Back Brushing Tips While Dog Grooming

Back brushing is a heavily debated step in pet grooming circles. Most of that debate or unsureness comes from the varying success rates groomers have with the technique, for both pro and novice groomers. There are some clear benefits, but they don’t always apply to all breeds. Here are a few back brushing tips you can use during dog grooming

The Basics

This is a brushstroke that goes against the natural lay of your dog’s hair. Rather than brushing from head to tail, a back brush goes in the direction of the tail to head. This props up the hairs and allows a very thorough brushing, with each bristle of the brush making good contact with hair and skin. 

back brushing dog grooming

Standard brushing strokes often only detangle the topcoat, which can be frustrating for dogs with double coats and curly coats. Groomers use back brushing to ensure that they’ve worked through the dog’s coat completely. 

Back brushing also allows for better skin inspection, as the dog’s fur is lifted up and off of its skin. Having a better line of sight to the skin and undercoat helps you find mats, debris in the undercoat, and any skin issues beneath your dog’s fur. 

Provided that back brushing is done gently and in small sections, your dog will be none the wiser if you decide to start using this technique. It also massages their skin more than standard brushing, which is helpful for getting rid of dead skin buildup and for distributing oils for a healthy, shiny coat. 

When To Use The Back Brush Technique 

Theoretically, you can back brush any dog. When you use back brushing as just a brushing style, not to set up your dog for a clip, it’s safe and beneficial for your dog’s coat. Many pro groomers swear by back brushing before clipping or cutting, but its benefits are broader than just ensuring a smooth cut. 

Groomers back brush appropriate coats to mitigate stickie-outie fur clumps and create an overall smoother, even appearance. Back brushing before clipping gives your dog a sharp, clean look, and it’s a professional groomer hack any novice can use. 

brushing the ears from tail to head

A properly done cut also looks good longer, which is why a quality groomer is so important. Otherwise, a dog’s coat can begin looking janky and uneven after it begins to grow out. 

Back brushing only has this effect when it’s done on the right coat type. This is primarily what causes some disagreement between groomers and pet owners, as there’s no clear distinction between what dogs can and can’t be back brushed. 

Since each dog will have different fur, though it can be largely generalized by breed, back brushing before grooming is usually determined on a dog-by-dog basis. Curly coats are typically safe to back brush and trim, but dogs/breeds with straight drop coats look best when their coats are trimmed as they lay. 

When not to use the back brush technique

Though it’s fairly obvious back brushing tips, you’ll want to be careful that the stroke isn’t hurting your dog or causing them discomfort. Regardless of the coat type of your dog, if they have sensitive skin and react to back brushing with discomfort, it’s best to opt for another brush stroke. 

You’ll want your dog to have a positive association with brushing and grooming above all else, both for your sake and theirs. A gentle hand normally mitigates this issue, but it’s something to watch out for. 

Most dogs, if not all, can be back brushed-but that doesn’t always mean that they should. For example, a Yorkie with a straight drop coat doesn’t need to be back brushed before trimming their hair. 

yorkie being brushed and groomed

Drop coats fall like straight human hair, laying flat down the dog’s body. Dog breeds with drop coats can have hair parts like humans too, typically down their back. If this type of coat is back brushed, the overall look is often much too short and choppy, since you’d be going against the natural lay of the hair. 

While plenty of breeds and hair types can get away with back brush trims, plenty can’t for that reason. The resulting look is patchy and awkward, not at all the even landscape you’d be shooting for. 

One of the most important back brushing tips is to keep in mind that doing this before a trim will make your dog’s hair look much shorter when it’s brushed back down, which some dog owners dislike. If you want a long and luscious look, it may be best to avoid it and trim with the grain instead. 

The bottom line on using this brush stroke

The debate surrounding back brushing dog grooming primarily revolves around it being a precursor to clipping. For some dog breeds, doing this before a clip or trim gives a wonky and uneven appearance. 

For other breeds, the final look is the exact opposite-pristine, sharp, and even. 

If you aren’t planning on trimming your dog’s hair, you can use this stroke regardless of their breed. If your dog has curly or coarse hair, back brushing is almost always a great pre-clippers step to ensure an even cut. 

For dogs with a straight drop coat, you’ll likely want to avoid it to keep an even appearance. 

Ultimately, the decision will come down to the hair type of your dog and your preference for their appearance. As long as everyone’s safe and having a good time, you can’t go wrong. 

Since this method is great for detangling and distributing oils throughout the coat and skin, it’s a good practice to include in your dog’s grooming regime. Keep in mind that some dogs may experience discomfort, as it is a bit rougher than the standard brush stroke. So, use patience and start with small sections to test your dog’s tolerance as you introduce the process.