Sparse or dense slicker?

How slicker brushes make doodles still or squirmy?

There are so many slicker brushes on the market, you might feel overwhelmed just by thinking about looking through the options, let alone picking the right one. I wanted to get into detail about the features of slicker brushes so you can determine whether the one you have or about to order fits your doodle's needs for comfort and efficiency at once and not either-or. We'll go through the features by the brush and see how each influences your doodle's behavior for brushing, ergo what makes your doodle still and what makes him/her squirm.

Number of pins

Sparse is yay, dense is nay.

Big K

by Chris Christensen

It's a sparse brush and it has 1 1/8" long, medium-firm pins. It has a curved head and it does have a pincushion. The handle is long and comfortably shaped.

Suggested for doodles

All doodle hair types, let it be thin, thick, soft, wavy, curly, or straight. Takes care of the coat for all seasons.

Modification needed

* Angle the pins to 150 degrees.
* Wrap handle with tennis grip (optional).

Get it from!

Big G

by Chris Christensen

It's a dense brush and it has 1 1/8" long, medium-firm pins. It has a curved head and it does have a pincushion. The handle is long and comfortably shaped.

Not suggested for doodles

If you already have one, you can modify it to mimic the Big K's sparse look and get the same results with it without buying a Big K.

Modification needed

Modify it if you already have one, get the Big K or one of the others below if still shopping!

* Angle the pins to 150 degrees.
* Cut out every other row.
Wrap handle with tennis grip (optional)

Not suggested for doodles, but you can see it on!


For comfort and safety

The dark grey pin cushion -sponge layer- is the peace of mind for pawrents' worry about hurting their puppers' skin. It works as a buffer and will balance out much of the extra pressure beginner hands might let out when getting used to safely brushing their doodles. Other slickers do not have this feature.

Length of pins

For thorough work

One of the biggest advantages of the aforementioned Big K brush is that it has 1 1/8" long pins. That helps you reach down to the base of the hair right to the skin (even on a 2-3" coat) with less work, so there won't be a layer in the coat left unbrushed close to the skin. That's the sentence for short shaves because it can't be opened up, especially when followed up with a few bath sessions or creek time.

Rubber pin bed

For flexibility to do gentle dematting

It is to make sure the pins stay in one place and bend right by the base to wiggle through tangles and mats. That's another feature that makes brushing more gentle on the skin -resulting in a more cooperative doodle. And it's one of the two components that play a role in making a brush soft, medium or firm. (The other is how soft the pin material is.)

Pin material

Varieties for gentleness

The material of the pins means different softness or firmness. We are not going to get into the details of alloys here, just note how thin or thick the pins come with different sensations. You can check firmness with your fingers how easy it is to bend them.

For puppies or adults with thin, soft coats, a soft brush will be the best to put the least sensation on the skin. A soft brush will help with the sensation on the skin due to brushing and of the brush running in the coat. Most likely, you will graduate from this brush to a more firm one after a few months.

For thicker, longer, curly coats, we want to use medium or firm pins, which won't bend easily. The more firm the brush, the better it works on wavy, curly, long, and heavy coats. When it comes to thick coats, you need a sturdy little thing to straighten out those tangles in the curls, and though the soft brush sounds tempting, it won't open up tangles and mats for you.

Soft pins

Medium pins

Firm pins

The angle of the pins

For gentle detangling work

It might seem subtle, but from a comfort perspective, it is a deal-breaker feature. Most brushes regardless of the price come with an angle close to 100 degrees or even less. The problem with that is it is going to "grab" the hair instead of being able to glide/wiggle through it when there is a tangle or just an abundance of hair around. That will result in discomfort for the dog and they will react and we see a squirmy dog. Some might think they hate brushing, yet they are just trying to tell you to angle the pins to 150 degrees, where it is more comfy and even more effective.

Modifying the angle of the pins

You can get the desired 150-degree angle by straightening out the pins with your fingers or with a duckbill player a bit. It's like a 5-10 minute job and it will help you huge to keep your doodle comfy while you remove the tangles and mats.

No balls on the tip of the pins

For pleasant detangling

A slicker brush might seem to be more gentle with the little plastic balls on the tips, but there is a catch! Literally. Haha. The small pins are great to get a doodle used to the sensation of brushing -on an absolutely tangle and mat-free coat, but they do more harm than good when we use them for detangling or dematting. How come? Dogs react to two things when it comes to brushing. Scratches on the skin and pulling sensation on the skin due to the brushing method, the tool, or the combination of those. The little balls won't scratch the skin, granted -so that's a checkmark. However, they sure get stuck in the tiniest tangles and mats and will cause pulling sensation on the skin, resulting in a more squirmy dog than ever, because it hurts. So, the little balls on the pins are great for doodles who have absolutely tangle and mat-free coat, however, it needs to be hardcore maintained on a daily basis to be able to keep using that tool by itself. A slicker brush without balls on the pins for detangling and dematting used with the right technique is a great combination to the most gentle and effective work.

Head curve

Brushing line by line

The curvature of the head is a very useful feature to keep the dog comfortable and also your wrist cool as a cucumber. Due to the curve, the pins of the brush will hit the coat in different depths, which will open up the coat gradually, instead of grabbing it from the base on a full surface of the brush's head. I prefer the curved heads for that reason and I try to avoid flat headed brushes. My favorite curve is the one the Big K has, it's smoother and makes a more comfortable brushing experience for both participants.

Head size

It might sound tempting to get a large brush, suggesting you might get the brushing done faster. However, in my experience doodles, favor the medium size and cooperate more when I'm working with the medium size on them. They cooperate more so we get done faster. Plus the medium size is easier on your hands. When you grab the hair with a large-sized brush, it'll be a tougher work on your hands and also on the dog, too.

Medium-size Big K slicker brush

Large-size Big K slicker brush


For your comfort

I have yet to come across a brush with a genuinely comfortable handle, though I tweaked mine, so they are now. Since I spend more time brushing than anything else, my brush needs to be the Rolls Royce kind of comfortable. Whatever that means, I've yet to get to sit in one. LOL The Big K steals the show here, too shape-wise, but I still tweak it and all other brushes I used, by wrapping the handle in tennis grip. That gives me so much comfort, stability and eliminates the slippery aftermath of sweaty palms on plastic handles.


Given the Big K has most of the optimal features here, I would definitely go with that and I highly recommend it to doodle parents. I still tweak (wrap it in tennis grip) the handle on my Big K and open up the pins to 150 degrees when I need to get a new one. It might sound ridiculous to spend so much on a slicker, but in my opinion, it still does worth it to carve out the cost for the Big K. The quality and comfort you get combined with how fast you can work with it, can't be beaten by anything on the market right now.

Not suggested slicker types

Self-cleaning slicker

It might seem to be tempting to get one of these self-cleaning brushes, however, let me explain why I urge you to keep shopping.

The biggest 4 issues with it are:

#1. It's dense, meaning it will get stuck in your dog's coat way more, will pull the hair more. Which leads to the next part:

#2. The self-cleaning thingie would not be necessary if the apparatus was sparse. From a sparse slicker, removing the coat is done with 2 fingers, no effort.

#3. It's a flathead, which means it grabs the hair by the base throughout the brush's surface. Why is that bad? It will cause more pulling on the skin, resulting in a less happy more wiggly dog.

#4. The pins are so freakin' short :P (~ 1/2"), it won't do much on a doodle coat even on a puppy.

Any one of the above should be a dealbreaker for doodle pawrents.

Flexible head slicker 

They have flat heads -why that is not desirable is detailed above- and they are crazy dense, less than 2mm between the pins. Their price varies, but the Les Pooches brand costs around $60-$90.

Flexible headed slickers are definitely not made for doodles. Though I don't know which dog breed would feel comfortable using one of these on them. I certainly would bite like a sawing machine if I were a doodle and someone would give it a go on my coat.

I am mentioning Les Pooches here since it is coming up more often than not whether such an expensive brush is good or bad for doodles. (Other, cheaper brands can be uncomfortable as well.)