How to Choose the Right Dog Brushes for Your Pooch

By Janice Jones   |Last Updated 12-06-2023

When there are many dog brushes on the market, it is hard to know which one works best on your dog's hair.   

Before you spend your good hard earned money, find out what you need to make that doggie spa day into a relaxing adventure for you and your dog.

assortment of dog brushes along with a dog that needs to be brushed.

Types of Dog Brushes

Brushing Tip

For Best Results when Brushing Your Small Dog, Apply a small amount of spray conditioner on the coat first.

NEVER brush a dry coat.

Brushes come in many types, sizes, and shapes.  The different types will be described below. 

When it comes to size, large brushes are best reserved for large breed dogs and the smaller brushes work best with all small breed dogs. (Did I really just say that?) 

Beyond size and type, you will also find that brushes come in different shapes:  rectangular, oblong, oval, round, and even triangular. 

The most common shape on the market is the oval.  It is a practical brush shape because it works well on most dogs.  But don't limit yourself just to oval brushes. 

People choose the shape of the brush because of personal preference, however, triangle pin brushes are useful on long haired dog breeds to reach some of those harder to brush areas such as around the face, ears, and under the forearms. 

Many people who show their dogs will use an oblong brush.

Beyond the type, size, and shape of the brush, you may want to look at the type of grip the brush has. 

Is it wooden, does it have a soft gel grip, or an ergonomic design to fit well into your hand?  How if feels to your hand matters especially if you do much grooming.

Here are the four main types of dog brushes:

Pin Brushes

This brand is my all time favorite. They last forever.

Oval Pin Brush

Oblong Pin Brush

This is a MUST have in your dog's Grooming Toolbox if you have any dog other than a smooth short coated one. Short coated dogs need a bristle brush, but more about that in a moment. 

Pin brushes have metal pins with little rounded ends to prevent them from being sharp. They are good for brushing out small tangles and can go through both the top and under coat.

Some pin brushes come with a flip side bristle brush. (See combo brushes, below)

Size of the pins do matter.  The longer pins work best on dogs with long coats and shorter pins will be fine for those medium coats or even on dogs that have been trimmed short. 

There is a wide range of prices for these brushes, but unless you plan to show your dog, an inexpensive pin brush is all that you will need to brush your dog's hair.

Slicker Brushes

These brushes have little metal bristles and are usually used to smooth out the hair after using the pin brush. They can also be used to remove mats from long coats. 

Some slicker brushes also come with a self cleaning option which allows you to push a button and the hair will be lifted up allowing you to remove the hair quickly and easily from the brush.

Since these bristles are very sharp, you should not use them around the dog’s eyes. It’s better to use the metal or steel comb on the mustache and beard.  These brushes are especially good on long coated and curly breeds. 

Even though slicker brushes may be perfect for most curly or wavy haired dogs, they may be to harsh on some especially those dogs that have a very thin coat. 

For those, a pin brush works best. Purchase the best brush you can afford because the tiny pins will stand the test of time.  Cheaper versions have pins that bend.

Bristle Dog Brushes

This is a good all round brush to keep on hand for many different types of hair. 

It is especially necessary for short hair, smooth coated breeds.

Brushing regularly will keep shedding to a minimum and keep the coat looking smooth, sleek, and shiny. 

Bristle brushes vary by the length of each bristle and by how far apart the bristles are spaced. They also differ by how stiff the bristles are. 

As a rule of thumb, the longer the coat, the longer the bristles and the farther apart they should be.  For short, smooth coats, bristles can be short and soft.  For coarse coats, the bristles should be stiff. 

Curry Brushes

These are made of rubber/plastic nubs that stimulate hair and skin and give the feel of a true massage. 

These work great on short coats and can stimulate hair growth, remove dead hairs and give a shine to the hair. 

Types of small breed dogs that would benefit from curry brushes include Beagles, Boston terriers, short coated Chihuahua and Dachshunds.

Combination Dog Brushes

Not really a distinct type of brush, the combination brushes have two sides, on one side is a bristle brush and the other side is a pin brush. 

At first glance you might think this is an ideal brush to buy, especially if you are cost conscious, but rarely will both sides of the brush work on the same dog.

Best Brush for Your Dog's Hair

Now comes the part where we match the brush to the dog's hair type.  But first, let's examine the different types of hair found on small breed dogs. 

Small Dogs come in a variety of different types of hair.  There are the:

  • Short, smooth coats
  • Double coats either with a thicker, coarser outer coat and soft inner coat or a silky outer coat and soft inner coat
  • Single long coat
  • Wire Coat
  • Curly Coat
  • No coat at all:  Think hairless breeds such as the Chinese Crested or the Xolo.

Match the Brush to the Coat

It would be impossible to list each breed and the type of brush to buy.  For that reason, we will match the dog's hair type with the best choices of dog brushes.

Type of Hair

Brush or Dog Brushes to use

Which way to Brush

Short Smooth Coats

Bristle Brush

Curry Brush

Both with and against the grain will help with shed control

Long Double Coats

Pin Brush

Bristle Brush

Slicker Brush

With the grain

Single Long Coat

Pin Brushes

Bristle Brushes

Slicker Brushes

Brush with the grain of the hair

Wire Coat


Brush with the grain
*May need a stripping tool first to remove mats.

Curly  or Wavy Coat

Soft Slicker Brush

Brush with and against the grain


Curry brush

Use a soft wash cloth or sponge

No really brushing required!

Cost of Dog Brushes

When it comes to cost, brushes can vary widely from a cheap $4.99 version (in American dollars) to upwards of $35-45.00 for high end products.

And, that range doesn't include the Boar Bristle Brush I found on Amazon selling for $190.00. 

Cheap brushes are well Cheap. Pins break, slicker pins wear down and bristle brushes fray. 

I don't know any brush that lasts the lifetime of a small dog, especially with daily brushings, but your chance of keeping a high quality brush for years is much better than purchasing an inexpensive brush.

Most dog owners who show their dogs, spend considerably amounts of money on grooming equipment. 

But, in the long run, an investment in a high quality brush will pay off.  High end brushes are meant to last, are easier on the dog, and result in a great looking dog coat.

D.I.Y. Dog Grooming From Dog Brushes

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About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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