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Tips on Brushing Your Long-Haired Dog
BRUSHING LONG-HAIRED DOGS
Although this author has had various dog breeds over the years, none has been quite as challenging in a grooming sense as our long-haired malamute.
That being said, there is nothing quite as beautiful (or as soft) as a long-haired malamute's teddy bear-like fluffy coat. Looks can be deceiving though as they don't tell the whole story.
Our handsome fellow Griffin only stays this way because his owners pay a considerable amount of time (almost daily) brushing him, removing tangles, and trimming his feet when necessary in between his twice yearly baths and official grooming by a professional.
Having a long-haired dog of any breed can be a real challenge as there are some common problems associated with these guys and gals and their tresses. However, with the proper tools (and a lot of diligence in keeping up with brushing), you can keep a long-haired pup of any age looking stunning with a blow-in-the-wind breathtaking coat.
Tools for Brushing Long-Haired Dogs
The kinds of brushes and tools you use will make your job easier when handling long-haired dogs. It should be pointed out that if you're in this for the duration with your pet, get the best tools for the job that you can afford. That isn't to say that they need be expensive. They just need to be durable and the right tools for your particular dog.
If you need assistance, always consult a dog groomer. You'll find they can give you great tips for free and are really knowledgeable about different kinds of brushes and combs for long-haired dogs. However, everyone will always have personal preferences--you and your dog! Use what works for you and you'll be successful.
Items for Brushing Long-Haired Dogs (use which ones you like best):
- Long-haired dog--without him or her you don't have a job~!
- Patience--remember that your dog is probably as tired of this as you are!
- Treats--I stuff a couple in a deep pocket and give them periodically or at the end
- Grooming spray (optional but does help detangle unruly hair sometimes)
- Container for fur and hair (if outside, something to weigh it down)
- Pin brush--they come in every size imaginable--use what suits you best
- Dog comb (use it for getting hair and fur out of brushes too)
- Slicker brush--use to get off surface hair--this doesn't do deep brushing
- Various rakes--these do the down to the skin brushing
- Detangler tool--these work on those tangles so you do not have to cut them off
- Small pair of hair trimming scissors
Where to Brush Your Long-Haired Dog
I prefer to brush my malamutes outside for obvious reasons. With three of them, hair is never far away but when the weather permits, it's always more conducive to brush them outside.
Since I don't own a grooming table, I generally brush our dogs either on the floor or on the deck outside.
On warm days, Griffin especially likes to feel the breeze ruffling through his hair. It also serves to do a bit of natural detangling while we're at it. The birds don't seem to mind either as occasional tufts of beautifully soft fur find their way to the ground where the birds swoop down to grab it up for their nests.
Keep it Simple When Brushing Long Hairs
Our long hair Griffin has a hard time sitting still for hours on end to be brushed. Over the years, he's developed little games he likes to play. He will be tolerant for only so long and then begins playing a game I like to call "Hide the Extremities." If you can't find an arm or a leg, you can't very well brush it now can you? When he decides it's time to end our session, he usually tries (to no avail) to curl up into a tight ball so that a brush cannot touch him except on his back.
The way I've found around this eminent behavior as he tires of the grooming is to start slow and start comfortable. He particularly likes being brushed with pin brushes as there is no hair pulling, they don't go deep to the skin and they just pull off loose hair and fur.
I like them because they smooth out tangled fur--not matted fur--but tangles will usually come out just by vigorous pin brush use.
He finds this particular brushing tool very soothing and usually I can get him to flip onto his back in a matter of seconds and get at his luxurious long chest and full body hair. While I'm brushing this part of him, it also gives me the opportunity to check under his arms for tangles for later attention--they seem to always be there.
Pin brushes are great for brushing just about any part of a long-haired dog's fur. The bristle side is great for brushing ears and ruffs of their neck--and it's a great tool for a bushy tail like Griffin's. It's also good in the pantaloon area of his rear and there's no threat because there are no sharp teeth.
Another use for the pin brush? Turn it over and use the black bristle part when you're all done to brush yourself off! It works better than a lint foller. Use a dog comb to pull off the hair you've brushed from your own clothes.
Pin brushes won't get off the lion's share of the fur or hair on your long-haired dog but they will smooth tangles that are not severe and they again provide a comfortable way to brush most dogs.
Lying the foundation for later when you work out tangles or work on undercoat, the pin brush is a great prep tool.
Try to brush your dog as much as possible everywhere with pin brushes before using other tools and you should have greater success--both with the dogs and any problem grooming spots.
Also consider using a spray that has a bit of detangler in it. It makes hair and fur smoother to work with and creates less static as well.
Starting with a pin brush lulls him into a peaceful state of mind and he will let me brush him with these brushes just about anywhere and for longer periods of time.
I use these most during my brushing just because they seem to be more comfortable for him.
Shedding Tools and Long-Haired Dogs
This author had previously thought that a shedding tool called the Furminator was a great thing to use on my malamutes. However, I've since changed my mind. My dogs find the Furminator to be a pinching and pulling kind of tool, and I did notice that their fur didn't look all that great from using it. It created a tremendous amount of static electricity as well and that generated a great deal of fear in them every time we wanted to brush them. As soon as I switched to other grooming tools, I noted that I had greater success with grooming and brushing all of them. That said a lot right there.
A groomer told me about the shedder tool shown here. It has no sharp edges so it doesn't pull or pinch their fur or hair when you drag it through. I also find that holding the hair backwards against itself while I use it gives me a lot more fur or hair in one swoop so to speak--but be careful to just take your time and use over multiple areas where there are lots of hair. This could take a while!
Shedding tools do pull off large amounts of superficial fur and hair which then need to be brushed up or caught with another type of brush. These tools used on my dogs pull off the soft, downy layer which is very, very fine--and tries to flutter away any chance it gets.
Tangles and Long-Haired Dogs
"Tangle." I know Griffin knows this word and does not care much for it. He can always feel me probing behind his ears or under his armpits when he curls up beside me on the bed. I can almost mentally hear him saying "dang--not again!"
Groomers hate tangles and I can say from experience that they will not mess with them. They will cut them off instead. Since our particular dog breed is really not a great one for having hair cut or shaved since it never grows back normally again, we are fairly fastidious about making sure our long-haired malamute has no tangles.
I have used cornstarch before on them and did not find that that really helped much at all. The source of the tangles? Scratching or chewing at an itch is just enough to start a tangle, or rolling in the grass. Hair that is so silky soft would not seem able to tangle so quickly but it does.
I have the tangled spots mapped out when I start brushing the dog. I find them as I work over the dog with the pin brushes. I give a small squirt of the spray to the tangle area and then very carefully, I use one of the tangle brushes to start working the tangle. I work the tangle from outside to inside--meaning I start at the point furthest from his skin and then work upward to the point at or near his skin. I have yet to use a pair of scissors on one tangle so I think the tools work very well.
For reasons only known to my Griffin, the small tool works better. He takes one look at the larger toothed tool and plays hide the extremity.
Water can also cause tangles or even drying the dog after a dip or a bath so it's always a good idea whenever a long-haired dog gets wet to run a few brushes over him or her. This smooths hair out and avoids tangles.
With little trouble and a good dose of patience, Audrey 1, tangle 0. The tangle tool really does help you painlessly get rid of tangles without cutting off chunks of your dog's fur or hair.
Griffin didn't really even know I was pulling and working on a tangle because I started further back and worked my way towards his skin.
I then smooth the area (and get off usually more loose stuff from the tangle) and finish it off with a pin brush.
Long-Haired Double-Coated Dogs
Not only is Griffin a long-haired malamute but being a malamute, he is also a double-coated breed. This means that in addition to his beautiful long mane that he sports all over his body, he also has a baby soft white undercoat that keeps him insulated in winter and can keep him cool in summer. However, undercoats "blow" and when they start to come out, they work their way up to the surface and usually stand out on the dog in patches or tufts.
Some breeders I know never really pull off their dog's undercoat completely--they just pull off patches or brush them off as they come to the surface. In our dogs' case, we brush them out while they're blowing their coat or moulting as my friend calls it--but in Griff's case, there's a lot of undercoat! We're talking bags and bags of fluffy stuff that is as soft (and clean) as angora.
We tend to try and get as much off him as we can since he seems to have a lot of skin problems if we don't--but much of this coat will be blown off when he does have his summer grooming.
For our intents and purposes, I use grooming rakes to get off as much undercoat as possible but this is an extremely tedious process--for both the dog and the brusher. If the coat isn't quite ready to come off, it can pull and pinch a bit so I generally don't spend hours raking any of our dogs. I just do it more often and for shorter periods in spots that have more undercoat like underarms, bellies, necks and rearends.
The rake will go through several layers of fur and pull off nicely bunched literal wads of fur and hair if the coat is ready to come off.
Some time later, the same area is nice and smooth after repeatedly drawing the grooming rake through the areas where the "poofy" undercoat is ready to give way.
Again, raking is not most dogs' favorite part of the brushing. However, using rakes at intervals after readying the hair and fur with other tools can make it go much smoother--literally.
After Brushing Your Long-Haired Dog
Don't forget to praise, praise, praise--and a treat doesn't hurt. Being still for an hour or two is very hard for dogs, especially large dogs like malamutes. Griffin is a laid back kind of guy most of the time but having his hair pulled and pinched or turning him this way and that is not his favorite activity. However, I can always sweeten the pot by giving an occasional tiny treat I keep stored on my person. (They also help with photo ops)
Sometimes in the middle of the brushing session, I unhook him from the leash I keep him on (or he would get up and run off) and I let him go play. That serves to let any loose hair and fluff take off too.
I ruffle his hair and encourage him to run and play with his housemates. I think his niece Gabby said something about his hair though and he's asking her to say "uncle."
Final Thoughts on Brushing Your Long Haired Dog
Although it might not be your dog's favorite activity, brushing a long-haired dog consistently and as often as you can will keep your dog looking good.
It's not just about looks though. A well groomed dog is a healthier dog. Don't forget that grooming of any kind starts from the inside out.
Make sure your dog has the most healthy diet you can afford and make sure that he or she is exercised appropriately. This aids in keeping their hair and body in general in tip-top form and diet has a tremendous amount of impact on hair texture, growth, shedding, etc.
As malamute owners, we look at brushing and grooming as part of their routine care. If you have a long-haired dog, that is part of the package. We know groomers who charge to brush dogs by the minute. If I had to pay for this service, I would be in the poorhouse with my long-haired dog!
This author personally enjoys brushing her big teddy bear. It's a good excuse to interact with one of my favorite friends and it also is soothing to me on some levels. I personally find Griff and I do best when I'm unhurried as he is very sensitive and prefers cool and calm.
Keep in mind that it's also an excellent opportunity to check your dog for anything--for ticks if you happen to hike a lot, for sores or even lumps and bumps. I once discovered a lump on one of my dogs that was a cancerous growth by brushing and grooming him regularly.
Above all, make sure it's a positive experience. If you don't have the time or the personality to brush your dog and be positive about it, have someone else do it. As in most things canine, a bad attitude transmits itself to your dog and whether you believe it or not, you can change your dog's view of grooming in general by a grumpy or hurried attitude.
Brushing and grooming are one piece of the puzzle in the interaction between dog and human and they do learn many things about life even in this seemingly insignificant interlude. It can be a great training opportunity as well as a grooming maintenance activity.
Long-Haired Dogs Come in All Sizes
Watch the short video below for some long-haired grooming tips covered above but also some other ideas.