Home Remedies for Matted Dog Hair, Tips to Untangle or Shave

Last Updated: March 16, 2023

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pup with matted hair

Mats and tangles are a common problem that many owners of long-haired dog breeds have to face. These issues aren't just cosmetic.

Matted dog hair is painful, as it tends to get snagged on things as your dog lives their everyday life. If the issue isn't taken care of in a timely manner, mats can increase in size significantly.

The best way to avoid hair knots and mats are with regular grooming. Daily brushing and routine haircuts can keep your pup's mane under control.

With that being said, even the most vigilant dog owner can experience mats from time to time.

It just comes with the territory of owning a long-haired dog.

Untangling matted hair is no easy task, but it is doable. With the right tools and proper technique, you can take care of small mats while keeping your pup comfortable. 

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to how to untangle dog hair knots and mats.

How To Painlessly Detangle Matted Dog Hair

Step 1: Gather the Necessary Tools and Products

You don't have to conquer mats on your own. There are plenty of great tools to help speed up the process. At the very least, you should have a high-quality brush and metal comb.

Specialty de-matting brushes and combs are available. They feature metal bristles that can hold up well to even the most tangled hair. Also recommended is a slicker brush.

It, too, has metal teeth. However, they are much smaller and feature a small angle that can help pull hair out of the mat.

In addition to the brushes, it's a good idea to get a detangling product.

Usually available in spray form, this product helps to moisturize the fur. It can help loosen up the hair so that it's easier to detangle.

Step 2: Assess the Damage

Using a metal comb, brush through your dog's hair to find the mats.

Sometimes, smaller mats can hide within your pup's fur. Matted dog hair behind the ears is also quite common. When you find a tangled area, pay close attention to how close it is to the skin. 

If it's directly next to the skin, you'll need to be extra gentle. The de-matting process is not fun for your dog. Having to deal with the pain of pulled skin just adds fuel to that fire.

Take a note of how many mats your dog has and where they are located.

It's best to address all tangles at mats early on before they become giant clumps of hair.

Step 3: Start Slowly with Your Fingers

To begin untangling, hold the matted hair in your hands.

Spray a generous amount of detangling spray onto the hair. Then, rub it into the mat so that it is fully saturated.

Before you resort to brushes, try to take care of the problem with your fingers first. Starting at the edge of the mat, use your fingers to pull the hair apart. 

Make sure to do this gently without pulling the mat away from your dog. Of course, offer lots of praise to keep your dog calm throughout the process.

Step 4: Split the Mat

If you have a particularly large mat that's giving you problems, you can break it up into a couple of smaller pieces. T

here are products available that can slice the chunk of hair up so that it's more manageable.

Alternatively, you can use scissors to do the job. Only break the hair up into about three pieces. Any more than that and your pup may end up with a large bald spot.

Step 5: Brush It Out

Now comes the brushing. Hold the mat in your hand at the base. Make sure to get a good grasp of the base to prevent any unwanted pulling on your pooch's skin.

Then, using the slicker brush, brush out the mat. You should be moving in the direction that your dog's hair grows.

Never let the bristles of the brush make contact with your dog's skin. Not only can it cause scratches and injury, but the sudden prick will startle your dog.

Use your hand as a guard to separate the brush bristle from your dog's skin.

This step may take some time. Just be patient and gentle. After you have untangled the mat, follow up with a normal brush to get any dirt or debris out.

Here's a video on how to demat your dog the easy and painless way.

Step 6: Bath Time

Last, but not least, give your dog a bath. Mats are typically caused by dirt and grime. A good bath will make sure that the mat doesn't return immediately. It's important that you make sure all tangles are taken care of.

If you give your dog a bath with an existing mat, it will only get tighter and more difficult to remove later.

Use a gentle shampoo that nourishes the skin. Your dog's skin will probably be a bit sensitive after the ordeal, so choose a product that won't cause any irritation. Also, invest in a moisturizing conditioner.

The conditioner will smooth your dog's hair out and may help to avoid any matting as your canine companion's fur dries out.

What If Untangling Doesn't Work?


If you aren't having any luck untangling your dog's hair, you may have to try some other alternatives. Severely matted hair can be incredibly tough to take care of alone.

Consider going to a professional groomer. They may have heavy-duty tools to get the job done faster. Furthermore, groomers typically have more experience and more helping hands.

If all else fails, you'll need to shave the mat off. Severely matted hair can lead to a number of issues. First off, your dog's skin will become red and irritated. They may develop sores due to all the pulling the mats cause.

Also, the solid mass of hair prevents proper air circulation. If any bugs, water, or grooming product gets underneath the mat, it can cause a yeast infection, sores, and a number of other issues.

How to Shave a Dog With Matted Hair

So, you tried to untangle the mat to no avail.

Shaving is a last-ditch solution that will take care of the tangled hair once and for all. You should always try to detangle the hair first. Shaving is going to have some cosmetic ramifications.

Your dog will have a bald spot wherever the mat was. Depending on how close the mat is to the skin, it may also be a risky task.

If you're not experienced with using dog grooming equipment, you may want to consider going to a professional.

Using Electric Clippers

The easiest way to shave off the tangled mass of hair is with electric clippers. These tools have fast-moving teeth that can get through just about any hair texture.

Start by pulling the matt as far away from your dog's skin as possible without causing pain. The goal is to keep the shaver away from your dog's skin.

Slowly move the teeth of the clipper against the hair that's directly under the matt. This will cut the hair, allowing you to slowly peel the mat up.

When you make it to the other side of the affected area, you should be able to remove the mat completely and toss it out.

Using Scissors

It's not recommended that you use scissors unless you have some experience grooming your dog. While they are simple tools, they pose a much bigger safety risk than electric clippers. You could easily knick your dog's skin.

If you feel comfortable enough using the scissors, the process is pretty much the same as with electric clippers. However, you're using the scissors to cut the hair underneath the mat is small sections.

It takes a bit longer with scissors, but the outcome is pretty much the same.

Tips for Avoiding Tangled Dog Hair

Now that you have taken care of the matted hair, here are some tips to prevent the issue from occurring again.

Brush Before You Bathe

The biggest mistake dog owners make is brushing their dog after a bath instead of before.

As mentioned earlier, getting mats and tangled wet only makes them worse. You need to make sure that your dog's hair is completely tangle-free before a bath.

It's a good idea to bathe your dog regularly. This can help prevent dirt from clumping your dog's hair up. If your dog has a considerably messy play session outside, consider doing a bath that day.

Avoid Excess Rubbing

When you're drying your dog out, pat them with the towel rather than rubbing them all over. This takes a bit longer, but it can help reduce the chances of mats forming significantly.

The constant rubbing from a towel will cause the fur to mat up instantly. Alternatively, you should consider investing in a handheld air drying machine.

Comb Weekly

The best way to avoid tangles is to be proactive. You should brush and comb your dog's hair at least once a week.

Brushes work on the outermost part of your dog's coat only. So, you'll need a fine-tooth metal comb as well. They can penetrate deeper into the coat, taking care of tangles at the root.


Dealing with matted dog hair is never fun. However, it doesn't have to be a huge headache. With the right tools, a little bit of know-how, and a whole lot of patience, you can conquer mats and restore your dog's smooth coat in no time.


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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.