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Grooming Fluffy Dogs | How to Care for the Double Coated Dog

Champion Border Collie in Full Coat

Grooming not only keeps your dog's coat in good health, it reduces the amount of hair shed in your home and provides an opportunity to bond more closely with your dog. Whether you are wanting to keep your dog's coat in show condition or are just looking to keep it free of mats, these tips on caring for your fluffy dog will make short work of keeping your dog healthy looking and your home free of unwanted dog hair.

Double Coated Dog Grooming Basics: 101

  • Before brushing your dog, always mist him lightly with a little water from a spray bottle. The water will eliminate static electricity and provide elasticity to the coat to prevent breakage of hair the shafts.
  • If you can hear the brush as it is pulling through the coat, you are brushing too hard or using the wrong style brush on the coat.
  • Always brush out your dog and remove any mats before bathing him.  Washing a dog with loose hair or mats will only aggravate the situation, causing the mats to grow in size and become more tightly matted.
  • Grooming gives you an opportunity to detect wounds, lumps or changes in the skin and coat condition that may help you detect a serious condition early on.
  • Clean coat grows coat; dirt on coats breaks hair shafts leaving unwanted hair around the house.
  • Double coated dogs shed their undercoats twice a year.  Dead and loose undercoat that remains on the dog will quickly generate difficult to remove mats.
  • Most dogs enjoy the attention of grooming when it is done regularly.
  • 10 minutes a week is all that is necessary to keep the average fluffy dog coat in good condition.

Essential Grooming Tools for the Double Coated Dog

  • Pin Brush
  • Poodle Comb
  • Slicker Brush
  • Matt Breaker
  • Shedding Rake
  • Detangling Spray

The cost of all of these grooming tools together is less than one visit to a professional groomer, and they are well worth having on hand. We discuss the use of each of these grooming and dematting tools in detail below.

Pin Brush for Dog Grooming
Pin Brush by #1 All Systems

The Pin Brush

The pin brush is the essential brush that you will use for weekly maintenance of your dog's double coat.  It should slide easily through the coat without making any rough scraping or tearing sounds. 

Pin brushes come in two style, those with nobs on the ends of the pins, and those with a straight pin that is gently rounded on the tips.  Never use the style with nobs on the ends.  These are designed to remove coat, however they pull and tear at healthy coat, making the grooming experience unpleasant and even painful for dogs.

The Poodle Comb

Wide Toothed Poodle Comb
Master Groomer Poodle Comb
This wide toothed comb is used as a finishing comb for double coated dogs, once the dog's coat is free of any mats or loose hair. The teeth of the poodle comb are spaced at 1/4 inch distance from each other.

The comb is used to detect any small mats and clumps of loose hair that were missed in the brush-out of the dog.  If the comb sticks, you need to investigate that area of the dogs coat more carefully; this is how you prevent small tangles from becoming large mats over the course of the week.

The Slicker Brush

Slicker Brush
The Slicker brush is used for mat removal and grooming the furnishings (feathers on the front legs, pants and hair on the hocks and behind the ears).

We will discuss its use in mat removal from pants further down in this article.

Mat Breakers

There are two styles of mat breakers. The one with the longer teeth is best used for cutting apart large, fist sized mats.  The one with the shorter teeth is good for stripping out and thinning under coat. 

As undercoat sheds and remains nestled in with the healthy hairs, it 
Mat Remover for Dogs
Short Blade Mat Breaker By Safari
begins to form a loose mat. The short blades are good for stripping out those loose mats, as the longer bladed mat remover will simple glide through the loose tangles.
Removing undercoat can help cool the double coated dog in the summer months, and is also done on show dogs to help sculpt the dog's outline.  Dogs with an over abundance of hair on the loins and rear can look "high in the rear."  Removing excess undercoat reveals the dog's true structure.

grooming tool mat remover
Long Tooth Dematting Comb for Large Mats

Rolling the Coat on a Double Coated Dog

Rolling the coat removes dead and loose hair, encourages new hair growth and distributes the dog's natural oils along the hair shafts. This should be performed once a week, and will reduce the amount of shedding around your home considerably. Rolling the coat should only take about 5 minutes per side of the dog when done on a weekly basis.

To roll the coat, mist your dog with water from a spray bottle before beginning.  Have your dog lie down on his side, and using a pin brush without nobs on the ends of the pins, begin back brushing the coat at the shoulder.  Back brushing means that you will brush a small amount of hair in the reverse direction of how the hair naturally grows and lays. 

Hold the coat towards the front of your dog gently down as you brush the hair back towards the head of the dog, creating a part in the coat. Continue back brushing 2 inches of coat with each stroke moving down the side of the dog towards the tail. Brushing in the opposite direction of how the hair lays allows you to get to the base of each hair shaft and remove all dead or loose hairs on the dog.  

Once you have back brushed all the hairs from the shoulder to the pants in the opposite direction of its growth pattern, brush the hairs gently back to the direction it normally lays. Turn the dog over, mist again and repeat on the opposite side.

After rolling the coat, you should be able to easily pull a wide toothed comb, or Poodle comb, easily through the dog's coat.  Any places where the comb sticks, should be investigated for small tangles or mats. This is all that is required to keep a double coated dog's coat in good condition when he is not in a shedding phase.

The Double Coated Dog's Shedding Phase

Double Row Shedding Rake
Shedding Rake

Twice a year double coated dogs will "blow coat." This is when they shed most of their undercoat and the remaining guard hairs may become dry and brittle looking.  It may take up to three weeks for a dog to fully blow their coat.  This is the time that most mats are formed if dead hairs are allowed to remain without regularly being brushed out.

Brushing with a pin brush will take forever to remove all of the loose hairs, however a shedding rake will make quick work of removing dead and loose hairs.  With a few passes over the back and sides of your dog, you can remove the majority of dead hair in a few minutes.

Mat Removal

If you have a double coated dog, it is inevitable that a mat will eventually form on your dog. Favorite mat sites are behind the ears, the pants and under the forearms where the arm and body rub together.  Some dogs lose coat during their shed in tufts, making it easy to spot that the time for the shedding rake has arrived.  Other coats tend to hold in the loose hairs, creating a dense mass of hair along the rump and pants of the dog hiding beneath the guard hairs.

Depending on the type of mats you are dealing with, there are several techniques to help you easily and painlessly remove the mats and preserve healthy coat.

Removing Small Mats in Delicate Areas

Small mats behind the ears can be removed with scissors.  Using thinning shears near the base of the mat will make the removal of the mat less noticeable.
Stainless Steel Finishing Comb
Use the narrow tines to tease apart small or loose mats.

For small mats on delicate areas, you can tease out the mat with a finishing comb. Begin with the hairs farthest away from the dogs skin, and gently try to separate the hairs from each other.  You may need to use a short blade mat remover to encourage the hairs to separate.

When using any mat remover with blades, angle the blade ends away from the dog's body with the sharp sides of the blades facing away from the dogs body.  In this video, they use a Coat King type undercoat rake to tease out the mat. Mars make the Coat King, however Oster makes a similar tool (pictured here) that works equally well for half of the price.

  • Here the groomer uses a slicker brush with its fine tines to identify mats. 
  • Then he uses a finishing comb to tease apart small mats.
  • Hold the fur at the base of the mat when teasing the mat apart, to keep from pulling on the dogs skin.  
  • More stubborn mats on the ear are teased apart with the short blades of the Oster undercoat rake.
  • The last of the loose hairs is removed by the fine teeth of the finishing comb. If you don't have a finishing comb, use the slicker brush to remove the final loose hairs.

Removing Large Mats and Densely Packed Fur Over Large Areas

For Large Mats: You may wish to spray the mat first with a detangler designed for dog coats. Best Shot makes a good detangler; our favorite is the Isle of Dogs Detangler #63. We love this detangler because it can be left in without attracting dirt, which creates new mats, plus it smells like honeysuckles! 

When using a detangler, spray it on the matted area, working it into the matted area with your fingers, then wait 3-5 minutes before grooming out the mat.

Use the long blade mat comb to slice through tightly knitted mats. Using a sawing action, start at the loose end of the mat stroking away from the dog, working towards the base of the knot in successive strokes. This is performed with a gentle but firm sawing with blades facing away from the dog's skin (this action is demonstrated in the video below). 

Make several passes until it easily glides through the knot.  Using a slicker brush, gently remove the loose hairs in short strokes on the hairs at end of the knot, working in towards the body of the dog. 

Finish by running a comb over the area to ensure all tangles and loose hair have been removed.

Here the groomer demonstrates the sawing action required to break the mat, 
then follows up with a slicker brush and finishing comb.


Removing Dead Densely Packed Undercoat

If a large area of the dog is tightly packed with dead hair, it can make it difficult to even feel the dogs skin beneath the coat.  Begin by spraying liberally with a coat detangler, then allow it to sit for 3-5 minutes.

Starting at the base of the matted area or above the tail of the dog. Press the coat back towards the head, and begin teasing the coat towards the tail with a slicker brush, a little at a time.  If the coat is stubborn, use the mat remover with short blades to separate and cut the tangled hairs.

As the hairs loosen, repeat brushing with the slicker brush.  Continue going back and forth between the mat remover and the slicker brush until the area is mat free, going over it a final time with a comb with coarse tine spacing.  See the demonstration below on this dog's matted pants. Note she starts at the bottom of the tangled area to tease out the tangles in his coat.

As hair is loosened and removed, she reapplies detangler to speed the process.

Quickly Removing Hair from Matted Pants

Preventing Future Mats

A good shampoo and conditioner that can smooth and close the cuticle will help prevent future mats.  Clean coats encourage health hair growth, while dirty coats encourage dead hairs to stick around and remain in the under coat, causing dense mats. For dogs with dry Flakey coats, we recommend the Isle of Dogs Shampoo, Triple Primrose Oil Veterinary Strength Number 12.  For soft shiny coasts, we like Isle of Dogs Royal Jelly Number 20.

Isle of Dogs Shampoos and Conditioners The best Shampoos for Dogs

Buy It Now

The Isle of Dogs coat conditioner, Nutrient Masque Number 52, gives the best bang for the buck.  It can be used as a detangler, just apply one or two drops to the mat and massage it in, and it can be diluted and used as a conditioner following shampoo to close the cuticle and keep the dog clean longer.  All of their products are made from natural oils and smell amazing.  Your dog will too! 

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