and provide a small training treat or two during this process to make sure that your dog or cat associates good things with the FURminator® grooming tool and the brushing process itself.
This initial “deforestation” process may go on for a few days—even up to a week; but unless it's prime shedding season, the massive amounts of hair will eventually slow to the point where you may be able to take two strokes before cleaning the FURminator®. You’ll know when you’ve reached the “caught up” point because the amount of hair will dramatically decline on every stroke.
When it’s time to quit a grooming session, give your pet lots of praise in a soft but high-pitched voice, and one or two small treats.
“Oh, what a pretty dog! Look at how pretty your coat shines!” Then, associate a keyword with what you just did by repeating it many times and stressing it, “Don’t you look handsome after your BRUSHING. You like BRUSHING, don’t you? You sure were a good sport about the BRUSHING.” “Let’s go show (___someone the pet loves____) how pretty/handsome you look after your BRUSHING.” And make sure that you've forewarned them what you're doing so they'll artificially heap on the praise and stress the word BRUSHING. You may feel foolish, but it works, especially when used with training treats to emphasize that BRUSHING is a good and fun thing that will get the animal lots of positive attention from its humans.
Now, you get to get to take out the trash can full of fur (you DON’T want that in your house--especially since the dog/cat might try to get into it, making a big mess) and then vacuum the bathroom or other brushing space carefully and completely (unless you were grooming outside, of course).
Repeat this entire process day after day until all of the brush-able areas of your pet are "caught up" when it comes to removal of dead fur. The difference in appearance, as well as the lessening of fur throughout your house, is usually dramatic, in my experience and in talking with numerous other pet owners and several professional trainers and dog show competitors.
For example, I’ve seen a giant, overweight old cat that went through this process, after having used standard brushes/combs regularly for many years. Yet, despite proper grooming on the part of the owner, the cat was almost unrecognizable after using the FURminator® brush: it looked 10 years younger, and many pounds less overweight, too. It could see out of its eyes without any fur getting in the way. It looked like a very happy and rejuvenated cat, indeed (now that the brushing part was over with, that is).
After you are caught up on the basic brushing of your pet, there are several cases in which you will want to brush your pet again.
Pre-Bath Brushing with the FURminator® tool
When it comes to bath time, you will definitely want to do a thorough brushing of your pet shortly (within a few hours) before giving the bath. This prevents the dead hair from matting securely into your pet’s coat. And, if you bathe your pet in your tub, it prevents some of the hair from clogging your drain, also.
Touch-Up Brushing Using the FURminator® Tool
Personally, I think my dog sheds a lot, so I do small touch-up brushings once or twice a day while my dog is eating her breakfast or dinner. It works very well because the dog is focused on consuming her food and water and I can easily approach her from behind, without scaring her, and do a quick but thorough touch-up brushing while she’s eating.
If your dog or cat doesn’t shed a lot, less-frequent brushing may be required; conversely, some pets may shed so much at certain times of the year that brushing three times a day is best.
Note that brushing dead fur out of a cat may even prevent it from coughing up as many hair balls—now THAT’s a nice incentive for you to take a few seconds each day to do a touch-up brushing!
This article continues with the use of the Kong® Zoom Groom brush mentioned earlier to bathe pets: Bathing Your Dog or Cat with the Zoom Groom Brush.