If you’ve owned a dog for any length of time, you’ve probably discovered that things get stuck in their fur. For example, at this time of year after their run through the forest, my dogs are covered with small green “stickies” from native plants called pathfinders.
Depending on the plant, removing burrs and other prickly things is a relatively simple process. However, it’s important to take the time to brush these items out of your dog’s fur because when ignored, they can cause problems. Dogs that have been left outdoors often need to be shaved because their fur is so matted up with plant parts, they can no longer be removed.
Sometimes dogs don’t need to get something in their fur for the hair to evolve into a mat. One of my dogs, for example, has silky hair behind her ears, which periodically tangles to the point that it turns into a mat. If this happens, you should remove the mat because eventually the fur can start to pull at the skin and cause irritation.
When you encounter a mat, first try to separate the fur with your fingers. If you have coat detangler or conditioner, you can spray it on the mat to help loosen the fur. Hold the mat and use a slicker brush to try and gently brush out the mat. Be careful not to tug at the mat. Next use a comb to try and work out the last of the tangles. Alternate between the slicker brush and comb until all the tangles have been removed.
If the mat is not located in a very noticeable area, or you can’t remove the mat completely, you also can use scissors or clippers to cut out the mat. Be extremely careful because it’s easy to accidentally cut the dog. Many mats are so close to the dog’s skin, it’s almost impossible to isolate the mat from the dog. (That’s why they are painful to the dog…imagine how you’d feel if your hair were tugging you constantly.)
If you don’t feel confident you can remove the mat safely, either use the brush/comb approach or take the dog to the groomer and let a pro handle it.