Removing Burrs from Your Dog’s Coat

We know burrs. Although we have a regular lawn in front of our house, we’re otherwise surrounded by wilderness and that includes some real thorny problems for both dogs and dog parents: briars, beggars’ lice, and burrs.

Irie’s short, smooth hound coat requires no dog grooming but Tiki’s coat is another matter! She has a dense coat with feathers and a super bushy tail that’s just perfect for snagging on all things thorny (and often bringing back more souvenirs from our hikes that we’d like!) In the summer months, we trim her feathers so we can keep a close watch out for ticks (another big potential problem in our region) but, during the winter, they’re long and just waiting to bring home burrs.

If you find burrs in your dog’s fur, the best method to remove them is to first try to detangle the surrounding hair with your fingers, picking through the fur to gently remove the burr. Fortunately we primarily have soft clover burrs so I can pull them out with my fingers but, if you have cockleburs or other prickly burrs, you may need to wear gloves.

Also, try using a pick (either one for human hair or the rake-type brushes for dog hair) to gently untangle the hair around the burr. A fork can also be used for this purpose.

Finally, if you just can’t untangle the burr, try crushing it with pliers. Crushing the burr and breaking it into tiny pieces can make it easy to then pick out or brush out of your dog’s fur. I often have to crush clumps of tiny beggar’s lice burrs that get caught in Tiki’s fur.

If you’re finding burrs in your dog’s hair, also be sure to check the fur between his paw pads. Burrs in the paw pads can be painful!

Another big grooming challenge–and one that can be dangerous to your dog’s health–is the foxtail. These grasses with barbed spikelets catch on your dog’s fur when he walks by and can puncture his skin and even work through to his organs. The barbs on the foxtail keep it migrating forward and they’ve been found in the ears, eyes, nose, and organs of dogs.

Be sure to check your dog’s paw pads as well as his ear flaps after a walk in the grass; foxtails look similar to a wheat-type grass and have several different names. (Here they’re called speargrass.) If you find a foxtail snagged in your dog’s fur, be sure to remove it immediately.


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About Paris Permenter & John Bigley

Paris Permenter and John Bigley are the award-winning authors of over 30 pet and travel books as well as the founders and publishers of CatTipper and DogTipper.

  • You must have had us in mind when you wrote this…we do get fostails here, but the one most common is from a plant called ceaser’s weed…they’re like small velcro balls and the dogs get covered in them…i’ve learned a couple of tricks from the horse people who share our trails…on is to thin a little conditioner with water in a spray bottle…spray the burrs a section at a time, rub it in, and it makes them slide out easier…and my tool of choice is a metal mane comb sold at tack shops…seems to do the job well