How to Detangle Matted Dog Hair

Is your dog a mess of mats and in desperate need of detangling? Matted dog hair not only looks bad but can be uncomfortable and unhealthy for your dog. We will tell you how to detangle matted dog hair, what equipment is best to use and how to prevent further matting.

While regular grooming and brushing will keep your dog clean and tidy, you may still have to deal with matted fur. Mats can cause your dog distress and can lead to skin irritation and even infections. While mats can form anywhere on your dog, areas to take particular care of include the legs and paw pads, behind the ears, under the collar, and the tail.

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detangle matted dog hair

Best Equipment for Detangling Dog Hair

The first thing you need to do is gather the right equipment for the job. Here is a list of some helpful tools and our recommendations for the best ones to use.

Dog detangler spray. The Tropiclean Tangle Remover is one of the best products we have seen for making your detangling job easier. It is made with natural ingredients Infused with botanical extracts that help nourish and strengthen your dog’s skin and coat. Another good option is The Stuff Conditioner & Detangler. This is a leave-in conditioner that doubles as an aid to detangling matted fur. It is hypoallergenic and non-toxic and works well to help detangle small mats.

Comb. It is good to have a wide and a narrow spaced comb on hand for your detangling and grooming. The Andis Pet Steel Grooming Comb is a great 2 in one comb that includes both coarse and fine teeth. It is a sturdy comb made with one piece of metal for durability. Combs are good for removing smaller mats from your dog.

Slicker brush. The slicker brush is a square or rectangular brush with thin metal bristles mounted on a rubber mat. This Hertzko Self Cleaning Slicker Brush is comfortable to use and easy to clean. It is good for longer hair and hard to remove mats.  

Undercoat rake. Your dog’s undercoat and inside legs can be particularly prone to matting and you may need a special undercoat rake to get them out. The FURminator Dog Rake is one of the best dog rakes we have seen. It will help to remove loose and broken hair and to detangle mats. You can upgrade to the heavy duty FURminator Pro Long Dog Hair Brush that is ideal for longer hair and bigger mats due to the wider head.

Dematting tool. This is a great tool for stubborn mats that are difficult to get out by hand or with a comb. The best dematting tool for dogs we have found is the GoPets Dematting Comb. It is a double-sided comb with a 12 tooth side for tough mats and tangles, and a 23 tooth side for faster work. Each tooth is sharpened to help cut through the mats and reduce pulling and tugging on your dog’s hair. This is an essential tool if your dog is prone to excessive matting.

Mat splitting tool. The mat splitting tool is not something that everyone will need, but if it gets to the point where you need a serious tool for cutting away your dog’s mats then this will do the job. The Master Grooming Tools Mat & Tangler Splitter has a sharp stainless steel blade that makes easy work of tough mats. You will need to be extra careful though, and do not use it if your dog won’t sit still for you.

Clippers. You may eventually decide that you just can’t remove some of your dog’s matted hair and want to do an all-over trim to remove what’s left. This is where a dog clipper set will be your best bet. This Wahl 16 Piece Pet Grooming Kit is a great kit to have on hand for dematting or just regular grooming.

Shampoo and conditioner. Once you have completely dematted your pup you should give them a bath. The best dog shampoo and conditioner we like are the Earthbath All Natural Pet Shampoo and the Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Conditioner. These are soap-free, 100% biodegradable, and cruelty-free. The oatmeal and aloe help to combat skin irritation, promote healing, and re-moisturize your dog’s dry skin. Also good for dogs with skin conditions and allergies.

How to Detangle Matted Dog Hair

Detangling matted dog hair is often very uncomfortable for your pup. Mats will pull on a dog’s sensitive skin very easily. Look over your dog for sores, bruises and skin conditions, which may be concealed by his coat. If your dog has any of these you should get them checked out by a vet before continuing.

Always brush your dog and remove mats before bathing. Water can help to set mats and make them more difficult to remove.

Before you begin the process of untangling dog hair you should calm your dog by talking to them in a gentle manner and petting them for a minute or two. Once your dog has relaxed, it’s time to get started. Have your dog sit or lie down. Some dogs won’t want to do this, in which case you shouldn’t try to force them. As long as they’re calm and staying still, you can move on to the next step.

  1. Spray your dog’s coat with the dog detangler spray. Allow the fur detangling spray a few minutes to sit on your dog’s coat. This will help to loosen up the mats before you brush them out. Also, brushing dry hair can lead to it splitting and can cause static electricity making your job more difficult.
  2. Brush the coat with a comb or slicker brush. Work on small sections at a time, carefully brush your dog to locate the mats in your dog’s hair. On most dogs, they will be found around the ears, the back of the legs, and the dog’s chest and neck. Make sure that the wire bristles in your brush do not touch your dog’s skin, as it is very sensitive. Brush your dog all over before moving on to the next step.
  3. Once you have located your dog’s mats, it’s time to get rid of them. Begin by using your fingers to hold each mat at its base, closest to your dog’s skin. Use the mat rake to help separate them. Gently untangle the mat by carefully separating the hair bit by bit. This can be painful so take your time. If the mat is still bad, hold it at the base and use your dematting comb starting from the tip working towards the base. Make sure to use a teasing motion rather than trying to force your brush through the mat.
  4. For tougher mats that won’t come out with the rake and your fingers, use a dematting tool to pick at the mat. You’ll want to place your tool in the mat at its base, then pull out rather than pulling through the hair. This should loosen it up a bit, allowing you to finish with your fingers or the comb. Some people also have success with crochet hooks if you have one of those around.
  5. Use the mat splitting tool for really stubborn mats. Mat splitters are sharp, so only use it if you have a dog that can stay still. Once you have split the mat into smaller strips you can go back to the comb or rake to finish it.
  6. Use the clippers as a last resort to cut out any mats you cannot detangle. Never use scissors on your dog as you could unintentionally cut them if they move suddenly.
  7. When you are finished dematting it is time to give your dog a bath.
  8. Finish by brushing your dog’s hair as your normally would. Make sure that you are brushing in the direction the hair grows, rather than against it.