Taking the time to remove mats is an important step in the grooming process. Bathing a matted dog before a thorough brushing can actually result make mats tighten up to the point where they’re impossible to detangle.

The good news is that proper brushing will prevent mats from ever occurring. The bad news is that not every owner will have the time, the patience, or the knowledge to brush their dog properly. Severe matting is uncomfortable and potentially dangerous for a dog. A mat will retain heat and moisture, which is just an invitation for fleas, bacteria, and you guessed it, infection. It can also cause swollen blood vessels or painful irritation that may even require veterinary care.

Matting is no laughing matter, but it’s something every groomer has to deal with. This guide will help you learn how to safely remove mats in an efficient manner that will leave both you and your canine client as happy as can be.

Grooming a matted dog

What you’ll need:

  • Dematting comb/Slicker brush
  • Mat splitting tool
  • Detangling spray

Locate the mats

Gently feel for mats by running a comb through the dog’s coat. Mats often form in what are known as friction areas: behind the ears, under the collar, under the tail, and under the front and back legs.

Sometimes a coat will only have the occasional mat. In that case, you can focus on how you are going to remove these without putting the dog through too much stress. However, sometimes you will encounter a severely matted dog—and then you’ll need to have the dreaded coat-shaving conversation with your client.

You should know that each breed has specific grooming requirements. For example, Labradors have dense hair that needs brushing with a specific kind of brush. Improperly removing mats with the incorrect tools may actually cause more harmful irritation.

Pet groomer courses learning how to groom a matted dog

Gently work out the tangle

A mat is painful tangle in the dog’s undercoat. Just imagine how uncomfortable it is for a dog to have a tangled clump of hair pull at his delicate skin. We cannot overstate how gentle you should be as you attempt to work apart a mat!

If the mat is loose from the skin, gingerly use a dematting comb to see if you can carefully work through the tangle. If the hair is too tightly clumped, you will then have to use your mat splitting tool.

To begin, apply a detangling spray to the hair. This will soften it and give it some elasticity. Next, using the fingers on your non-dominant hand, create a barrier between the blade and the dog’s skin. Hold the mat splitting tool in your dominant hand. Position the tool at the base of the mat and gently try to find you way ‘in’ to the tangle by pulling it away from the skin. Do NOT yank it through! Small repetitive motions are more effective (and less painful for the dog!).

Dealing with a severely matted coat

Clippers are the final option. If you are grooming a dog with tons of mats or a totally matted coat, it will be safer and healthier for the dog if you shave off the matted areas entirely. That being said, you should still do your best to remove as little hair as possible. A healthy fur coat serves to protect a dog from the elements! In extreme cases, a matted coat will come off in one pelt. Just think of how grateful your canine client will be once he is free to move around as he pleases.

Keep in mind that shaving may reveal trapped debris, including foreign matter, insects or parasites. It may also reveal serious skin conditions. Be prepared to halt the grooming process to advise your client of any additional veterinary care the dog may need.

Successful dog groomer certificate to groom a dog with matted fur

Maintenance and prevention

Once the mats are properly brushed through or shaved, you may proceed with bath time! A thorough cleanse will rinse away excess detangling spray or any other debris so that you can continue with the grooming process.

It is extremely important that you educate your client about the significance of regular grooming. A client may be surprised to learn just how detrimental matting is to the health of their pet. But make sure they walk away knowing that not only is it uncomfortable for a dog but that left unattended, severe matting can cause hematomas, a painful swelling of clotted blood in the ear tips. These can actually break open and require emergency veterinary care.

Needless to say, regular grooming is in the best interest of the dog. If mats still occur despite your clients best efforts at everyday grooming, you may need to offer a regular brushing service à la carte.

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