Winter 2013 Magazine

Grooming Tips

"In Between" Brushings

By Mary Kyle

Making sure you have a solid plan for a brush-out probably isn't the first thought in your head when you pick Foo Foo up from the groomer. But the best time to plan and start your between grooming brushing routine is when she is freshly groomed, with no snarls in her fur. As a professional groomer I am always pleased when I encounter a dedicated dog parent who actually does effective in-between brushing. It makes my job easier and, more importantly, makes it easier and less stressful for the family dog.


You will need a brush of the appropriate size and firmness for the coat you are brushing. I prefer a "slicker brush" in most every circumstance. As a pet groomer, I am not grooming a show dog who needs to conserve every strand of hair for the show ring.

The photo of the brushes I use shows them from the softest to the firmest. Then there is a "pin brush" for use on extremely long, un-matted coats, such as those on a full-coated Yorkie or Shih Tzu. Last is a good "greyhound" comb. You want to be able to comb through every inch of fur you have brushed without finding any snags or tangles. It is also a good tool to use for unsnarling simple mats. You will want to work on mats slowly and delicately. Just think of someone doing it to your hair.


Brushing a dog is not as simple as you might think. The most important elements of the brush-out are that you can see the skin under the fur, and that you are methodical, covering the entire body in a systematic way. I always approach a brushing from the rear foot (either side) first and work my way up and forward. For a small dog, it is best to work on a table or counter. If your dog is completely trusting and relaxed, you might be able to lay the dog down next to you. Then pull the coat up, and hold it with one hand so that you can see a part in the fur. Next you pull down just a small amount of fur with the brush. Do this all the way around the leg. Do this by two-inch increments until you have worked all the way up the leg. The inside of the rear legs is an extremely sensitive area, so be very gentle there. Fortunately the hair is a bit thinner on the hind legs so you don't need to brush as much. Once you have mastered the legs, you are ready to be hired so call me immediately. Seriously, it is not easy. Lots of dogs simply don't like having their legs brushed. The good news is that the more you practice, the more both of you get used to it and have confidence in each other. I find that I can do things to dogs that their human parents never could do simply because the dog senses that I know what I'm doing.

Once you get the legs bushed and combed, you can start the same procedure from the tail forward. Go from the bottom of the ribs on each side working up and forward, meeting the section on the back where you've brushed. Always keep in mind that you want to see the skin in the part you create as you go. If you have a dog with ears that have a lot of coat on them, you need to be very careful when you brush and comb them. Ear leather does tear, and we do not want that. First feel the hair on the ear. Is it matted? If not, then just run a comb down the ear in a gentle, soft manner, concentrating on the hair below the leather.

If you just had your dog groomed within the last couple of days there should be no matting, and the brushing should be simple and effective. Use a very soft, small puppy slicker on the faces of dogs like Shih Tzus and Yorkies. Don't use the slicker brush near the eyes, but it is very effective for brushing the chin, nose and cheek areas. It would be a great brush for ears as well, as long as you brush softly and gently. Expect a bit of resistance.

Grooming can be as much of a bonding experience as is everything you share with your canine family member. The more you do it, the better you do it. Soon your dog will be excited to have "brush time" roll around.

Mary Kyle has been a doggie professional since childhood, her career as a professional groomer has lasted 32 years, and is still going strong. She likes to refer to herself as an "Old School" groomer as she still takes the time to do the fluff dry and hand scissor finishes that make a dog look so elegant. She and Allison Dunn are co-owners of Pampered Pets and Country Critters Grooming Salon at the corner of St. Francis and Sierra Vista in Santa Fe.

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