Long hair dogs require significant maintenance to avoid painful matting in their fur. This resource will cover the basic skills for dealing with mats in a dog's fur, and how to do a simple brush out. It is intended for dog owners, and is unlikely to offer new information to an experienced groomer.
Get the Right Tools
You'll need your shear to break up thick felted mats, and to cut out those large mats that have plenty of room between the matting and the skin. If the matting is too close to the skin, you may need to let a professional groomer take care of it with a clipper.
This is the primary tool used for a brush out. It is capable of loosening up small and fresh mats, but primarily used for maintenance purposes. You should brush your dog's entire coat with the slicker brush, always picking up the fur with one hand, and then combing the fur that you are holding back onto the dog, so that you are brushing from underneath the outer coat. See the video for a demonstration.
Extremely felted matting will need to be broken up with shears or with a dematting comb.
This tool is used to break up large, heavily felted mats. Do not drag the tines through the mat in a directly perpendicular fashion. Comb in a way that makes the fur slide over and catch on the serrations of the comb's blades, teasing the mat apart. Also make sure to grip the fur behind the mat with the fingers of your other hand to avoid pulling on the dog's skin. See the video for a demonstration.
As you brush out your dog, gently run this comb through the finished areas. First using the widely spaced side, and then the fine-toothed side. Any place where the comb hangs, there is still a mat that you need to comb out. Find the mat, go back with your slicker brush and comb that out. If it is large, use the dematting comb or your shears to break the mat up into smaller, more manageable mats, and then comb them out.
When you can run the fine-toothed side of your grooming comb through the dog's entire coat without hitting a snag, you're done!
There are two types of trouble spots. The parts of the dog that are extremely sensitive, where it's easy to hurt the dog, and the parts where mats tend to form.
High Friction Areas
All of the indicated areas are high friction areas, where mats are likely to form. Most of those indicated are natural, around the major joints, the tail, and the ears.
Any time you make your dog wear something, anything, you are causing friction to the fur, which causes painful mats to form. Collars, dog sweaters, socks, or anything else you can think of will have this effect.
If you do this, make sure to brush those areas very regularly and check for matting.
To reduce matting around a collar, you can also invest in a rolled leather collar, which causes much less friction and matting.
All of the areas around the dog's joints, his ears, and his tail are extremely sensitive, and have very loose skin. These areas are easy to brush burn, so be gentle with your tools, and be extremely careful with your shears. Because the skin is lose, it is easy to raise up a fold of skin and accidentally cut into it.
If you find a dense mat that is close to the skin in these areas, we recommend taking the dog to a groomer rather than try it yourself. This is especially recommended for any areas around the dog's ears and face.
- Brush out your dog regularly to avoid matting, and to save money at the groomer's. One thorough brush out every week should be sufficient.
- Brush the mats out before bathing, as water can make the matting worse. Remember to use a conditioner.
- Get your dog a rolled leather collar to reduce friction and prevent matting.
- If you have a large dog, break up the brush out over the whole day or several days, into smaller sessions, to avoid fatiguing your dog or wearing down their patience.