It’s a lovely, warm morning, with temperatures expected to be in the 70s today, so our Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) and our Malamute mix farm dog will soon be shedding. They are all double-coated dogs, meaning they grow in an underlayer of fur for protection in the winter, and that fur “blows” off in the spring. The LGDs we currently have all have good coats, so they will shed that winter fur on their own, but the farm dog is a mix, and she has a difficult time getting rid of all that fur.
One of our previous Pyrs also had a bad coat (we think he may have been a mix), and he was absolutely miserable until I could get him all brushed out for the year. To get ready for the next few weeks of brushing and grooming, I pulled out all the grooming tools I’ve collected — these have been the “keepers” after years of trying different tools (mostly on the recommendation of others with double-coated dogs) and finding what works for my dogs and for me. Some of these are occasional use tools, and some I use every grooming session.
My go-to brush is the Original Series Oval Brush from Chris Christensen. It looks like a human hairbrush but doesn’t have the little round nubbies at the top of the pins like a human brush. It’s great for everyday brushing. I’ve found that it also works well on “bloomers” around their back end. It’s not a mat-buster, but for maintenance, it’s amazing.
I purchased the 20mm brush several years ago and am considering getting one of the longer options to see how they work. Yes, it is a bit more pricey than what you can get at the local box pet store, but this is a quality tool and does the job I need it to do. I will pay more for that. I did look at the local pet store for a similar brush before buying this one, and they all had the round nubbies on the pins. Those brushes just slid across the top of the fur without getting down into the fur – not effective!
I think just about every LGD owner I know has a horse rake in their grooming kit! I use mine for minor matting that I don’t want or need to cut out with scissors. By grasping the fur above the mat near the skin and holding it steady, I can insert the rake, give some gentle tugs, and pull the mat right off without pulling skin.
The rake doesn’t work well with the thicker fur in the bloomers area. It just pulls and causes distress to the dog. Or at least I’ve not found a good way to use this rake in that area without pulling skin.
Nail clippers are a must, especially with Great Pyrenees and their double dewclaws. Those claws grow quickly since they are not in contact with the ground, and need trimmed every few months (your mileage may vary). I’ve seen a dewclaw that grew so long that it curved around and grew into the pad – it wasn’t pretty. I don’t take very much off, maybe 1/8″ or so, and I check all of their claws at least once a month.
The dog slicker brush is still in my grooming kit, but I don’t use it that much with the longer-haired dogs I have. Their fur is just too thick for this brush to be effective. It’s a nice brush, though (minus the dog-chewed handle!), so it is still hanging around.
Rotating Pin Comb
For any mats that somehow escape notice and become thicker, the rotating pin comb is a great option to have. Unlike the fixed-pin rake, the pins actually spin and do a fine job of breaking up tangles and mats without pulling the skin. With my dogs, I’ve found that this works best for those mats they get behind their ears and sometimes along their belly. Again, their hind end fur is too thick for this rake to get through.
I have a pair of regular scissors in the kit, but it’s so easy to cut skin that I don’t pull out the scissors except as a last resort, and I prefer to have someone with me to hold/distract the dog while I’m working. Rechargeable clippers will work a lot better at cutting off mats that are too thick for any other tools to get through. My farm dog has very long feathers on her front legs, which mat quickly. She’s not a big fan of any grooming, so using the clippers to whisk them off was the simplest and safest method. I dropped some kibble on the ground and had those mats off before she finished eating! Although marketed as pet clippers, these clippers are a lot noisier than I was expecting, and one of my dogs is somewhat afraid of them because of the noise. For my next set I will be looking for something quieter — any suggestions?
It’s been trial-and-error to find grooming tools that work with my dogs, but I think (except for the noisy clippers) that I’ve settled on these tools to keep my dogs healthy and happy. Grooming is a great opportunity to just be with your dog and keep you alert to any changes in their health when done regularly.
What are your go-to tools for grooming? Have you found a tool that is simply perfect for your needs?
Keba M. Hitzeman is an advocate, baseball fan, caregiver, chicken wrangler, daughter, farmer, fiber artist, gamer, gardener, herbalist, laborer, manager, musician, nature-lover, potter, shepherdess, and teacher. She owns and operates Innisfree on the Stillwater, a former beef cattle farm, where she currently raises sheep and goats. Read all of Keba’s posts in her GRIT series, Returning to Innisfree.
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