Grooming a Hot Mess Who Doesn’t Want to be Groomed: Combing and Brushing

Rugby truly is a dog who honestly doesn’t enjoy being “messed” with.  He really doesn’t like to be combed or brushed, so I’ve learned how to work around his objections to make the experience a little more fun for him.  I think he was never groomed much in his previous homes, so he’s just never gotten used to being fussed over and would happily skip the grooming and bathing experience altogether!

His body language and flat ears say, “No thank you!”

I had show dogs for many years, and they were groomed a lot!  Fortunately, they all loved to be groomed, and over the years, I learned lots of short cuts and ways to make things go faster with better results.  I learned early on that having the right equipment makes all the difference in the world!

Corgis have a double coat, which means that they have a harsh outer coat, and a softer, downy undercoat, which sheds…a lot!  Rugby also has an undercoat which sheds, but his is not nearly as thick as a Corgi’s, so you’d think grooming would be easier and faster, wouldn’t you?  Well, in theory….maybe, but not in reality!  His coat is wispy and very fine, which means that he gets mats behind his ears on occasion, and his coat knots up quite a bit.  And let’s face it: grooming is just a whole lot easier when you have a cooperative dog!

As far as equipment goes, personally, I prefer a good set of Greyhound combs to just about anything else, brushes included. The difference between them is the space between their teeth.  I always start with the widest comb, and work my way down to the most narrow, which is almost like a flea comb.  Each time I switch to a finer comb, I’m pulling out more knots, so by the time I’m down to the fine comb, I’ve gotten all of the knots out of his coat, and virtually all of the loose undercoat.

I like spreading soft blanket throws on the Big Bed, and letting Rugby just relax for a bit before I jump in with the combs.  This is a place where he and I often snuggle together, so he’s very relaxed there, and not worried in the least.  I start with some pets and treats, and then some combing in his head and shoulders, where there are rarely any knots, so it’s a nice experience for him.  Then I move to whatever the area is that we are tackling for the day, and work in small patches, being very slow and gentle.  Once in a while, I will tug a bit too hard without intending to do so, and Rugby will jump and give me a dirty look.  I offer him a cookie and apologize to him, and go back to an area where I know I won’t be pulling or tugging.  Cookies can fix a lot of hurt feelings, so be sure you have treats that your dog likes!  Always take breaks after a few strokes and go back to petting your dog.  This will reinforce staying calm, and help your dog trust you in this process.

Make sure you include cuddle time with grooming sessions

When you comb your dog, you’ll feel the comb easily pass through the fur in places, and you’ll feel it getting a little “sticky” in other places….like it’s getting hung up in the fur.  Those are some knots of dead fur that you’ve found in the coat, and you need to see that as a caution light, and slow down or stop altogether.  Dog fur grows nose toward tail, so all of the loose fur gets pulled toward the rump when we pet our dogs.  It gets knotted up with the new coat, and causes your comb or brush to get stuck rather than easily pass through.  You want to carefully work through those knots so that the loose coat comes out.

When you roughly yank your comb through your dog’s coat through those knots, you’re actually pulling coat, and that hurts!  Typically, you’ll find the most knots around the haunches of your dog, and that’s a very tender place!  I often work this area in very small patches, slowly picking through Rugby’s coat until the knots are out, and then I can move to the narrower comb, and repeat the process until I’ve used all of the combs and they easily glide through Rugby’s coat.

I start by combing with the grain of the coat growth.  I start with a very light pressure on the comb, just getting the top layers of coat.  With each pass through the coat, I put a bit more pressure as I’m getting deeper into the coat.  When I hit a sticky place, I’ll pull up a section of coat to work a specific area, sometimes back-combing to get the knots out….but very gently!  After I back-comb and the area is knot free, I’ll comb again with the grain of the coat to be sure I don’t find a place that I missed.

I back-comb, as well as comb with the grain of the coat growth

For special needs dogs who may not be accustomed to being handled, think of setting up a grid on your dog…left side, shoulder to end of ribcage, or left side rump, for example.  Rugby manages things so much better if I keep his sessions short and sweet!  Unfortunately, that means combing every day when he’s blowing his undercoat, but keep in mind, those grooming sessions are generally fifteen to twenty minutes tops!  That time goes really fast, and when I focus on just one area of his body, rather than all of him, I can systematically work through all of his coat in a short amount of time.

When I’ve worked through an area, and all of the combs easily slide through Rugby’s fur with minimal fur coming out, that area is finished, and I call it a day.  Rugby knows that he will get a special snack when we finish grooming, and he gets very excited to see what his reward will be.  Generally, I’ll give him some sort of small jerky treat that he can chew and savor, rather than a dry biscuit.  I always start grooming sessions with some snuggles, and end with a special treat, so it’s a really positive experience for Rugby overall.



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