Short-haired dogs are such a blessing because they never get mats. Medium- and long-haired dogs are another story. Matting seems to occur overnight. First it's tangles, then a small mat and finally a large mat. The slicker and pin brushes are your best weapons for removing mats.
Description of Mats
Mats start as small tangles that can develop into small mats. If the dog gets wet, small mats can turn into large mats that look and feel like felt. Large mats trap moisture, dirt and bacteria. They also pull on the dog's skin, making it very uncomfortable for the dog. Large mats need to be shaved off by a professional groomer or sliced with a mat breaker. Small tangles and small mats can be removed with brushing and combing techniques.
The slicker brush comes in large and small sizes to accommodate your animal. The shape is usually square or rectangular with a wooden handle and thin metal wires for the bristles. The wires are mounted on a rubber mat. To use the brush, gather the mat in one hand as you use the slicker brush on the mat with your other hand. Brush in different directions to loosen the hair. Sometimes a little cornstarch or detangler sprayed on the mat helps loosen the knot.
The pin brush is usually oval in shape and has a wooden handle. The pins are thicker than the wires on a slicker brush. Each pin has a rounded point to protect the dog's skin from scratching. The pins are spaced apart and set in a rubber mat. Once you have loosened the mat with the slicker brush, you can let go of the mat and brush through the mat with the pin brush. This may leave a few tangles, but the mat should be just about gone.
A wide-toothed comb works well to complete the detangling process. Once you have finished brushing with the pin brush, you can run a comb through the hair and remove any small tangles. Small-toothed combs work well to pick at mats. Holding the mat in your hand, take the outside tines of the comb and pick at the outer edges of the mat. This process will loosen the mat so you can use the slicker brush.
Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.