I’m going to explain why you should bathe your dog before brushing. Grooming our pets is a life-long activity for our dogs and us. Our attention to routine brushing, bathing, and deshedding will keep your pet’s coat healthy, reduce allergies, decrease chances of infection and diminishes the spread of dirt, germs, and parasites. So before you get out the brush, take a peek into the coat or better yet take them straight to the bath before you set about brushing.
The rule of thumb is to bathe every 21 days or monthly.
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Many of us don’t really know how often to bathe our pets, so we bathe them when we smell them or when we’ve brought them home dirty after an early evening run. Or we even try to follow rules from professionals that recommend every 2 weeks or 6 weeks or every season or never. When in doubt, remember the “21 day Rule” or give your dog a bath every month.
Every 21 days or so the living skin cells replace themselves by moving out dead and old cells. The residue of this process can show up as “dander” and dandruff, shedding hair and sometimes itching. Sebum is a skin barrier that protects the skin but gets washed away with shampoo and water during bathing. It lives in the deeper layers of the skin and oozes up the hair shafts spreading along the upper skin line. If left for the entire rehabilitation period, sebum can sometimes feel like “grease” on some medium and short-haired breeds.
Most groomers and vets recommend that you brush before shampooing. They say this so brushing will loosen up the dead cells and wash them away in the bath. In some ways, this can be a good rule to follow. But when you get the brush, de-shedder blade or glove, you’ll end up moving around these dead cells that can fly off the scalp, land on other parts of the dog’s body or they get on you or your furniture. This kind of dry brushing through dirt can also pull, tug and rip out the hair. What you really need is a nice smooth surface to comb without resistance.
As a professional groomer, I never brush first
It has been my experience and my golden rule to never brush or comb before the bath. I have a sensitive nose. I don’t like touching stinky or dead things, and I don’t want to spread germs or fleas. I prefer to bathe the dog before brushing.
Note: After the bath, lightly brush damp hair to make drying go faster. You can use a table fan or high velocity blow dryer, hand dryer or air dry.
- Clean hair has more body and stays in place better.
- Clean hair will save your equipment – blades and scissors stay sharp longer.
- Clean hair will save your nose, clothes, and house.
- Clean hair is much healthier for the dog even if he doesn’t think so.
- Clean wet hair is easier to de-shed and won’t fly all over.
- It’s easier to get your brush and comb through – using a good conditioner is a must! It coats strands to make them smooth and protects the surface of the skin until Sebum can re-establish itself.
- Some mats can work themselves out in the bath with proper conditioning.
- Tangles can move to the ends of the hair to make removal easier. (Beware: Some mats may tighten after a bath.
- Any parasites in the coat can be detected while in the shampoo or drying phases. I bathe and dry in the tub so that fleas or ticks stay in the tub. Sometimes I can miss seeing fleas during the scrubbing phase. So I stop and rewash with a citrus shampoo to kill fleas.
- You’ll save your health. You won’t have dander or dirty hair in the air for either the dog or you to breathe in.
- Use the smell test to determine if your dog is clean. If the dog smells “fresh”, it’s safe to brush.
- Bathing first gives you or a professional groomer a chance to assess the severity of any mats, as not all matting is the same.
- Deshedding is much easier and way less messy.
- Getting clean doubles the love and feel-good for you and your buddy!
If you must brush your dirty dog without a bath
Try using a professional de-matting conditioner spray which will relax the tension on mats and hair and make it easier to comb or brush.
Or give a waterless bath using a rinse-less shampoo, wipe with a small towel, air, blow or fan dry.
WARNING: Some mats are tough to get rid of and can be exacerbated from soap and water. If you just can’t get through the matting, try using thinning scissors to split the mats, then brush or comb. If you just can’t get through matts that have woven themselves tightly like “cobwebs”, then you have a major problem. This is the time for consulting with a professional who may or may not recommend shaving. It is my philosophy to bathe first to see if I can save some length of hair on the dog. I pull out every trick I have and still sometimes that only resort …. is to “shave”.
Every dog I bring into my shop goes first into the bathtub. It’s a habit I established many years ago. No matter the condition of the coat, even “matted” ones, got a bath before any other service. You’ve got to admit it makes sense to bathe the dog before brushing. It’s just healthier for everyone including the dog.
For professional results, here are some of the products I use:
To bathe: Fresh ‘n Clean moisturizing shampoo (Classic Fresh scent) lasts for up to 2 weeks! Or Bio-Groom Rinse-less Shampoo.
To condition: Espree Luxury Remoisturizer. With coconut oil and other earthly ingredients.
As finishing spray: Top Performance Glo-Coat Conditioner spray by PetEdge. This conditioner seals and coats hair cuticles. It protects so the coat stays cleaner longer.
For matted, tangled or hard to brush areas: Stazko Detangler & Conditioning Spray or Isle of Dogs Everyday Jasmine & Vanilla Silky Coating Brush Conditioning Spray