Even with regular grooming, a burr or a prickly weed can lodge in your dog’s coat, embedding itself in his fur until a mat forms. Longhair breeds, especially those with cottony-type fur, require frequent brushing to prevent mats. Getting rid of the mats requires gentleness, and depending on the extent of the matting, involves working the snarls out or shaving off some of your dog’s fur.
If you brush your dog regularly, odds are mats will be few and relatively simple to remove. Small mats are often discovered during regular brushing when the brush or comb hangs in the same spot after two or three brushing passes. Find the clump with your fingers and separate the surrounding hair away from the mat. If the mat is small and does not yet have a hard interior, you can often remove it with a slicker brush or a pronged de-matting comb. Pick gently at the bottom hairs to untangle them. Sprinkling a little cornstarch on the mat and working it in with your fingers keeps the hairs from sticking to one another.
Wet Burr Removal
Mats that form around a sticker or burr are easier to remove when the fur is wet. Soaking the matted burr softens its prickly bristles, reducing their grip on the hairs. For a single matted burr, spray on warm water and wait 15 or 20 minutes for the burr to soften before using your fingers or a narrow-prong pick to work the hairs from the burr. Detangling sprays are available in pet supply stores that make the hairs slick and easier to pick. Resist pulling; it tightens the snarls and it’s painful for your pooch.
Shaving or Cutting Mats
If the mat has a solid interior, it’s too late to brush it out. It’s time for a trip to the groomer who can remove stubborn mats safely with a bladed mat comb. If the dog has multiple heavy mats, complete body shaving is probably the best bet. The groomer uses electric shearing clippers to remove most of the dog’s coat, leaving about 1/4 inch of fur. Never use regular scissors to cut out mats, which might be tight against your dog’s skin.
Reducing Future Mats
If your dog’s fur is dull and cottony, ask your vet about diet changes or supplements to make his coat healthier, silky and less prone to snarling. Weekly brushing is sufficient to keep most mats at bay. During your dog’s shedding seasons, which typically occur twice a year, brush daily to keep loosened hairs from forming mats. Apply a detangling leave-in rinse after baths and treat your dog’s coat with a spray-on coat conditioner between baths to reduce mat formation.
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