Grooming: Coat Maintenance

Maintaining the drop coat

Drop coats such as those found on the Shih-tzu and maltese shed in a mosaic pattern. Tangles form in these coats easily as the guard coat wraps up and individual hairs cross over one another.  Tangles turn to mats when rapidly growing undercoat gets trapped beneath the crossing top coat and worsen with friction and moisture. Moisture acts on a tangled coat the same way a hot dryer acts on a wool sweater- tightening the tangles to the point that they are pulling on a dog’s skin. Matting that is pulling on a dogs skin can become extremely painful – similar to tying your own hair back in an extremely tight ponytail.  Irritation can develop under the matting and many skin problems can be hidden.  In extreme cases of matting the mat can reduce blood flow to certain areas of the body and severe cases seen by animal control have resulted in the loss of limbs.

To avoid painful matting a dog must be brushed regularly with the proper tools and groomed frequently. The length of a dogs coat will dictate how often s/he should be groomed. The longer the coat, the more frequently the dog needs to be groomed in order to remove tangles and dead coat. The length of the coat will also dictate the frequency and method of brushing. A coat ½ “ or longer needs to be brushed at least 4 times a week and every time the dog gets wet. A coat over 1” must be brushed even more frequently.  A dog maintained between ½” – 1” should be groomed every 6-8 weeks a shorter kept coat can go a little longer in between and a coat over 4” should be groomed every 2-4 weeks depending on home maintenance.

Line brushing with a slicker brush and follow up with a metal medium tooth comb is the best method to maintain the coat. Lift the coat up with one hand and brush down and out along the hair brushing through one section at a time and making sure to get right down to the skin WITHOUT dragging the brush over the skin itself.