How Mats Happen
A mat is a tangled mass of fur, held together and interwoven with dirt, debris, fibers & more hair. A dog’s hair shafts actually resemble a briar bush – a single strand can have many small “barbs” – though some types of coats can be rougher or smoother, depending on the breed. Other factors in creation of a mat are dirt, static, moisture, & friction.
Particularly common areas for mats to occur are on areas where friction is present: behind the ears, inner thighs, the rear, under the legs, chest and around the collar/harness area.
Mats occur due to a lack of brushing. Depending on your dog’s breed and coat type, some need to be brushed on a daily basis. As the tangle starts to form, it is joined by dirt, dust, and other debris, which, if not taken care of immediately, will grow in size & density and cause discomfort to your dog.
Mats & Moisture
If your pet is already starting to tangle, the slightest amount of moisture can make it almost impossible to remove, especially with certain coat types.
If a coat that is tangled is then damped and allowed to dry without brushing or blow-drying (i.e., air dried), the mat will act like your favorite wool sweater in the dryer – the fibers & hair holding the tangle together will shrink & become extremely tight. At this point, combing out the mat will be extremely uncomfortable on your pet, and potentially cause them pain. Your only alternative, at this point, is to shave out the offenders and start over. If the matting becomes too tight, it can start to pull the fur out of the skin, creating a very painful bald spot.
Brushing & De-Matting
Always use a comb when brushing out your dog, as a brush-style will only take care of the top part of your dog’s coat. Make sure that you comb all the way to the base of your dog’s coat as mats can be hidden from view by the top portion of fur.
To lessen any pulling of the skin, use a slicker brush & comb with a “picking” motion, starting at the top of the mat (not at the base near the skin). In tiny strokes, flick your comb upwards, breaking apart clumps of the tangle and gradually moving downwards as the mat loosens. Hold the mat at the base, near the skin, to reduce discomfort to your pet by all the pulling.
“Dreadlock” type mats should be clipped out, rather than being brushed & de-matted, in order to lessen discomfort & pain in your pet. Keep in mind that dogs, if equated to humans, have the mentality of a two-year-old, and will react as such when confronted with a painful experience. Daily brush outs will be extremely helpful in keeping tangles from becoming full-blown mats. Condition your dog to like brushing by using encouragement & treats!