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The Brush Guide: What type of brush or comb do I need?

There are 5 main types of brushes, then variations within each type for different purposes. let's take a look at each type of brush and comb, and what they are used for, to help you decide which is right for you.

The 5 types are:

Bristle brushes
Pin brushes
Slicker brushes

Deshedders and Dematters often come under rakes also.

Coat type, condition, and what result you’re trying to achieve, all factor in to deciding what type to get. 


What’s a Bristle Brush used for?

Works with all coat types but best for puppies of all coat types, and for adult dogs with lighter, thinner, shorter coats. Bristle brushes are a popular choice as an everyday, full body brush. They are a gentle brush type that removes a moderate amount of dead coat and removes light tangles before they form knots. Bristle brushes come in a few types, including bristle only, combo pin and bristle, different firmness levels, and natural boar bristle.

If used on longer or thicker areas of coat, a bristle brush is best used for finishing only, rather than the main brush, as the bristles doesn’t go down right through thicker or longer coats. 

What’s a Pin Brush used for?

A pin brush is also popular as an everyday brush, rated for all coat types, however is a better match for adult dogs with thicker or medium to longer coats, or for longer areas of coat, as the pins reach down through the coat better than a bristle brush can.

Pin brushes remove less dead coat than bristle brushes do, but are better at finding and removing tangles and knots, and the better choice for upkeep of thicker, longer, double or curly coats. A common use is as the all-over body brush for longer, thicker or knot-prone coats. Also used for dogs with mixed texture or mixed length coats (used on the longer areas of coat like the legs and tail). When a knot is found that is not easily brushed out with the pin brush, swap to a slicker brush or comb for targeted knot removal.


What’s a Slicker Brush used for?

A slicker brush has very fine wire bristles which are flexible, usually on a soft pad. They can be used as a full body brush or for targeted knot and undercoat removal. For removing knots, they are typically used in a patting motion, starting from the end of the knot working slowly inwards to the root, bit by bit until the knot is brushed out. For bad knots, best used in combination with a detangling spray.

A slicker can also be used as a body brush in short patting strokes, which will fluff and straighten the coat, and remove stuck, dead undercoat. Very handy to have on hand for non-shed breeds in particular, where dead coat doesn’t drop out, but instead sheds in to the coat and causes knots if not removed. A slicker can both prevent and remove knots.


What are combs used for?

Combs tend to come in 2 handle types. Either with a handle at one end, and teeth at the other (like a comb you might see human hairdressers use), or the traditional grooming comb that dog groomers favour, where the teeth run the full length of the handle spine, which tend to be preferred for full body use.

Grooming combs where the teeth run full the full length of the spine, tend to combine a mix of teeth widths or lengths. The end with the wider spacing is typically used for overall body brushing to find and remove lighter knots. The end with the smaller spacing between teeth is used for removing finer tangles after you’ve gone through the coat with the wider teeth end, ready to clip or scissor. They are also used during the groom to check your work, lift the coat, and check for even ends.

Combs come in a range of specialist types also. Very fine teeth spacing are often used as flea or face combs. Some have rotating teeth for gentler knot removal. Others have a combo longer and shorter teeth for combing thicker or double coats. Combs with longer teeth length are best for thicker, longer coats to get right down through the coat – and combs with shorter teeth are better for short to medium length coats.


Rakes, Deshedders and Dematters

A rake can refer to both the use and design of the comb. This shape of comb is usually a ‘T’ with the teeth going across the top, either side of the handle which goes down the middle, forming a T shape. Some rakes just offer a different, easier to use shape than a comb, but service the same purpose as a comb, others have specialist uses.

Deshedders often have a rake shape, but are a specialist type. Depending on the brand, they are most often used to thin and deshed the coat, removing stuck, dead undercoat that will otherwise lead to knots or mats. They can be used on non-shed to high-shed coats. Some also use them to thin the coat in thick, knot-prone areas, and to give relief from the heat for coats that don’t typically get clipped. They can also be used to thin the coat to prep for clipping, to remove stuck undercoat before clipping, and in-between grooms to thin without shortening the coat.

When used on a high-shed coat type, they can dramatically decrease shedding around the home and in the car, by up to 90%. A deshedder or rake with longer teeth is better suited to longer, thicker coats – or with shorter teeth for shorter to medium length coats.

Another specialist type of rake is a Dematter. These actually cut through bad mats, breaking them up in to smaller knots that can be then more safely cut out, or clippered off, or patiently brushed out with a slicker (don’t’ forget the detangler spray!).

Where can I buy dog brushes and combs in NZ?

Browse Bristle Brushes >

Shop Pin Brushes >

Browse Combs >

Shop Slicker Brushes >

Browse Dematters and Deshedders >

Browse Rakes >