Mats are a frequent problem in long-haired dogs. Not only are mats painful, but they also expose your dog to various problems, including:
- Urine and feces build-up in fur
None of these are things any owner would wish on their dog, but how do you stop dog hair from matting?
What Causes Dog Hair to Matt?
Prevention is better than cure, as the saying goes, and that means that to stop your dog’s hair from matting, you have to know what causes the mats.
There are various reasons dog hair develops mats, but these are the most common:
- Seasonal shedding
Dog mats often occur in areas of high friction, especially if you have an active dog. It can create mats:
- Under armpits
- Behind collar
- Area covered by a harness
You might also notice mats from friction in your dog’s fur if they:
- Lie down in wet grass
- Are prone to scratching
Of course, if your dog is scratching, there may be an underlying cause. While some scratching is normal, excessive scratching can be an early sign of fleas.
If you suspect your dog has fleas, look for all or any of these signs:
- Excessive scratching
- Skin irritation
- Biting/chewing skin
Like people, dogs can develop allergies. Also, like people, sometimes these allergies manifest in hives or patches of irritated skin. And while people can resist scratching those hives, dogs don’t understand the cause of the itching and scratch on instinct.
This can lead to tangles and mats in your dog’s fur. If you suspect your dog suffers from allergies, then determining the cause will help prevent your dog’s fur matting in the future.
As seasons change, so does your dog’s coat. Consequently, they start shedding their heavier winter coat for a lighter summer one.
This is usually why dogs shed. But not all that dead excess fur comes out in the shedding process. If you don’t keep on top of grooming your dog when they are between coats, there’s a chance some of that fur will mix with dead skin. Those are prime conditions for creating mats.
So get out the brush and make a habit of grooming your long-haired dog.
Although some dogs love water, it’s another cause of matting in long-haired dogs. The wet fur tangles, and unless you brush the tangles out, they turn into mats.
That’s why it’s vital that you avoid water when you start removing mats from your dog. Rather than helping, the water can cause mats to tighten, which is painful for the dog and harder for you to tackle.
If your dog is an enthusiastic swimmer or likes to lie in the long wet grass, make sure you take the time to groom them afterward. A thorough but gentle brush can help alleviate nascent mats before they have time to develop.
How to Stop Your Dog’s Hair from Matting
Mats take time and effort to remove. So, what can you do to stop your dog’s hair from matting? The short answer is that instead of spending time removing mats, you work on preventing them from developing.
In practice, there’s more to it than that.
The best way to stop your dog’s hair matting is with routine brushing. How often you need to do this varies based on:
- Length of coat
- Propensity for shedding
- Time dog spends in rain/water
When brushing out a mat, make sure to:
- Use a detangling agent
- Isolate mat and hold firmly to prevent brush pulling on or hurting dog’s skin
- Work from the outside of the mat inward
This last is especially important because brushing from the skin outwards can tighten a mat and increase your dog’s discomfort.
Bribery Is Always an Option
The other important thing about brushing out mats in dog hair is that the dog stays relaxed.
Removing mats can be painful, and a wriggling or stressed dog can unwittingly exacerbate that pain without realizing it. To help them relax, treats are an excellent tool.
Consider keeping your dog occupied with:
- Treat puzzles
- Peanut butter
- Wet food
Not only will these things relax and engage your dog, but it fosters a positive grooming experience. With luck, the next time you have to comb mats out of your dog’s fur, the experience is easier on both of you.
Pay Attention to Undercoat
As long as you’re bribing Spot into submission, take time to ensure you groom her thoroughly. That means brushing not just the overcoat but her undercoat, too.
It’s perfectly possible to have a well-groomed long-haired dog and still find mats in her fur.
This happens because while many people brush their dog’s overcoat, they forget about the undercoat.
Tools like undercoat rakes help reach the undercoat. They’re also crucial when your dog is shedding to help catch loose fur. Left unchecked, that loose fur is perfect for forming mats.
Use Detangling Agent
It’s tempting to put your pup in the bath at the first sign of mats. But remember, water can cause mats.
Your dog may take this to mean a moratorium on baths forever and ever, which would indeed be a joyful thing from their perspective.
Not only is that not viable, but it’s entirely possible to wash a matted dog. But you need to be careful about it. And, when you do need to bathe them, take the time to comb out their fur afterward.
If mats are something you regularly tackle, use a detangling agent to help ease out the mats. Ideally, you want a product that stays in and prevents future mats from accruing.
Bonus marks if it’s the kind of detangling agent that discourages your dog from eating it. A tall order, we know.
Remove Harnesses and Collars
When you’re out on a walk, your dog needs their collar or harness to stay close to you. It also helps identify them in an emergency.
But areas around the collar and harness are prone to friction. And your dog doesn’t need either in the comfort of their own home.
If you want to stop your dog’s hair matting, consider removing the harness or collar at home. It reduces friction and, by extension, the chances of matting.
What Not to Do
Removing mats takes time and effort, and preventing them can take still more time and effort. That means there are a few short-term solutions you might feel tempted to consider to stop your dog’s hair matting.
But are they best for your dog?
Don’t Keep Your Dog’s Fur Short
There’s a myth that when warm weather comes, your dog benefits from shorter fur. But fur has a vital role to play in regulating your dog’s body temperature.
While humans certainly wouldn’t welcome the prospect of spending a day in the sun in a fur coat, dogs’ fur gives them insulation. It doesn’t just keep them warm in winter, but cool in summer.
However, if you don’t feel up to the involved grooming regime, a long-haired dog needs to stop mats forming, then cutting its coat can be a solution.
Just make sure you or the groomer doesn’t shave the fur too thin and leaves your dog with some protection against the hot summer weather.
Cut the Mat Out
So, you’ve found a mat in your dog’s fur. You’ve tried brushing it out, but it doesn’t budge. You can’t tease it between your fingers, either, because it’s too tight. Worse, it’s hurting your dog.
It’s tempting to get out the scissors and cut away the mat. Don’t. Dogs have extremely thin skin, and it’s entirely too easy to nick or cut it by mistake with scissors.
Instead, you need proper grooming equipment. What you want to do is lift the mat away from the skin with the blade, and if possible, shorten the fur to thin the mat and help you remove it.
We know, we know. We said not to shorten your dog’s fur. But we aren’t talking the whole coat here, just the severely matted section that’s causing your dog pain.
Keep in mind that for the best success with shortening mats, you want a professional to do the job. However carefully you go, there’s always a chance you’ll clip the dog rather than the fur.
It’s also worth knowing that sometimes not even a clip at the crucial moment will do the job, and it may be necessary to shave the mat off. If this proves necessary, then you want to speak to a groomer about getting the job done.
Mats aren’t just painful. They have the potential to cause problems for your dog. These include:
- Risk of infection
At worst, they can even trap urine and feces in your dog’s coat, causing it to smell. All good arguments for stopping your dog’s hair matting.
To do this, you’ll want to groom your dog regularly, ensuring you pay attention not only to their overcoat but their undercoat, too.
- Removing harnesses/collars at home
- Avoiding contact with water
Finally, if and when you do find a mat, don’t reach for the scissors. Start with a good detangling agent and a brush, and go from there. If you can’t remove the mat that way, consult a groomer about the next steps.
Above all else, your dog’s comfort comes first. Stopping her hair from matting will do that and relieve any pain caused by the mats.
But that doesn’t mean it will happen overnight, and neither does it mean you have to do the job yourself. So, brush often, remove those collars and stay dry. With luck, mats in your dog’s hair will be a thing of the past.