Dematting and How To Treat Severely Matted Dog Hair

Many dogs have issues with getting their fur tangled. Dematting and treating severely matted dog hair can be frustrating and time consuming.

Dog grooming dematting

This is especially true for long haired dogs such as Havanese, Maltese, Shih Tsu, and some Terrier breeds.

How To Treat Severely Matted Dog Hair

D o g grooming x

If dog hair doesn’t get brushed regularly, this can result in mats.

You should regularly use a deshedding brush and maintain your dog's coat with daily brushing or regular brushing, depending on the fur type.

This will go a long way in helping you avoid wrangling with difficult mats.

So what should you do when you realize your dog’s fur is matted? First thing to do is make sure you have the right dematting tool and assess how badly your dog’s fur is matted.

Also consider the weather or season is outside.

Perhaps it’s winter and you’d rather keep your dog’s fur longer for protection from the elements.

If it’s summer you and your dog might be better off to take him to get professionally groomed by a dog groomer to have a short haircut and grooming.

If you think this is something you could tackle and your dog can handle the dematting process, then here are our tips and suggestions:

1. Dematting will probably take a few sessions

Dematting severely matted dog hair puppy brown and white

We do not recommend you try to treat severely matted any dog hair type all in one session.

Depending on the severity of the matted fur, it may make more sense to take a few days to properly demat your dog’s coat.

Of course, your groomer has a certain skillset and will do it in one session, but that probably explains why my dog hates going to the groomer.

To keep the peace with your dog, I would break up the dog grooming sessions.

2. Make sure you have the right dematting tool

We highly recommend a grooming kit that includes:

  • Dog dematting comb
  • Regular dematting brush
  • Slicker brush
  • Stainless steel comb (e.g. Fine/Coarse Steel Greyhound Comb).

I use these various dog dematting tools on my Havanese.

You may need more than just grooming tools, you might also consider getting some detangling spray made for dogs.

Top Three Choices for Dematting

Check out our post on Dog Grooming Tools - For an overview of must have grooming tools including the top deshedding tool and dematting rake options for different hair types, and highly recommended undercoat rake selections.

How to deal with stubborn mats

Dog Grooming Tools

When you have tge right dog dematting tool in hand it's the difference between wrangling with stubborn mats, especially if your dog has long fur and sensitive skin.

Stubborn mats are when the fur appears to tied in knots and simple combing won't release the knot.

If you find mats that are particularly stubborn, try using a de matting comb or brush. Start at the ends of the mats and gently work your way up.

Use any dog dematting tool with care and be careful not to pull on the fur or skin.

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If your dog is resistant to de matting, try using a little detangling spray while gently combing the ends firt with a de matting tool to help loosen the hair.

Dog de matting comb

3. Have dog treats ready

Some dogs are more sensitive than others. Some dogs enjoy grooming and others don’t. Regardless, dematting can hurt your pet's skin at times.

We recommend that you have your dog’s favorite treats on hand so you can reward him throughout the grooming session.

If you give your dog treats and praises, you are training him that grooming is a rewarding process.

Big Dogs Treat

4. Determine where you will conduct the grooming session

I would recommend a place where your dog is comfortable, but can’t easily escape. I groom Kobi in our living room on a high countertop.

He’s comfortable enough because it’s the living room, but it’s also high enough that he won’t jump down and escape.

Have all of your de matting tools right in front of you before you start so you can keep the process moving and keep your dog comfortable.

5. Is your dog dirty?

If your dog needs a bath, definitely do this grooming before you do a dematting session.

It’s going to be more work and take more time grooming your dog if you have to extract both dirt and hair mats.

Sometimes it might be easier to try to demat your dog right after a bath, but it really depends on their fur/hair and your dog’s personality. My dog goes a bit nuts after a bath so it’s not a great time to groom him.

Muddy dog

6. Lightly brush your dog’s coat all over his body

It might help to use some detangling spray before you brush your dog’s fur, but it really depends on your dog’s fur.

When you’ve completed this step, you’ll know how badly your dog hair is matted and where the problem spots are.

Big Dogs Grooming

7. Plan your dog grooming session by segmenting problem spots of your pet's hair into various sections

For example, with my dog I typically break up the areas I need to work on as follows:

  • Ears – matted hair near the opening of the ear canal, but my dog loves to have his ears/ear area brushed
  • Tail – less sensitive and easier to brush out because the hair is coarser
  • Belly – super sensitive, but often not that matted
  • Chest – can be really matted, but less sensitive than belly
  • Paws – not typically that matted, but he hates to have his paws touched
  • Underarms – probably not the scientific name, but hopefully you understand. This is where you’ll find a LOT of matting. Unfortunately for Kobi, this is also a sensitive area.

Dog Anatomy - What part of your dog needs grooming?

Dog Anatomy

Your dog may have different areas that are very sensitive, less sensitive, or matted. Regardless, break up the list of “to do” areas – you don’t want to tackle all the sensitive areas at once.

8. Where do you start?

Some groomers and breeders state that you should start at the bottom and basically create a line in the dog’s hair and work your way up.

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We find that to be really time consuming and doesn’t really take into consideration where your dog’s sensitive spots are.

For example, our dog Kobi would freak out if we started at the bottom of his belly or paws which are his super sensitive areas.

Big Dogs Grooming Tools

As such, we recommend starting where your dog is less sensitive and enjoys being brushed (for Kobi it would be his ear area).

After you have addressed all of the less sensitive areas, vary the dematting between sensitive and less sensitive spots. This includes spots that are easier to brush and more difficult.

9. How to brush your dog's hair? Which de matting tool should you use?

Any person that has had relatively long hair will understand the golden rule that you don’t pull hair (or fur).

If there is a tangle, you need to hold the hair at the root (so it doesn’t hurt) and then brush or comb through the tangle.

This is also the golden rule when it comes to brushing and dematting your dog.

Spray detangling spray on matted areas

Dematting severely matted dog hair

Dead and Loose Hair 

Matted dead hair or loose hair that easily gets matted can be troublesome for all hair types.

When there is dead fur wrapped in difficult mats pet parents will not only need to detangle but gentle remove the dead hair with a de matting comb.

Get the right dematting tool for the job

De matting tools like a double sided comb with stainless steel blades and an extra wide head are essential. Also look for:

  • dematting rake
  • comfortable gel
  • undercoat comb

Pretty much, any dematting tool with stainless steel teeth and rounded edges is essential to remove mats easily. Especially for long haired dogs.

Long haired dogs more prone to developing mats

Long-haired dogs

Long-haired dogs may be more prone to developing mats, which are clumps of tangled hair that can be difficult to remove.

Mats can cause pain and discomfort for the dog, and they can also lead to skin infections.

Another reason why long-haired dogs may be more difficult to groom is that their hair may be more likely to shed.

More about dematting comb teeth

Make sure the dematting rake teeth of any de matting comb used is well spaced to accommodate different types of coats - long coats or double coats.

Severely Matted Dog Hair dog hair detangling tools dog grooming dematting

Look for a dematting rake / dematting tool with rounded ends which serve to protect your dogs sensitive skin from sharp blades.

Whatever tool you select, it should have better than average customer ratings and can accomplish multiple grooming jobs: detangling, deshedding, and undercoat removal. One popular brand with rounded edges is the Gopets dematting comb.

Light combing

As mentioned before, first start with an overall light combing instead of brushing. Don’t force any tangles with your de matting tool.

Consider using detangling spray. Then do your mental break up of your dog’s body and problem areas and assess what would be easiest to start with.

Severely Matted Dog Hair dog hair detangling tools dog grooming dematting
Personal experience dematting a Havanese

For example, I’ll start combing Kobi’s ears with the greyhound comb using the wider prongs.

When I get to a matted area, I’ll hold his hair at the roots/base and then use the dematting comb.

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When our dog Kobi has relatively few tangles around his ear area, then I’ll switch to using the fine stainless steel blades on the de matting comb before using the slicker brush or other brushes.

Pomeranian dog grooming and fur de matting

What is a Double Coat?

A double coat is a type of fur that consists of two layers: an undercoat and an outer coat.

The undercoat is short, soft, and dense. The outer coat is long, coarse, and stiff. This type of fur helps protect dogs from the elements. A Golden Retriever has a double coat and a big dog like the German Shepherd is another breed with a double coat.

If you have a dog that has a double coat, dematting can be a bit more difficult.

You will need to use a special dog dematting tool (or comb) to cut through the tangled fur. Be very careful not to cut your dog's skin while dematting.

You may also want to try using a special dog shampoo or your dog's coat is severely matted, it is best to take him to a professional groomer.

Groomers have the proper pet supplies and experience to know which is the best dematting tool to handle stubborn mats quickly and safely.

Three easy steps for dematting dog hair

  1. Insert dematting comb with rounded edges into the matted dog hair
  2. Hold hair at the roots
  3. Pull away from the dog
Dematting

When using the dematting comb, it’s easier to start with a smaller area of the matted fur.

Hold the base of the hair and then put the prongs in the matt, sharp edges away from the dog and then pull away from the matt and your dog.

If you properly hold your dog’s hair, it will not hurt them.

If it’s a really large mat, start with a smaller area of the mat using the dematting comb and intermittently use the slicker brush which will help take out the matted hair leaving you a cleaner and easier smaller mat to tackle.

Remember to hold your pet’s hair at the root/base as much as possible so you don’t pull their fur.

To the left is an example of us taking out a mat from Bootsie - a very cute Tibetan Terrier.

10. Break up the locations where you are grooming, brushing, and combing your dog

dog grooming 3

I typically use a stainless steel comb with rounded edges and start with Kobi’s ears and head.

Next, I will brush or comb his back which is sensitive but generally doesn’t have too many mats. I’ll ignore any mats that might be on his back and move on to his tail.

Afterward I’ll go back to a matted area on his body, then back to the other side to an unmated area. In between zones, I’ll make sure to give dog treats and verbal approval (i.e. “good dog”).

Also, make sure you continually get rid of dead hair that will accumulate in the comb.

The first time you do this with your dog, you might want to set a time limit (e.g. 10 mins). You can repeat the process each day until your dog’s coat is dematted.

Read More: Small dog breeds

5 comments on “Dematting and How To Treat Severely Matted Dog Hair”

  1. Great tips for dematting, I hope people will realize how important it is to brush their puppies before mats start and when mats appear I hope people will take it serious and try to demat their fur as soon as possible

  2. It has got to feel so much better to the dog when all of the matting and knots are removed. I can't imagine how painful those things can be sometimes. It looks like there is a real technique to doing this correctly. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. I agree with most of this, but not number 5. Washing a dog with matts can make them tighter and worse off. Plus it holds in the moisture, and if you plan on doing this in a few days...that can create skin irritation to your pooch. I just hope the pet parents can determine if the matts are bad enough that they need to be shaved off by the groomer. (I'm a groomer 🙂 And that's our policy, either dematt...if it's safe for the dog before the bath Or shave if too tight to the skin and start over fresh. Slicker brush and metal combs are your friends! All types of dogs loose some sort of hair, ie natural shedding..that's is exactly why we see so many matted shih tuz's and similar type dogs. Owners think they don't shed, so they don't brush them. Good Luck!

  4. Wow! This was excellent! It almost makes me want to try to de-matt Fiesta myself. Alas, Fiesta likes going to the groomers so off she will go.......soon. 🙂

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