De-Matting a Dog

The right technique and tools can make removing matted coat a breeze.

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Q. I have a longhaired female dog whose coat has lots of knots. I have heard that you should only brush for a certain amount of time. How long should I brush at a time? Also, she refuses to let me brush the area on the inside of her back legs and between her back legs. How should I deal with this?

A. There is no set rule for how long you need to brush your pet, but when they are used to the process, I would say 20 to 30 minutes is long enough, depending upon the pet’s size and coat. I advise getting a dog used to the brush from puppyhood so it becomes part of her normal routine. If a youngster balks or resists brushing, it may help to schedule your sessions after a good romp when she will be tired. Brief brushing sessions work best for starters – 10 to 15 minutes several times a week.

We use a curved-bristle wire slicker brush for most coated breeds. So-called “gentle slickers” have straight pins and are made for dogs with delicate skin and baby-fine hair. They come in a variety of sizes and one line we sell is ergonomically designed to prevent wear and tear on the groomer’s wrist. Smoothies like the Doberman Pinscher, Bulldog breeds, and Pug do better with a rubber curry with “fingers” used to massage the coat in the direction the hair grows, whisking away shed hair as you groom. 

When we tell an owner their dog is matted, they sometimes react with disbelief. Unfortunately, they have only been brushing the top layer while mats and undercoat build up beneath. They might mistake the “pelt” that has formed for the dog’s skin so they are dumbfounded when we tell them their pet needs to be clipped all the way down and the coat re-grown.

The most effective technique is called “line brushing.” While working your way around the pet’s body, you use one hand to hold up a small section of coat, then “pat and pull” from the seam (where the skin is visible). With each stroke you pull out and away from the body. Do not move on to the next section until the one you are working on is cleared of matting and packed undercoat, allowing your brush to glide through without getting stuck. This method is kind to both the groomer’s wrist and the dog’s skin. Too harsh a brushing technique with a lot of force behind each stroke can lead to “slicker burn,” a serious abrasion of the pet’s skin. After your brush work is completed, check your work with a double-sided stainless steel comb to make sure no mats or tangles have been missed.

Some other hints to combat matting and ease brushing include:

  • Use conditioner as the final rinse, loosening up any dead or shed hair for the final brushout.
  • Use a detangling spray on matted areas as you brush.
  • Use a tool such as the Matbreaker to cut through tangles as you brush, taking care not to twist it near skin folds, ear leathers, leg tendons, or genitals because it has razor-sharp blades and can cause injury if not used properly.

Your dog probably resists having the inside of her legs brushed her legs because it is a sensitive area and it hurts. The only way to get around this is to clip out the hair there, what we call a “sanitary trim,” but for safety’s sake this should be done by a professional groomer.

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Janet   Bethlehem, PA

7/11/2011 5:50:31 AM

good article, thank you

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