Brushing Basics

Is there anything cuter than a puppy? Yes. A clean puppy!

By Virginia Parker Guidry |

You brush your hair every day to keep it neat-looking and tangle-free, right? Well, as a new puppy parent you'll need to do the same for your pup, if not daily then several times a week. Regardless of coat typelong or short, harsh or smoothregular brushing removes dead hair, removes tangles, distributes skin oil and is a great way to spend time with your puppy.

Purebreds or mixed breeds with long or curly coats, such as Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Maltese or Lhasa Apsos, usually need daily brushing and combing to keep the coat in shape. Short, smooth-coated pups, such as Labrador Retrievers or Rottweilers, can get by with once or twice weekly brushings. Medium-length coats, such as terrier coats, should be brushed several times a week. If you're not sure how often your puppy should be brushed, ask your breeder or a professional groomer.

What type of brush do you need? A slicker brush (a hard plastic or wooden brush with bent teeth set into rubber) is a good bet for any coat. Hard slicker brushes are made for heavy or matted coats, and soft slicker brushes can be used for finishing or drying. Rubber curry brushes (rubber brushes with irregular teeth that fit in the palm of your hand) or grooming mitts (flexible rubber gloves studded with rubber nubs that fit over your hand) are useful for sleek, smooth coats. Ask your veterinarian or a professional groomer to recommend a brush type for your puppy.

Begin a brushing routine as soon as you bring your puppy home. In fact, the sooner you introduce the puppy to brushing, the better. That way, your puppy learns that brushing is a normal, fun part of life. Brushing should be systematic, and should always, always, precede bathing (tangled coats tangle even tighter when wet). Begin brushing your puppy's head and ears, then brush the chest and front legs. Brush the back, sides and tummy, then hindquarters. Finish up with the tail. Don't brush too hard and don't rake the brush over your puppy's sensitive skin. If you do, it may irritate the area and cause a red rash (slicker burn) under the coat. Use quick, deep brush strokes from the skin to the end of the hair, and brush a small section at a time. For longer-coated breeds, it might help if you hold the base of the section of hair (where the hair is attached to the skin) while you brush. This way, if you hit any snags, you'll be tugging on just the hair, not your pup's skin. Healthy skin is free of dandruff, irritation, bad odor and sores, so look out for these conditions while brushing.

Next Step: Stress-Free Nail Trimming

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