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Dagnabit! A Mat!
The Dematting Dilemma

to help you and your dog.


Bathtime can be a nightmare if mats are part of the question. Professional groomers know to avoid placing a matted dog in the bath because the soap and water and scrubbing only make mats tighter. So dematting, prior to the bath is required.

Many mats can be dealt with by a basic groom. Some of the most common areas for matting, behind the ears for example, are often clippered short prior to bathing.

For the heavily matted and/or filthy dog, the only option may be to completely clipper the dog down either before or after a bath. In any event, another bath will likely be necessary after the clippering because those mats would have held dirt and grime against the skin and been untouched by any prior bath.

Too many professional groomers are left with the job of dealing with a heavily matted dog because the owner didn't do the most basic grooming between visits. Make no mistake, this is a form of neglect and abuse. Mats can cause a host of serious medical problems like dogs who cannot move properly because of mats pulling, or cannot eliminate because of mats blocking their rectum and even skin tears and infections. Any and all of these issues can compromise or take a life. Additionally, the professional groomer does not possess any magic, tricks or tools for removing mats. Should they go through a dematting, it will be exhausting and frustrating for both dog and groomer, and most likely very painful for the dog as well. At best, they will use some of the tips discussed here and even then, it will often produce a dog that is fearful of their groomer. Not a situation any groomer desires.

The ideal is prevention. An occasional brush through with a suitable brush or comb can negate the issue from appearing. The 'slicker' brush, while popular is rarely the right choice. For short coats, it is very painful as it scratches and rakes and for longer coats it will not reach to the skin unless the user is properly instructed and getting to the skin is critical for success. With that said, the pin brush and/or greyhound comb are more suitable choices in most cases. Pay special attention to areas that are creased (behind ears, where legs join the body, etc.) and wherever undercoat would be thickest (for example the bloomers). You want to brush until the comb or brush come away clean or relatively clean. Hair continuing to come out is the hair that would cause a mat if allowed to remain.

When prevention is not in place, other choices need to be made. For the future, will the owner brush more frequently? If not, keeping the coat shorter is an option since the loose coat that is not removed and the dry loose ends contribute to the tangling that becomes a mat.

In approaching the mat, have several tools available. The first I'd advocate is a spritzer bottle with some water and thick, creamy conditioner mixed in a 1:1 up to 3:1 (water to conditioner)ratio. Additionally a bottle of full strength conditioner, a comb (in this case I often use a plastic comb used for people as it will give and not allow as much pulling) and if needed a mat rake and/or scissors. First start by dampening just the mat with the spritzer and pull apart what you can with your fingers. Gently use the comb on just a few strands at a time to both loosen the mat and take it apart into smaller mats.

If this approach is too slow or unsuccessful due to the density, size and/or depth of the mat consider using the mat rake or scissors to cut the mat into pieces. Not whacking it off but rather cutting perpendicular to the dog's body so that it is still attached in 'slices'. Then continue with the original method.

Alternate tools and even add full strenth conditioner to help loosen the hairs if helpful. Using your fingers and comb, the mat can be loosened. Always be gentle and work with very small pieces so as to minimize the discomfort to the dog.

Ultimately, the tools and products on the market testify to the efforts made by people to demat their dogs. In general, we recommend a complete grooming that would simply clipper or remove all mats at the skin. If your dog lives in an environment with their people, they are typically comfortable (although a dog coat can help) while the coat grows out and a complete clippering can alleviate the discomfort the dog is experiencing without putting them through an additionally painful and tedious experience. Still for the occasional, minor mat, this method is the best we know of for removing and maximizing comfort for the dog.

Have more questions? Come visit DigitalDog's Forum to post questions or look for answers!

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