Allison Foley, Leading Edge Dog Show Academy webinar on “All About De-matting”
Why would your groomer have to cut your dog really short when you didn’t want that to happen? This can be a surprise, disappointing, and downright shocking to pet owners. Why does that happen and what can you do to prevent this and keep the haircut of your choice.
Mats are preventable in dogs. Some dogs have coats that are higher maintenance and more vulnerable to matting. Let’s take a look at why your dog’s coat is forming mats, things you can do to keep them at bay, and what are your options if your dog’s coat is already matted.
A professional groomer can look at your dog and tell if it is matted. For the dog owner, this may not be a skill or such an easy task by observing or even feeling your dog if you don’t know what to look for.
What is a “Mat”?
In many dog breeds with curly, fine, or double coats, mats occur frequently. When loose or shedding hair wraps around non-shedding hair, this forms clumps. These clumps can be loose or very tight depending on the severity.
When Do Dogs Loose Their Coat?
Some dogs lose their coat and this causes matting:
During a heat cycle
After anesthetic or medical stress
Puppy coat transitioning to adult coat (~9-18 months of age)
Types and Causes of Matting
Environmental matting due to (damp) weather and debris
Product and substances that build up in the coat
Surface brushing (not brushing properly)
Lack of brushing completely
Dogs that are bathed and not dried down to the skin
Wearing flat type collars, harnesses, or clothes
Coat types that go through coat change
If mats are left unchecked, they can cause felting or webbing which eventually get tighter and closer to the skin of the dog. This is extremely painful for the dog.
When Should You De-Mat?
Before and after the bath; this can be controversial due to what water does to a coat
If bathing a matted dog, some groomers believe the water can shrink mats and they get tighter during the bath. Often it is the scrubbing and working the coat in the bath that creates more friction
Hair can be more elastic when wet, therefore when grooming a dry or dirty coat, this can cause breakage and damage the coat
Breaking mats apart with water can allow de-matting products, shampoo and conditioner to enter the centre of the mat and help with the de-matting process with your fingers
Don’t create more friction when towel drying; squeeze to dry
Common Areas Dogs Matt
There are lots of areas dog’s can mat, in addition to environmental causes.
Any area where there is friction; running, jumping, playing, being pet
Behind the ears
Front of dog; where leg bends
Rear when the dog sits
Front of knee/stifle
Base of tail
Where collars/harnesses/clothes lay
Tools for De-matting:
All of these recommendations are gentle on dogs’ skin and coat
Use your hands to break the mat apart
Ice Slip Pin Brush especially designed for de-matting
- Oval Breezy Brush
Mark II Slicker Brush – Use After Ice Slip Brush. Great for use on bellies, inside of legs
Mark X Tiny Slicker Brush – for smaller dog, behind the ears,
Mark V Triangle Slicker Brush – great for de-matting toes
Products for De-matting:
When using these products as a system, de-matting can not only be performed quicker, but eliminated and also prevented as our goal.
When products “fail to work”, it is often operator error.
Using the line brush technique, part and section the coat (one finger width), brush coat from skin out and make sure you can get your comb through to check your work.
Full guide and tutorial on Line Brushing.
Process of Line Brushing Technique
Tuck ears out of the way into the noose
Have the dog’s head well up on the loop
Spray de-matting spray at skin (dry or wet mats)
Hold the mat with your hand, work the product into the mat. The heat of your hand will aid in activating the product
Put your Ice Clip pin brush into the mat at the skin and gently rock it to move the mat away from skin. You are just making enough room between the mat and the skin for a brush at this point
No matter the product or technique, de-matting is never comfortable for a dog and must be done gently
Go back to the matted area; right at the skin use the heel of the slicker to stroke the mat and hair
Do not rock or scoop with the slicker as this is painful for the dog and harder on the groomer’s wrist
Use the brush more like a “piston”, getting the heel of the slicker into the area between the mat and the skin
You can hear and feel the difference as the mat comes out
Check your de-matting with a comb
De-Matting the Face
Be sure to have your hand over the dog’s eyes for protection
Your goal is to safely get around the face
Always use the heel of the brush
Start at the bottom and work your way up and forward in small sections
You are only using a small portion of the brush, work in small sections
Pull the ear back to not get longer ear hair tangled in with the face hair
Always work below the eye and brushing down
Fit a small portion of the edge of the brush in the area you are needing to work on
You can check your work by checking your brush as hair should be on both outer edges and not in the middle section
Check your work with a comb
De-Matting the Ears
When dogs have thick and voluminous ear hair, this leads to matting underneath the top layer and edges of the ear; don’t just brush the top layer
Brush from one side of the ear to the other
Gather all the ear hair in the non-brushing hand and extend your fingers out so that it acts as a backboard for you to brush the other ear hair against
Ear leather is thin and sensitive and can rip
After brushing the top side of the ear, flip the ear over to get the hair on the underside
When hair is brushed, you can both hear and feel the difference
Brush side-to-side rather than top to bottom, as you will be able to see the de-matted hair versus the matted hair
De-Matting Heavy Matts
Using a de-matting spray from our product list, apply the product liberally
With bigger more felted mats, pull apart the mat as much as possible with your fingers and apply more de-matting product where you have split the mat
Pay attention to what is happening to the dog’s skin when de-matting; brush from the skin out; dry from the skin out
Using the Ice Slip Pin Brush, at a bottom point, lift the hair up and drop a little hair down to be de-matted
Do not go over the same point again and again as this will irritate the skin
Once you have been through the matted area once, go over it again with the Big G slicker
De-Matting the Feet
Do not neglect the hair between the toes and webbing of the feet. This is an area that a lot of dogs do not like to have brushed but mats can create much pain and discomfort.
Efficiently groom between the toes by pressing one finger up between the pads on the bottom of the feet
At the same time, use your thumb at the top of the V that joins between the toes
Use the edge of the brush to get the toes brushed out, without using the whole brush as this can scrape the dog
Check your work with a comb
It is safe to bathe your dog weekly when done correctly
If a dog is going through coat change, they may benefit from being bathed twice a week
If you think your dog needs a bath, it is probably time for a bath
Dogs that coats are getting clumpy on a daily basis can benefit from being blown through with a dryer on warm/cool
Brushing while drying is important to see the matted versus non-matted hair better
This also helps the dead/shedding hair get all the way free of the non-shedding hair
The quicker you get the shedding hair out, the faster the new coat can come in, the faster the coat change will be over!
Always use a de-matting product while brushing and never dry or brush the coat that is dry
How to Save the Coat:
Start with your biggest tool and work your way to the smallest
Ice Slip Brush
Breezy Brush (green or red for de-matting process)
Break apart the mat as much as possible with your fingers while adding de-matting product as you go, working it into the mat
Always practice humanity before vanity having the dog’s welfare in mind first
Clean Your Brushes:
Ensure you are emptying the dead hair out of your brush every couple of minutes to have maximum penetration with the pins. You can clean your brushes by rolling the brush against your table, as this also helps to reset the pins.
Shaving a matted dog must be done slowly with utmost care. Groomer’s do not like shaving dogs. Shaving a dog is not “lazy” or a “short cut”. In fact, shaving is not a quick job as this can be a very slow, tedious and dangerous process. The groomer is working on areas of your dog where skin is very thin and irritated. When removing a heavily matted coat, this comes with many risks. These include nicks, cuts or abrasions.; uncovering underlying issues primary or secondary due to the matting.
Professional dog groomers believe in comfort; humanity over vanity. There are times where de-matting is not the best option for the safety and comfort of the dog. De-matting severely matted dogs is inhumane. Prevention is the best way to deal with a mat in your dog’s coat.
If you are interested in at-home pet grooming or salon grooming, visit Allison Foley of Leading Edge Dog Show Academy for great courses and classes on handling, training, and grooming for all breeds and skill levels. Pet professionals can advance your technique and master breed specific trims. Pet owners can learn safe at-home grooming with the industry’s top professionals.
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