Working Through A Mat vs. Shaving

What Can I Do About My Dog’s Matted Coat?
Regular grooming with a brush or comb helps keep your dog’s coat in good condition by removing dander and dirt, spreading natural body oils throughout the hair coat, keeping the skin clean, and preventing tangles and mats.

Dogs with smooth, short coats (like that of a Boxer, Boston Terrier, or Basset Hound) typically only need brushing once a week. Dogs with short, dense fur prone to matting, like Retrievers and Labradors, need weekly brushing with a slicker brush (a brush with soft pads and angled flexible pins) to remove tangles and a bristle brush to catch dead hair. Long-haired pooches (Yorkies, Collies, Afghan Hounds, etc.) require daily attention with both a slicker brush and a bristle brush to keep hair coats clean, smooth, and mat free.

Besides the overall look of your dog, there are a number of health reasons why you should regularly brush your dog’s coat so that mats don’t occur.

  • Matted hair can trap fleas, bugs, bacteria, moisture, and foreign matter against your dog’s skin. Skin sores can develop underneath the mats, become infected, and, in some neglected cases, affect skin and muscle tissue to the point where it sloughs away completely.
  • When hair is very matted, groomers have to use a very low blade to get under the hair close to the skin to remove it. This puts a fast-moving, sharp, hot piece of metal (the blade) right against your dog’s skin. If your dog moves or jumps unexpectedly, she can get nicked or receive a serious skin cut. Additionally, close shaving also leaves your dog open for razor burns or skin irritation.
  • When your dog’s ears become heavily matted, the sensitive skin on the ear tips can become constricted and the delicate blood vessels inside the skin can rupture, causing blood to pool inside the tips of the ears. These “hematomas” can be quite painful, and, when your pooch shakes her head, can bust open sending blood flying around the room. Hematomas require veterinary care to heal properly and not become infected.

How can I get rid of mats if I choose not to shave my dog?
You’ll need to thoroughly spray the mat with an all-natural detangling spraymaking sure to work the spray all the way through the hair to your dog’s skin. Using a comb, work from the outside of the mat (where the hair isn’t tangled) and slowly and gently untangle the hair in small strands. Hold the base of the mat closest to your dog’s body in two fingers as you work to avoid pulling the skin.

If a comb doesn’t work, use a tool called a “mat rake” to work through the tangled hair. The rake functions much the same way as a comb, but comes equipped with wide-spaced, sharp teeth that can cut through the mat. Note: Please hold your fingers around the base of the mat as you did when using a comb to avoid pulling your dog’s skin and possibly cutting her with the rake.

Your next mechanical option with a difficult mat is called a “mat splitter.” Splitters can be razor sharp, so you’ll need to be very careful not to cut yourself or your dog. Start by using your detangling spray, then very carefully splitting the mat of hair into vertical or horizontal strips. You can then work either your comb or rake through the smaller pieces of mat, again making sure to never pull your dog’s skin.

If you have a very furry dog, you may want to simply cut out that specific mat. On many breeds the missing patch of hair may not even be noticed. Note: BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN using scissors on a mat or a knot, because you can seriously injure your dog. A mat tends to pull the skin beneath it, and, if you cut that skin with scissors you can unintentionally create a wound that is bigger than the mat and that will need veterinary care.

Shaving your dog should be your last option.
Consider clipping your pooch only as a final option if the other techniques of removing a mat don’t work. Shaving a mat can leave a bare patch that takes quite a while to grow out.

Conversely, if your dog is matted all over her body, you may want to consider letting a professional groomer or your veterinarian shave her (this is the more compassionate choice, getting out all of those mats would be too painful). Both are fully equipped and knowledgeable in dealing with severely matted animals.

THE FINAL WORD
Don’t let your dog get matted in the first place. If you start to see mats use some of the techniques listed above. If it’s too late and the dog is completely matted, have the groomer shave the dog (Normally they can leave at least a little hair so the dog is not completely bald).

Good Luck!

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48 Comments


  1. I now have short haired dogs because I was not into brushing out hair. I have always wanted an Irish Setter, but felt I couldn’t keep up with the tangles. I am now reconsidering & would like to win to get some to test on my friends Afghan hound which he takes to be groomed @ a costly rate. If it works, my Irish Setter will soon be a family member.


  2. Oh, honey I have to sit with my fur baby everyday and carefully comb out her tangles. Her hair is so curly, I would love to get some detangler for her. Do y’all give out samples by chance? Would be great! Thank you:)


  3. I find that if i brush my little guy daily it helps with his coat no matting and use a great shampoo with a conditioner :) i never tried a detangler I’m thinking i might try it as we travel allot and some places have hard water and it’ll help with his brushing if i use it I’ll be sure to let you know how it works on him if i win a free trial bottle to try :)


  4. By brushing daily


  5. I use a regular dog brush and if I need to I cut the hair.


  6. I use a mat rake and work through one section of the dog at a sitting. I tried a dematting spray once or twice but it seemed to make matters worse; I ended up having to shave the dog.


  7. Thank you for those helpful tips. at the moment I have 2 short hair and 2 long haired dogs. My pomeranian is not so bad, but the scottie gets a lot of mats I usually cut out because it is easiest for me. My pomeranian’s dad used to get lots of mats quickly so I had to cut them out too. Almost like if he had a dense undercoat also. Thankfully, his daughter does not have that dense coat, only regular long hair. She is 6 now and I never had to cut any mats out from her fur. I will try and implement some of your tips here on my scottie. I never did use a detangler, so this will be my next step to get. Thank you again for your helpful emails. I save them all in a folder for reference when needed.


  8. We usually just cut them off our dog when we can’t get rid of it with the brush.


  9. I hate to say it, but Usually cut the mats out if I can’t brush through them.


  10. When my dog gets mating on his fur I just cut them off because try hurt them by pulling on his skin. I try to brush it out but nothing works.


  11. Fortunately and unfortunately my dog sheds- a lot. so by the time his fur mats, it’s also falling out. I try to keep up with the self-washes and brushes so that we don’t have an extra layer of fur on the carpet. If it does get really bad, he becomes a puppy again thanks to the groomer.


  12. I get rid of my dogs tangles by getting the area soapy with his shampoo and then carefully combing on sections so that he doesn’t feel pain or cry. Or I do it the cheaters way and cut it off. I figure that’s what they’ll do when he gets his hair cuts.


  13. I use either watered down dog conditioner in a spray bottle or a little mink oil to soften up any mats on Sadie (5 yr old Yorkie). She has a cotton coat so it mats easily and breaks just as easy. So it is heard to get her fur to have the elegant long fur, but she’s beautiful! Oliver (10 yrs old)my newest addition lived in a nightmare from hell. He’s 5 pounds of fur and love. However he was only 3 pounds of mange and bones a few months ago. His owner neglected him while he had a TERRIBLE case of sarcoptic mange for 4 months! His fur had fallen out, he was emaciated and after 10 years of chronic abuse he was left with no teeth, either. I took him out of the house. I said, “you couldn’t care any less, so no loss to you”, and Oliver has made an incredible recovery. He actually needs to lose half a pound, and he has a big fluffy coat now and since he’s so small and his fur isn’t that long yet, it gets damp in the morning on his potty break. And inevitably he ends up with a few leaves attached, also. I usually spray a little thinned out conditioner on my hand and rub my hand over his crest area and use a wide tooth comb if it isn’t too bad. But if he’s getting a few mats it’s usually because his tongue hangs out because his jaw has been injured so severely so he drinks copious amounts of water, which drips down his face & chin and causes tangles. I will use a flea comb I have and slowly use the top edge to break apart some of the knotted fur (while holding the mat between my fingers) and just slowly and carefully work the comb through. A millimeter or so at a time. His fur is still short and rather squirrley looking, but it’s there. He likes to walk around very proud of himself. He is the cutest little fella. Im so lucky he picked me to be his owner :) *Here’s a picture of him “before” and “after”, the after pic is the one in the middle. Right after a bath with Happy Tail’s Bead’s & Bubbles.


    1. Oliver is blessed to have you! He looks beautiful!


  14. Whenever I’ve encountered mats, I’ve always treated them like I did with mats in children’s hair – I saturate the mat with conditioner and work thoroughly through. Patience is required as you gently comb (large spaced tooth) out the mat, loosening mats from ends of hair to base.


  15. I have a small dog that I rescued, after she was abandoned in my friend’s neighborhood. From what I gather, she is a Scottish Terrier/Poodle mix and very shaggy, lol. She had to be shaved at first, she was so badly matted. It’s growing out again and tangles and mats so fast. I got her a brush and comb, but it doesn’t work very well. I usually use my fingers to try and get them out. Unfortunately, she is still a matted mess, lol. It’s a good thing that she is so cute and loveable.


  16. I have a shih tzu and she always has knots in her fur. I have been cutting the knots out with scissors. I was happy to read your email and see that there is an easier way.


  17. would love to try the detangler, I have 3 small dogs and its always a challenge to try to comb out their hair after a bath.


  18. We have a long-haired dog so when faced with any matting we use an old trick for detailing horses manes and gently pull a sharp knife through the tangle to cut the snag and free the hair.


  19. The best way we have found to work out the knots is with a rat tailed comb. I then hold the hair as close to the skin as I can and work the comb through the mat. This doesn’t seem to hurt as much as any of the other ways we have previously gotten knots and mats out. I then use my fingers to take any loose hair from the mat out and use his brush to brush it flat.


  20. I have a short haired Yorkie and a West Highland Terrier. They both love to be brushed, except for when they manage to get some really good tangles. They get tangles mostly around their legs and rear areas where they play and run through wet and taller grass in the yard. I can normally start at the end of the tangles and simply brush little at a time until the tangles are gone. If I miss a tangle and it ends up in a mat, I can usually snip it a bit then proceed to brush it out without a problem. Of course, when I am done, both of the babies think they need to shake it all out and go romp in the grass to “undo” what I just did. I haven’t tried any of the sprays to help make removing tangles a little easier. My babies might appreciate something that would make the removal easier and quicker though. They do get a bit impatient if I take too long.


  21. These are good ideas. I would also suggest making sure your dog’s coat stays clean and not oily or greasy. I’ve noticed greasy fur mats much easier. I use baby shampoo when bathing him, it is gentle and cleans the fur well. Please enter me in the contest.


  22. I have a Shih Tzu, Bella, and I am guilty of shaving her when she gets matted. We always take her to the beach during the summer and she always comes home extremely matted even though we brush her daily and gets bi weekly washings. I have tried other detangling sprays but I have never had much luck. She starts to get the long beautiful hair but within a few weeks, it’s matted and she has to be shaved. Please help!!


  23. I use a little baby oil on the hair mattes & work with a comb to rid them. Would love to win this free product since I have 4 Poodles. Bea


  24. I would like to receive a free bottle of your detangle stray for my dog. I try brushing my dog daily 2 – 3 times a day to avoid matting


  25. I would love to try this on my dog Thanks so much


  26. I use a dog rake but she dosent like it much.


  27. I regularly take my Bichon to the groomers and have her cut short but lately money has been tight and I sure could use this detangler!!


  28. I have a sheltie with a deep double coat. Finding a good detangling spray is a must!! Some have such heavy and perfumey scents, but I highly recommend lightly scented, and with essential oil based scents.


  29. My long haired little guy gets matted often and he doesn’t like to be touched so I have to muzzle him and use a flipper to cut them out. I would really like to try this on him.


  30. As a dog mom of 3 shih tzus, Its constant work to make sure they are mat free, brushed often, kept bathed and conditioned. I use a metal comb to get mats out and a pin brush to brush them out, and as always I use a detangler to help with tangles and keep them smelling fresh. It’s a lot more work than a short haired dog, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Love my 3 babies!


  31. To follow up with my first comment, here are my 3 : ) We love your flea the scene but have yet to use the detangler


  32. How i get rid of the mats and tangles in my dogs fur is i take a sray bottle and put conditioner mixed with water. i spray down my dog Then i take a comb and go troough the tangles and mats. If that dont work i will get the clippers out and clip them off . Or i will put baby oil on the mats and it will losseing them up.


  33. I find the best way to get tangles out is to work in some conditioner while batheing your pet and combing it out while you rinse.


  34. I take my guy to get grooming done every few weeks but would love to try this spray it would be a lot cheaper I’m always scard of hurting him becouse of his hair it is very hard to keep nice


    1. Wrong pic I’m going to try that again


  35. Here is the right pic of my boy who I have a hard time keeping his fur nice and neat so I take him to get groomed more then I’d like but I’d live to try the spray I think it would help a lot to keep him looking nice good luck everyone


  36. My mini Aussie will start to get matts if she isn’t completely combed out three times a week. I use a greyhound comb and use the course side first then the fine side. I even lay her down and comb out her belly and very long butt fringe from the underside. I haven’t found a good coat conditioner that I like yet. Most seem ineffective or leave her coat greasy, or they leave an unappealing fragrance.


  37. I used to have a pom mix dog with very thick,long hair. When I couldn’t get through mats,I cut them off. But when I DID get thru them,it was with a dab of coconut oil. I’d take about a tablespoon of it on my fingers,work it into the mat,and comb thru with a wide tooth comb. The dog I have now is short haired so I don’t have that issue with her. :)


    1. Our cat though,that’s a different story. He is an orange maine coon mix,big,long haired and fluffy! :)


  38. I have a Border Collie/Chow Chow mix. Her hair is so difficult to detangle that I do have to get her shaved at least once per year. I have tried deshedders, furmigators all to no avail. Her coat is three tiered. Close to the skin, she has hair like a lab, then the next layer is very fluffy and finally the top layer is smooth and curly at the ends. I have never found any that helped with detangling. I would love to try your product!!


  39. Daily brushings are a spa like treatment for our schnauzer mix, Dex. He loves the attention he gets! However, it’s not all “relaxed at the spa.”
    We have to pin our poor pooch down sometimes, just to shave his legs. (I know how he feels, I hate having to shave too.) He has never gotten used to the sound of the trimmer, poor guy. But, if we don’t when he runs for joy through the pucker brush, he comes back matted with burdocks. He doesn’t seem to like the taste of those, takes hours to get the feeling off his tongue! All laughs aside, it would be great to have a detangeler that is safe and effective for our four legged, family member.


  40. I cheat – I take her to the groomer’s! She’s a miniature poodle mix and needs trimmed regularly anyway :)


  41. I try to brush him regularly,he’s a sheltie and has long hair,if it gets matted to much i cut some away and then comb it out


  42. I use a brush and then I feel for mats. With the mats I use a rake brush I hold my fingers between my puppies skin and hair and I make sure he doesn’t go through any pain. Same way I detangle my hair, lol.


  43. I usually try slowly working it out with the brush. If it is too matted I cut the knot out


  44. I have used various grooming spray products and usually use a mat splitter and mat rake on my Maltese, Sammy. I’ve not used the Ruff to Smooth, but would like to try it.


  45. My havanese is one year old and very active. I brush him daily, though I sometimes miss a day and Habi and I pay for the delay with a longer session. I learned from a book that corn starch is a great detangler. Put a little on the mat, work it through with your fingers and let it sit a little while you work on another area. When you come back to it brush it out as you normally would. I try not to let it get to the cornstarch stage but sometimes it’s unavoidable. After one trip to a groomer that left me 70$ poorer and my pup with divots and razor burn I groom him myself. It’s not that hard but takes most of the day. Full brushing, bathing, blow drying or air drying, brushing and finally hair clipping! Lots of treats and at the end lots of play. He lets me do anything and looks great! I’ve paid for the clipper and shears many times over.

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