Dog with curly hair holding brush in his mouth.

Easy Ways to Deal With Matted Dog Hair

We turned to pro groomers (as well as some of our own tried-and-true tips) to bring you the best ways to deal with — and prevent — matted dog hair.
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Matted dog hair is the worst! It’s ugly, dirty, sometimes painful, and once matted dog hair starts it can snowball out of control and become a health issue.

I used to babysit a brother-sister Blue Picardy Spaniel team. These regal dogs have luscious, wavy feathering on their legs, underside and tail. This breed is also a ball of energy! Add that glorious feathered coat after a long hike with running and romping through streams, and you have yourself some serious matted dog hair!

The kicker — the siblings’ folks were adamant that their fur could not be cut. I’d try to help by brushing them after our outdoor adventures, but I felt bad for the groomer when I’d drop them off and have to remind the staff, “No cutting!” Like magic, those two pups would come back with silky, mat-free feathers. How did those groomers deal with all that matted dog hair? Patience, the right tools, skill and help from vigilant dog parents.

Dog with crazy-messy hair blowing in the wind.
Dog with crazy-messy hair blowing in the wind. Photography ©cynoclub | Getty Images.

What You Must Know About Dealing With Matted Dog Hair

Here are some grooming tips for dealing with matted dog hair:

  1. First, train your dog to enjoy grooming so he’ll stand still long enough to get the mats out! Start brushing your pup when he is young, even if he doesn’t need it. Hand out praise and high-value treats so he can associate grooming with happy things.
  2. Pay close attention to areas that mat easily: behind the ears and legs, in the armpits, on the undercarriage and where his collar or halter rubs.
  3. Keep matted dog hair from forming. A detangler cream or spray helps prevent fur from getting clumped up and can be used before your pup jumps into a river or lake to make the post-swim brushout easier. Use only products specifically made for dogs.
  4. If your pup’s coat has gotten severely matted or hasn’t been cared for in a while, take a trip to the veterinarian. An uncared-for coat and extremely matted dog hair can cause skin irritation or infection that needs to be treated by a medical professional.
  5. To learn the best way to brush out your pup and kind of brush to use, talk to your groomer. Your groomer will be happy to share, as the better you are at daily grooming the easier her job is.
  6. Don’t ignore the paws. Hair that grows in between the pads can get matted. Keep that hair short. If you need a touch-up between professional grooming, then buy some dog clippers. They’re easier than scissors on your dog’s sensitive paw pads.
  7. Clippers are also useful to keep a pup’s rear end neat and clean. Between sitting and pooping, that area can get messy fast. A clean area around the anus is worth a little embarrassment between you and your dog.
  8. A good diet helps him have a healthy coat that’s less likely to mean matted dog hair. Look for omega-3 or fish oil in your pup’s food and supplements. Of course, consult a vet to learn the best amount to be giving your dog.
A dog with a grooming tool or brush.
How do pro groomers deal with matted dog hair? Photography by Laures/Thinkstock.

Professional Groomers on Dealing With Matted Dog Hair

1. Deana Mazurkiewicz IGMS, NCMG, IFMS President, Intellectual Groomers Association and Master Stylist at Pawsh By Deana in Zephyrhills, Florida. facebook.com/intgroome

  1. Never bathe your dog if he has mats or tangled hair. Water acts as a sponge and only makes them tighter.
  2. Use corn starch to help loosen matted dog hair. Rub some into the mat to help loosen, then brush out.
  3. Don’t assume that conditioner will remove or loosen mats. They must be brushed and combed out thoroughly before the bath.
  4. NEVER try to cut out matted dog hair. The mats may be tighter than you think or have the skin caught up in them, and you can easily cut your pet.

2. Windmere Kennels, St. Charles, Michigan; facebook.com/Windmerekennels

  1. Brush! Dogs like Poodles and Goldendoodles that are considered non-shedding don’t shed the dead hair on their own, they need help by brushing a minimum of twice a week with a good slicker brush.
  2. Regular visits to a professional groomer is a must to stave off matted dog hair! Every six to eight weeks is recommended.
  3. Mats begin at the base and not at the top of the hair. While your dog might look to be mat free, get your fingers down into the nape of the hair to feel for any tangles and snarls. Catching a potential mat before it happens makes removing it much easier.
  4. Do research on your breed’s specific needs for proper grooming. Depending on your breed, the coat or hair will require different practices to keep it healthy and vibrant.

3. Vanessa Hoyt, Groomer Girls Pet Salon, Lawrenceville Georgia. Facebook.com/groomergirlspetsalon

  1. Always work on small sections, from the ends of the hair working your way up to the skin.
  2. Always use a good conditioner. Dematting can cause major breakage even if done correctly.
  3. Always use cooler warm water as a quick rinse as the last thing you do in the tub. This will help seal the hair shafts. Warmer water leaves them open, making the hair prone to breakage and damage. Broken and damaged hair tangles quicker.
  4. Always use a finishing conditioning spray.

Top photograph: ©Tierfotoagentur | Alamy Stock Photo.

Originally published on March 27, 2018.

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23 thoughts on “Easy Ways to Deal With Matted Dog Hair”

  1. Great article, I agree that most dog parents should train their dogs to love grooming using treats first, over time I really believe that it starts to build a bond.

  2. Corn starch!? Brilliant tip! I love it when staples that everyone has around the house can double as useful products for your dog. I will have to add that one to my repertoire. Great article, wonderful insights from the professional groomers you cited as well.

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  12. I suggest using electric clippers instead of scissors to shave the mats. Dog owners should do it as gentle and slow as possible to prevent any injury from happening. Remember not to shave too close to the skin. Here are some other tips: https://goldenretrieverlove.com/how-to-get-mats-out-of-your-golden-retrievers-coat/

  13. One of my sisters has a dog with tangled fur, and he leaves it all over the place. It says here to try creams or sprays to prevent fur from getting clumped. I will let her know to try them and to cut the fur for the moment until she finds a good cream for her dog.

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  21. Margaret Sullivan

    Best grooming tool on the market for long haired breeds is the furminator , a bit expensive but so worth the money. I use it on my Peke and Persian cat, it loosens every piece of dead hair and makes grooming so much easier thereafter.

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