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The Dreaded Matted Dog!

Author: Chris Chamberlin

Matts are ugly to look at and very uncomfortable for your dog. They pinch and pull, making him chew and try to dematt his own coat. So, where do they come from?

Most matts are created from external influences. The most common is lacking of grooming. There are of course other reasons. Fleas can wind quite a tangled mess and I am never surprised to see a dog that comes in for grooming who is matted, loaded with the nasty critters as well. Allow your dog to become wet and neglect to brush out his coat or dry him and just see if it doesn't create a matt so tight that it has to be shaved off too. Some skin disorders can contribute to matting as well.(Refer to the article Skin problems)

Different types of coats matt differently. Double coated dogs such as the Alaskan Malamute, Great Pyrenes, etc. go through natural shedding processes according to their environment. It is essential that the shedding under coat be removed so the skin can breathe. Soft and silky longhaired breeds such as Maltese and Shi Tzu can matt in clumps and spots that again may have to be removed.

So, how do you dematt? You need patience, time and the right equipment. There a number of good sprays and detangling aids you can purchase to help your job but I am going to go through the steps here assuming you have none.

Never bathe a matted dog unless you are shaving the coat off. Or willing to spend hours dematting while blowing dry the coat. Brush or com out as much as possible before bathing the dog. Once the matts are wet it becomes much more difficult to untangle them.

You will need a good steel comb( I use a Greyhound * brand name comb) , a slicker brush, which is a brush with fine steel needle like pins, a matt splitter and or sharp scissors.

If you can take a regular pin brush and brush out any loose hair going with the grain of growth you may not have a tough job ahead at all.

Get the dog to lay down and become comfortable. I have found it is much easier to work on each section according how the dog wants to lie. If you spend your whole time fighting the dog to stay still it becomes very exhausting for both of you. If you can control the dogs head, you have control of the dog, and that is imperative. Be sure not to pull so hard that it is painful for the dogs as most will not be co-operative for further dematting. If you tightly hold the tangle between the skin and the knot before combing it out it will prevent most pulling and discomfort for the dog.

Take the matt between your fingers and try to separate it with a gentle pull. Dividing the matt into small sections saves the loss of too much hair. Often detangling the matt can leave a bare spot, depending on the type of coat and severity of the matt.

If separating it by hand is impossible, try using a matt splitter. A matt splitter can have several knife like blades or just one. The less blades, the less coat loss. Lift the matt away from the skin and slide the splitter between the tangle and the skin. With a see saw motion slice the matt into several sections. If you do not have a splitter, good SHARP scissors will do the trick but be very careful to always position the blade so you slice the matt away from the skin. Sometimes you can use a crochet hook to pick the matt apart before using a splitter.

Once the matt is broken into smaller tangles you can use a slicker brush to begin brushing it out. Start at the ends of the hair and work your way into the skin. It is somewhat like taking out back-combing of the hair dos of the sixties {grin}.

With the brush getting most of the tangles out it is then best to take the comb and remove any fine hair that still may be knotted. A true test to see you or your groomer has removed all the matts is to run a steel comb through the hair. If it does not get caught up on a tangle you have a dematted dog:)

Good luck and remember that the more patience you have the calmer the dog will be and the faster the job will completed.