How to Brush Your Dog Without Tickling It

Three Parts:Getting Everything ReadyIdentifying Your Dog's Ticklish SpotsBrushing Your Dog

Dogs need regular brushing, with some experts recommending that you try to brush your pet at least every few days.[1] This helps remove mats and tangles that would otherwise pull painfully against your dog's skin. Brushing also helps remove dirt and loose fur while spreading around natural oils in your dog's coat.[2] Many dogs exhibit a ticklish response, called the scratch reflex, when touched or brushed in certain areas. By learning your dog's ticklish spots, you can help make grooming a pleasant experience for your pet.

Part 1
Getting Everything Ready

  1. 1
    Choose a detangler. You may need a detangler, depending on factors like the length of your dog's hair and the amount of time since you last brushed your pet. A thick coat full of mats will not be easy to brush, and it may cause the brush to get caught in your dog's coat.[3]
    • Use a spray-on detangler or grooming mist to loosen mats and soften your dog's coat.
    • You can buy dog detanglers at most pet stores or through an online retailer.
  2. 2
    Get the right brush for your dog's coat. There are many different types of brushes available for dog grooming. The type you use for your pet will depend on its coat type and how long your dog's fur is.[4]
    • Short, smooth coats (hounds, retrievers) will need a soft or medium brush. Choose a brush with short bristles that are close together.
    • Short, wiry coats (terriers) do best with a slicker brush or a firm bristled brush. If using a bristle brush, make sure the bristles are short and close together.
    • Medium and long "flowing" coats (retrievers, spaniels) need either a wire-pin brush or a bristle brush with soft or medium bristles. If using a bristle brush, make sure the bristles are long and more spaced apart.
    • Thick outer coats with a soft undercoat (sheepdogs, collies, shepherds)
  3. 3
    Decide where to brush your dog. When you brush your dog, you'll be pulling off a lot of loose fur and dander. Depending on how clean you want to keep your home, it may be easier to brush your dog outside. If you choose to groom your dog inside, you may want to put down a matt or some towels to make the cleanup easier.[5]

Part 2
Identifying Your Dog's Ticklish Spots

  1. 1
    Recognize the scratch reflex. Any time you touch a dog's sensitive areas, it creates a ticklish/itching sensation for the dog. This causes a reflexive response in which a dog will kick one or both of its hind legs.[6] Your dog cannot control this reaction, much like how you cannot control the way your leg kicks when a doctor strikes your knee.[7]
    • Give your dog pets and scratches up and down its body. Any areas that elicit a scratch reflex are probably too sensitive to brush.
  2. 2
    Avoid the saddle region. Ticklish spots can vary from one dog to another, but the saddle region is fairly common among canines. This area encompasses the stomach, lower back, and ribs.[8] Any type of touch in this area may set off your dog's scratch reflex, including a light stroke.[9]
  3. 3
    Stay clear of the feet, tail, and ears. While not every dog will react the same way to having its ears, tail, or feet touched, these areas do tend to be sensitive to touch. When you begin to brush your dog's body, try to focus most of your brushing on less sensitive areas like the head and upper back.[10]

Part 3
Brushing Your Dog

  1. 1
    Show your dog the brushes. Some dogs, especially younger puppies and dogs that have not had much exposure to grooming, may be frightened of grooming tools. If this is the case, it can be helpful to let your dog sniff the brushes to see that they're nothing to be afraid of.[11]
    • Do not let your dog chew on the brushes. Some puppies may try, but this will set a bad precedent for future grooming sessions.
  2. 2
    Spray on a conditioning detangler. There are many different types of detanglers available for grooming a dog's coat. The best type of detangler includes a conditioner to soften the coat. You can even buy instant detangler that begins to work immediately upon application - simply spray the coat thoroughly and start untangling mats.[12]
  3. 3
    Work out mats. Shedding blades and universal slicker brushes can help work out mats and remove loose fur, leaving your dog's coat thick with healthy fur. However, these brushes can be painful for the dog if you use it to brush the entire coat. Instead, use one of these specialized brushes to target problem areas in the coat where you notice clumps and tangles.[13]
    • Detangling before you brush can help prevent snags on your dog's coat.
    • Be gentle as you work out the tangles and mats. Pulling too hard at a mat could hurt your dog's skin, which could potentially lead to an infection.
  4. 4
    Offer treats. Some dogs will be resistant to getting brushed, even if it does not tickle them. They may be frightened or confused about what's happening. If your dog struggles, offer treats to keep it calm and distracted.[14]
    • Choose special treats that you usually reserve for special occasions. For example, pieces of cooked chicken or turkey may distract your dog better than kibble.
  5. 5
    Brush from head to tail. It's generally best to brush with the grain of your dog's coat. The only exception is for thick outer coats that have a soft undercoat (like a sheepdog's coat), in which case you should brush with the grain on the outer coat and against the inner coat's grain.[15]
    • As you brush, start as close to the skin as possible without scratching your dog's skin, then work the brush outwards.
    • Use gentle strokes. Being too firm with a brush can end up hurting your dog.


  • If you have a hard time brushing your dog, consider hiring a professional groomer. You can find pet grooming services by searching online, checking your local phone book, or asking your vet for recommendations.

Article Info

Categories: Dog Grooming