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Author Topic: The Right Tools for the Job: a Grooming Tools Reference Guide  (Read 28251 times)
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bluebell
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« on: October 28, 2007, 05:22:03 PM »

As we all know, maintaining our fluffers coats can be quite the challenge. The combination of their corkscrew curls and plush, springy undercoat can create a grooming disaster. I can only imagine the heartbreak in bringing your fluffbaby to the groomers only to have it shaved, or to be lectured on neglecting coat care. In this thread I will discuss the different tools that I use for grooming this breed and how to properly use them. Please remember that these are my opinions based on my experience as a professional groomer and bichon owner. Please feel free to add your own experiences and comments original

The first key to success is making sure you have control over the dog. I recommend using a raised surface, like a grooming table or counter, to place your dog upon. This will help to keep your dog from escaping and give you a more assertive position. Trying to brush them on the floor or on your lap may not always be successful (not to say that it can't be done, but not all fluffs are as relaxed and accustomed to lap grooming as Max Stick Out Tongue). For traction on a slippery surface, you can use a rubber shower mat. This is easily removed and stored for when you are not grooming, and is inexpensive and effective. For dogs who are not tolerant of brushing, it may be a good idea to have some treats at hand to dispense as you go. Remember that you only want to reward them for good behavior i.e. when they are staying still and allowing the brushing, not when they stop bad behaviors like biting or squirming.

So now that we have our grooming area ready to go, lets take a look at the tools.

The first tool in my kit is a slicker brush.  This is a brush with bent bristles and comes in a wide variety of firmness levels, shapes and sizes. A common complaint I have heard is that the dogs do not tolerate this brush, and that it irritates the skin. My guess as to why dogs do not always tolerate this brush is that it is a firm brush and is often used with too much pressure. Cheaper slicker brushes can also have very rough edges on the bristles. If it scratches your skin it can scratch theirs.

I use one of two brands of slicker brushes. The first is by Chris Christiansen (Click Here for Chris's website). These brushes have rounded tips to avoid hair breakage and skin irritation. They are also a finer grade of bristle, making for a soft brush. This brush is excellent for puppies (who have thinner coats), older fluffs whose coats are thinning, and fluffs who are kept in shorter trims. They can be used on longer coats if you employ the line brushing method (for detailed instructions on this brushing method, check this thread). This brush is not good for breaking up mats. It can handle a small tangle, but the fineness of the bristles will be ineffective against solid pieces of any size.

The second line of brushes is by Les Poochs (Click Here for Michel's webpage). These slicker brushes have flexible heads to reduce brushing pressure. They come in varying firmness levels, ranging from soft to very firm. In my experience, the softer bristles of these brushes do not hold up nearly as well as the Chris Christiansen. This is my opinion. I do regularly use the "blue" brushes and the Mat Zapper (red handle). These are excellent for mat work, as the stiffer bristles will break up the mats and the flexible heads will reduce the pressure on the skin. A cheaper version of these brushes has been introduced by Mars and Master Grooming Tools. I have used the latter and they are pretty decent (you can find them Here).

When using this type of brush, you do not want to apply too much pressure. Test it out on your forearm to see that you are not brushing too aggressively (on the same note, you must apply some pressure or else you will not get the bristles through the hair). When dealing with a mat,  I will first spritz the mat with a leave-in conditioner. I love Chris Christiansen's Ice on Ice, as well as Top Performance's GloCoat (click each brand name to go to their respective webpages).  After the mat has been moistened I will grasp in between my fingers and start brushing. I do not like to use mat breakers or other bladed tools as these cut the hair, creating holes in the coat. I will pick apart the mat using the brush and a comb, keeping my fingers between the mat and the skin. Obviously severe or cast matting (pelting/felting) cannot be tackled this way, but hopefully using the right tools the right way will prevent you from seeing those severe types of mats Happy 2
« Last Edit: October 28, 2007, 06:00:43 PM by Bluebell » Logged
bluebell
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« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2007, 05:22:25 PM »

The next tool in my kit is a pin brush. This brush is similar to many human brushes, with larger, rounded bristles. These brushes are great for longer coats as they have longer bristles and are less damaging to the coat (which when you want to keep them full you want to avoid coat breakage that will cause holes and matting). Again, Chris Christiansen is a brand I recommend (Click Here to check out his pin brushes). They have a few options to choose from, and your choice will be based on the length of your fluffs coat. Again, the length of the coat will require use of the line brushing method. When you start dealing with coats over 2 inches you really need to make sure you are getting all of the coat combed right down to the skin. Otherwise you will only be brushing out the top coat, allowing cast mats to develop below. If you encounter a mat, do not use your pin brush to break it up. Like the softer slicker brushes, you risk damaging the brush and it's bristles.
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bluebell
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« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2007, 05:22:33 PM »

The third and most important tool in my kit is the comb. It is called by a few names, greyhound comb or poodle comb being most popular. Here is the comb that I use on Bluebell. When choosing a comb, you want to make sure it has fine teeth (or a combo of medium and fine teeth) and that it has smooth edges. If the tips are rough or if is is coated and you can see visible imperfections, you should toss the comb and find a better one. These imperfections will only cause damage to the coat, which is not what we want as coat damage leads to more mats.

You may be surprised to see that my tool kit only comprises of three tools, but they are the only ones required for grooming these coats nodding  I use the pin brush first (on longer costs), the slicker brush on any mats and for shorter coats (and for fluff drying), and the comb to finish. Bluebell is a large bichon in a full coat and I spend about 2 8 minutes a day getting her all combed out. The amount of work increases exponentially the longer you leave in between. Not all dogs will need daily brushing, but the longer you leave in between, the more undercoat to detangle and the more work for you. If you have any questions or feel I have left something out please let me know thumbsup
« Last Edit: October 29, 2007, 01:23:43 PM by Bluebell » Logged
Melissa :-)
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« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2007, 05:26:57 PM »

That was such an informative post Danielle,thanks for taking the time to post all that info for us.I especially liked your shower mat idea  eyebrows  Laughing and your tip about the treats  thumbup -I was feeding them to Scoob as soon as he stopped eating the brush but he wasnt really accepting it ie keeping his head still.     
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bluebell
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« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2007, 06:04:31 PM »

Thanks Melissa original It is a common mistake with traeting the wrong behaviors. I'm not a behaviorist or anything like that, but from my experience when you reward them for stopping bad behaviours, they may see it as reward for the bad behavior itself (I bit the brush and when I looked at mom she gave me a treat). The same idea goes for praise, keeping it for good behaviour. thumbsup
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Carol
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« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2007, 06:34:44 PM »

Wow, Danielle. This is fantastic information. I had been using a good pin brush on Ozzie and nothing else, so this is where I was going wrong. I just bought a Groomax slicker brush - do you have any experience, opinions on this brand? (I still have the receipt and it can go right back  eyebrows)
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bluebell
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« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2007, 06:41:26 PM »

I don't know this brand. If you run it over your forearm, does it scrape your skin? If the edges are rounded it should not scrape, and should be fine to use on little Ozzie. If it does scrape, you run the risk of coat breakage and skin irritation. Just be sure to get a comb for him too wink1
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Carol
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« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2007, 06:54:44 PM »

It doesn't scrape my skin, but it does leave little fine white lines (my skin is a bit dry). Maybe I am pressing too hard? It also came with the attached little gadget. No explanation whatever on the package. Do you know what it is?
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bluebell
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« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2007, 06:57:50 PM »

Ooh that is scary! Laughing My guess is it is for breaking up mats. I would not use it myself.  If it *it being the new slicker brush and not that crazy claw thing!* is not scraping too much it should be okay. Try it on Ozzie for a few days, and see how it does. Moderate pressure being conscious of his skin original

*Edit to specify which tool I would try using on Ozzie  wacko
« Last Edit: October 28, 2007, 09:06:19 PM by Bluebell » Logged
Carol
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« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2007, 09:01:47 PM »

wacko I don't think I'll use it either. It looks so weird, I thought a picture would be worth a thousand words.
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« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2007, 09:09:23 PM »

Great thread  thumbsup , I am happy to see the tools and to say I seem to be pretty much on track blush ,  I have to say I have a double sided comb, which I had for my persians, and Riley  manfro has chewed the handle so much I will need a new one soon  nodding , but I have been looking and in fact purchasing for months, and have yet to find one that measures up  Mad , they are just not nice and smooth or comfortable to use.  No  I think I might get Steve to make me a new handle in stead.  Laughing
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bluebell
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« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2007, 09:15:07 PM »

I don't know how comfortable these are compared to your old kitty comb, but Chris also makes handles that snap over the regular combs to make them easier to hold. Check them out Here.

and one look at Riley is proof that you are "pretty much on track" if not more Stick Out Tongue
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« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2007, 09:43:11 AM »

Thanks Danielle - that was really useful.  One question - I have a matt breaker with blades which I use particularly on Molly, but I have never made any holes in her coat and according to the last groomer her coat was in 'superb' condition, so I am presuming there were no breakages.  Would it depend on how forceful/aggressive someone is whilst using a bladed matt breaker, or maybe the frequency of use ie if it was used every day or something?  I was just wondering because I would hate to think that I was damaging Molly's lovely coat by using it.

Sorry - another question!  You only have to spend about 2 minutes combing Blue out?  That's amazing.  I brush/comb the twins every day but it takes me an awful lot longer than that!  Is that because of the Ice on Ice leave in conditioner, do you think?  That looks like amazing stuff - I will have to see if they ship to the UK.  I use Cowboy Magic and that is very good but it can be a bit oily.
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bluebell
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« Reply #13 on: October 29, 2007, 10:31:35 AM »

One question - I have a matt breaker with blades which I use particularly on Molly, but I have never made any holes in her coat and according to the last groomer her coat was in 'superb' condition, so I am presuming there were no breakages.

When they are kept shorter it is hard to see the holes it creates (or maybe not at all if the groomer cuts them down to match the shorter lengths), but when you use blades to cut apart a mat it cuts the hair to different lengths.

Sorry - another question!  You only have to spend about 2 minutes combing Blue out?  That's amazing.  I brush/comb the twins every day but it takes me an awful lot longer than that!  Is that because of the Ice on Ice leave in conditioner, do you think?  .


Actually I only use the Ice on Ice on Blue's tail (to make it extra silky). Because I get her combed everyday, and because she has a thinner coat, she never gets more than a small tangle. I do condition her when I bath her to strengthen her hair and keep the cuticles smooth. Plus I fluff dry her so she is super straight. Both will help to prevent matting as well. I will have to see if Bob can video me brushing her out later on.
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« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2007, 01:42:46 PM »

What an informative post, Danielle!  thumbsup ... I just recently "rediscovered" the pin brush (I had used it during puppyhood and stopped when the adult coat came in?  Doh wacko  I'm not sure why?  blink .. anyhoo, like you, I use all three now  nodding , but definately will look for a better slicker brush  nodding ... I think mine are kinda cheap  ashamed hence the reason they aren't tolerated well because they hurt!  crazy

The amount of work increases exponentially the longer you leave in between. Not all dogs will need daily brushing, but the longer you leave in between, the more undercoat to detangle and the more work for you.

Boy! You can say THAT again!  wacko ... Max   manfro has such a thick coat that even at age 4 with his adult coat fully in .. his hair will still matt quite a bit  crazy if I slack off on the brushing  ashamed .... the other day it took me 2 hours  Fainting to brush him out 'cause I had waited so long.  Crying


(not to say that it can't be done, but not all fluffs are as relaxed and accustomed to lap grooming as Max Stick Out Tongue).

Laughing I laughed when I saw that!  Laughing .... actually  whistling I've even turned the Budster  clown hyper into a  eyebrows lap grooming fluff as well!  Stick Out Tongue
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