Melissa Verplank discusses various kinds of slicker brushes. Tune for Melissa’s favorite brushes, which brush to use when, and how to maximize a dog’s comfort – and your own!
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There’s a lot of different brushes out there, and the slicker brush is just one of the styles that we use. And it’s a really popular brush in professional pet grooming. As many styles as there are, even within the slicker brush family … I don’t have that many here to show you, but I want to give you an idea of what I look for and what I like when I’m looking at a slicker brush and how to work with it so that not only are you keeping the dog comfortable and safe, but it’s also being effective.
So the first type that we see on a really regular basis is just a normal, everyday slicker brush. It’s got a flat back here. It’s got the pad of the little needle-type teeth or tines, and they will vary. The teeth will vary a little bit. The times will vary a little bit in length, based on the slicker brush that you’re looking at and how soft or firm the pad of the bristles are. So those are just a couple things that you would be looking for.
This one happens to be a very soft back slicker brush. So it’s really super for sensitive skin dogs, small dogs, puppies. This particular one, when they’re a little softer like this, they’re really great for fluffing, especially if the dog doesn’t have any mats in it.
The other thing when we’re looking at the slicker brushes is, a lot of times they’ll come in a variety of different sizes. I want to say this particular one by Chris Christensen, it comes in, I think, three different sizes. There’s one size smaller than this one, and then I think there’s one size larger. But all of them have got this nice, soft backing on them so that the bristles aren’t very soft, and it’s a very gentle brush to work with.
The next type … This one is what I would consider my personal workhorse for a slicker brush. It has longer bristles on it. The other thing that makes this brush a little bit different than many of the others is the curved back. And I don’t really care what brand we’re looking at. What I look for is that curved back piece right here, that’s really important to me, and then the actual length of the bristles right here.
Now, when you’re working with a curved back slicker brush, a lot of times it can be easier to work with because of that curved back, and you don’t have a tendency to poke the dog. And any of us that have worked with slicker brushes for any amount of time, we all know what it feels like when you get one of those bristles, one of those little needle-type bristles, underneath your fingernail. Oh, man, can it hurt. Well, if it hurts us, it’s going to hurt the dog as well. So there’s definitely a way to work with these brushes. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with a flat back, the curved back, or the next one that I’m going to show you, which has a flexible head on it, you have to work with them in a manner that keeps the dog safe and comfortable. And we’re going to go into that.
But the other thing, before I put this brush down and show you the last of style that I have … But this one has got pretty pretty firm but flexible teeth or bristles on it. So this is going to be a little bit more of an aggressive type brush, but it’s also just a really great workhorse for a wide variety of coat types. For me personally, this style of curved back slicker brush is my all-time favorite slicker brush to use on everyday pet grooming.
The last style that I want to show you is the type of brush … They come in a couple different sizes. But you’ve got just the single head or the dual head. And they have teeth or bristles on both sides. So you can flip the brush. You get a full brush, you can flip it around and use it the other way, on the other side. Sometimes with some of these brushes, the way the teeth are bent will be a little bit different. These look like they’re pretty similar, but where the big differences come with these two brushes is in the head.
And if we’re looking at these two different brushes … And most of the time when you’re looking at these dual type slicker brushes of this style, they’re going to come in a variety of flexible heads. And they’ll have five or six different varieties within a series. But if you look at this one, this head, it’s really tough for me to move this. It’s a really firm, aggressive, tight brush. This would be the type of slicker brush that you would work with on a pretty matted coat or a tangled coat or you’ve got a lot of dead undercoat to pull out. This would be a really great brush to work with on that.
This one, the head is a lot more flexible. It’s super simple to move back and forth. So as you are working and padding on the coat and the skin, it’s going to have a tendency to flex, and you’d be able to power through with a lot more comfort. I don’t want to say necessarily “power through.” But to work with a brush, you can get through a lot of different coat. But the more flexible the heads are, the softer, the more gentle the brush is going to be. So to get through a really heavily matted coat, this probably isn’t going to be your choice. You’re going to be wanting to look for a head that might be a little bit more firm, whether it be the firmest in this particular line or whether it be the softer. But whatever it is, these are great.
The other thing is, they come in the different sizes. So this one is going to be really wonderful for a larger dog, where you’ve got more volume that you have to get through. This’ll be a great choice on that one. Or if you’re working on a smaller dog or a tight space, maybe an armpit or inside the thighs or behind the ears, you don’t need a lot of surface area. You just need to be able to get into that tight little area. The smaller brush is going to work a lot easier for you.
So those are the different styles of brushes that we’re going to be looking at basically. And again, there’s a lot of varieties out there. So find a brand that you like, toss it out there, talk with your coworkers, network with other groomers, whether it be in person or whether it be in social media. But find out who likes what because there’s a lot of choices out there.
Now when you’re actually working with a brush, the method that I want to see is what I would consider a pat, pull method. And I use my forearm. I’m trying to pull my sleeve up here for you. But I want to see a pat and pull away, pat and pull away. And like I said before, these tines, they’re sharp. And if you are just making contact with a couple of them, it can really be uncomfortable. Where if you make contact with the entire pad, there’s no discomfort whatsoever. So it’s really important to pat and pull away, pat and pull away.
And when you do pat and pull away, the other thing is no break in your wrist. If you break your wrist, that’s going to cause a lot of problems for the dog. So you don’t want to go in, pat, and then break your wrist, and pull away. Because I think you can see here, if you pat and then … See how that’s poking at the top end? And I can tell if somebody doesn’t have good technique because the top row of these bristles, the tines here will be really broken down. Sometimes they’ll be missing. And if I see that on somebody’s brush, I know that they are brushing improperly. And a lot of times you can tell because the dog is giving you a hard time. The dog is uncomfortable.
If the dog is really struggling with you, stop and look at what your technique is because you might be accidentally … I mean, none of us want to hurt a dog, but you might be causing them quite a bit of discomfort because of your brushing technique. And the other thing is, it’s very soft. You’re hanging onto these brushes with just a couple of fingers. You can hang onto these brushes any way you want. This way, this way, this way. There’s a lot of different ways, based on the area that you’ve got to get into, that you can hang on to these brushes. But the key with all of them is, don’t power grip. What you want to do is just hold it very softly, very gently with your fingers, and pat, pull, pat, pull.
It’s going to be the momentum and the fact that you’re taking very small amounts. It’s called line brushing or line combing. And that’s where you literally hold the coat up, and then just work a very small amount of coat. You’ll actually see a seam line down to the skin. And you just brush it until it pulls through smoothly, and then you pull down another little section. But working with a slicker brush, if you are brushing properly, it should be very soft, very gentle, very methodical. And if you’re doing it well and the dog has been trained right, it should be very comfortable and relaxing for them.
We see a lot of dogs that get groomed on a very regular basis. They’ve actually been table trained to lie down. And I have seen a lot of dogs that have to go through a lot of brushing just to maintain their coats that literally they’re so comfortable, they fall asleep on the grooming table. So brushing doesn’t have to be painful. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable for the dog, but it will take time. And it just depends on what type of condition that dog is in, whether you can brush the coat easily or whether it’s going to take a little bit more elbow grease.
But make sure that whenever you are working that you’re doing a very soft pat, pull, pat, pull, and you’re pulling away from the skin. If you can hear this, that means you’re brushing too hard, and even my forearm is going to get a little bit red in there because I’ve just irritated it. So if I pat and pull, you can’t hear anything. And that’s exactly the type of technique that you want to have when you’re working with the dogs. You want to keep those dogs safe. You want to keep them comfortable, and you want to be effective with what you’re doing.
So take a look at the different slicker brushes that you have in your arsenal. There’s a lot of different ones, and they can be very specific. They’re going to help you get through different coat types, different types of breeds. And like I said, every dog has got a little bit different tolerance level for the brushing, but brushing doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable for the pet. So keep those pets safe, keep them comfortable, and just find the brush that’s going to work best for you and the situation on that particular dog.