Ways to Manage Matted Dog Hair

Written by: Lindsay Giguiere



Time to read 4 min

I think I spend more money on making sure my dog's hair is perfectly coiffed than on my own. Just like it takes work to make our hair look good, it takes effort to keep our dog’s coat looking its best as well. 

Even if you have a groomer brushing your dog out regularly, matted dog hair can and will occur. If you like your dog’s hair long and lustrous, guess what? You’re going to have to work at it to keep it that way. Waiting until your grooming appointment to handle the matting and not taking care of your pet’s coat in between those appointments isn’t going to end well. 

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Do you brush and wash your hair in between salon visits? I certainly hope so. When a dog’s coat is ignored, painful knots and tangles can form. What does matting look like? Think of the late and talented Bob Marley. While his dreadlocks were intentional, your dog’s shouldn’t be.

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Dog Hair and Causes of Mats

Mats form when dog fur becomes tangled and wraps around itself, forming tightly wound clumps of the loose dead fur and live fur. There are many ways your dog’s hair ends up matted and before you know it, you’ll be singing, “Redemption Song” begging for forgiveness. 

Any groomer will tell you they don’t like when you drop your dog off full of mats. They may even fire you and your dog. Not that I know or anything. 

Here are some of the many causes of the tangled mess living inside your dog’s fur. 

Lack of Grooming

Matted fur can completely be avoided with regular brushing with a slicker or pin brush. Life happens, you get busy, and there are times you just can’t get to it when we planned to. Before you know it, there are several matted areas and you’re too late. 

Whether you plan on bringing your dog to a groomer or grooming your dog yourself, choose one, and stay committed. Brushing is so important for intercepting mats.


My dogs’ groomer always tells me to avoid water like the plague. Water can tighten existing mats and make the situation worse. Always loosen the mats before you bathe your dog with a de-tangling spray specially formulated for dogs - I find Biomist Detangling Spray is always effective. Once I'm sure their coat is smooth and untangled, I use a gentle massaging glove to stimulate circulation - and my pup, for all her protests is in heaven! 

Make sure to thoroughly dry your dog so all the moisture’s gone, and then brush the hair to prevent future matting. Again, it’s all about brushing. Brushing. Brushing. Brushing. Did we say “brushing?


If your dog’s having issues with its skin due to allergies, there’ll be a lot of scratching and licking, which can lead to, you guessed it: mats. Always use a specially formulated organic dog shampoo - I use organic Lavendar and Chamomile by upcoming brand We Love Doodles, because it smells wonderful and incorporates conditioner and detangler. Between bathing, consider essential oils to help soothe the skin.

Seasonal Shedding

Dogs who shed and have longer fur will lose their summer or winter coat and when that excess fur is not properly removed, it can become impacted against the skin, causing matting.

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Why Matting Is Bad

Mats are very painful for dogs and when they’re removed, can also be extremely unpleasant. That’s why it’s important not to get to that point. The ASPCA says that “even very mild hair mats can cause skin irritation and progress to infected lesions.” When it comes to more severe mats, they can “cause strangulating wounds that can spread and grow around the leg restricting movement.”

To manage your pet’s mats, you need the right tools, knowledge, and village. 

Use the Right Brush

If your dog has a long coat or a double coat, you can’t just brush the top layer. While its coat will look nicely brushed and fluffy to the untrained eye, there’s a whole other layer underneath that needs attention.

Preventivevet.com tells us “If you only focus on the top layer of your dog's fur, your brushing is actually pushing any loose fur and tangles down closer to the skin.”

Using the right brush will help you get to the right spots. Talk to your groomer or vet who can recommend one that works for your dog’s specific coat. A helpful tip is to use cornstarch to help loosen mats and make them easier to brush out.

Get Educated

Knowing which brush to use, how often to use it and ways to avoid matting in the first place is really important. When you find a groomer that does an excellent job, isn’t too expensive, and treats your animal with nothing but respect, do anything and everything to keep that groomer.

Turn to them with questions as they’re the experts. Dogs that come in with mats take a long time and it’s uncomfortable for the dogs. No groomer wants to hurt a dog. Try to avoid mats by knowing how to prevent them in the first place.

Provide a Healthy Diet

Believe it or not, your dog’s diet can help with those pesky mats. A shiny coat is always a sign of a healthy dog. Make sure the food you feed Fido is high quality, nutritious, and contains the right vitamins and minerals to promote good hair and skin health. Talk to your vet about a fish oil or omega-3 supplement as well.

You’re now armed with the information you need to manage your doggy’s mats. Taking care of a pet is a lot of work and you won’t always get to brushing as much as you should. While you’re not alone and most dog owners struggle with the upkeep, there are consequences if you don’t stay on top of it. Your dog may have to be shaved down to the skin, which can cause irritation and a slew of other problems. Plus, if your dog gets embarrassed like my dogs when they get a big haircut, you may get a bit of an attitude for a few days. 

While you enjoy precious moments petting, showing love, and snuggling with your furry friend, it's essential to be vigilant about checking for mats in common areas like the ears, collar, tush, and yes, dogs have armpits too! Regular grooming and close attention to potential matting are crucial. Engage in open conversations with your trusted vet or groomer to gain valuable advice and guidance. Invest in the right grooming tools to prevent and eliminate mats, ensuring a healthy, shiny coat for your beloved companion from the inside out. Remember, a well-groomed dog is a happy and healthy dog!