Many breeds of dogs have long or thick coats. In order to maintain the animal's health and appearance, it's important to have the correct tools to ensure proper grooming. A beautiful coat can become dirty, matted, and uncomfortable for the pet in short order, so having the proper tools and techniques is important. If you don't want to pay a groomer to care for your pet's coat, essential tools are even more crucial.
An undercoat rake is a metal tool with a series of spaced teeth. Rakes come in smaller sizes for tiny breeds or detail work, and larger sizes for larger dogs. Select a rake with a sturdy handle and blunted teeth to avoid scratching the dog. The purpose of the undercoat rake is to separate and remove loose undercoat without removing the longer guard hairs. Use the rake in the direction of the hair's growth and use care not to press so hard as to scratch the dog's skin. An undercoat rake is invaluable during shedding season when the dog is 'blowing coat'. These rakes generally work best on double-coated breeds found on such dogs as the Collie, Husky, Samoyed, Pomeranian, and Newfoundland.
Generally of metal, a good comb is perhaps the most versatile tool. It can be used on long coats of the silky variety (Afghan hound, Yorkshire Terrier) as well as the double-coated breeds. A quality comb is a good investment. Cheap combs can hang up in the hair, pull, or damage the coat. A good comb will decrease static, slide smoothly through the coat, and last for decades, so it is well worth the money. Combs vary in size, from tiny combs with closely-set teeth for the face and small dogs, to large combs with wide teeth for combing through a tangled dog. You will need at least one comb; preferably two of varying sizes. Be sure the teeth of your comb are long enough to reach all the way to the skin of the dog. You want to comb out the entire coat, not just the top layer.
A pin brush usually consists of a series of metal pins set in a paddle-shaped brush with a rubber backing. Pin brushes are used to lift and separate the hair, aiding in 'line combing' through the entire coat down to the skin. Avoid cheap pin brushes with little balls on the end of the pins. These tend to catch and split the coat. A quality pinbrush will have blunted pins that can be used without worry of scratching the dog's skin, and use will not cause the brush to pull loose from the backing.
Some groomers of long-coated dogs prefer to use a slicker brush, while others will not use them. If used, proper technique is important to ensure the coat is being groomed from the skin outward, and not just the top layer. On a dog with a double coat, a slicker brush is generally most effective on the shorter hairs of the legs, head, and stifles. A slicker can be useful for 'finishing' a long, silky coat if used correctly.
Spray Bottle of Water or Grooming Spray
A dog with a long coat or a double coat should never be groomed dry. Nor do you want the coat saturated. Before grooming, mist the coat lightly with plain water or a good grooming spray to cut static and help the brush 'glide' through the hair.
High-Velocity Dog Dryer or Blow Dryer
If you are grooming a dog with a long, double coat, a high-velocity force dryer made specifically for dogs is a great asset. The force of the air blows out dander, dirt, water, and loose hair with minimal effort on your part. The air is warm, but not hot enough to burn or damage the coat. For a dog with a long, silky coat, a dryer with less air velocity may be preferred to avoid 'wind whipping' or tangling the longer hair. This type of dryer is available through dog supply catalogs and online. If you have a long-haired or thickly-coated dog, you may wish to purchase a dryer and learn to do your grooming at home.
A sharp scissors is essential for trimming long hair away from the foot pads, neatening the appearance of the legs and feet, and sculpting growth elsewhere on the dog.
Shampoo and Conditioner
A safe dog-oriented shampoo is essential. Take your pet's coat into account- if he has itchy skin, consider a medicated or oatmeal shampoo. Coarse coats will retain their texture with a shampoo tailored toward this coat type. Full double coats should not be subjected to a conditioning treatment as it weighs down the hair and affects insulating properties. Dogs with long, silky coats will benefit from a conditioning shampoo and you will most likely want to apply a conditioner as well.
Nail Clipper, Nail File, or Nail Grinder
The tool used is up to you, but the outcome is the same- neat, shortened nails. A dog with long nails cannot walk properly. If the nails click on a hard floor, they are too long. Clip only the tips of the nails to avoid the quick. Overly-long nails may take months of work to work back to a normal length. If you are uncomfortable trimming nails or if the dog is not cooperative, ask you veterinarian or groomer to do it for you.
With the proper tools, you can save money and learn to groom your pet yourself. Even if you still wish to use a professional groomer, you can keep your animal's coat in top condition and save your groomer's time by maintaining your dog yourself. Ask your groomer to show you proper techniques; most are very willing to help. Wandering through the grooming area at a dog show is another way to learn technique and visit with others about tips for your pet's coat care.