You Should Brush a Dog Before and After a Bath, Here’s Why

You should brush your dog:

  • Before they go into the bath
  • After they have had their bath
  • Weekly if they have a short coat
  • Daily if they have a double coat or longer fur
  • Often enough to spot matts and knots before they get worse
  • Use the correct brush type for your dog’s breed and coat

Brushing your dog is an important part of caring for your pet. My dog Freya is a Bichon Frise, so she needs a lot more brushing than a short-haired dog would. I brush her daily and have done since she first came home, so she is used to it. She enjoys it too.

But when do you brush? Is there a good or bad time to do it? If you are thinking about bathing your dog, should you brush before they get in the tub or after they get out?

This is a fascinating topic, and one it pays to know more about. I’ve explored it in full and read lots of information, so you don’t need to. Whatever breed you have and however you set about bathing and grooming your dog now, you’ll soon know how best to approach brushing your pooch in future.


Always Brush Before Bathing

This is the basic idea to stick to, and there is a good reason for it. Dogs can get tangles in their fur, and when that happens, they get worse over time if not taken care of.

Bathing doesn’t miraculously get rid of tangles. It can make them worse. The shampoo doesn’t get into the knots, and the water causes them to become more stubborn to resolve.

So, if you are going to bathe your dog, get out the brushes and go through their fur first. I use blunt-ended scissors to snip out any little knots I find.

Knots tend to appear in areas where her harness sits. As she walks, her legs sometimes move against the harness and cause those knots to appear.

Knowing where to look means you can easily check whether any small knots are forming. A few minutes checking each day is all it takes. I soon became used to the problem areas and paid extra attention to those whenever I brushed her. This reduces the odds of anything forming to start with.

Preventing the knots is always better than sorting them out when they do appear. Regular brushing helps achieve this. Another advantage to daily brushing is that you won’t need to spend as much time doing it just before the bath gets underway.


Brushing Removes Debris Prior to Bathing

I wouldn’t want to share the color of Freya’s bath water at times. She loves dirt, puddles, wading through mud… she’s done it all. And she loves it.

I have noticed that putting her straight in the bath for a wash can backfire if she is covered in lots of dry stuff – think tiny twigs, dirt, and dust. If she’s very muddy (which can happen more often than you’d think), then she needs to go straight in. If not, a quick brush through her coat first is a great idea.

Incidentally, if she is very dusty and gritty, I do this outside. Alternatively, I do it in the hallway where she cannot escape and drop grit all over the house before being ushered into the bathroom. Just a little tip you might benefit from too—no sense in cleaning more than you need to.

Brushing your dog gets rid of a lot of surface debris. My dog has a double coat, so there is a lot of potential for dirt and dust to get caught in there. You cannot always see it all. I’m often surprised at how much falls out when I brush her.

Doing this before the bath means all that debris won’t be floating around in the bathwater. Even if you let the water drain and use a shower hose to bathe and rinse your dog, all the dirt is often left in the bottom of your bath. Your dog is then standing in it throughout, so their paws aren’t cleaned as well as they could be.


Brush Your Dog After the Bath Too

Does this surprise you? It may do because we’re considering whether to brush before or after. Both are correct.

I blow dry our dog once she has had her bath and been towel dried. She also gets to do the zoomies for a bit which helps to dry her off. Once she has finished (by which time my drying station is set up), I pick her up and give her another towel down. I then brush her coat before getting the hair dryer out.

The Bichon Frise breed naturally has a curly coat. If I left Freya to air dry, those curls would form tight corkscrew shapes. They look cute, but they can easily lead to knots and pull on her skin. Knots and mats are painful.

So, by brushing her as I blow dry her coat, the hair (yes, Bichons have hair and not fur), will stay straighter, and she’ll still look gorgeously fluffy.


Use the Correct Brushes for Your Dog’s Coat

When I got a dog, I was stunned by just how many types of brushes there are. You’ll probably use one or more of these for your dog:

  • The slicker brush – this consists of lots of thin wires that each have a hook shape at the end. It’s ideal for taking out loose fur and for getting through smaller matts.
  • The pin brush – it sounds like the slicker, but the ‘bristles’ are pins, with the flat end facing outwards. This is another great tool to use, especially when trying to avoid knots in the fur.
  • The bristle brush – this looks a lot like a regular hairbrush, and they work best on dogs with short coats. They don’t get into the coat like the other brushes do, but they are good at getting rid of surface debris and loose fur.

I use all these brushes for Freya – even the bristle brush, as it helps me achieve a lovely finish when I’ve completed the blow dry. It isn’t a regular brush to use each day though.


Brush Your Dog Using the Same Routine Every Time

This means you won’t accidentally forget to do an area. I start with the head and then move along the body. I leave the legs until last once I have brushed through Freya’s tail.

I have also found that regular brushing is best done just before bed. Freya is tired by this point and will happily let me brush her more thoroughly. I think it sends her to sleep at times – but only because I’ve done this since she was a pup.

Of course, you may find your dog tolerates and hopefully enjoys brushing at another time of day. The point is, it is easier to do this when you find a time that suits you both.


Brushing Before a Bath Helps the Shampoo Get into the Coat

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Top tip here – always invest in a good quality shampoo intended to be used on dogs.

I got lucky and found the perfect one for dogs with white coats to start with. It’s purple, and it brings out the whiteness every time. (It’s only then that I realize our pooch was verging on gray when she went in!)

You’d be surprised how many little ‘pre-tangles’ you can get rid of by brushing your pooch before their bath. Imagine trying to work some shampoo into matted fur. It’s not going to happen. Your dog won’t be as clean as they could be, and you’ll get frustrated trying to get rid of knots that aren’t going to vanish.

It doesn’t make it any easier trying to brush out those knots and tangles after the bath either. And I didn’t realize that water makes tangles worse rather than better. You cannot soak them out unless they’re little ones that are quite loose.


A Good Conditioner Makes Brushing Easier Too

Short-haired dogs probably won’t need a conditioner. It is harder for a short coat to get tangled to start with.

However, dogs with double coats like our Bichon Frise and those with longer fur do benefit from a regular conditioner. Apply it once you have rinsed out the shampoo, just as you would when washing your own hair.

I buy the same brand conditioner as the shampoo I use for our Bichon. Her coat is always noticeably softer when she’s finished – and she smells lovely too. Big bonus!


If You Find Lots of Matts and Knots, Pay for a Groomer

Our dog Freya sees the groomer every six weeks anyway for a professional cut. I then brush her daily between sessions, with possibly one bath at the three-week stage when she needs it.

A regular routine should prevent most knots from occurring. However, if you find your dog has lots of them, it is usually best to take them to a groomer. Even if you never usually do this, it might be needed. A groomer knows how best to get rid of the knots.

From this point, when you get your dog back in excellent condition, you can start brushing as often as required. This is usually:

  • Weekly if your dog has a short coat
  • Daily if your pooch is double-coated or long-coated

You could skip the occasional day and it wouldn’t matter, but I have found my dog Freya loves the daily brushing session anyway. It also means her bath is easier to complete to a high standard when she does need one.

Now, wouldn’t that be a relief?


Writer: Allison Whitehead

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