How to Prevent and Remove Tangles and Matted Dog Hair

Mats and tangles are not just ugly—they are painful and damaging to a dog’s skin. They can form in the outer- and undercoat, where they may remain unnoticed for weeks. During this time, painful sores can develop. Once mats start to form, they seem to collect more and more hair until the entire coat becomes a mass of mats. 

Mats and tangles occur most commonly in longhaired dogs during the shedding season. As new hairs grow in, mats can occur very close to the skin if the dog is not regularly groomed. The areas most prone to tangling include under the front legs, the legs themselves, behind the ears, and at the base of the tail. 

Mat and Tangle Prevention

To prevent mats and tangles from forming in the first place, brush your dog right down to the skin. It is not sufficient to simply brush the outercoat, because mats tend to form in the underlying inner coat. Be careful, of course, not to brush the skin itself, which can irritate it. If you irritate the skin, your dog will come to hate being groomed. If he hates grooming, he’ll be more unpleasant to work with, which will make you avoid the task and the coat will become steadily more matted. At that point you will have to take him to the groomer, where most of the coat will be shaved off. The lesson? Groom your dog regularly and gently.

If your dog seems prone to mats and tangles, use a shampoo like Magic Coat® Tangles & Mats Shampoo. While it cannot remove existing mats, it will leave your dog’s hair soft and manageable, easy to comb and less prone to tangling. It contains aloe vera to deeply moisturize the coat and has a wonderful violet fragrance. 

Dealing with Mats and Tangles

If you encounter a knot or mat, you won’t be able to simply brush it out. First spray on a detangler (or use cornstarch) and let it sit for a while. You’ll also need a special tool like the Magic Coat® Pro de-Matting Tool, designed for full-body detangling. This implement has stainless steel blades that break up mats and lift out dead hair. Keep the base of the mat in your hand, and keep your hand between the implement and your dog’s skin. This will save your dog’s skin from being pulled as you attempt to remove the mat. Be patient and work on only a little at a time.

In a worst-case scenario, use scissors. Isolate the mat and slide one blade through the bottom of the mat and cut upward in a vertical motion (not horizontal to the skin). Then brush out the remainder of the mat. Removing a mat from a dog’s skin is an uncomfortable experience for him even in the best of circumstances. Speak gently to him and offer him treat rewards for remaining calm. 

If your dog’s hair has matted right down to the skin, you may have to see a professional groomer to have the coat shaved. Because a dog’s skin is thin and tears easily, this is not something most people should attempt on their own.