How To Groom A Dog With Matted Fur


Even the most conscientious dog-groomer is sometimes faced with the problem of matted fur. Some breeds – especially those with long fur – are more prone to mats than others. In this article we will look at how you can deal with the problem easily.

How do fur mats form?

Most dogs shed their fur. Some shed continually throughout the year while some breeds only shed once or twice a year. When the shed fur doesn’t fall away and instead gets stuck to the fur around it, then a mat will begin to form. Dead skin cells will also get attached to the growing mat, and very soon you’ll have a problem.

Oddly enough, dogs that don’t shed their fur like Poodles and Labradoodles can be more prone to matting than other dogs. The key to the problem is brushing. If you don’t brush your dog often or not correctly, then the risk of mats forming is much greater.

Where do mats usually form?

Mats most commonly form in the following areas:

Armpits, where it is more difficult to groom effectively

On your dog’s chest

Around your dog’s ears and the side of its face – especially a problem with very furry dogs

Along the back of your dog’s legs – called the feathering

Between your dog’s back legs and around it’s anus – take care here as the mats may also be contaminated with faeces

If you own a very furry dog or one with particularly long hair, you’ll need to pay special attention to these areas when you are grooming. Prevention, as always, is better than cure. If you can stop the mats from forming then your task will be easier when grooming and your dog will be much more comfortable.

If your dog loves to play in the countryside and often comes back covered in mud and dirt, then the risk of mats developing is high. It is important to wash your dog thoroughly when this happens. Pay particular attention to those areas where there is a high risk of mats forming.

Many dogs enjoy a bath, but some absolutely hate having one. Don’t be tempted to just brush a muddy dog. A bath is essential if you are to prevent mats building up deep within its fur.

There is a risk of infections arising from untreated matted hair. Bacteria can lodge in the mats and ticks and fleas will happily set up home in them. Any mats that have become infected will let off a foul smell and even cause your dog pain. This applies most often to mats on your dog’s feet.

Do I need special tools to deal with mats?

There are some special tools available for dealing with mats. If you find that your dog does have a matting problem, investing in these tools might be a good idea.

The tools are:

A brush for long, thick fur called a tangle teaser

A mat comb that is specially designed for mats

A special knife called a mat splitter that has a curved blade that works under the mat to cut it away

You will also need the following:

A leash so that you can keep your dog secure while you work

A muzzle so your dog can’t bite if it gets anxious or if you pull its fur when working

A pair of scissors – these need to be small and with rounded ends

An oil-based conditioner to use to keep your dog’s fur moist which can help untangle it

Old cloths to clean up any mess and wipe your tools with

And finally:

Some treats to reward your dog at the end of the session

Lots of patience as the job of grooming out mats can take some time

How to remove fur mats

Before starting you session make sure your dog is calm and secure. Also be prepared to spend more than one session clearing the mats if there are a number of them. Your dog might get restless and bored and unable to cope with a long session of grooming.

Don’t rush the job of removing fur mats. You might hurt your dog when using a knife or scissors, especially if it moves suddenly. Once you are ready then follow these suggestions for the best way of tackling the mats:

Firstly, feel around your dog’s body to identify where the mats are positioned. Try to separate the fur surrounding the mat from the mat itself.

Using the conditioner spray wet the mat. Use your fingers to massage the mat and begin to break it up. While doing this lift the mat away from your dog’s skin. Ideally you should be able to raise it so that it is only held by some rooted hairs. Use the mat splitter to cut through the hairs and the mat will come away.

If you are having trouble getting the mat away from the skin, keep massaging it then use the tangle teaser to break the mat up into smaller sections.

Use the mat comb next to comb the surface of the mat. This should pull fur away from the mat making it smaller. Keep working the mat with your fingers.

The aim of these processes is to break the mat up. Using the mat splitter to cut away the loosened sections of the mat will allow you to massage deeper into the heart of the mat. Hopefully more of the mat will come away and the mat will disappear.

If, after all this work, the mat is still proving stubborn, then it’s time to use your scissors. Take care as the mat will be close to your dog’s skin! Cutting a mat away with scissors is very much a last resort.

Pay special attention to any mats that have developed on your dog’s feet and remove them. Some owners like to cut any fur that grows between their dog’s toes to reduce the risk of matting. Mats on your dog’s feet easily get infected and also can cause pain and discomfort.

Once the mat has been removed, brush the fur around the area. It might even be necessary to trim your dog’s fur to make everything look neat and tidy.

Lisa Thompson

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