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5 Tricks to Get Mats Out of Dog Hair

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5 Tricks to Get Mats Out of Dog Hair

So, there you are petting your dog, and you suddenly come across a clump of knotted fur. Hmm, that’s strange, you think. You try to use your fingers to smooth it out but no luck... If this has happened to you, you’re not alone. These clumps of fur, or mats, are common, especially for dogs with longer or curly hair.

Although mats can be found anywhere on your dog’s body, they’re commonly found in areas where your dog’s fur rubs together. Adding simple steps to your grooming routine can help prevent mats. If you have a dog with hair that’s soft to the touch rather than short and coarse, make sure to regularly check your dog for mats.

What are the tricks to getting mats out of your dog’s hair? Here are 5 things you can do to safely remove mats.

How to detangle, prevent and cut matted dog hair

  • 1

    Condition the Hair

    First, make sure your dog is comfortable and calm. Pet them and offer treats (this will also help distract them). Once your dog is relaxed, hydrate their hair by spraying the coat with a coat conditioner, like Wahl’s Waterless No-Rinse Shampoo. This will make it easier to separate the clumps. If you don’t have a coat conditioner, you can use a non-stick cooking spray or a bit of cornstarch.

  • 2

    Use your Fingers

    Start by holding the base of the mat with one hand. This will protect your dog’s skin from pulling as you attempt to detangle the mat. Once you have a grip on the base, use your other hand to gently detangle the mat. Begin at the top of the mat and work your way down.

  • 3

    Brush it Out

    If you can’t remove the mat using your fingers, move onto a dog brush, such as Wahl’s Slicker Brush. It provides dual-level pins to help brush through the hair from top to bottom. Make sure to continue holding the base of the mat, starting at the bottom and working your way up and away from the skin. If one side of the mat isn’t loosening, try brushing from different sides. Brushing can also help release any debris that might be caught in your dog’s hair.

  • 4

    Comb it Out

    That pesky mat still isn’t loosening up? Okay, time to move onto something stronger. If you are able to partially separate the mat, switch to a de-shedding rake or finishing comb. Hold the base of the mat with your fingers to avoid pulling your dog’s skin and pull the comb through the mat, starting toward the top, which is usually the easiest part to untangle. Slowly work your down the mat as you untangle it. Again, try approaching the mat from different angles if one side isn’t working.

  • 5

    Cut it Out

    If separating, brushing and combing the mat out does not work, use an electric pet trimmer or clipper to cut it out. Why an electric trimmer versus scissors? There’s a chance you could cut or nick your dog’s skin with scissors. Electric clippers and trimmers are designed to safely touch the skin without cutting it. And given our dogs don’t always stay still when we ask them to, it’s best not to take a chance.

    Make sure to get a firm grip on the bottom of the mat and separate the excess hair around the mat so you don’t cut too much hair. Place the blade of the trimmer or clipper toward the bottom of the mat. Even though it’s safe for the blade to touch the skin, try avoiding going too close to the skin as this will startle your dog. Turn on the trimmer and gently and slowly cut through the mat. Pay close attention because you may not have to cut all the way through the mat if it loosens up as you cut.

Even if you’ve done all you can to prevent your dog’s hair from matting, most dogs with soft or long hair occasionally develop mats between grooming. Dealing with them doesn’t have to be a traumatizing experience for either you or your dog. If mats aren’t removed, they can become painful by pulling at your dog’s skin or starting to itch. It’s best to remove mats carefully and quickly before they get out of control.

Your Questions About Mats Removal and Prevention:

What causes mats?

If your dog has long, curly or wooly hair, chances are they’ll experience mats in their lifetime. Mats can happen for a variety of reasons:

  • Friction: This occurs in areas on a dog’s body where hair naturally meets, whether from laying or sitting.
  • Scratching: If your dog has dry skin or allergies, they tend to scratch more. Scratching can inadvertently tangle hair.
  • Shedding: Many dogs shed before winter and before summer. During this transition, a dog’s summer coat and winter coat make contact, twisting and turning as they do.
  • Water: Whether going for a swim on a hot summer day or taking a bath, a wet coat that dries without proper brushing can become curly and tangled.

Where are you likely to find mats on your dog?

Mats can form anywhere, but they are more likely to form in places where your dog’s fur rubs together. When checking your dog for mats, make sure to look behind the ears, between the toes, between the legs, in your dog’s armpit, around their bottom and stomach and along the backs of the legs. These are some of the common areas where you can find mats.

When do mats tend to form?

Mats can happen any time, but the most common time of year when mats form is before summer and winter. That’s because these are the times of year when most dogs are shedding one coat and growing another. When this happens, the fur or hair can become tangled. It’s important to perform regular brushing during these months to help make this transition smoother.

What dog breeds are more at risk of getting mats?

There are certain breeds that tend to get mats more than others. Coat length and type have a lot to do with it. The longer and more curly or wavy the coat is, the more likely mats can occur. Breeds with soft and curly coats include Poodles, Bichons and Portuguese Water Dogs. Dogs with long coats include Shihtzus, Yorkies, Malteses and Tibetan Terriers. Dogs with double coats can also develop mats. These breeds include Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs.

How do you prevent mats from forming?

Rule #1 is to brush your dog several times a week and take the time to inspect their coat between grooming, especially after playing and bathing. Routine brushing will help prevent mats from forming and hopefully allow you to catch them early when they’re easier to remove. The proper brush depends on your breed of dog and their coat.

Diet can also impact mats. If your dog’s coat is not as healthy as it should be, they’re likely to scratch more or the hair can grow in ways that are more susceptible to matting. Diet also impacts mat development. For a healthy coat, make sure your dog is getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids.

What should you avoid doing during mat removal?

Mat removal can be painful for your dog if you don’t take the right approach. Avoid these things to make the experience as comfortable as possible for your dog:

  • Never cut the matted hair out with a scissors. Dogs can squirm and it’s best to avoid any sharp objects that could puncture your pup.
  • Avoid pulling at mats around the ears. Your dog’s ears are sensitive so trying to poke and prod them can be painful.
  • Don't try to remove mats if your dog is pelting. What is pelting? It means your dog’s undercoat is completely matted to the point where you can’t reach the skin beneath it. It’s best to take your dog to the groomer or vet for this issue.

Why is preventing and treating mats so important?

Mats may seem relatively harmless—I mean they’re just clumps of hair, right? These clumps of hair can lead to bigger problems, including impacting the health of your dog. If left alone, the mats will only get bigger and harder to remove. As they grow, these mats can be painful to your dog. Mats twist and create knots in your dog’s hair, and this can also twist the skin, cutting off circulation and causing moisture to be trapped. This can result in irritation and skin sores. Or worse, hematomas.

Visit our Pet Grooming page for additional information and products for grooming, clipping, trimming, and bathing your pet. View All Pet Grooming Articles

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