Q. I have a Coton de Tulear and I usually get him groomed. I brush him a couple of times a week and I have had his undercoat removed, but he still gets knots. What is the best tool for these knots without ripping his hair out? I have wire brush and it seems to be too harsh for his sensitive skin.
A. The curved-bristle wire slicker brush is the old standby of professional groomers when it comes to coat maintenance on many silky-haired breeds, including the Coton de Tulear, your fluffy bundle of joy whose ancestors hailed from the island of Madagascar. If it seems too harsh for his tender skin, you may be using too heavy a hand in your well-meaning attempts to keep him tangle-free. Try a technique known as “line brushing,” a way of systematically working your way around the dog’s body, penetrating the coat all the way to the skin but employing a gentler more rhythmic stroke. Starting at one spot, hold up a section of coat with one hand and with your slicker, brush down from the seam line where the skin shows, pulling a small amount of hair out towards you and patting it down.
Don’t hop around to other areas or change sections until your brush glides easily through the hair you are working on. Keep your wrist straight as you work, not flicking or twisting it as that could scrape the dog’s skin. Your motion should come from the shoulder as you use an even sweeping motion. Once you master it, this type of brushing uses a gentler touch and more skillful finesse than strength and muscle power alone and it’s easier on both the pet and the groomer.
Think of yourself as a well-oiled de-matting machine as you move lightly and smoothly over the dog’s body, starting at the bottom of a rear leg and working your way up, one small section at a time. Once you have finished, check your work with a double-sided stainless steel comb to make sure you haven’t missed any mats or tangles. When it comes to slicker brushes, I like the well-used ones that are broken in, their bristles more flexible and less harsh on the skin than brand new ones.
I also recommend a tool called the Mat Breaker to cut through coat tangles. Its removable stainless steel blades also have a smooth non-cutting edge and it’s designed to fit into your hand very comfortably as you work through the mats, always in the direction the hair grows, making it safer for both pet and groomer.
You can also make it easier to get rid of tangles by using a detangling spray as you work. In our salon, we use a product called Quicker Slicker made by Nature’s Specialties. Make sure to use it lightly unless you plan bathe the pet, in which case you may soak it in to loosen those tangles then use mild shampoo followed by a conditioning rinse. A light spritz of this product on a damp coat after the bath will also cut the brushing and drying time in half and leaves your pet soft, silky and smelling simply delicious.
Friendly and fun-loving, the Coton is a fine companion, adoring his human family members, a wonderful house pet adaptable to any living quarters. Since these dogs have no undercoat, they shed minimally, requiring frequent brushing and lots of love.