So Why All These Tools for Combing, Brushing, and Detangling?
Coats come in a wide range of types and textures. Soft, silky, fine, dense, coarse, straight or curly hair varies immensely, even between pets of the same breed. The prepared groomer will have several varieties of combs and brushes on hand to deal with so many kinds of coats and will know how to use them properly.
For short-haired breeds such as Beagles or Dalmatians, use a rubber brush or a bristle brush. Soft rubber bristles will pull out loose hair. A bristle brush should be fairly stiff and works best when used with the lie of the coat. Bristles move the oils from the skin to the hair shaft as you brush, leaving a shiny, smooth coat. A medium/fine comb will work like a comb used on your own hair, catching and pulling out the loose hair and dirt.
For long-haired dogs that need to be scissored, such as the Bichon Frise or Kerry Blue Terrier, a slicker brush should be used to untangle and remove loose hair. Use a pin brush only if there are no mats. Depending on the hair type, choose a medium/coarse or coarse comb. If the pet is seriously matted, a mat comb or electric detangler may be needed. A curved slicker with stiff pins will untangle more effectively and will pull out more undercoat, but will also require more care in order to not brush-burn the pet.
For breeds with long silky coats, a slicker brush (or, if there are no mats, a pin brush) should be used along with a medium/coarse or a coarse comb to check for any matting in the coat. For a serious matting problem, try a mat comb or a long pin rake.
For double-coated breeds, a number of different brushes can be used: a wire slicker to pull out the loose hair, a pin brush to untangle and smooth, or an undercoat rake or a mat comb to help thin out the undercoat. A moulting comb can also be used to remove loose hair and tidy the outer coat. Depending on the hair type, a medium/fine or a medium/coarse comb should also be used.
For sporting breeds such as Setters and Spaniels, a pin brush can be used to untangle slightly matted coats, and a wire slicker will remove loose, dead hair. A medium/coarse or coarse comb can be used to untangle and neaten the coat. If the coat is seriously matted or tangled, you may need to use a mat comb or a long pin rake. Results often depend not so much on what you use as on the way that you use it. Layering, line brushing, and sectioning are the secrets to humane detangling. Grabbing too much hair and pulling too hard causes pain and discomfort to both the animal and the operator.
Repetitive motion injuries are caused by the same action again and again. Vary the motion only slightly, and damage can be prevented. Part of the job can be accomplished by using a tool that has teeth or bristles set parallel to the handle. The wrist and forearm are now operating in a horizontal position. After a while, switch to an implement designed so that the business end is at right angles to the shaft. The angle has changed, and the arm and wrist are working in a more vertical mode. When using either a regular tool or one of a rake design, always keep the wrist in a neutral position. Select handles that fit your palm. Another option is to try ergonomically designed brushes and combs. They have slightly larger than normal handles, providing a more comfortable grip. Position the body in a way so that the tool can be operated without straining the wrist, elbow or shoulder muscles.
The standby of handlers, pin and bristle brushes, are effective on delicate coats. The fine, flowing (show) hair of Afghan Hounds, Maltese Terriers and similarly coated breeds is preserved by using rubber cushioned pin brushes and natural or synthetic bristle brushes.
Pat and pull is a technique for using a slicker brush. No pressure is applied on the down stroke. As the brush stroke comes up from the coat, the fine pins hook up a layer of hair and coax tangles out. Slicker brushes are available in different degrees of hardness and various pin sizes and angles. You will need a selection, and remember that they get a lot of wear. Check them regularly and replace brushes with missing and bent pins. Also replace slickers whenever the pins lose their original amount of resistance. If pins are tired you will use more strokes to achieve the same effect, costing unnecessary time and physical fatigue.
Superior machining and better metal alloys make combs that glide through hair and lift it for the master stylist to scissor impeccably. Fine, close teeth are needed to seek out fleas and tiny snags. Thickly matted hair can be separated with sturdy, wide-pinned combs.
When necessary, the groomer has to resort to combs with teeth-bladed edges, which will cut as they are pulled through. Some manufacturers suggest using a sawing, rocking motion. Bladed mat combs and splitters are often seen as the only alternative to shaving.