Dealing With Matted Dog Hair And Tangles

Matted Dog Hair - Ouch!

All dogs can get mats and tangles in their hair, some breeds being more prone than others to get these gnarly knots - such as those with long, silky, or double coats.  Think Poodle for one, and If you have a breed that likes the water, this increases the odds of matted dog hair because wet hair sticks together.

So what exactly are these tangled messes?

Mats are nasty knotted entanglements of hair that may involve the topcoat, undercoat, dirt, burrs, loose hair hanging around, and just about anything your dog may have gotten into. They form when clumps of hair become densely tangled around each other.

Most often, you will find dog hair mats in the arm pits, around the neck from collar friction, around the feet and especially under the chin in bearded breeds.  If unattended, mats can harbor bacteria and provide a hiding place for parasites.

matted dog hair before and after poodlesBefore and After!

Because mats can be quite damaging and sometimes painful for your dog, matted dog hair needs to be removed.

Before you get started with de-matting, you'll need some tools and products designed for the job. The right tools will make it easier to undo your dogs tangles with confidence and your pet will thank you for that!

Tools And Products For Matted Dog Hair

There are some tried and true products that professionals use all the time for de-matting. Your precious pup deserves nothing less than the best to make the process as comfortable as can be.

Here's what you need:


Combs, Wide and Narrow-toothed

Mat Splitters

Dog Mat Detangling Sprays

Blunt-nosed Scissors

Wet Coat or Dry?

When it comes to actually removing a mat, there are differing opinions about whether the coat should be bathed first. Some argue that water tightens a mat, making it more difficult to deal with.

Others claim that a clean and conditioned coat is easier to handle, reasoning that the hair will be softer, come apart more readily and be less likely to suffer damage from the abrasive effect of dirt in the hair. Experimentation may be the only way for you to decide the proper course of action.

I'll take the dry choice!

If you choose to bathe your dog prior to de-matting, apply the detangling product first, let it dry, then follow with the bath and a high-quality leave-in coat conditioner at the end.

 Small Mats of Dog Hair

Whether you bathe your dog first or not, there's a simple process to fix smaller areas of matted dog hair on your dog.

First section the dog's hair to make it easier to locate the mats. Don't forget to inspect its paws, as this is a common hiding place for mats and a very sensitive area for your dog. Also, check behind the ears, the armpits, under the chin and along the inside of the legs.

Pre-treat the mats with de-tangling/de-matting spray and let it sit for about 20 minutes or so, to really penetrate the hair and begin the softening process.

After this has soaked in, use your fingers to work with the matted hair from the outside in, gently easing it apart a little bit at a time. Never pull or stretch the hair. At some point you'll be able to use the comb or slicker brush, again starting from the outside and working your way in, to finish brushing out the mat.

When working on the mat, it helps to hold the base of the mat with one hand while working on the end of the mat with your other hand or brush. This helps prevent painful pulling on the skin.

When you're working on the armpits, it's much easier to use a triangular-shaped slicker brush. Just be careful not to over brush or be too forceful when brushing in this spot.

You may elect to gently clip out mats you find here, or in other sensitive places, where the hair loss is not seen. Use your blunt nosed scissors to do this. If your dog is wiggly and won't sit still, it is best to allow a professional groomer to clip or cut the mats to avoid accidentally cutting your pet's skin.

Remove Larger Mats

If you encounter much larger mats or ones that are a real challenge, this is where the mat splitter comes in.

Use this tool to carefully slice a large mat into narrower pieces going in the direction of outside to inside. You will find that these smaller sections of hair will be less difficult to untangle.

Next, get your wide-toothed comb and use it with a picking action to loosen and untangle the hair, before combing it out. If the hair is still damp from the spray, let it dry out first.

If you bathed your dog, start separating out some of the worst tangles with your fingers and a brush while the coat is still wet. Put your hand on the mat when you brush so as to avoid pulling or making contact with your dog's skin.

When you have most of the bad guys separated, you can begin drying on a low setting, as this will further help loosen the mats while you are combing or brushing.

 Long Matted Dog Hair

For dogs with long hair, groomers often favor the stripping tool for this type of coat, and you can try your hand at it too. This knife, which has a beveled edge, is helpful in releasing tangles by working on the hair above the mat.

Again, use some de-matting spray and after you get the hair loosened up, you can switch to a comb to finish the job.

Some people like the sprays containing silicone, which make the hair more slippery, while others use something right off the kitchen shelf that does the same thing: cornstarch.

Preventing Future Mats And Tangles

Keeping your dog free of mats is an ongoing task that begins by establishing a foundation of regular grooming habits. I know it takes dedication, but you want your beloved pet to look smart and be healthier - right?

Grooming can be made a lot easier for you and your pet by having the best grooming tools for your dogs coat type. I think it is worth investing in professional products even though they may be more expensive because they will keep the coat in the best shape. 

Dead hair is a breeding ground for mats, parasites, bacteria, and hot spots, as well as cutting off air circulation to the skin. Bad news for Bowser.

A coat that is brushed and clean stays in healthier condition and is less likely to develop mats.

The cause of dog hair mats isn't always very obvious. However, a dog's coat is much more susceptible to matting when it is in the process of changing to an adult coat - something to keep in mind with a new dog.

Regardless of the cause, some dogs' coats are just plain high maintenance and much more vulnerable to the problem. Long, silky, or double coats fall into this category, as do dogs that like to play in the water. Wet hair tends to stick together and before you know it, a mat follows.

An often overlooked culprit could be the wrong grooming tools as mentioned above. Inferior brushes and combs can actually damage and weaken a dog's coat, making it far more likely to develop mats.

Even your dog's diet or allergies may lead to coat problems. A strong healthy coat relies on sound nutrition to stay in peak condition.

So, now you have the tools and the methods for dealing with matted dog hair - your dog is gonna look great!

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