How to Untangle Matted Dog Hair

By Tammy Dray

Long-haired dogs can get matted rather quickly, especially if you don't comb them on a regular basis, but even dogs with shorter hair might need help. With a few tools and a bit of patience, you can untangle matted dog hair. However, if the dog is severely matted, especially around sensitive areas, it's best to consult a vet or professional groomer rather than attempting to fix the problem on your own.

Gather Necessary Materials

Before you get started, make sure you have your grooming tools in hand. At a minimum, you will need a brush appropriate for your dog's hair. For example, stiff-bristle brushes are best for medium length hair, while a combination of a pin brush followed by a wide-tooth comb is the best choice for long-haired dogs. Your local pet store, favorite groomer or vet can help choose the best brush or comb for your dog.

You may need a dematting tool or matt splitter -- available through pet stores -- to get through any tangles you can't comb off.

Also check your local pet store for hair detangling products. For example, thick conditioners or remoisturizers, spray-in conditioners, grooming powders and even some silicone products can help hydrate the hair and make the detangling process easier. Brushing or combing hair dry can split and damage the hair, so using detangling products is a good idea.

Serious matting, which can cause tugging on the skin and can end up hurting your dog, is best left to your groomer or your vet. Do not use a scissors to cut the mats on your dog. If you cut your dog's skin, a trip to the vet will be in order.

Start Easy

Matted hair is almost impossible to comb through so you'll have to work through the tangles first.

Start by splitting the matted hair. You can use your fingers or the detangling tool -- also known as de-matting comb --but be very careful not to get too close to the skin or you could injure your dog.

Always brush away from your dog, starting at the end of the hair and then moving upward as the hair becomes untangled. Be patient. If you're not comfortable, seek professional grooming support.

Keep in mind that different coats require different methods. For a long-haired dog, you can start with detangler and work through the mat with your fingers before using a brush or comb.

Take Your Time

Never pull on matted hair when trying to comb through it, even after splitting it. This will hurt and will result on your dog trying to flee, which makes grooming even more difficult. Instead, pick at the hair slowly to untangle, rather than pulling down or through. This will loosen the tangle and help you work through the knots.

To prevent pulling, always grab the hair you plan to comb between your fingers. Grab closer to the skin and comb the ends first, since this is easier and less painful for the dog.

Once you've worked through all the tangles, you can use a brush or a wide comb to finish the job.