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Dogs & Puppies : Grooming Last Updated: Oct 25th, 2006 - 08:57:26

What Is A “Mat” And How Do I Get Rid Of Them?
By Chester Duke
Mar 4, 2006, 09:43

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A mat is basically a tangle of hair, often with undercoat, that has formed a knot tight enough to resist brushing and combing.  Mats tend to form on dogs with thick, long, curly, or double coats in corners of the body and areas with longer hair, such as the base of legs, the anal area under the tail, under the chest by the front legs, and around the ears.  In most cases, regular maintenance such as daily brushing and combing are needed to prevent tangles from turning into mats, but sometimes a mat will catch you off guard. 

Mats form because hair is covered in tiny scales.  When hair is tangled or harshly treated, those scales can stick up, acting like tiny barbs.  These barbs catch shed hairs, wooly undercoat hairs, even dirt and debris, knotting and tangling until they form a solid mass of hair that is virtually impossible to comb through. 

Some people deal with mats by simply cutting them out, leaving ''holes'' in the coat. However, in severe cases of mat, you may be required to shave the coat. Regular grooming should prevent the build up of mats, but if you have let things go, shaving down the coat might be a better approach rather than going through hours and hours working with a mat splitter, scissors, and comb, pulling on the poor dog's coat. 
The first step in mat removal is to have the proper tools.  You may be able to get through most mats with a sharp scissors and a comb, but you may also be able to preserve more coat using specialized equipment and products. 

Oil-based coat conditioner spray: Do not try to remove a mat without first spraying it with an oil-based coat spray.  The oil in this spray helps to smooth down the scales on the hair, saturates and loosens the mat so that it comes out more easily.

Mat comb: A mat comb is a type of comb-like tool with blades instead of teeth used for slicing large mats into small sections that can then be worked out individually. 

Mat splitter: A mat splitter is a blade with a curved handle that is used to cut through a mat. The curved handle makes the mat splitter easy to hold and easy to slit into the mat.

Sharp scissors: Sometimes, the best way to get rid of the mat is to cut it into strips. A sharp scissors can do the work of a mat comb or a mat splitter.

Slicker brush: After cutting the mat into smaller parts, brush out the tangles with a slicker brush.

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