Resolving the matt menace

Matts can be a serious problem and detrimental to your pet’s health… but they can be avoided…by grooming your pooch a few minutes every day.

Why and where matts form?

Matts form when the dog’s coat isn’t being properly cared for…often pet parents do not understand or have not been shown how to properly brush and comb their dog. Brushing and combing need to be done on a regular basis, and the dog should be taught from puppyhood to accept grooming as part of his daily routine. The most common places matts start are:

  • Behind the ears.
  • The neck where the collar sits.
  • In the armpits and the crotch area.

Painful matts…

If matts are left in the coat they can become so tight that they tear the skin or cut blood circulation off to areas that are affected. They can also restrict the pet’s movement, making it uncomfortable or even painful for the dog to move.

What to do and what not to do…

If the matts are not brushed out before they become too tight to remove safely, they will become a health hazard to your dog and in the worst case they can rip the skin! Wetting the dog will make matters worse and the matts will become even tighter and pull harder on the skin.
The only humane way to remove matts at this stage is to have the pet clipped short by either a groomer or a vet. However even this is not without problems, the dog will be at risk from clipper irritation and possible cuts from the clipper blades as matts are usually very close to the skin and require a very close clip to remove them. Matts should NEVER be removed with scissors as the skin can be easily cut open unintentionally.

Prevention – the best way…

Prevention is better than cure – the amount of coat care will depend on how much coat your dog has. Medium and long coats will require more attention than shorter coats but even short coats need some attention.
The tools: The basic tools required for most coats consist of:

  • A metal comb, preferably stainless steel.
  • A slicker brush.
  • De-matt spray with silicon.

Depending on your particular breed, other tools may be recommended.
Using the tools effectively: Once you have the tools, it’s important you know how to use them! For most breeds, it is recommended to start at the bottom of the feet, hold the coat up with one hand. Begin using the slicker to brush the coat below with your other hand, using the slicker to bring down a small bit of hair at a time. Work your way up and over the whole body using this method. Once you have done the entire coat, you can then use the comb through the coat and find any tangles you may have missed. Make sure that you can part the coat to the skin with the comb as many people spend plenty of time brushing their dog only to find that they have only been brushing over the top and the coat near the skin is actually still quite knotty.
Removing matts without hurting: If you do find a matt, you need to know how to remove it before it becomes a more serious problem. Hold the matt in one hand, dampen with detangling spray and work at it with a slicker brush a few hairs at a time to break it up. Start at the edge of the matt and work back towards the skin. Remember, matts are usually in delicate areas and have been tugging on the dog’s skin, so if you are not gentle, it will hurt a lot if you pull.
So, caring for your dog’s coat can go a long way in keeping him happy! So, Happy Grrrr….ooming!

(Samantha Laws has been a professional Canine Stylist since 2007 and running her own business ‘Doggy Styling’. A member of British Dog Groomers Association and English Groomers Group, she takes part in grooming competitions around the UK).