The Spruce Pets spoke with professional dog handlers at the 2023 Westminster Dog Show in New York City to find out which dog brushes they trust to prepare their canine candidates for the chance to be this year’s Best In Show.
For dog show competitions, a dog’s coat is styled and primed to best represent the ideal look within the given breed’s standard. The set of criteria that determines the breed standards for Westminster is maintained by the American Kennel Club, and for some breeds, the fur is often styled into a shape that is particularly high maintenance.
“Having a slicker brush, a pin brush, and a poodle comb on hand at all times is essential,” Lynette Treese, a Pomeranian breeder, owner, and handler from Colorado, told The Spruce Pets. This was her first time showing at Westminster and her fluffy Pomeranian named Eydis received the award for Best of Opposite Sex within the breed group.
The best dog brush for competitions will also be ergonomic and easy to store away, since any tools need to be carried on a handler's person during competition. It's common at Westminster to see conspicuously placed brush handles tucked into waistbands and jacket pockets, and combs at the ready, perched in the handler’s hair.
We've tested more than 20 dog brushes, spending hundreds of combined hours with them, and have the perfect, competition ready combo—our favorite slicker, pin brush, and poodle comb.
Chris Christensen Original Series Oval Brush
With pin brushes, the longer the coat, the longer the pin. For example, an Afghan’s long strands are best suited for a 35mm pin brush whereas a Long Haired Dachshund could benefit from shorter 20mm pins on a pin brush. Keeshond breeder, handler, and dog dad, Rick Su from New Jersey uses the Chris Christiansen Oval Pin Brush with 35mm to make sure his three-year-old Keeshond named Zorro is tangle free before he hits the competition ring at Westminster. The lightweight wooden handle paired with sturdy yet gentle stainless steel pins makes the brush easy to maneuver. It’s available in a variety of pin lengths, 20mm, 27 mm, and 35 mm, and it’s our Best Overall pick for dog brushes we tested in real homes with real dogs.
Show Tech Tuffer Than Tangles Pro Series Slicker
Dogs that shed can benefit from a dog slicker, and at Westminster, dog handlers use a slicker brush to quickly bring loose strands out before a judge does their evaluation. The Show Tech Tuffer Than Tangles Pro Series Slicker has a rubbery handle that’s easy to grip and a curved head four inches wide making it easier to get hard-to-reach areas, like under the front legs. The pins are available in firm, soft, or regular but all are curved to be gentle against a dog’s skin.
Chris Christiansen Coarse Poodle-Style Buttercomb
For dogs with double coats, like Zorro the Keeshond and Edyis the Pomeranian at Westminster, a wide-tooth comb, commonly referred to as a Poodle Comb among dog handlers, helps to fluff a coat. The Chris Christiansen Coarse Poodle-Style Buttercomb is slightly over nine inches long with extra space between each steel tooth. The space helps the brush glide through the coat giving the fur a puffy appearance.