Your pooch's soft, fluffy coat just sprouted a healthy crop of mats. These dense clumps of fur can be especially nasty around friction-prone spots. Look for mats under Fido's collar, behind his ears and around his bottom. Rest assured you can banish most mats with the proper tools and techniques.
If you live with a German shepherd, collie, golden retriever or other double-coated breed, an undercoat rake provides your first line of defense against the dreaded mats. An undercoat rake actually resembles a miniature garden rake with rounded steel teeth and a comfortable rubber or hard plastic handle.
Using an undercoat rake is generally pretty easy. Pull the rake gently through Fido's dry undercoat. This action dislodges small tangles and removes some of his less-complicated mats. As an added bonus, your canine companion might actually enjoy the rounded-edge massaging action he gets from the effort.
Dematting tools come in a number of designs, although they each basically work the same way. Dematting combs, mat splitters and mat breakers all have sharp (really sharp!) steel blades and ergonomic molded handles. A dematting comb's straight-line blades are probably easier for the average pet owner to use. Mat splitters and mat breakers feature curved or right-angle blades that a trained groomer can use effectively. You'll also want to have a metal-tipped slicker brush on hand.
Using the Tools
Begin your dematting exercise by placing your dog in a down position to reduce stress on his legs and joints. Examine each mat carefully before you start hacking away at it. For smaller mats, hold the mat between your fingers and gently separate it with the slicker brush and your hands. You'll reduce unnecessary pulling on your dog's skin, which means you and Fido will get through the ordeal a bit more easily. If you encounter a really large or dense mat, separate it into smaller parts and work on each one individually. Keep your dematting comb in reserve for really nasty mats you can't budge any other way. Gently split the mat with the dematting comb, always working outward from your dog's skin.
You should be able to find undercoat rakes and dematting tools in most big-box pet supply stores. Specialty pet retailers, and even some veterinarian practices, might also stock a basic dematting tool inventory. Grooming supply catalogs and websites may provide a wider selection and more ergonomic choices.
Now here's the straight skinny on dog coat dematting. Fido may be relatively cooperative during an undercoat raking session. All bets may be off, however, when you break out the dematting comb -- even when you're super careful not to cut or nick him. Don't even think about cutting out the mats with scissors; that's just too dangerous.
Based in North Carolina, Felicia Greene has written professionally since 1986. Greene edited sailing-related newsletters and designed marketing programs for the New Bern, N.C. "Sun Journal" and New Bern Habitat ReStore. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Baltimore.