We all love to run our hands over our dog’s lovely coat. But this experience can turn for the worse if they develop mats. These are a collection of hair that clump together to form mini balls of hair. We humans can also have matted hair from time to time. But dogs are vulnerable because of the tendency of their fur to sweep up burs or small sticks. These can serve as nidus for the mat to form. Meticulous and frequent grooming can help prevent matted hair in dogs. In case you’re presented with a dog that has mats, here’s how you can manage it like a pro.
Get the Right Tools
Cutting matted hair in dogs requires the use of certain tools. You cannot use any ordinary dog brush or comb since the main issue here is severe tangling. You are not dealing with normal hair strands that are easy to brush or comb. Hair tangles are also easier to “untangle” using a dog brush. A mat is a thick ball of fur that is already impossible to separate its individual strands. As such, you should choose tools that are specific for cutting through matted hair. If you are looking for more options, check out our guides on dog shedding brushes and dog flea combs.
- Pet Clipper
For cutting matted hair it is better to use dog clippers than a pair of scissors. This is because the hair mats often lie close to the dog’s skin. Using scissors to cut through the mat can increase the risk of injuring your pet. It is for this reason that an electric pet clipper works best for the purpose of dematting your dog. It will be like shaving your pet since mats are very severe forms of hair tangles. Clipping or shaving the hair is better than cutting the mats one by one. This will allow for the even growth of the pet’s fur. Find out more about dematting tools for dogs here.
- Mat Splitter
If you don’t like the idea of shaving your dog’s hair and making it like a skinhead, then you’d better invest in a good mat splitter. This looks like the conventional barber’s shaving razor. You insert the edge in between the mat and the dog’s skin. As you move the splitter, its blade cuts through the mat. In a way, you are creating smaller mats from a big mat. This should make it easy to separate the individual strands using an ordinary dog brush or comb.
- Mat Rake
Another tool you may want to have is a mat rake. It looks like the hand rake people use in gardening, but comes with sharp teeth. This is perfect for matted hair that is not yet very severe. It can separate the smaller mats into finer strands. The stiffer and sharper tines of the mat rake allow for the easier separation of the hair strands.
- Other Tools
You will also need to have a detangling solution. There are many products in the market that you can apply onto your dog’s tangled hair. These solutions lubricate the surfaces of the tangles, allowing them to loosen up. If you don’t like a detangler, you can use a dog shampoo instead. At the very least, you will still need a dog shampoo afterwards during bathing. Don’t forget your dog’s conditioner. For a wider selection of choices, check out our shampoo for puppy and dry dog shampoo guides.
Focus on Areas with Hair Tangles and Mats
Mats often occur in areas of the dog’s body where there is constant friction. As such, you can expect matted hair on under its ears, along the back of its legs, under its belly, and below its neck. This doesn’t mean that hair mats cannot develop in other parts of its body.
Dogs with long coats are more prone to hair matting than those with short fur. It is important to identify the different areas where these mats can occur so you can plan your approach. Remember that not all dogs can sit still during grooming. In severe hair matting, you can expect to spend 2 to 3 hours removing the mats alone. As such, it is often wise to do it one at a time. It is also for this reason that many dog groomers prefer to clip the coat instead of cutting through the mats one at a time.
Be Methodical in Separating the Matted Hair
It is often best to proceed with the dematting process in a methodical manner. This means you have to employ those methods that will bring the least discomfort for your pet first. One of the major considerations here is the natural beauty of the dog’s coat. As much as possible, you don’t want to shave or clip it. You may want to preserve or retain as much of your dog’s hair as possible. It is for this very reason that you need to start the dematting process with the least stressful method first.
Use Your Fingers
Always start by running your fingers through the tangles. If you think you can separate the strands with the simple rubbing motion of your fingers, then you can do so. You can spritz some detangling solution onto the matted hair. Rub the detangling solution into your dog’s matted hair. Make sure to soak the hair with the detangler. Give it several minutes to start working on the hair mat.
Using your fingers, work on one section of the mat at a time. Pull the individual hair strands and try to ease them apart. Do it in a deliberate yet careful manner so as not to hurt your dog. This requires your patience. It is painstaking and can be one of the reasons why you’d want to go ahead and clip the hair instead.
Use a Slicker Brush
It is impossible to separate all the hairs from the mat using your fingers alone. As such, you will need a slicker brush to finish it off. Like using your fingers, it is best to brush a small portion of the separated hairs at a time. Be gentle and don’t rush it. You don’t want to tug on these hairs as it can be painful for your pet.
Always look at the direction of the hair growth. Move your brush in the same direction, not against it. Continue adding detangling solution into the mat so it will be easier to brush. Again, be very patient.
Use a Mat Rake
Sometimes the slicker brush is not enough to separate the matted hair in dogs. If so, you can bring in the mat rake. This is like a dog brush but with sharp teeth. They help cut through the thick mat. It allows you to separate the mat into smaller sections, depending on the width of the individual gaps.
Like the slick brush, always move the mat rake in the direction where your dog’s hair grows. Be careful, though, as you can hurt your dog if the sharp teeth of the mat rake happen to get in contact with its skin.
Use a Mat Splitter
It is unfortunate that there will be portions of the matted hair where neither finger nor slicker brush can separate the strands. In such cases, you will need the mat splitter. Before you use this on your dog, it is important to learn how to use it the correct way. Determine where the cutting edge is. You don’t want this edge to be anywhere your dog’s skin. A mat splitter is like a knife that will cut through the thick matted hair. What it does is it “splits” the mat into smaller mats; hence, the name.
It is best to split the matted hair in vertical and horizontal strips. This will allow you to use the mat rake or slicker brush to work on these smaller matted sections. We have to emphasize that the mat splitter is a very sharp object. Be careful.
Click here and find out if there is a difference between dog hair and dog fur.
Use a Guarded Pet Clipper
When all of the above methods are not enough to cut through the matted hair, you’re left with no choice but to shave it. If the matted hair is so severe that it covers the entire body of the dog, then you can give the dog a puppy cut or puppy shave. The problem is when the matted hair is only present in certain areas of the dog’s body. This is where your creativity will kick in.
As much as possible you will want to shave only the area where there’s matting. But it would be aesthetically unpleasing to have a dog with uneven cut. So, you might want to get a little creative when it comes to hairstyles for dogs.
Give Your Pet a Good Bath
Before you bathe your dog, make sure you were able to remove all of the matted hair. Hair mats can act like a sponge when they get wet. This can worsen the hair mat. As such, bathe your dog only if you are 100% certain that there are no more hair mats on its coat. Use the right dog shampoo when bathing your dog. It is also advisable to use a dog hair conditioner to help prevent mats and tangles during the drying process. Take a look at our reviews of dog dryers and dog bathtubs for more options.
Cutting matted dog hair can be a very tedious task. Using the right tools and proceeding at a methodical manner can make it easy.