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How to Demat a Dog: Eliminating Canine Tangles & Fur!

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Grooming By Meg Marrs 5 min read May 1, 2019 2 Comments

how to break up matted fur

If you own a longhaired or double-coated dog, you’ve doubtlessly dealt with mats!

Tangled, dirty, messy matted dog hair is no fun for you or your pooch, but today we’ll be covering some of the best grooming tools you can use to easily break up your dog’s dirty mats, and some special techniques to get your dog’s fur smooth and tangle-free.

How Do Dogs Get Mats?

Mats are a pretty regular occurrence for owners of multi-coat or thick-haired dogs.

Don’t feel bad if your dog has gotten some mats – it happens to all of us. No one is going to call the puppy protective services and take your dog away!

how to break up matted fur

However, it is best to eliminate mats when they do come up, and do your best to prevent them from occurring, for the happiness and safety of your fur-baby!

When long haired dogs shed, the dead hair actually shed into the coat and get tangled in new and existing fur. This is what causes those mats.

Mats just don’t make your dog look less attractive – they also irritate the heck out of your dog! Mats can irritate your pooch’s skin, causing him to scratch or chew at the mats, which make them even worse!

Dog Dematting Tools Of The Trade

best dog dematting tools
  • Dematting Combs. Also known as dematting rakes, these combs are specifically designed to pull apart mats. Be aware that some rakes can cut away your dog’s fur rather than comb it out – this is a good temporary solution, but often results in hair growing back unevenly, which is especially problematic for styled breeds. Dematting combs are just the thing for those tough, thick knots.
  • Detangler Spray. Detangler sprays are essential for starting the dematting process, as they help break apart and relax the fur.

Top Product Pick: We recommend the Barking Tree Tangle & Twist Rescue Detangler Spray!

  • Slicker Brush. A slicker or pin brush is recommended for starting and ending your dematting sessions, for all-around dog brushing.

Top Product Pick: We recommend the Safari Slicker Brush!

  • Mat Splitter. Mat splitters are used to break thick mats apart into smaller section by cutting vertically into the mat.(be very careful with these tools, because they are sharp.

Top Product Pick: We recommend the Master Grooming Mat Splitter. Be careful though – it’s sharp!

How to Get Mats Out Of Dog Hair

1. Spray with Detangler

Spray your pooch with detangeler – many doggie detangelers are designed specifically to break up knotted hair and loosen up clumps, making it easier to comb out those tough matted areas.

Detanglers also prevent your dogs hair from splitting or becoming staticky – in fact, many groomers suggest always spraying your dog with a detangler or light conditioner spray before any brushing sessions.

2. Brush Lightly to Find Mats

Start your grooming session with a slicker brush and brush your dog lightly all over and identify where various mats are.

Some of the most common areas where dog mats are found include:

  • around the ears
  • below the neck
  • stomach area
  • back legs

Remember that these areas are very delicate, so be very gentle and do not let the wire bristles touch your dog’s skin.

When you locate a mat, brush out the top area of fur that’s not clumped against your dog’s skin.

3. Hold The Mat In Your Hand & Begin to Untangle With Fingers

Locate the mat you’re trying to break up, and hold the mat in your hand. Holding the mat in your hand allows you to comb and pick apart the mat without irritating your dog’s skin.

Start to pick the mat apart by hand a bit, using your fingers to gently pull it apart. If you’re having a hard time, consider using some additional detangler ingredients from around the house.

Many owners swear by cornstarch and/or coconut oil as natural detanglers! Add a dash on the mat and continue to pull apart with fingers.

4. Comb With Dog Dematting Comb

The next step will be to whip out your dog dematting comb or rake to break up those tough, stubborn mats. These combs have thick, tough edges designed to pull apart knotted fur.

Make sure to gently tease out the knots – don’t just tug, or your pup will not be pleased. You want to be lifting the comb in and out of the fur, rather than yanking it. It’s also suggested that you move from the end of the hair towards the skin, rather than from the skin out.

When picking out dog dematting tools, make sure to find combs and brushes made of solid, durable materials, as well as tools with a comfortable grip for you.

If you aren’t able to get your dog’s mats out with a dog dematting comb, you may need to try using a mat splitter to break up the mat into smaller pieces, then try again with the dematting comb.

If a mat splitter still doesn’t help you, than you may need to resort to electric clippers to shave away the mat.

NOTE: Shaving clippers should be used as a last resort, as they expose your dogs skin and can really mess up their coat.

Shaving is not ideal for your dog, but in the case of severe mats, it may be best to prevent pain and discomfort for your canine. Professional groomers may help you assess whether or not you need to have your dog shaved.

5. Finishing With Another Full-Body Brushing + Treats

End your grooming session by brushing your dog all over, with lots of treats and praise!

Remember not to keep your grooming session too long – you want this to be a good experience for your pup. Break up those mat-busting sessions into several events if your dog is getting stressed.

How to Prevent Dog Mats

  • Brush Before Bath. Brushing out your canine before bath time can go a long way to preventing mats. When already tangled hair gets wet and clumpy, dreadlock-style fur is just a few bath times away.
  • Regular Grooming + Weekly Brushing. Brushing frequency is another way to prevent mats – the more your brush your pooch, the less likely he will be to develop mats! Regular grooming is key to a healthy, rich coat (and helps you and your canine bond). In some cases, especially around high-shedding times, daily brushing is recommended.
  • Blow Dry Your Dog. High-velocity dog dryers can actually help in preventing mats, as they are so strong that they can blast away loose hair. Try incorporating them into your grooming routine!

Do you have any additional tips on how to get mats out of dog hair? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Written by

Meg Marrs

Meg Marrs is the Founder and Director of Marketing at K9 of Mine. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! She loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!

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Lisa Turco

I have a female Shorkie. She’s 2 years old. She has always hated brushing. She mats up bad and I’ve tried every brush, detangling spray I can think of. She has been this way since being a puppy. Never liked brushing. She thinks the brush and or combs are “toys” or enemies, and bites at them. I’ve tried doing very little at a time and offering treats. I’ve taken her to get groomed a few times, but each place tells me she isn’t easy to brush out as she fights the process. I would love reasonable suggestions on how to keep her groomed.

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Ben Team

Hey there, Lisa.
That’s kind of unusual — most dogs love getting brushed!

We’d likely recommend proceeding in the same way you would when trying to get a dog do anything necessary that she doesn’t want to do: Take it slow and provide tons and tons of positive reinforcement (treats, scritches, and praise). And celebrate the small victories. You needn’t get her entire coat brushed at once — just work on her back, or maybe one side or the other. Then (after showering her with positive reinforcement), take a break for a day. The next day, tackle another small patch of hair. Over time, with enough patience and treats, she will probably learn to accept the task a little better.

You may also want to look into a grooming restraint, but things will likely go smoother if you are able to brush her without one.
Best of luck!

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