Brushing Up on Home Grooming

Pet owners are often seeking the best brushes and combs for their particular pets, as well as a little guidance from experts about proper home grooming care.


The basic tools of coat care will always be the right brush and comb for the particular pet needing to be groomed. The tricky part is figuring out which tool is best for the situation and how to use it properly. In this respect, pet specialty retailers can be an invaluable resource for pet owners who are seeking the best grooming products and some reliable guidance.

Retailers should start by knowing what customers want when shopping for grooming tools for their pets. Most pet owners are looking for durable and easy-to-use items that will help them detangle or remove dead hair, especially undercoat, and make life easier. Fortunately, the pet grooming market has plenty to offer, and retailers can provide an assortment of brushes, combs, deshedding tools, rakes and other grooming products to meet their customers’ needs.

Brush attachments for vacuums are particularly popular these days. Furminator has one that attaches its popular deshedding tool to a vacuum, and Metro Dryers sells a set of three attachments: a curry style brush, bristle brush and pin brush that attach to any vacuum. Also, Chuck Simons, well known in the pet industry for his Groomers Helper and ActiVet brushes, is now marketing ActiVac. It includes a carding tool to use on pets and a small attachment that can be used for deshedding short-haired dogs or doing the best job ever on removing hair from upholstery.

In the brush and comb category, the slicker brush is the most commonly used and sold, but slickers are not one size fits all. Slicker brush features vary greatly—pins can be short or long, bent at different spots on the wire, made of different types of metal, or the backing can be padded, flexible or firm. There is a world of differences, and enough varieties to suit most coat types. 

A question often asked is whether a slicker will damage coat? Probably, but any good effective dematting tool will. The secret is to get customers brushing often enough to not need anything but a gentle brush, which is daily. Offer a choice: they can brush every single day with a pin or rubber brush, depending upon the coat type, or brush less often and use a slicker or dematter/deshedder. Likely, at some point, they will purchase both, providing their pet with effective brushing at all times and the retailer with added income.

The ActiVet line of brushes has traditionally been sold direct to groomers, but is now available for sale to distributors and retailers. With nine styles in two sizes, the line covers a wide range of dogs’ brushing needs. Simons says that customers have to be educated about the need to brush their dog, and about technique, too. 

“It’s a tap and pull motion to brush correctly, not a brushing motion,” he says. “Nothing but the comb should actually touch the skin.” 

A comb can be used for removing undercoat on many dogs, but its main purpose is to go through and check the results of brushing. If the right comb can’t get through to the skin, more brushing is required. Simons suggests setting up a grooming table, even if it’s with a stuffed dog, to create interest in the category and provide demonstrations of how to brush. 

“The most important thing to make customers aware of is when to stop,” he advises. “Watch the dog and be aware of how he’s feeling. Brush for five or 10 minutes, take a break, go back—try to make it pleasurable for the dog.”

ActiVet brushes, with their flexible backs and color-coding for different coat types and purposes, help simplify customers ‘purchasing decisions.

A Little Extra
This category lends itself to add-on sales. It makes sense, for instance, to always sell a spray to go with brushes. Not only will you make a little more money, but the customer will be happier and impressed with your range of knowledge. Brushing aids like Espree’s Detangling & Dematting Spray, Aloe Hydrating Spray, and Simple Shed & Static Spray provide multiple benefits for the various coat lengths and types. They reduce and sometimes prevent static electricity, which is a major cause of matting. They also impart shine and coat the hair shaft to allow the brush to glide through more readily, making it easier on the dog and owner. Many sprays serve to hydrate and condition the coat as well. 

A dog may require use of more than one brush during a grooming session—sporting breeds, for example, may require a pin brush for feathering, a slicker on matted areas such as ears, and perhaps a rake, comb or even rubber brush on shorter back coat. Make sure to have any and all tools that might be needed on hand, both for professional styling and sale to customers.

What is the easiest way for a retailer to recommend the right tool for the job? If the store includes a grooming area, the groomer can provide input. Otherwise manufacturers are the best source for matching tools to breed or coat type. Diane Thomas, marketing manager for Coastal Pet Products, Inc., says, “Choosing the right grooming tool can be overwhelming for consumers. POP materials that call out suggested products by coat type make the shopping experience easier for consumers and ensure they choose the correct product for their pet.

“Coastal Pet provides QR codes on the Safari grooming packaging that link to videos demonstrating how to use each product for optimal results.” 

Most manufacturers offer point-of-purchase displays or other materials that can draw attention to the brush and comb portion of the grooming section. Bass Brushes, long known for quality in both human and pet hairbrushes, has a countertop display for its new, patented Fusion brush. Recognizing the popularity of the double-sided pin/bristle brush, Bass took it a step further. 

According to Joel Weinstein, vice president of Bass, “The purpose of a double-sided pin and bristle brush is obviously twofold: to detangle and style the coat. Using the pin side to comb and detangle, the other side can then get through and polish. The natural boar bristles of our brush distribute the sebaceous oils across the hair strands, which creates shine, polishes and protects the coat. The back and forth is a lot of work, though, so we took the metal alloy pins and put them on the outside of the brush and boar hair in the middle.” 

The coat is detangled by the pins, smoothed and treated by the boar bristle, and then detangled again for a perfect finish. “When a customer says they want the best all-around brush, this is it,” says Weinstein. 

The only coat type it does not do well on is on very short coats such as with Bulldogs. Bass’ natural bristle brush is sufficient for very short coat types. 

Another recommendation from Weinstein is to demonstrate the brush. “Demonstrate it on human hair, it works the same,” he says. It’s a great way to show customers that their beloved pet is getting a brush of the same quality used on humans.

Carol Visser is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer and Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Formerly a pet product expert for PetEdge, she and her husband Glenn now own Two Canines Pet Services in Montville, Maine, which provides grooming, boarding, training and day care services to Waldo County.


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