GROOMING FOR DOUBLE COATS
Tips For Grooming A Double Coated Dog At Home
22 February 2022
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Your purchase price is not increased by my affiliation with the supplier.)
Double-coated dogs present a special challenge to many owners as they often are associated with a “thick” coat that “sheds a lot”. Often, their grooming needs are largely overlooked as many double-coated breeds are not “hair cut” dogs. Double-coated dogs are found in every dog class and are not just the “fluffy” “shedders”. Many dog owners are truly in the dark as to what tools they need to do proper home grooming for their double-coated pet, how to use those tools and why their efforts are vital for the health and well-being of their dog. This article will highlight the specific characteristics of the canine double-coat, explain effective grooming techniques, and recommend tools appropriate to the task.
DOUBLE-COATED BREED EXAMPLES
ROLE OF A DOG’S COAT
The role of a dog’s coat is to protect the skin (a dog’s biggest organ) and provide temperature regulation. Double-coated dogs have a short, soft, dense undercoat covered by a harsher, longer, sparser top coat. Undercoats function as an insulator from extreme temperatures, both cold and hot, trapping warmer (or cooler) air next to the skin. Undercoats also trap things that could harm your dog – insects, allergens, etc. Top coats (also called guard hair) have a predetermined length based on breed. Top coats repel water and provide protection from environmental elements (UV radiation, brush).
“Many dogs should not be shaved at all, depending on their coat type. Shaving can actually have the opposite effect of what you intend and make your dog even hotter.” – American Kennel Club
THE SHAVING MYTH
Many dog owners mistakenly think that shaving their double-coated dog will 1. keep them cooler, and 2. prevent shedding. Dog’s do not sweat through their skin as humans do. This is done via panting, glands in their paw pads and by dilation of blood vessels in their face and ears. Shaving a double-coat actually puts dogs at a much higher risk of heat stroke and skin cancer from UV radiation. This is a link to the AKC position on shaving a double-coated breed.
Shedding dogs that are shaved keep shedding. The shed hair is simply much shorter and not as noticeable. Shaving will most likely permanently change the nature of a dog’s coat by altering the ratio of undercoat to top coat (allowing undercoat to overtake top coat), damaging the guard hairs and impeding a dog’s ability to thermoregulate.
Are there valid times when a dog may need to be shaved? Yes. Surgery and when an undercoat has become so extensively matted that it is impossible to humanely de-matt. All dog owners have the responsibility of regularly brushing AND combing their pet’s coat. This is not in lieu of, but in addition to, professional grooming. Keeping undercoat that has been “shed”, or released from hair follicles, brushed out, allows the dog’s coat to do its job – protecting your dog. When undercoat becomes stagnant, it entangles with itself and traps dander, allergens, moisture next to the skin. This can lead to skin conditions that then require veterinary intervention.
GROOMING A DOUBLE COATED DOG
AT HOME MAINTENANCE
So how does one maintain a double-coated dog? Key to assisting your dog in keeping a lustrous, healthy coat is keeping their hair moving. Some breeds shed all year long (Labrador Retriever) and some breeds shed more heavily in preparation for summer or winter (Great Pyrenees). Longer double-coated breeds tend to have top coats that are more “barbed”. These barbs will hold onto, or trap, undercoat that has been released from the body. This will cause matting and more severely, pelting, if it is not brushed free.
When brushing your dog, first lightly spritz the coat with a detangler or brushing spray. Doing so significantly aids the brushing and detangling process while helping to prevent coat breakage. Only use products made for dogs to assure appropriate pH balance and prevent exposure to ingredients not suitable for your pup. For heavy coated or long coated dogs, use what is referred to as a “line brushing” technique. This video gives an excellent demo on line brushing.
For all dogs, follow your brushing with all over combing, making sure to get from the skin all the way out. This includes the tail, behind the ears, in the groin and “underarm” (be gentle!). If you encounter light matting, spritz more heavily with detangler and using the very last tooth of your comb, attempt to detangle. Sometimes it is just easier to snip out a matt with scissors than try to detangle. Matted coat will often denature when de-matted with combing or brushing and will more easily matt in the future.
I recommend that you begin the brushing or combing process very early – as soon as your new pup comes home. (More on puppy grooming here.) This can most certainly be an enjoyable ritual when done appropriately and often. Remember, home grooming your double-coated dog is an essential part of your pup’s health and well-being. When coupled with regular, professional grooming your pet will have a vibrant, luxurious coat that both of you will feel good about!
GROOMING TOOLS I RECOMMEND
(This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase products via these links, I make a small commission. Your purchase price is not increased by my affiliation with the supplier.)
Flat Coated Dogs
(Labs, Beagles, Coonhounds)
Rubber Curry Comb
Soft fingers are gentle on the skin and provide a “massaging” feel that gentle pulls out loose coat. Can be used in a circular pattern or from front to back.
Short Coated Dogs
(Yorkshire Terrier, Pomeranian, Shih Tzu, Corgi)
Removes light tangles, dirt and hair.
Aids in removing undercoat and keeping coat tangle-free.
Long/Thick Coated Dogs
Use with a line brushing technique to gently “grab” and remove loose undercoat and debris.
Chris Christensen Brush
I highly recommend this Chris Christensen brush! It is a much higher price point, but worth every penny. I use it daily in the salon.
Chris Christensen Big G Slicker Medium Coral - Long Dense Pins
Removes matts and loose undercoat. Use gently in a line brushing technique. This tool is not for children.
Use to safely cut out nasty matts. Use cautiously as this tool has a cutting edge. Not for use by children.
Coat Sprays & Detanglers
For Lighter Weight Coats
(Shih Tzu, Havanese, Yorkshire Terrier)
Chris Christensen Just Divine Brushing Spray
Light detangler, prevents brushing damage, adds fullness to coat.
For Long Coats
(Great Pyrenees, Bernese Mountain Dog, Border Collie)
Chris Christensen Precious Drop
Contains a blend of keratin proteins and essential oils of lavender blossom. This non-oily spray won’t separate the coat. Produces soft, silky, flowing coats, imparts a brilliant sheen, reduces frizz & matting, eliminates breakage.
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