In my recent post about the importance of dog grooming, I used a manly motorcycle metaphor to divide the chores into the categories of body work and detailing, citing coat brushing as essential to the smooth functioning of a dog.
Why is brushing so crucial?
1) To stimulate the skin and allow natural oils to circulate
Some people are obsessed with washing their dogs (another topic I’ll get to), but that doesn’t benefit dogs quite as much as it benefits humans, who prefer companions that don’t stink. In contrast, dogs don’t care if they’re malodorous; if they did, they wouldn’t roll around in disgusting stuff.
And if they cared about cleaning themselves off afterward, they would be cats.
I mention washing because, if done too often, it can deplete dogs of the natural oils they need. In contrast, brushing keeps those essential oils circulating, which is good for both the coat and the skin.
2) To peer at your dog’s pelt
When you brush your dog regularly, you automatically establish a baseline for what’s normal and start noticing things that deviate — bumps, discolorations, and, yes, tumors. And while you’re at it, this is also a good time to check eyes, ears, and teeth (though actual tooth brushing at the same time might be a tad too much for your pup to tolerate).
3) To prevent irritations and infections
If you don’t pay attention, fungi and insects –- and, in very large dogs, squirrels and small children — may take up residence in tangled hair. As a result mats (as matted hair is known) and knots give rise to skin irritations and, eventually, infections.
4) To spend quality time with your dog
It’s true, not all dogs love getting their coats brushed. And if you adopt a dog that isn’t used to it, you’ll have to go slowly and not try to do too much untangling, tugging, or anything else painful at once. Rewards and praise should be administered liberally, too. But once you get into a routine — which also means less pain because it’s just maintenance — your dog will appreciate the fact that she’s got your undivided attention for a nice stretch.
5) To keep your dog looking spiffy
Who doesn’t like a smart, well-turned out dog? The tousled chic look that Frankie sports is the result of home (read: uneven) haircuts, not lack of brushing, visual evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
Coming next: The right tools for the job.