Cozy fur: all about dog undercoat tools

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Just think about it: how much time do we spend on making sure our hair is as healthy as possible?

A lot, with a myriad products to go with that.

Can you imagine how doggies have it with all that fur, then? And they can’t even do anything about keeping it fresh and clean!

It’s all up to us to help them with their furry troubles.

The undercoat is one of the trickiest parts to groom properly. The tangles underneath can get nasty. You bet your dog doesn’t like having matted hair or knots around!

Generally, there are two tools I’d label as “The Best” for dealing with undercoat headaches:

The first one would be Oster’s steel undercoat rake.

The second, as you can probably guess, the Furminator itself.

But let’s first start with something important: what’s the difference between all these undercoat tools?

To do so, once again I had my friend Emma for some insight and tips. You might remember her from the husky harnesses article.

Taking care of grooming your dog's undercoat with a brush or rake is crucial.

Why so many dematting tools?

It can get confusing, right?

Just as we have a myriad of hair products, our pets have their own arsenal of fur care necessities. Let’s break these down a bit.

First of all – all of these tools have the same purpose. Dematting combs, slicker brushes, undercoat rakes or rakes…They’re all there to detangle knots and tidy up the undercoat.

Needless to say, undercoat rakes work best for breeds like german shepherds, huskies, golden retrievers and others. In other words, dogs with longer and sometimes – quite thicker fur.

What’s different is the exact method of doing so – as well as the fur they work best on.

Undercoat rakes, rakes, Furminators…what gives?

How rakes & dematting combs work

Rakes, as well as dematting combs or hair strippers focus on the shedding coat and undercoat. However, they don’t cut the top coat.

In other words, they work by “pulling” the dead fur and preserving the healthier top layers of your dog’s hair.

Make sure you always work these by going along how your pet’s coat grows naturally, not against it.

It depends on the design, but a lot of dematting combs or standard rakes for dogs have short and long teeth. They alternate between each other for optimal results.

A great standard rake for undercoat hair is the GoPets model:

GoPets rake for undercoat is a gentle, well-performing tool for taking care of your dog's undercoat knots.

How to use dog undercoat rakes

Undercoat rakes are a bit more aggressive in how they treat the undercoat. They also yield the best results, especially with thicker fur.

Unlike rakes, this type of tool tackles the undercoat, but also cuts through the top layers of pet hair too. You’ll also often see it having teeth that are the exact same length, instead of alternating between short and long.

The best undercoat rakes come with curved blades that are somewhat dense. The width of the teeth can differ according to the breed/thickness of coat they’re most optimal for.

You can use most undercoat rakes for dogs both on wet or dry hair. Keep in mind that these cut the top coat a lot more than other tools.

In other words, be careful not to damage your dog’s healthy layer of fur. For optimal results, follow a few simple rules:

  • Never apply too much pressure.

  • Don’t drag the tool on the coat, go slowly and carefully.

  • Like rakes, always go with the coat growth, not against it.

  • For best results, use on a wet coat. Dry coat is OK, however!

  • Begin with a rake with wider teeth until you clean the bulk of the undercoat.

There’s a lot of debate on how often you can use undercoat rakes. Speaking loosely, you can even use one even daily, if you wish. I don’t recommend it, however.

Even with dogs who have thicker fur a few times per week would be more than enough. You know your dog better than me. Consider how quickly does their hair get tangled and mats appear and rake accordingly.

As I mentioned, Oster’s high quality undercoat rake is my favorite:

This Oster model is, to me, the best undercoat rake for anything from german shepherds to huskies.

Furminator: great, but for what purposes?

Don’t get me wrong: I love the Furminator deshedding tool.

But the truth is…it doesn’t always work that great. Especially on thick double coats or very heavy ones.

Unlike undercoat rakes, the Furminator doesn’t go as deep. In other words, if your pet has very thick fur, it might get stuck at the top coat and not penetrate to the undercoat properly.

What some dog owners do is use both in a specific sequence. For example, you’ll first brush the coat a bit to make it more orderly.

Then, you’ll go through the heavier mats and knots with an undercoat rake (a double one for extra thick fur.) The finishing touch comes with the gentler and somewhat lighter duty Furminator.

It really depends on your breed. German shepherds and huskies, for example, will benefit the most from a heavy duty undercoat rake.

The Furminator deshedding tool vs Undercoat rakes: it's a bit weaker with thicker coats

The best undercoat tools: rake & slicker brush

1. Best heavy-duty undercoat rake:
Oster’s 18 teeth wide tool

This is the absolute best undercoat rake for german shepherds, huskies or golden retrievers. In fact, it’s the most optimal tool for any long-haired dog, no matter how thick its fur is.

And one of the particular reasons I love it so much are the rounded ends of the teeth.

As I mentioned before, undercoat rakes take on not only the undercoat, but the top layers too. They can also irritate skin if you’re not careful.

The rounded ends here both protect your pet’s skin and minimize the “harshness” of detangling/cleaning undercoat. Your chances of cutting the healthy top coat are also minimized due to this intelligent design.

Oster’s penetrates right down to the undercoat even on ridiculously thick-haired dogs. I’ve had way too many problems with other rakes just not being able to reach where I need them the most.

Still, go slow when grooming.

This is a professional, sharp rake for coarse and thick dog hair. You’re not meant to rush through it. In 10-15 minutes of careful raking you’ll have a shiny, clean coat in front of you.

2. Best rake/dematting comb for dogs & cats:
GoPets’ comb

In case you want something not as heavy duty and a bit gentler, this is the best shedding rake for dogs and feline beauties. Remember, this kind of tool focuses on the undercoat without cutting the top coat.

If your pet has a medium coat, you’ll be delighted with the results. For double coats and thicker fur, however, this won’t quite cut it.

Two things that make this a great choice.

First, once again you have rounded teeth ends to protect your pet’s skin. This doesn’t detract from the inner sharpness of the teeth. They will cut hair, instead of pulling it – important, as pulling hair is painful for any pet.

Second, this is a double sided rake for undercoats. You can either use the 12-tooth side when there are more mats and knots to take care of…or stick to the 23-tooth side when you want to get things done quickly.

Even though this is a lighter duty tool compared to the Oster, I wouldn’t try using it on extremely short-haired breeds. It doesn’t make much sense.

3. Best slicker brush for undercoats:
Hertzko’s self-cleaning brush

If you want the best brush for undercoat, including slightly longer ones, Hertzko has it.

Slicker brushes are the most gentle method to dematting things a bit. No teeth here – just fine bristles that dive beneath the top coat to make things orderly.

And here’s the thing: this specific slicker brush cleans itself off accumulated hairs. That’s right – just with a push of a button, and you’re done.

This doesn’t only work nice for your own time. It also protects the bristles, as usually you might bend them and make them obsolete if you’re too rigorous in your cleaning.

In other words, Hertzko gives you the ultimate undercoat convenience. The pins are also somewhat soft, not too hard – even more sensitive pets will be alright with them.

The tradeoff?

Well, this is a brush and not a rake. Don’t even dream of it achieving the same results as more heavy duty tools.

For short to medium coats and small animals, you’ll be more than fine. Double coats? I really, really doubt it.

Three things to do when taking care of undercoats

Some of the tips I mentioned re: undercoat rakes are general things you need to observe with any other tool.

Still, if I were to boil it down to THE three things to look out for when combing/raking undercoats…

Be gentle

It doesn’t matter if it’s a slicker brush with extra soft bristles or a stainless steel rake with sharper teeth.

Even beneath all this fur, knots and mats, there’s delicate skin that’s easy to irritate. Be patient with your grooming and go slowly, feeling your pet’s skin. Tender or sensitive areas, any moles or warts – you should be extra alert with your dematting around them.

You wouldn’t like it if your hairdresser pulled your hair because they want to be done with you in 3 minutes, right?

Do the needed bathing

What happens when you wash your dog?

Their fur gets softer and clean, obviously. Which helps to identify mats and knots better – and prepares them for some quality dematting time.

Unbathed dog hair, especially on thicker fur breeds can be a nightmare to go through. I know you might feel lazy about getting the hot water, shampoo and other stuff prepared…but believe me, it’ll make a difference.

A huge one!

That said, if you’re combing/raking too often, you might want to skip on some of the bathing sessions. In these cases, go through the washing routine only when there are some stubborn knots or mats.

In any case, remember to dry off your dog after the bath (you might need the proper towels to do so.) Keep in mind that some tools, like the undercoat rakes, can be used while bathing too.

Making it a habit when needed

Once you’ve defeated the dreaded knots, don’t think you’ve won the battle. I’ve seen quite a few people do an amazing job in getting that undercoat in order…And forgetting to do that on a regular basis.

Keep up with the frequency to not only guarantee your dog’s comfort. When you rake the undercoat on a regular basis you’ll also need only a few minutes the next time, instead of struggling with mats that have accumulated overtime.

This vastly depends on your breed, however. Some dogs require undercoat care a few times every week. Others can go with 2-3 times per month and not more.

Just make sure that you don’t overdo it.

Animals have been my interest since my first guinea pig when I was 6. Supporter of animal shelters and adopting, instead of buying. Occasional animal rights activist.