Dog coat maintenance – steps to a healthy coat

Golden Retriever getting bathedHow do you get a shiny dog coat? How about a dog who smells like a field of roses? With the proper dog coat maintenance, that’s how! Here are some tips to help her feel and look great!


The doggy smell – you know the one. It’s caused by a build-up of bacteria and oils and the way to keep it in check is with regular bathing.

One school of thought says to be careful with over-bathing as this can lead to dry skin and irritation. How often you bathe your dog will depend somewhat on her age, lifestyle, type of coat and underlying health issues. For example, you can bathe non-shedding dogs with no health issues every 6 to 8 weeks. And, unless your dog is really dirty, limit her baths to one per month. Of course, if she jumps in a scum covered pond or rolls in something smelly (for most dogs, the smellier the better!) you need to give her a bath immediately.

However, another school of thought says that bathing your dog as often as twice per month is fine. This is because of the quality shampoos that are on the market today. These shampoos don’t cause drying in the same way shampoos of the past have. Veterinarian Katie Kangas says “More frequent bathing is actually very helpful for many dogs, and for those with itching and allergy issues, it’s often best to bathe at least once a week with a medicated shampoo.”

She goes on to say that dogs with skin infections will also benefit from frequent bathing with a medicated shampoo like Zymox or Douxo.

She also says there’s an overuse of antibiotics for minor skin conditions and that topical treatments like medicated shampoos are a better way to go.

In my opinion, it’s best to see which of these above approaches works best for your dog.

In any case, don’t use people shampoo because there are products specifically designed for dogs. You can buy these in a pet specialty store or from your veterinarian.

If your dog has allergies, your veterinarian may prescribe frequent bathing as part of her treatment regime with some dogs requiring daily bathing to solve the problem.

Always bathe your dog in warm water. You can use a laundry tub, bathtub or walk-in shower. Don’t use cold water – you wouldn’t like it and neither does your dog! Make sure you thoroughly rinse out all the shampoo. You can also use a conditioner to restore lost skin moisture and minimize dandruff.

A 3 month old Weimaraner getting groomed.

The Benefits of Brushing

Brushing is one of the most important aspects of your dog’s grooming. Regular brushing maintenance keeps her coat free of tangles and mats, removes loose hair and gets the dirt and debris out. As a matter of fact, mats will grow if not removed and leave you with a big mess and an uncomfortable pooch. These mats can also become smelly and harbor nasty insects which further add to her discomfort.

Dogs loved to be brushed, especially if you start at an early age and if you do it regularly. It massages the skin and many dogs actually experience relaxation.

Brushing is also a great way to bond with your dog because the routine can be soothing for both of you and can help alleviate stress.

By brushing regularly, you can spread your dog’s natural oils around which will help her coat look shiny and prevent a greasy buildup. You can also see what’s going on with her body by feeling any new bumps, lumps and abrasions that could be indicators of a health condition. Furthermore, you’ll see if there’s any kind of parasite infestation such as fleas or ticks.

Do you have a dog who sheds a lot? Brushing can also help to reduce this. Some dogs have hair that just seems to dig into the fabric on your rug and furniture so brushing is a good way to help save your investment.

Brushing Tools

The kind of tool you use really depends on the type of dog you have.

Double coated dogs have a thick undercoat and it’s very important that you brush this part. For these types of dogs, you’ll need a de-matting rake which is a type of comb that has a cutting blade. The comb part glides smoothly through the hair and when it meets a mat, the cutter comes into action. Then, you use a shedding brush that you use by brushing in the direction of the coat growth. Shower and shampoo will follow this.

You can use bristle brushes on all types of coats and these vary according to the spacing between the bristles and their length. The coarser the hair, the stiffer the bristles need to be.

Terriers and wiry coated dogs have hair that’s rough in texture. These kinds of dogs need a pin brush, a stripping grooming tool (which pulls the loose hairs from the coat) and a flea comb. The flea comb has tightly set teeth and can grab dead hairs as you comb.

Silky-coated dogs like Yorkshire Terriers and Maltese need pin brushes to keep their hair tangle-free.

For the shorter-haired dogs you need a slicker brush (these get rid of debris, loose hair and mats and have fine wire bristles that are tightly packed together) and deshedding tools.

How to Brush Your Dog

First and foremost, you want your dog to enjoy being brushed. Always try to exercise your dog prior to brushing to wear out some of her excess energy. Start brushing her lightly and be sure to have puppy treats or toys on hand for a reward. Keep your initial sessions fairly short – maybe a minute or two. Start with something gentle like a pin brush or a rubber brush so her experience will be positive.

Brush her regularly. If you have a silky breed, brush her daily. Other types of dogs should be brushed at least 2 to 3 times per week.

Use caution around her sensitive areas like the groin, stomach and arm pits.

Brush in the direction the hair grows to avoid discomfort.

If you find a small tangle, you can use your fingers to separate it and a comb to remove it. Also, you can get tangles out by spraying a conditioning de-tangling spray or rubbing in cornstarch

For the larger mats and tangles, you can try a mat breaker comb or use small scissors to cut it out. Always make sure to lift the mat and put your fingers between it and your dog’s skin!

bottles of vitaminsVitamins/Minerals/Food for a Healthy Coat

Omega 3 & 6 – these will make your dog’s coat thick and give her supple skin. You will find these is flax seeds, flax oil, menhaden oil and canola oil.

B vitamins – without enough vitamin B, your dog’s coat could end up brittle with a dull color. Biotin is the most important. You will find these vitamins in green vegetables, kelp, nutritional yeast and nuts.

Vitamin A – if your dog suffers from dry, scaly skin, vitamin A can benefit her. You will find vitamin A in sweet potatoes, pumpkins and carrots.

Zinc – you can use zinc cream on your dog for protection and healing of the skin but talk to your veterinarian to determine the right kind.

Coconut oil – It has medium chain fatty acids are used immediately by the body. Use it daily to reduce dandruff and odor. This oil contains lauric acid which has antifungal and antibacterial properties.

Flea & Tick Medicine

Flea and tick prevention is important. Not only are fleas uncomfortable for your dog, they’re also the leading cause of tapeworm because the fleas carry their larvea.

Ticks can transmit Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Canine Ehrlichiosis, Canine Anaplasmosis and other serious conditions.

Dr. Andrea Tu of Park East Animal Hospital in New York City recommends that you regularly run a comb through your dog’s coat to check for fleas. You should also watch for “flea dirt” which are the little black specks you usually find on your dog’s belly or around the tail.

Vacuuming can also keep fleas at bay. Some people even use nematodes (roundworms), an organism that feeds on flea larvae to control the problem in their yards.

If your dog has spent a lot of time outdoors, give you a tick check by looking for any embedded parasites. You can use a pair of tweezers that have a fine point to avoid tearing the tick and spreading around the infection. You can also use a tick removal hook.

Most veterinarians say that flea and tick shampoos aren’t effective. Many will sell and recommend chemical-based flea and tick topical medicines. Of course, these are options. However, I prefer going natural so read here for my recommendations on herbal remedies.


Dog coat maintenance is a necessary part of your dog’s health so be sure to perform the above tasks regularly. After all, you want your best friend to be healthy and happy! 


10 comments on “Dog coat maintenance – steps to a healthy coat

  1. jackvo29

    Thanks for your post. I really like the photos you used in your post. They look so cute 😀 All the dog lovers out there will really appreciate your time to put together a detailed post like this. I really like brushing my dog but cleaning up all the hair after brushing is quite a painful chore. 

    1. Christopher Mitchell Post author

      Hi Jackvo:

      Thanks for your comments!

      Brushing can be a satisfying experience for both you and your dog. Of course, clean up is not so fun!

  2. John

    Excellent article on dog coat maintenance Christopher!

    I have two little white Shitzu cross dogs myself, and I am always looking for some good tips to make sure thay have a healthy coat!

    I never thought about using vitamins and minerals before to give them a healthy coat, but I started giving them fish oil, because one of them had a bit of arthritis in his back leg, and I found that this seemed to give them a nice thick coat… have you heard of this before?

    Thanks again for this post, some really great advice!

    1. Christopher Mitchell Post author

      Hi John:

      Thank you for your comments.

      According to the American Kennel club, fish oil contains the essential Omega fatty acids and these are good for both arthritis and coat health.

      Glad you’re doing that for them!

  3. Chas

    HI Chris,

    My mom used to always give the dogs a raw egg once in awhile. She claimed it made their coat shiny. Is there any truth to that. I did always wonder about the time or how long between baths for the dogs. They were always ok until the got outside in the rain, oh my! Or like you say they roll in something like dead chipmunks! ugh! Makes for a long car ride home!

    Do you know if older dogs have issues that cause their hair to thin? Is it like us humans going bald? One other thing I always wondered, does the dogs diet contribute to them losing their coat? I heard cabbage would do that?? lol I never believed it, but maybe I’m wrong!

    Now there was always a skunk around and those dogs would chase them(only once) and they got sprayed, we used tomato juice to get the smell out, but it took weeks!! Is there anything for that nowadays?

    Thanks for a great site, and I will book mark this one.


    1. Christopher Mitchell Post author

      Hi Chas:

      Thanks for your comments!

      Some people say eggs will help with a dog’s coat. Although rare, there can be instances of salmonella from raw eggs. If your dog has a compromised immune system of if he’s older, consider cooking the eggs just to be safe.

       Dogs can loose their hair like humans. This condition is called alopecia. Of course, there are other conditions such as mange that cause hair loss.

      Cabbage is good for your dog as it contains antioxidants. I’ve never heard of it contributing to hair loss but it does contribute to flatulence!

      There are several methods to eliminate skunk odor and tomato juice is one of them. Others are a combination of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap. There are also shampoos formulated for this purpose.

  4. shenai

    I bet people will go to your website because people will want to know how to take care of pets to keep healthy. I love the way you make on your blog about pets almost like what people did to their children. 🙂 Why pets need vitamin? I never hear pets need those?

    1. Christopher Mitchell Post author

      Hi Shenai:

      Thank you for your comments!

      In my view, pets ARE my children and I put them on an equal level to humans. Yes, they need vitamins just like we do and feeding them the right kinds of foods will provide these.

  5. Steve

    Chris, great article.  I have three dogs, a Lab, a Wheaten, and a half Lab/half Pyrenees.  The Pyrenees sheds quite a bit so we brush her regularly.  The Lab isn’t so bad but he gets brushed also.  The Wheaten is the tough one.  He gets a grooming once a month, but what you are saying is, we should be brushing him or giving him a full bath more often!  He doesn’t shed but he does get mats easily.  We are wondering what type of brush we should use as his coat is very soft and somewhat curly.  Any ideas?  Thanks for the advice!


    1. Christopher Mitchell Post author

      Hi Steve:

      Thanks for your comments!

      A Wheaten has what we call a “high maintenance” coat. Use a wide-toothed comb initially, then a standard comb and then possibly a fine-toothed comb. You can use a slicker brush with soft teeth to loosen tangles.


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