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A good brush (or two) can make managing dog hair a much easier job. But not every brush works for every kind of dog.
“Fur-type dogs have fur that grows to a certain length and then falls out. They need regular brushing to help remove dead and loose undercoat,” Cross told The Spruce Pets.
Single-coat dogs, with hair that grows continuously, like with poodles and Yorkshire terriers, need regular brushing. Cross suggests starting with a pin brush, which has wire pins with protective balls on each tip to keep from scratching a dog’s skin. She follows with a fine-toothed metal comb.
For furry dogs like golden retrievers, Australian shepherds, and huskies, Cross uses a pin brush, comb, and then tools such as a rubber ZoomGroom or a shedding blade called SleekEZ. These two tools are also useful for smooth-coated dogs, like beagles and boxers. You'll find both tools among our recommendations.
We tested and researched dozens of brushes–including slickers, deshedding tools, and pin brushes–on dogs with many different types of fur. Our test subjects included dogs with long coats, short hair, and excited puppies. Testers evaluated nearly 30 brushes on a variety of metrics, rating them for their effectiveness, durability, value, and how easy they are to clean.
Here are the best brushes for dogs.
Best Overall: Hartz Groomer's Best Combo Dog Brush
Not irritating or harsh
Less expensive than most
The nylon bristle side is difficult to clean
Not as effective on short-haired dogs
This is an all-around great everyday brush: It’s effective, inexpensive, and versatile. It has two sides: one with stainless steel pins that can help untangle knots and collect loose hair, particularly for dogs with long, curly, or wiry fur. The other side has soft nylon bristles for finishing and for short coats. The bristles help spread your dog’s natural oils throughout the coat for shiny, soft hair.
We tested the Hartz Groomer's Best Combo Dog Brush on dogs with a variety of coats, including long, fine hair and long, matted hair—the brush performed exceptionally well with both. It worked best on our border collie test subject. One tester even noted that it worked well on her dog's thick butt hair. The Hartz brush was less effective for dogs with short hair, and also isn't the right tool if you're looking to tame your dog's undercoat.
The heads of the pins have rounded tips so the brush is particularly gentle. Our testers with short-haired dogs didn’t collect quite as much fur, but all dogs seemed to be less bothered by this brush, particularly the soft-bristled side.
The brush has a soft, rubber handle that makes it comfortable to hold. That’s especially important if you have a big dog or one with lots of hair. Like most pin and bristle brushes, it isn’t very easy to clean but it’s hardly a deal-breaker for the price and versatility.
Easiest to Clean: Hertzko Self-Cleaning Slicker Brush for Dogs
So easy to clean
Retractable head keeps bristles from bending
Bristles can be sharp with too much pressure
Slicker brushes can be very effective on many types of coats, but they are typically very hard to clean as hair gets caught up deep between the bristles. Like other slickers, the Hertzko brush is designed to remove loose hair and tangles using a brush of closely spaced, slightly bent wire bristles. During brushing when you’ve collected a lot of fur, press the release button and the pins retract, letting the discarded hair fall free (ideally over a trash can.)
Slickers work on nearly every type of coat, but not all dogs like the raking feel of the wires. Be sure to use light pressure and watch sensitive areas. Unlike some slickers and pin brushes, there are no rounded tips on the end of these bristles to protect the skin. Because the bristles are retractable, they don’t get bent when you’re cleaning the brush or when it gets tossed in a drawer.
“Slicker brushes aren’t necessarily bad, but they are a little rougher than a pin brush and can cause breakage on ears and tails if overused,” Cross points out.
Best for Undercoats: FURminator Undercoat deShedding Tool
Amazing job for shedding undercoat
Easy to clean
Can be irritating to sensitive dogs
More expensive than some
There are lots of imitators and our testers tried a bunch of them, but the Furminator original deshedding tool is more effective and sturdier than the rest. The stainless steel toothy edge moves through the dog’s topcoat to pull any loose undercoat hair. There’s a curved guard around the blade to keep it from getting too close to the skin. However, some sensitive dogs really get antsy with this brush and definitely be careful around delicate areas like legs. It’s only for use in dogs with double coats because the blade can be irritating next to the skin.
Hair just keeps coming and coming the first few times you use the deshedder, which is why this tool has so many fans. “Absolutely worth the price,” said one tester who tried both the long hair version on her border collie and the short hair model on her pit bull. It’s relatively easy to clean with an ejector button that pushes hair and dandruff out of the blades. There are several versions based on your dog’s size and hair type.
However, groomers are divided on deshedding tools like these. Although the results can be pretty impressive, it can come with some side effects.
“When a blade is used to remove undercoat, it frequently causes breakage to the hair which can encourage matting," Cross told The Spruce Pets. "They cut through and remove hair that isn’t ready to come out yet.”
Best for Shedding: SleekEZ Original Deshedding Grooming Tool
Ergonomic, easy to use
Useful on pets and bedding
Classic, wooden aesthetic
Useful with other pets, even horses
This tool is a simple easy-to-hold oval wooden handle wrapped around a stainless steel comb. Just apply light pressure as you rake gently through your pet’s coat, collecting tumbleweeds of fur as you go. Be careful on delicate spots like legs and avoid the face.
Cross likes this tool best for deshedding. It’s easy to maneuver and does a lot of work in just a very short time. Not for dogs with continuously growing hair, the tool works well on pups with double coats or smooth coats.
The tool has a fan base because it can also be used on cats, horses, and other animals, as well as on bedding, clothes, and upholstery to remove loose hair. Although it’s effective, it can be messy. You’ll have to wipe up the cloud of fur with a soft bristle brush or sweep it away with your hands.
Best for Thick Coats: FURminator Grooming Rake
Works on small mats and tangles
Rounded pins protect skin
Not for short hair
For pets with thick fur, daily use of a grooming rake can prevent mats by loosening hair and tangles. The rotating metal teeth on this rake remove loose hair in dogs with undercoats or thick fur. It helps untangle knots and work out some mats, so it’s especially helpful to use before a deshedding tool. This works particularly well for dogs with really dense fur like huskies. Some people like to use it to help remove burs that normally you’d have to tackle with scissors.
The pins have rounded tips to avoid irritation and they’re set far enough apart that they don’t easily drag hair. This doesn’t help so much for dogs with short coats, but it shines for longer or thicker hair. While you might only use a deshedding tool weekly, this is an easy rake to use for a few minutes every day to avoid longer grooming sessions later.
Best for Shampooing: KONG Zoom Groom Brush
Massages while it brushes
Works in and out of the bathtub
Less expensive than many
Gets slippery when soapy
This cute rubber brush really excels in the bathtub. Wet your pup, shampoo, and massage using circular motions to dredge up the hair. It massages while you’re brushing so pets don’t seem to mind it. It works well with all hair types, but can cause tangles if you get too zealous when scrubbing fine, long hair. The brush does get a little slippery in the tub and can be tough to hold on to.
The ZoomGroom can be used out of the bath too. Again, don’t brush straight, but move in circles to remove loose hair. Then use a bristle brush to wipe away everything you collect.
This is one of Cross’s favorite grooming tools. She uses it on both double-coat and smooth-coat dogs to remove loose top coat hair, typically after brushing with a pin brush then a fine-toothed metal comb.
Best for Long Hair: Bissell Furget It Cat and Dog Grooming Brush
Rounded teeth don’t yank hair
Doesn’t work on short hair
Several of our testers with long-haired dogs loved this two-sided brush best. It is pretty effortless as it slides through a dog’s coat, yet it gathers an impressive amount of hair. It wasn’t very effective on dogs with medium or short coats.
The teeth are rounded so they’re not abrasive. The side of the rake with nine teeth is best used to first work through mats or tangles. The side with closely set 17 teeth is better for deshedding once the knots are worked out. Dogs that dislike grooming weren’t bothered very much by this tool. It’s deceptively effective on loose undercoat fur, as well as dead hair and tangles.
Best Mitt-Style: HandsOn Pet Grooming Gloves
Can be used wet or dry
Dogs seem to tolerate more easily than other tools
Comes in several sizes
More expensive than some
Have to stop often to clean hair
Some dogs just hate to be groomed. These gloves are a clever way to convince them they’re getting a nice massage while secretly removing lots of loose hair. Available in four sizes, the gloves have rubber nodules all along the fingers and palm. As you stroke your pet, the bumps hang on to shedding and loose fur. They attach securely with velcro around the wrist and can be tossed in the washing machine to clean.
Our testers found it was easiest to use just one glove to groom while keeping the other hand free to remove collected fur. The hair comes off relatively easily in clumps.
The gloves can be used just as a brushing tool or during a bath to really lather up shampoo, massage your pet, and deshed.
Best Value: BioSilk for Pets Eco-Friendly Detangling Pin Brush
Spiral brush head contours to dog’s body
Eco-friendly, plant-based material
Less expensive than most
Not helpful with short hair
This simple tool is an affordable pin brush for dogs with hair that doesn’t shed or for those with double coats. The bristles are soft and spaced far apart so they aren’t prone to snagging. The brush is attractive and made with an eco-friendly, plant-based material. The head is formed in a moving spiral that contours to your dog’s body as you brush.
Pin brushes aren’t effective on dogs with very short coats and this is no exception. This brush is a little easier to clean than some other pin brushes and can be washed without risk of damage. Some of our testers also really liked the looks of this one and the crisp mint green color.
Best Splurge: Chris Christensen Dog Brush
If you want to invest in a solid, effective, good-looking grooming tool, this is a great option. The handle is made of attractive beech wood and the pins all have ground and polished tips so they’re not irritating. (Try a brush on your arm before you use it on your dog and see how it feels.) It slides silkily through your pet’s fur and is very lightweight. Dogs that typically don’t love grooming weren’t irritated by this gentle brush.
It was also surprisingly easy to clean. It comes with pins in several lengths (20 mm, 27 mm, and 35 mm). The longer pins are for longer coats, but we found even the smallest brush worked really well with long-haired dogs with undercoats.
Tip: Don’t leave this alone with dogs that like to chew. Apparently the wood is very tasty!
We recommend the Hartz Groomer’s Best Combo Dog Brush for a versatile tool that combines a pin brush with a soft bristle brush and works for all hair types. If you get frustrated with cleaning brushes, try the Hertzko Self-Cleaning Slicker Brush. It has retractable bristles, making it easy to clean and the bristles don’t bend.
What to Look for in a Dog Brush
Dog brushes come in different styles for use on dogs with different types of coats. Some of the most common dog brushes include:
Slicker brush: These have very thin closely-set wire bristles. Choose a slick brush with the bristles that feel soft on your skin, not sharp or scratchy.
Bristle brush: These are made from soft nylon bristles.
Pin brush: These have widely spaced metal pins set into a rubber cushion. Look for a brush that has pins with rounded ends to ensure the brush is soft against your dog’s skin.
Combo brush: Two brushes on one handle, these are usually a bristle brush on one side and a pin brush on the other.
Deshedding tool: These rake-like tools remove loose hair from your dog’s coat.
Grooming glove: These rubber or silicone coated gloves are worn on your hands so you can brush your dog by running your hands over its body.
Curry brush: These are made of rubber or soft plastic, and gently remove dirt and loose hair from the coat. They can also be used in the bath to work the shampoo into the coat and remove more loose hair.
The brush you choose depends on the type of hair your dog has. Dogs with short, smooth coats need a soft bristle brush, rubber curry brush or grooming glove. Dogs with medium-length coats can use a slicker brush or pin brush. Dogs with long coats need a pin brush or slicker brush. Double-coated dogs with undercoats that shed can benefit from a deshedding tool in addition to a brush for everyday use, such as a slicker brush or pin brush.
Dog brushes get a lot of use, so look for one that is made from high-quality materials and preferably comes with a warranty or guarantee from the manufacturer to ensure it will last for years to come.
Should you brush your dog before or after a bath?
If your dog’s hair is tangled, it’s best to brush it before the bath. Once the hair gets wet, it will snarl even tighter, making it difficult to remove mats and tangles. Even if your dog’s hair is not tangled, it can be helpful to brush it thoroughly outside prior to the bath to remove loose hair, leaves, stickers or burrs. Even if you brush your dog before a bath, follow up with a good brushing after the hair is dry to ensure the coat is untangles and to further remove shedding hair.
Do dogs like being brushed?
Brushing is a pleasurable bonding activity that many dogs enjoy, especially when brushing is introduced early in puppyhood. If your dog does not like being brushed, create good associations with this necessary chore by giving it lots of tasty treats and praise during brushing sessions. Be sure to brush regularly to avoid mats and tangles, as trying to brush a tangled coat is uncomfortable and even painful for the dog. If your dog is too matted to brush, seek help from a professional groomer.
How do you get dog hair out of the brush?
It’s easy to remove dog hair from the brush with a straight metal comb. Simply insert the comb at the base of the brush beneath the hair and lift it off the bristles in one large clump.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
For this story, we purchased several dozen grooming tools and asked dog owners to test them on pets with all sorts of hair types. We rated them on effectiveness, durability, ease of cleaning, and overall value. We also talked to groomers who weighed in on which types of brushes they like and don’t like. There were some pretty clear winners, which are reflected in our recommendations.
This article was written by Mary Jo DiLonardo, a veteran reviewer of dog products for The Spruce Pets. The proud mom of a rescue dog, she has fostered around four dozen dogs and puppies. Mary Jo has tried lots of different brushes on her own dog and foster pups and is always looking for the most effective and comfortable tools. For more than 25 years, Mary Jo has covered a wide range of topics focused on nature, pets, science, and anything that helps make the world a better place.