Have you ever noticed when you bring your dog into the Holiday Barn Pet Resorts Spa, or any Grooming Shop for that matter, that the Groomer or the employee at check-in, rubs her hands all over your dog while discussing options with you? There’s a reason for that, and it’s not affection… although, we always manage to sneak a little of that in too! We are checking your dog’s coat for mats and tangles.
Many times, a dog looks fabulous… the outer layer of his coat looks fluffy and flowing, but underneath he’s wearing a completely matted coat. Some customers swear that they have been diligently brushing their dog, and we don’t doubt them, even when mats and tangles are present. The question is, have they been properly brushing their dog? Do they know how to brush their dog? Often times, the answer is no. That’s where we come in… We want to teach you how to properly brush your dog’s coat, remove minor matting, and know when to defer to the professional groomers at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts.
Matted Fur and It’s Associated Health Risks for Your dog
If matting hair is left on the skin, it continues to fuse together with “neighboring” hair and can actually result in kind-of a dense, compacted undercoat. In our salon, we have witnessed matted coats removed from dogs in one large mass .
Matting causes real problems to the skin underneath. It can actually cut off blood supply to extremities and prevent circulation. Matting can trap bacteria, infection, moisture, and infestations of many kinds against the skin. Sores develop under the matts, and as your dog moves around, or scratches at the irritation, the hair pulls at the skin.
First of all, if you have a dog with a smooth, sleek coat, lucky you. You’re not going to have to put a whole lot of effort into brushing your dog. Do you even need to brush him? Yes, it’s good to brush your dog at least a couple of times a week. Brushing will help remove lose, dead hair near the skin, and is great for circulation. Brushing distributes the hair’s natural oils contributing to a healthy, well-nourished coat. We love using the rubber curry brushes on short coated dogs. The rubber massages the skin and loosens dead hair better than a bristle brush.
I feel bad for people whose dog is prone to matting, and it’s not 100% breed related. Mats and tangles can significantly increase the amount of time we need to set aside when you bring your dog in for a Grooming appointment. And it’s expensive, as Groomers charge per hour for de-matting. I have had two Lhasa Apsos, both with similar hair, but one whose hair matted when the wind blew, and the other who just gets a few tangles in vulnerable spots where he scratches. Mats generally form in the armpits, behind the ears, under the collar, around the groin area and anus. Dogs who have long, soft coats, very curly coats, or even dense undercoats are likely to get mats if they are not groomed regularly. It can feel like an endless task.
Effective Grooming tools to Prevent Matted Fur
Often the problem with ineffective brushing and the resulting matting is the wrong choice of grooming tools. I have three brushes for my dog:
- A softer, natural bristle brush – I use this brush remove debris from the surface of his coat and to make his coat shine (plus he likes it… it’s so soft that it kind-of feels like a massage).
- Pin brush - a pin brush is made up of metal pins with little balls of rubber or plastic at the ends, I use this brush when I mean business. The pin brush glides through the coat, minimizes hair breakage, and offers exceptional comfort due to the rounded ends.
- Slicker brush. I use it to help remove tangles.
But my most favorite tool is the METAL COMB. A metal comb gets to the root of the problem. They maneuver right under or through a small mat. Metal combs come in all shapes and sizes and can be purchased based on the dog’s coat… coarse, thick, fine, etc… At Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, we use the metal comb to locate mats by effectively reaching the skin. Once you have brushed your dog, finish with a metal comb to make sure your dog is mat and tangle free.
BUT, I’ve gotten ahead of myself…
A regular brushing routine for your dog is important
Let’s start with your brushing routine. Try to commit to 3 – 5 minutes of brushing most days of the week. You can do this while sitting in front of the tv in the evenings, or maybe the last thing at night before bed. Yes, it is possible to limit your brushing time to 3 – 5 minutes, but first we need to get to that point. You are likely to have some matting issues to work through if you are just now beginning a brushing routine.
If needed, you can begin as I do… with a couple minutes of “pleasurable” brushing with the soft, natural bristle brush, a nice massage or just some tender petting. This pre-brushing activity will help to get your dog ready for the idea of touching and grooming. It will help him relax. Many people stop grooming after a once-over with the natural bristle brush. That’s where they make the mistake of thinking that they have thoroughly brushed their dog because he looks great on the surface. Unfortunately, the soft, natural bristles are not adequate to get down to the skin and eliminate mats and tangles. Okay, so now your dog is purring like a kitten, you can move on to the next step, the pin brush.
The pin brush is best for medium length coats, wavy and curly coats like the golden retriever, most “doodles”, and cocker spaniels. It’s also good for wire coated dogs like the Airedale and Schnauzer. If you have matting, the pin brush will no-doubt catch it, and is fairly good at helping get the mat out. Brush your dog’s coat thoroughly with the pin brush, limiting the amount of time spent in one area, and noting any tangling that needs dealt with. Make sure you cover his entire body.
What to do if you need to remove matted fur
So you’ve identified some mats and tangling and are not sure how to go about getting them out. We will discuss a few other tools and brushes that can help with this job, but before we get to that, I want to give you a little warning. De-matting tools are sharp….and your dog’s skin is thin. You can easily puncture or cut your dog’s skin with improper or aggressive use of these tools. Extra, extra, extra gentleness and caution is needed when using a de-matting tool. In fact, depending on the amount of matting your dog has, you may want to get some professional Grooming advice before attempting to de-mat your dog’s coat on your own. Avoid using scissors to cut through a mat because you may accidentally cut your dog…. Leave scissors and clippers to the professionals as these can be very dangerous.
Carefully Use a Slicker Brush
I mentioned the slicker brush as my number 3 brush for my own dog. My dog’s matting is usually mild enough that the slicker and a metal comb is all I need. The slicker brush has rows of angle-shaped, closely spaced wires on a rounded base. And when I say wires, I do mean wires. Wires can stab and/or scrape the skin. When using a slicker brush, be very, very careful not to apply too much pressure. If your dog shows any discomfort whatsoever, back off a little. If he is not used to brushing, and/or his fur is very thin, the slicker may be too aggressive for his sensitive skin. Slicker brushes are great in helping with matting and tangling, as well as removing undercoat.
Try Using Your Fingers
So, you’ve gone over the mat with your slicker brush and it just won’t budge. Try separating the mat with your fingers, gently prying it apart. If that does not work, this is when we consider the specifically designed de-matting tools. You may need a de-matting rake or a de-matting comb (sometimes called matt splitters). People often get the two mixed-up so you may see them mistakenly referred to under the opposite name. Both tools allow you to get under the mat and work it out. Work on de-matting your dog’s coat in one small area at a time…. Hopefully that’s all you’ll have to worry about any way!
Work to Detangle the Matted Fur with a De-Matting Comb
A de-matting comb has one straight line of razor-sharp blades that you can work into and under a mat. Start at the surface of the mat and wiggle the comb into it. Once inside the mat, pull gently with a “picking” motion to untangle the mat. Pull or “pick” the comb in and out of the mat, allowing the blades to cut through the tangle. Work at detangling the top of the mat first and then work your way towards the bottom of the mat. Always hold your hand firmly near your dog’s skin to help lessen the pull and to guard against injuries.
A de-matting rake takes a little more practice. It has a smaller head with a curved shaped blade that fits underneath a mat. After it’s under the mat, you slowly pull with a “sawing-like” motion, cutting through the mat. Sounds easy, but depending on how close the mat is to the skin, you may not be able to slip the rake under the mat at first. Plus, if the mat very dense, it would be best – and less painful to your dog – to take a more gradual approach rather than trying to pry underneath the entire mat at one time.
There are many de-tanglers on the market, and many “homemade remedies” for untangling a mat. Unfortunately, these don’t work as well as expected. The Professional Groomers at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts have some de-tanglers that work fairly well, but the success of these products is dependent on understanding how to use them most effectively.
When is it necessary to shave down your dog?
If your mats are too deep and thick, it may be necessary to shave your dog down and start over with a clean slate. I highly recommend not attempting to shave your dog down at home…it’s trickier than it looks and improper technique could result in a painful injury to your pet. Shaving is not the preferred method of de-matting, but it is definitely the most humane when you consider what your pet would have to endure if he has severe matting. The existence of mats can change the plans for Fido’s preferred hairdo… Instead of that puffy little puppy cut, we may have to shave down near the skin to remove the mats. But, with continued proper brushing, our Groomers can work with you to direct your dog’s hair to grow into the hairstyle of your choosing.
As you can tell, mats are a big deal. So when should you let a Professional Dog Groomer take over?
- If you are not able to remove your dog’s tangles within a short period of time (i.e., 15 minutes), then you have a bigger job on your hands that is best left to the professionals at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts.
- If you are not able to get a metal comb anywhere close to the skin.
- If you have mats in very sensitive areas, like behind the ears, inside the legs (armpits, if you will), between paw pads. It’s easy to cut a dog when attempting remove mats from these areas.
Keep in mind, regularly scheduled groom appointments dramatically reduce the build-up of mats. Please call and schedule a Grooming appointment today: In Glen Allen, call 672-2200, and on our Southside, call 794-5400.