Maltese Brush-Outsmaltese dog
by the late Marjorie Martin of Columbus, OH

Maltese coats are truly at the mercy of brushes. Unless the hair is kept very short, it needs regular brushing to prevent snarl-ups. And the brushing must be done gently to prevent damage and loss. Brushing needs can vary considerably depending upon length, texture and condition of the hair, as well as the dog's behavior and environment. Inexperienced Maltese brushers would do well to start with a short, strong, healthy coat and grow in brushing expertise along with the hair. The most important time to brush a Maltese is after his bath, when he is just damp out of the towel. Snarls are most likely to give up to the brush when they are washed, rinsed with conditioner and oil, and not yet dry.

Besides the above, and a belief that every hair is still in one piece and attached to the dog, all that's needed for the brush-out are a pin brush and a metal comb with long teeth, far-spaced at one end and close at the other. I also have handy a spray bottle of anti-static coat gloss in case the brushing takes longer than the damp lasts.

After a bath, I always brush and comb a dog's head and feet when he is towel-wrapped to do his ears, eyes, teeth and toenails. So when I stand the damp dog facing right on the table, only his body, legs, neck and tail need brushing. Anyone doing brush-outs for success should keep in mind that all procedures which stretch or break the hair and pain the Maltese are counterproductive. Pull-damaged hair becomes dull, frizzy and more difficult to manage. And hair-pulled Maltese become less cooperative. So, to begin, I lightly brush all the hair somewhat into place and then start on the dog's right, front quarter. I make a vertical part in the hair from the spine to the floor with my left hand and the brush in my right. I hold the hair on the left side away from the part with my left hand while I gently brush the hair, root to end, to the right of this part. If the brush hits a snag, I search out the snarl. I hold it away from the dog and try to undo it with my fingers pulling in various directions. Weak snarls are eliminated by alternating light brushing and finger pulling. Then the hair is checked with the coarse-end of the comb with short, easy strokes. Stubborn snarls are remembered.

Moving right along, I brush the hair straight down from the back and make another vertical part about an inch to the right of the first and repeat the above brushing to the right, finger detangling, and comb check. This continues one inch at a time to the tail end of the dog. I then lift up the right front leg, reach under and brush the hair on the inside of the left front leg. And do the same with the hind legs. At this point, I face the Maltese away from me and do the hair on the waggy tail and rear end-one small section at a time.

Next, the dog is turned facing left, and inch by inch, his left side is brushed, weak snarls eliminated and stubborn snarls noted. The insides of the right legs are done before moving to the neck. Starting at the part down the back of the dog's neck, the brushing and unsnarling proceeds with head-to-body hair parts every inch around his neck-left side first, throat next and right side last. From here, I lift up the front end of the Maltese and do any belly areas missed. Some super Maltese brushers lay the brushee on his sides and/or back, but standing and sitting are the usual brushing positions for me and mine. Generally, I use a grooming arm to steady the dog, but sometimes brushing is easier without it.

Once around the dog, and I know where the problem snarls are. Taking each snarl in turn, I brush lightly, hold away from the dog pull it every which way to loos the hair. If it is getting dry, I spray liberally with anti-static coat gloss. Then do the same for the ne snarl, always progressing snarl-t snarl clockwise around the do then his neck and belly as many times as it takes. It is amazing how each it arou nd what had looked like impossible snarls will loosen and dis pear. More and more hair com free and the Maltese is becoming a winner. The meanest snarls may hang on through five or six brush/finger attacks. Dried-in snarls are the worst, so I try not to take a brush-break till every hair-from skin out-pass the comb test. Often for a chan especially with a small and young Maltese, I'll set the dog my lap and ease out the snarls.

Sometimes, if brushing has be really neglected, there are yet I movable snarls long past quitting time. It then becomes a contest of hairs. Holding the snarl away fro the dog, I pick up involved hairs, few at a time, near the root and try to ease them out of the snarl. I may use the first tooth on the comb t ing to free hair. Frequently, I lightly brush and spray the resistance. By the time I've separated every hair possible, the snarl may be go hopefully without taking any hair A difficult brush-out can be a test of endurance. I bathed and brush out the "Saturday evening mess snarls" mentioned in last December's "Hand Washable" and saved most of its hair. It took six hours and the owner paid for thr groomings. Every time I get into one of these hair disasters, I kick myself and promise, "Never again!" There are many ways to alleviate such frustrations. If a coat setback is acceptable, cutting the hair a may be the best solution. Just shaving the dog's belly and inside of all four legs halfway to the can save a lot of brush-out time. Snarls around the ears and thr may be held away from the dog a scissored lengthwise-just a snip may allow the hairs to be loosen. A little hair lost in these areas not terribly noticeable so long the ears, skirts and tail can saved.

Ideally, the very day after a Maltese is bathed and brushed out, or as soon as there is any hair more than a half-inch long, the brusher should stand the little white wonder on the grooming table and go through the entire brushing routine, lightly spraying anti-static coat gloss on each area before putting a brush to it. Thus, I would advise brushing the hair every day for several days until the snarl rate is appreciated. And always be on the lookout for snarl surprises. I have had super coats (on dogs that would cooperate) grow quickly into show coats with only two or three fifteen- minute brushings a week between monthly baths.

I recall one Maltese successfully growing a show coat til his crate neighbor, in just a few hours, scratched in a big snarl setback. And then I have had coats that the right front quarter would be resnarled by the time I had inched around the dog. In conclusion, here are a few brush-out suggestions:

  1. Don't blame the dog;
  2. Never brush dry hair;
  3. Be an avid snarl hunter;
  4. Put the scissors far away;
  5. Neuter/spay adorable Maltese with impossible coats and enjoy them in shortcuts.

One last note: Brush-outs are not always advisable. Maltese long neglected, those with skin and other problems, young pupp ies, and pregnant and nursing dams may need other care much more. Sometimes snarls are really beyond reason, and it may be best to just cut the hair off and start over.

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