Should You Brush Your Dog When Wet or Dry?

Maintaining your dog's coat is an essential aspect of their grooming routine, but we speak to many dog owners who wonder whether it's best to brush them when wet or dry. And the answer may surprise you.

Wet brushing, when done correctly, offers numerous advantages that can make the grooming process faster, easier, and more beneficial for your furry friend's skin. In this article, we will delve into the reasons why wet brushing is recommended, the science behind the technique and the benefits it provides when you do it properly. Plus, we’ll debunk common myths surrounding this technique. By understanding the advantages of wet brushing and incorporating it into your regular grooming routine, you can ensure a healthier, happier, and more beautiful coat for your beloved four-legged companion.
wet brushing

These are the results you can expect when wet brushing with Doglyness.

Should you brush your dog when wet or dry?

The answer is - it depends. Both wet brushing and dry brushing are beneficial in their own ways, but we are huge advocates for the wet brushing technique. But it’s very important that wet brushing is done properly DURING the bathing phase and only when a conditioner is applied.

But how wet is wet? While the technique is called “wet brushing”, the coat shouldn’t be sopping and dripping wet. The sweet spot is damp after a quick towel dry. When done properly, wet brushing has a range of advantages, making the overall grooming process faster, easier, and more beneficial for your dog's skin and coat.

Dry brushing may be effective for deshedding, but it’s simply not as effective for removing dirt and debris from your dog's coat. Dry brushing is also the most damaging, as the hair is structurally stronger, but less flexible and more to breakage. So, that’s why we will be focusing on our favorite method - wet brushing, and why we love it so much.

How do you brush a wet dog?

The only time you should ever brush a wet dog is during bathing, after cleansing, and a light towel dry, when your dog has a conditioner applied to their coat. When a coat is clean and freshly washed, and the hair is wet, the coat and cuticles are at their most sensitive, so it’s a big no-no to attempt to brush the coat then. First, apply the conditioner to damp/lightly dryed hair after cleansing and reconditioning, and then you can begin brushing with a pin brush, section by section.

This is the optimal time for wet brushing as the conditioner makes the coat soft, and manageable and helps the pins glide more easily through the hair. Wet brushing will allow you to effectively distribute the conditioning product and ensure that the coat and skin absorb the valuable ingredients present in it.

When NOT to brush a wet dog

There are occasions when wet brushing is not an appropriate technique to use on your dog. You should especially NEVER brush or comb a wet dog to detangle or demat the coat. Hair is technically at its weakest tensile state when it’s saturated with water. Water breaks the hair's hydrogen bonds, making it more elastic but also more prone to breakage. When the hair becomes wet, it’s absorbed through the keratin outer layer, causing the cuticle to swell.
dog hair cuticle

When a dogs coat is wet, the cuticle will swell and the hair will become elastic.

Cleansers and excessive water can further soften and weaken the hair, leading to increased breakage. It's important to avoid brushing heavily tangled, dripping wet hair and instead opt for towel-drying or damp hair before brushing. You should also avoid any lengthy detangling work on wet hair. And NEVER brush a wet coat without conditioner on it.

The hair bonds: explained

To further understand the science behind wet brushing, we need to look at the hair bonds that make up the structure of your dog's coat. These are the same bonds that make up our own hair, so the same principles can be applied. While we already touched on the hydrogen bonds that are impacted by water, these are only one of the three bonds that make up the structure of hair. They are hydrogen, disulfide and salt.

  • Hydrogen bonds help the hair retain moisture, so when water is added, the hydrogen bonds are broken as they are not necessary at that moment. As the hair dries, the hydrogen bonds get their strength back.
  • Disulfide bonds are the strongest, and provide shape to the hair. When disulfide bonds are broken, your dog's coat will appear frizzy and lack style and shape. Chemical treatments and excessive sun exposure can damage disulfide bonds.
  • Lastly, salt bonds create proteins in the hair. These temporary bonds are fragile and easily broken. They are the most susceptible to damage from sudden pH imbalances, which can be from harsh chemicals or products that are overly acidic or alkaline.

All three bonds are essential to keep your dog’s coat healthy, and protect it from damage. They support the elasticity, strength and overall look of your dogs hair, so it’s essential that we use techniques and products to both support and preserve these bonds.

Why you should you wet brush your dog?

Wet brushing is beneficial in many ways. Here are some of the reasons why you should wet brush your dog:
benefits of wet brushing dogs

When done correctly, wet brushing is very beneficial for dogs.

Faster and easier grooming

Wet brushing makes the overall grooming process faster and easier. When the coat is wet and infused with conditioner, it becomes softer and more pliable, making it easier to detangle and brush through. The gentle brushing action helps to remove tangles and mats, preventing them from becoming more challenging to address later. Wet brushing is also a great de-shedding technique that helps groomers save a lot of time, keep the coat healthier, and is less damaging. Overall, the technique helps to ensure a smooth and hassle-free grooming experience.

Improved coat health and appearance

Wet brushing promotes a healthier and shinier coat. By brushing when the coat is wet, you can effectively remove loose hair, dirt, and debris that may be trapped in the coat better than dry brushing. This helps to keep the coat clean and prevents the accumulation of mats and tangles. Regular wet brushing also stimulates the natural oils in the skin and distributes them through the coat, which promotes a glossy and well-conditioned coat.

Enhanced blood flow and circulation

Brushing a wet dog increases blood flow and improves circulation, which is crucial for maintaining the skin's health and vitality. The gentle stimulation provided by wet brushing creates a healthy blood supply to the skin, nourishing the hair follicles and promoting hair growth. Improved blood flow also helps in the delivery of essential nutrients to the skin, keeping it healthy and supple.

Lymphatic system support

Wet brushing supports the cleansing of the lymphatic system, which is essential for immune system health. The lymphatic system plays a crucial role in removing toxins and waste products from the body, so by stimulating the lymph flow through wet brushing, you can support your dog's overall health and well-being. This gentle massage helps to improve lymphatic drainage and enhances the body's natural detoxification processes.

What type of brush should you use when brushing a wet dog?

Choosing the right brush is crucial when it comes to wet brushing. Opt for a high-quality pin brush with extra-fine and rounded pins. These types of pins are designed to touch the dog's skin gently while effectively detangling the coat. The pins should provide a pleasant feeling on the skin without causing any discomfort. Our BURSTA pin brushes are specifically developed to penetrate the coat deeper without tearing or damaging the follicles. The BURSTA 33 pin brush is ideal for long-haired dogs with thicker coats, and the BURSTA 8 pin brush is perfect for fine and fragile coats of any length. Our founder, Anka Hana, uses both BURSTA 33 & BURSTA 8 pin brushes on her poodle Zaya, and she’s seen consistently better results than with other brushes. Using a quality pin brush helps ensure a pleasant brushing experience for your dog and helps maintain the integrity of their coat when wet brushing.
pin brush for dogs

Our Bursta pin brushes are perfectly designed to work for wet brushing.

Incorporating quality products for optimal results

When wet brushing your dog, it's absolutely essential to choose high-quality and effective grooming products, or you could risk damaging their coat. Make sure to apply dog conditioner or dog conditioning spray first, before begin to brush out the coat. A good dog conditioner not only helps to soften and detangle the coat but also nourishes the skin and keeps it hydrated. A quality topical product that provides a good slip on the coat will ensure less damage then even a clean, reconditioned coat being worked on with metal tools.

The Doglyness line of conditioners, including the Lipa conditioner, Immortelle conditioner, and Oats conditioner, are designed to provide deep hydration, improve coat manageability, and promote healthy skin and coats. The Lipa conditioner, enriched with natural ingredients such as linden bud extract, helps to restore and maintain the skin's moisture balance. The Immortelle conditioner, infused with immortelle flower extract, provides nourishment and protection to the coat, leaving it soft and shiny. The Oats conditioner, containing colloidal oatmeal, soothes and moisturizes the skin, making it ideal for dogs with sensitive or dry skin.

Using these high-quality conditioners during wet brushing sessions not only makes the process easier but also maximizes the benefits for your dog's skin and coat. The ingredients in these conditioners work together with the wet brushing technique to improve the overall health and appearance of your dog's coat.

Common myths about brushing your dog when wet

When it comes to grooming our furry friends, there are often misconceptions and conflicting opinions about the best practices. While wet brushing has gained popularity for its benefits, we’ve heard some myths circulating about this technique, making people wonder, “should you brush a wet dog?” Let’s debunk these wet-brushing myths.

wet brushing myths

There are many false myths surrounding wet brushing.

Myth 1: Wet brushing causes hair breakage

One common misconception is that brushing a wet dog can cause hair breakage and damage. While it's true that wet hair is more susceptible to breakage, the key lies in using the right brush, the right products, and the proper technique. Opt for a high-quality pin brush with extra-fine and rounded pins, specifically designed for wet brushing. These pins are gentle on the coat and minimize the risk of breakage. Additionally, avoid using excessive force or pulling through tangles, as this can cause damage. Instead, be patient and use gentle strokes to detangle the hair, and ALWAYS brush after applying a high-quality, nourishing conditioner.

Myth 2: Wet brushing increases the risk of skin irritation

Another myth is that wet brushing can lead to skin irritation or discomfort for the dog. This is not necessarily true if the appropriate brush and technique are used. A quality pin brush with rounded pins will provide a pleasant brushing experience without causing any harm to the skin. When wet brushing, it's crucial to be gentle and avoid excessive pressure on the skin. By using the correct brush and maintaining a gentle touch, you can effectively groom your dog's coat without causing irritation.

Myth 3: Wet brushing causes mats and tangles

Some assume that wet brushing contributes to the formation of mats and tangles in the dog's coat. However, the opposite is true. Wet brushing, when done correctly, can help prevent mats and tangles from forming in the first place. Wet hair is more pliable and easier to detangle than dry hair. By wet brushing after applying conditioner, you can effectively remove tangles and prevent them from becoming more challenging to address later. The conditioner helps to soften the hair, making it easier to glide through with the brush. Regular wet brushing can help maintain a well-groomed coat and minimize the risk of mats and tangles.

Myth 4: Wet brushing is ineffective for shedding control

It’s a myth that wet brushing is ineffective for controlling shedding. While dry brushing is often recommended for removing loose hair, wet brushing can also do the trick. Wet brushing helps to remove loose hair, dirt, and debris that may be trapped in the coat better than brushing when dry.

Should you brush your dog when wet or dry?

Wet brushing is a highly beneficial and effective technique for grooming your dog. It offers numerous advantages, including faster and easier grooming, improved coat health and appearance, and enhanced blood flow and circulation. By using a high-quality pin brush and incorporating wet brushing into your regular dog grooming routine, you can ensure a healthier, happier, and more beautiful coat for your furry companion. Remember to choose a quality dog conditioner to complement your wet brushing routine. Choose natural, organic conditioners made with quality ingredients that provide essential hydration, nourishment, and protection to the coat and skin, further enhancing the benefits of wet brushing. Next time you give your dog a bath, embrace the power of wet brushing and enjoy the positive impact it brings to your grooming sessions. Your dog will thank you for the extra care and attention given to their coat and overall well-being.