Why Does Your Dog's Fur Get Matted?
Mats form when dog fur becomes tangled and wraps around itself, forming tightly wound clumps of the loose dead fur and live fur. If not brushed out, they continue to trap more fur, becoming closer and closer to the dog's skin. Mats tend to frequently form in areas where there is lots of friction — think around the neck area where the collar sits, behind the ears (where we lovingly scratch them), under their chin, their armpits, under where their harness usually sits, their feet, and on the back of their rear legs.
Matting can occur more frequently during seasonal shedding periods, when a dog is "blowing coat" to switch from their winter to summer coat or vice versa. If the loose fur isn't brushed out, it becomes impacted against the skin and forms mats and pelting if left too long. Dogs who like to swim are more prone to getting mats, because the moisture causes their hair to curl, and it dries wrapped around itself. Many dogs who are bathed but not thoroughly brushed and dried also develop matting.
How to Prevent Matting in Your Dog's Fur
1. Regularly Brush Your Dog's Coat
The number one thing you can do to prevent matting in your dog's coat is regular and thorough combing and brushing. How often you should brush your dog depends on their coat type and if it's shedding "season" (when their coats change from a thinner summer coat to a thicker winter coat, or vice versa). Breeds that have long coats, curly coats, or fine fur should be brushed more often, even daily in some cases, while other coat types might only need once a week.
2. Remove Your Dog's Harness When Not In Use
Mats often form underneath your dog's collar or the parts of their chest and armpits where their walking harness rests. Remove their harness when they aren't on leash.
3. Make Regular Appointments With Your Professional Groomer
Some breeds and breed mixes require intensive coat maintenance to prevent matting, such as Poodles, Doodle-mixes and Bichon Frisés. Even with regular at-home brushing, their fine fur becomes matted very quickly, especially after it gets wet. Even using an ear cleaning solution on a regular basis can be enough moisture to mat the hair around their ears. Consider booking a professional brush out service with your groomer between full grooming appointments to keep matting at bay, or request a partial grooming appointment (such as a Feet, Face, and Tail service).
Your Dog's Coat is Matted — What NOT to do
Do not try to pick at the mat with a comb or slicker brush, but this can be very painful for your dog. If you've ever had someone try to brush out a knot of hair on your head, you know what I'm talking about! Unless the mat is very small and loose, brushing isn't your best option.
If you're thinking about cutting out the mat with scissors at home — put the scissors down! Do not use scissors to cut out mats unless you are properly trained.
Overall, the best thing you can do is prevent mats from forming with regular brushing and coat maintenance (including keeping your pets on safe and effective medications to prevent fleas and other parasites from their coat). Make sure you've connected with a trustworthy dog groomer who can give you tips and tricks for managing your dog's fur and keep your pup well-coiffed, happy, and healthy.