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Removing Hair Mats


Courtesy of DOG TIP OF THE DAY

Removing Hair Mats — The Wrong Way

Many types of dog hair seem to mat while the dog is just sitting there, doing nothing. This condition can become so severe that the dog’s skin is actually pulled up into the matted hair. Mats can worsen over time, causing sore spots and extreme discomfort for the dog. The quick-fix inclination is to cut across the mat next to the dog’s body. Don’t do it! At best, you will make an unsightly spot that will take a long time to grow out. At worst, you may cut the dog’s skin, causing a wound that requires veterinary attention. And, your dog may hold a grudge.

Removing Hair Mats — The Right Way

The best way to remove a mat:

Slide the scissors between the dog’s body and the mat. Make snips going away from the body and toward the bottom of the mat. On a large mat, several snips will be required. Starting at the point farthest from the skin, comb small sections at a time, working up toward the skin. The whole mat should pull out with a comb. If it is still too tight to pull out, go back and make a few more snips, pointing the scissors away from the skin.

Additional Dog Mat Tips
by Danielle Rackstraw

One area that I can almost assure you will have mats (on even the best groomed dogs) is under the dog’s “armpits,” and with males around their penis and with females around the vulva area. These are VERY difficult areas to remove mats from because of the sensitivity of these areas and you just can’t see or groom this area easily. These tend to be the areas that are more overlooked when brushing or combing a dog. Even the tiny little fine mats, amounting to no more than five or ten hairs, can pull the skin under the dog’s arms and can cause infections from the transfer of bacteria around genital areas. The coat is much finer on the under belly of our breed, therefore, it mats much easier.

If you have tiny little mats under the armpits, feel free to clip these with blunt-nosed scissors. The coat will not be missed there and this is the easiest thing to do with small mats in this area. One of my most frequently used grooming tools is the very small slicker brush. A slicker brush is a brush with hundreds of short little “almost needle” type bristles. These come in various sizes and shapes and they make these specifically for areas such as under arms. I have a small triangular-shaped slicker, which is perfect for these spots. Again, you would use the slicker just like a comb, slightly pressing the slicker to ONE MAT ONLY and pulling quickly. With our dogs, I find that it is easier to hold the dog in my arms, back towards my check, front legs going over my arm, and just brush and pull quickly. This gets the discomfort over with in a matter of seconds. Remember, if you have a dog that gets grumpy on the grooming table, soft muzzle the dog first.

With mats on the tummy area (not the vulva or penis), much depends on the type of coat your dog has, their temperament, and the number and size of their mats. With some dogs, you can go in with a metal comb on the smaller mats and just comb out really fast (with a little tug) and you get the mat. This obviously is limited to the really small mats. On the larger mats, the process above could be used OR if you have dog with a lot of belly coat, feel free to just cut the mat out and then comb to the skin to make sure that you are not leaving a ridge of matted coat close to the skin.

Penis and Vulva Area

These are two tricky spots to remove mats from, for obvious reasons. If there is someone in your household who can help here, this is best. FIRST, ALWAYS use blunt nosed scissors. If you have a dog that allows you to hold it on its back in your lap, have your grooming partner hold the dog on their lap with their rear end towards you (you will be sitting knee to knee). You can then start to gently clip the mats one at a time. BE VERY CAREFUL not to pull the mat up while you are cutting it since this will pull the skin and cause the dog to jump. Just try to hold the mat and clip.

After you have cut off the mats, shorten any other hair in the immediate vicinity. Male dogs and females that tend to have the long ‘string’ of coat at the end of their ‘private parts’ should have this clipped short (within a half an inch from the end). Long coat in these areas could help transfer bacteria back into the dogs body and this has caused many a bladder infection. The slicker brush also works great for these areas on really tiny thin mats.

Hair Detangler Products and Bathing

There are many commercial products that are sold to help detangle mats. Remember that when you bathe a Cairn, you will have a softer coat for a short period of time (longer period of time if the coat is soft to start with) and this softer coat once again is subject to matting. ALSO, water tends to ‘set’ mats and this makes them more difficult to remove. Since Cairns should not be bathed any more often than what is absolutely necessary, I would avoid commercial detanglers if possible.

Preventing Mats

Since Cairn Terriers think that they are big dogs in a small body, this is what you should remember when you purchase grooming tools. Your comb should be a high quality metal Greyhound type comb that is large in size and your pin brush should also look more like it was purchased for a much larger dog. When you brush, use enough pressure to get through the hard outer coat PLUS the undercoat and use long firm strokes.