If your dog suffers from mats and tangles, he doesn't look good or feel good. As a pet parent, you want your dog to be healthy and tangles can lead to skin conditions like hot spots. Luckily you can get the tangles out with minimal fuss, if you have the right tools.
A V-rake is the best way to get rid of tangles. These handy little rakes have long pin teeth in the shape of an upside-down "V." This rake keeps the coat intact and still removes the tangle with minimal pain. You hold the V-rake in your hand and put your index finger on the tool behind the teeth. Lift up the hair above the mat and gently pick at the tangle using short downward strokes. When you've detangled the mat, use a metal finishing comb to make sure you got all the tangles out.
Slicker Brush and Matting Comb
If you can't find a V-rake, you can detangle your dog's coat with a heavy-duty slicker brush and a metal comb, sometimes called a dematting comb. Brush your dog against the lay of the hair and again with the lay to loosen tangles. You can then use the slicker like the V-rake to tease the tangles out. Use the metal comb after to remove the mats by gently teasing them out with the comb.
Avoid Mat Rakes and Mat Splitters
Mat rakes and mat splitters glide through the dog's coat with ease, but can be very dangerous because their blades are sharp. You can cut yourself or your dog using them. They will also cut your dog's coat and damage it if you use them improperly. These tools are best left to professionals.
If you haven't cared for your dog's coat in a while, it can mat to the point where these techniques won't work. At this point, it is time to call in the professionals. Have a veterinarian or a groomer take care of the mats -- they may need to shave your dog to start again on his coat. Never use scissors to cut out a mat. The mat will pull the skin into it and you are likely to cut your dog and severely injure him.
Never bathe a dog who has mats. Mats and tangles worsen with water and can make a few tangles into a huge mess. Always comb out the tangles first.
Detangler Sprays and Homemade Detanglers
You can purchase commercial detangler sprays at pet supply stores or make your own. The best sprays use some type of agent to make the hair slick, such as silicone. Cornstarch can work well dry by rubbing it deep into the hairs and using a V-rake or slicker brush to detangle. You can use a conditioner at full strength on the mats or make your own light detangler by adding a tablespoon of dog coat conditioner to water in a spray bottle. Shake it well and then spray it on the coat. Be careful, though. With any detangler product, homemade or otherwise, you must then bathe your dog or risk mats developing from the leftover conditioner because it will attract dirt.