What Is Matting?
Matting is a condition in which the dog’s coat/hair becomes tangled or “packed” into tight clumps. The severity of the matting can vary and will appear differently depending on the type of coat. Matting that is allowed to remain in the coat will continue to worsen and can lead to a number of health problems and can become painful for the pet.
How Does It Happen?
On double-coated dogs (e.g., Shetland Sheepdog, Golden Retrievers, Pomeranian) the soft, dense undercoat has a normal shedding cycle. The shedding coat can bind up into the rest of the coat and form tight clumps of undercoat. On dog breeds with hair (e.g., Yorkies, Maltese, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel), the hair will become tangled and if not combed will turn into tight mats.
How To Prevent It
It is possible to entirely prevent your pet’s coat from becoming matted. Routine grooming, typically consisting of bathing, brushing, and combing is the best way to keep the coat from becoming matted. Depending on your dog’s particular coat type (double-coated vs. hair) the frequency of grooming, tools, and techniques for preventing matting will vary.
Grooming thick double-coated breeds such as Shetland Sheepdogs, begins with a thorough bathing, applying an ample amount of conditioner, and then thorough rinsing. Using a slicker brush during the bathing process will help to disperse the shampoo and conditioner throughout the coat and will remove loose undercoat. After a thorough towel dry, the coat should be blown dry, down to the skin. Again, brushing through the coat while blow-drying will speed the drying process and remove shedding. Next, use a firm slicker brush to separate the guard hair and undercoat. After the coat is thoroughly brushed use a shedding rake to remove the dense undercoat. Be careful not to pull through tight clumps as this can be painful for the dog. Once the raking stops removing large amounts of undercoat use a comb to remove any remaining loose coat and check for areas that needs more brushing or raking.
Dog breeds that have hair, such as a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel require a similar bathing routine to the thick double-coated dogs with a few exceptions. During the bathing and blow drying process, any brushing should be with light pressure as the slicker brush can easily reach the skin and cause injury. After the dog is completely dry, brush the coat and follow up with a comb that has widely spaced teeth. If you encounter any tangles with the comb take the slicker brush and brush the tangles out. After the wide tooth comb can easily go through the coat, switch to a fine tooth comb (not as narrow as a flea comb) and check for any more tangles.
How To Fix It
If your pet has become matted it is best to take your pet to a competent professional groomer to have it removed. There are times that the coat is too matted to be safety combed out and must be shaved. If the matting is not too severe and can be broken up and combed out, it may require tools which are very sharp and there is a risk of cutting the dog. Some pet owners and novice groomers have attempted to remove matting incorrectly and injured the pet, sometimes requiring stitches. It can be hard for pet owners and professionals to determine the severity of matting until the bathing and blow drying process.
Grooming After Shaving
After a pet has been shaved short to remove matting it is important to keep the dog on a routine grooming schedule to prevent future matting. Many pet owners make the mistake of waiting until the coat has grown out to their desired length before having them groomed again. This delay frequently ends with the pet being matted again and potentially requiring the same short shave the owner doesn’t care for. While the coat is growing out, groomers can perform maintenance services that will keep the dog tidy and mat-free until they require another full hair cut. Ask your groomer how often your pet should be groomed on a routine basis to prevent future matting.