Brushing a long-haired dog

There’s a good chance that you acquired a long-haired dog because you admired his glamorous appearance. With those lovely locks, though, comes the responsibility of caring for them.

It’s tempting to put off combing or brushing a pet with long hair — I should know, living as I do with a pair of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. But it’s a temptation that must be resisted. When long-haired dogs go without the necessary grooming, they develop painful tangles and mats — and, of course, they don’t look their beautiful best. Choosing a long-haired breed means committing to caring for his coat on a regular basis. Here’s what you need to know about grooming your long-haired pooch.

Coat Types

The amount and type of grooming your long-haired dog requires depends on whether he has a single or double coat (one with an undercoat), the length of the coat (an inch or more), and whether he has feathering (a longer fringe of hair on the ears, chest, legs and tail). Afghan Hounds have thick, silky, fine hair; Maltese and Yorkshire Terriers have silky single coats; and Cavaliers, English, Irish and Gordon Setters, and Golden Retrievers are among the breeds with feathering. Other breeds with long hair or feathering include Cocker Spaniels, English Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, Welsh Springer Spaniels, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, Papillons, long-haired Dachshunds, Bearded Collies, Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, Havanese, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Pekingese and Tibetan Terriers.

Dogs with silky single coats or feathering are highly prone to tangles. You should plan on combing or brushing these dogs at least every other day, although every day might be better, because then you don’t give tangles or mats a chance to form.

Dogs with double coats are going to shed — that’s all there is to it. Combing and brushing them on a regular basis removes dead hair, leaving less of it to fly around your house and land on your clothes and furniture. Though it makes shedding more manageable, it does not prevent it.

Grooming Tools

Your dog’s breeder or a professional dog groomer can advise you on the correct grooming tools to use on your dog’s coat. Pin brushes help remove tangles and can be useful for dogs with long hair or feathering. If your dog requires both a pin brush and a bristle brush (for removing loose hair and dirt and polishing the coat), look for a double-sided brush with pins on one side, bristles on the other.

Slicker brushes have curved wire pins and are used to help remove mats, dead hair and the debris that your dog picks up in his coat pretty much wherever he walks. A slicker brush can be a good choice for many long-haired breeds when used on a regular basis, but avoid using it on fine, silky, straight coats, as it can damage the hair. An undercoat rake can work wonders on a double-coated dog whose undercoat is loosening.

Tips for Success

Don’t forget to comb out the beard, mustache and eyebrows (known as facial furnishings) of breeds such as Bearded Collies, Old English Sheepdogs and Tibetan Terriers. They often collect food or get wet when the dog drinks, so they need extra care.

At maturity, you should expect to comb or brush your long-haired dog’s coat at least every other day (and daily, in some cases). How long it takes to care for the coat depends on the dog’s size and how well you have trained him to accept being groomed. If he’s not used to it or if you have let tangles or mats form, grooming time is probably not going to be quick or pleasurable for either of you. Skip grooming your long-haired dog now and you will both regret it later.

The best way to make grooming easy on yourself and your dog is to acclimate him to being combed or brushed when he’s a puppy, well before his coat has achieved its full length. If you practice on him at this early age, he will come to enjoy the attention and accept the use of the grooming tools. In the beginning, spend just a couple of minutes each day grooming him; as he gets used to the process, gradually extend the amount of time you spend caring for his coat. And, of course, you should always be gentle.

Still not sure you can commit to caring for a long-haired dog’s coat? Make it part of your routine: Lots of pet owners choose to groom their dogs while they watch TV at night, when they are already settled for the evening. When done properly, grooming your dog’s coat can be a relaxing time for both of you, rather than an onerous chore to be avoided.

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