Matted Dog? by Janice Jones |Last Updated 11-22-2021
First of all, don’t panic—if you have a small breed dog that has long hair, you will probably encounter a tangle or mat at some point. In Long haired dogs, hair mats happen!
We’ve lived with a lot of long haired dog dogs over the years, and I mean lots! Even with daily brushing, some dogs manage to get their hair tied up in knots, but removing them may be easier than you think.
All dogs need to be brushed from time to time, even short
haired dogs. Small breeds that have
coats that continue to grow present much larger grooming issues, especially
those whose owners choose to keep their coats long.
Rather than the occasional brushing that a
shot haired dog requires, owners with dogs such as poodles, Shih Tzu, Lhasa, Maltese,
Yorkies, Bichons, Pekingese, Poms and many others have coats that require daily
If such a breed goes too long
without a thorough brush and comb out, mats are going to take over.
Anatomy of Mats
All mats are not alike.
Small matted dog hair can occur daily because your long haired dog is continually
shedding dead hairs. This shedding
process is not like those breeds that leave hair all over your house.
The long haired dog sheds its hair
into the coat causing small mats to form. As new hairs grown in, mats can occur very
close to the skin.
Some long haired dogs
have very thick coats made up of two layers:
A dense outer coat and a soft cottony inner coat. Shih Tzu
have a single soft coat that can also mat easily. Maltese, Yorkies
Still others such as poodles have a curly
coat that too will mat up if not brushed regularly.
Brushing the outer coat will make the dog
look good, but may not get at all the mats.
Sometimes the only way to assure that the dog has been brushed
thoroughly is to go over the entire body with a metal comb.
Problems with Matted Dogs
Mats not only make the coat look disheveled, they actually
add to a dog’s distress and cause skin irritation. When this happens, the dog bites at its skin or
tries to scratch causing the mat to grow in size and the hair to get even more
tangled. Needles to say, this biting can discolor the hair and cause skin infections.
A severely matted dog is not a happy dog.
Small mats or knots are easy to remove if the dog is brushed
daily or several times a week. Larger
knots form when a part of the dog’s coat has been neglected for some time.
Sensitive Areas on a Dog
Behind the ears, under the legs, base of the tail
Even with proper training and socialization
to the grooming process, some long haired dog dogs do not like parts of their
Under the front legs, the
legs themselves, behind the ears and at the base of the tail are areas that
often knot if not brushed frequently.
These are also areas that are very sensitive to the dog so the dog
protests when these areas are being brushed.
Check out your dog’s paw pads.
Hair continues to grow there too and if not removed, can begin to form mats causing distress on the feet.
There is an easy way to remove the hair between the pads on your dog’s feet.
If you want to do this yourself, removing hair from paw pads can be accomplished by either scissors or clippers.
Since the skin between the pads is very sensitive, I recommend a clipper rather than scissors.
Around the Anus
An often neglected area that can mat easily is around the anus on long coated dogs. This is one area, while seldom pleasant, must be kept clean and free of mats.
If not trimmed regularly, feces can stick to the hair causing constipation leading to fecal impaction. This is extremely uncomfortable for the dog.
Removing the hair is easily accomplished with clippers. You can also use a pair of scissors with blunt tips, but be especially careful in this area.
Dogs tend to get nervous and jump around. If your dog does not hold still for you, either use a pair of clippers, have someone hold him, or take him to the groomers.
Tools of the Trade to Deal With Your Matted Dog
Even if you do not do all of your own grooming at home,
brushing and combing is very important for preventing mats from forming.
Groomers will often charge by the hour for
removing mats and so your bill can get high very quickly. So the best advice for a matted dog is prevention!
But, what do you do if the daily schedule has prevented you from your usual brushing and combing sessions and you end up with a matted dog?
Make sure you have some tools that will get the job done:
I will show you how to use each of these tools.
Removing Tangles from a Matted Dog
Brush before Bathing
Always brush your dog before you give him a
bath. The bath water tends to set the
mats in making them even harder to remove.
Never Brush a Dry Coat
Never brush a dog without first spraying it with
a styling product such as a de-tangling spray or a diluted conditioning spray. Brushing and combing dry hair will tend to
split it and you are likely to be fighting against static electricity.
Use the Right Equipment
Use a pin brush and part the hair with a rat
tail comb so that you are brushing small sections at a time.
Begin at the lowest portion of the dog (paws)
and work up the sides and then to the back and head.
After brushing the entire dog, go back with a
steel comb and comb the hair completely.
You are likely to find some mats that were missed with the pin brush. Use a slicker brush for styling and making
the coat look sleek and beautiful.
My Amazon recommendations
Golden Rule of Ten
Never brush the same area more than 10 strokes
at a time. Go onto another section and
come back if necessary.
Brushing in one
area, even if you know that knots are present, only tends to irritate the skin
(and the dog).
Remove Small Mats
To remove small mats, separate the mat with your
fingers, pulling very gently until the mat falls away from the hair.
Go back over with the comb. You can do this with the dog on your lap as
you watch television.
If you are gentle,
the dog will not mind in the least and feel much pampered.
Remove Medium Size Mats
To remove slightly larger mats, use the end of a
steel comb and pull gently through the mat as you hold the hair closest to the
skin with your fingers.
The dog should
not feel any discomfort if you are holding the hair properly.
Never yank or get frustrated with the
dog. Keep everything on a high, positive
My recommendations from Amazon
Challenges of Large Mats
Larger hair mats will require a de-matting comb.
These look a little like a comb but have a sharp edge that cuts through a
They are also called de-matting
tools, de-matting rakes, or mat splitters.
Carefully move the de-matting comb through the mat, holding the hair
closest to the skin to prevent pulling the mat and causing pain to the dog.
Beware: Scissors Cut Hair AND Skin
Never cut into a mat with a pair of scissors as
it is likely you could cut the dog’s skin if the dog were to suddenly
A very large mat can be removed by
first placing the scissor blade nearest the skin and cutting the mat in half as
you cut outwards towards the ends of the hair.
Once the mat is cut in half, you can try and remove each half using the
techniques shown above. If you have a severely matted dog, you can try this technique several times to get the mat down to a manageable size.
cautious with scissors. If you have a
matted dog that does not sit still for grooming, avoid the scissors altogether.
Clippers: Only Option for Severely Tangled Dogs
If the dog’s mats cannot be removed in any of
the ways above, the dog may need to be shaved down using a clipper.
This is the time most people take their dog to the groomer.
If you want to do this at home, you will need a clipper and a couple of clipper blades.
Once the hair is very short, daily brushing
will help keep the mats under control.
If you plan to purchase dog clippers, I recommend that you spend a little more money and buy the professional type. You will be very disappointed with the cheaper home clipper kits.
Your Friendly Blow Dryer
You will need something to get your dog dry after giving him a bath. It’s fine to squeeze out excess water and blot dry with a towel. Wrapping the dog in the towel for a short while wil also speed up the drying process.
Don’t try to dry your dog by vigorously rubbing with the towel. That can cause tangles.
For long coated dogs whose hair tends to mat, use a blow dryer after a bath to dry the hair. Use your pin brush as you dry your dog’s hair, one section at a time.
You can brush in the direction the hair grows
as well as in the opposite direction. Finish with blowing the hair in the direction of hair growth.
Brush or comb a section of hair as you are drying the hair.
Hand held dryers that have stands work really
well if you need an extra hand.
Tip: If you don’t have a dryer with a stand, fold up several small towels. Place the dryer on the towels as you use your hands to brush the dog. Don’t allow the dryer to get tangled in the towels as this will cut off the air vents.
Use a low, cool setting for nervous dogs. A higher speed setting can be used on other dogs, but never use the hottest setting on a dog.
- Don’t forget to keep everything positive and stop at the
first signs of stress. Several short
grooming sessions are better than one very long one. Dogs seem to have a keen memory of
distressful situations and will avoid them in the future.
- IF your dog is really matted, it is
better to shave him down or have the groomer do this rather than subjecting him
to any painful de-matting. You might get
the job done, but you will have lost the dog’s confidence in you as a D.I.Y.
Groomer and protest the next time you try to groom him.
- Finish off any grooming session with a hug,
praise and a treat.
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