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Matted fur and I feel terrible - any advice?

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Hello everyone!

Kevin is about 11 months now and he is a handsome guy. I work a few times a week with him on getting used to brushing - we did it a lot when he was a young puppy but I (very regrettably) fell away from it at some point and as a result, he's really, really not keen on being brushed. For the last few months, I will brush/click/treat, brush/click/treat him maybe 10 strokes a few times a week, but he still tends to get chompy (he's aiming for the brush, quite clearly).

So now I have realized that his hind quarters are pretty matted - the fur there seems to be quite thick and his top coat looks normal but when I feel around, I find that his undercoat has matts and I feel absolutely terrible. I know it's not comfortable for him, and I'm not sure how long it's been like this - I really can't express how awful I feel; I made this discovery last night and basically didn't sleep (when I did sleep, I had dreams of the YouTube videos of dematting that I watched before bed).

So my question now is: is this something I can deal with at home? Some of the matts are smallish but I felt at least one that was like a handful size. I'm not sure if I need to take him to a groomer - an idea I'm really not keen on; he trusts me and I think that with someone at his front end feeding him treats, I could do it if it's a wise idea. I'm thinking thinning shears and a slicker brush, and hoping for the best.

I would love any words of wisdom. I feel like a failed dog mom - he is in general the sweetest and funnest boy, but the fact that he finds it so hard to tolerate any grooming just feels like a huge failure on my part, and I can't stop thinking that he must be uncomfortable, even though in general he is a very cheerful dog (his behavior doesn't indicate a lot of discomfort, but still.) Agggh.

 

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Don't feel bad. You've spotted the matts and are planning to do something about them, that makes you a good dog mum.

Our boy is the same with the brush, tries to catch it for a chomp. Not easy and probably not the recommended solution but I've found our most successful brushes is having a chew or tug toy in one hand and brushing him in the other. It can be a bit of a dance around but it gets the brush through him. He has improved and sometimes I can do a few brushes without a distraction now but it's an every other day drag the brush through a few times rather than the long, slow, relaxing, bonding brushing session I envisaged when I chose a hairy puppy. Thankfully we've been lucky and not had any big matts, I wonder if some dogs are more prone to them. He had a small one in the fluff behind his ear which I teased at for a couple of days and then cut out, again probably not the recommended advice but it wasn't going anywhere.

Hope you get some sensible de-matting replies soon. X

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Thank you @jami74 this actually makes me feel quite a lot better. I'm currently on summer vacation with my parents (woo!) who have had two borders and one beardie - and my mom said "What are you so worried about! Dogs get mats! We'll take care of it." So also, yay moms.

I'm planning on cooking Kev up a steak (cooked by vegan me, ha) and I'll take care of the chompy mouth end with steak treats while my mom does the mat detangling. Fun times!

 

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Mats happen! Wise words from your mom!

I have never hesitated to cut a mat out of my dog's coat when needed.  I have two dogs who have very wiry bloomers on their hindquarters which mat in the blink of an eye and which are horrible to  brush.  I use an undercoat rake, lots of verbal reassurance, another person to hold when necessary, treats and scissors when all else fails.

At one point, I brushed with two brushes, one for the dog to chomp on and one for me to use!

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Our version of your problem is the terrible velco burs that grow here from late spring until fall. Long haired Buddy hates to be brushed!

A tip:  when dealing with a a big mat, cut it with  scissors in the direction of hair growth.  Really big mats may need two or more cuts.  Then brush out the cut mats with an undercoat rake.  This way you are not cutting out a big chunk of coat and the smaller cut mats are a lot easier to brush out.

Of course, if this doesn't work or is too uncomfortable for Kevin, just cut the mats out the usual way.  It won't look great, but we aren't taking about AKC hair dogs here, LOL.

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5 hours ago, Lawgirl said:

At one point, I brushed with two brushes, one for the dog to chomp on and one for me to use! 

Ha!! Brilliant! :D

1 hour ago, Michael Parkey said:

 

A tip:  when dealing with a a big mat, cut it with  scissors in the direction of hair growth.  Really big mats may need two or more cuts.  Then brush out the cut mats with an undercoat rake.  This way you are not cutting out a big chunk of coat and the smaller cut mats are a lot easier to brush out.

Of course, if this doesn't work or is too uncomfortable for Kevin, just cut the mats out the usual way.  It won't look great, but we aren't taking about AKC hair dogs here, LOL.

Awesome advice here, thanks!

 

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What they said. ;)

Don't be afraid to cut it out; it'll grow back and you won't even notice it. And use a rake for regular grooming after that.

I like that 2 brush idea. I've also got one real brush hater and she also ends up getting mats sometimes because I just hate the ordeal of giving her a good brush out. When she gets them I just cut them out.

Actually, both of my dogs hate to be brushed, but the other one tolerates it longer because he'll try to do anything I want of him. But I've never had a border collie or mix thereof who loved, or even liked, being brushed.

 

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I agree that you shouldn't be too hard on yourself. You were and are doing your best with a dog who doesn't like the brush, and these things happen. I am not so sure about using an undercoat rake with the mats, even if you cut them in the direction of the hair growth first. There can still be considerable pulling, which could undo all the good work you have done to get him to tolerate grooming. If it were my dog I would just get in there with scissors and very carefully cut off the mats close to the skin. I'd get someone to help me by feeding the yummiest treats possible to the dog the whole time I am doing this, and speaking constantly to the dog.

In the future, you might want to try a mat breaker such as  this one

I use it on one of my dogs whose fur mats very easily and it works very well, because it cuts through the mat in the direction of the hair growth and does it better  and faster than scissors do. I have not had a dog react badly to this myself, so far. This needs to be done as the mats are forming, preferably, and won't work as well once they are at the stage your dog has right now. 

The two-brush idea is brilliant and I never thought of that. May try next time I have to groom a dog who hates it.

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The stripping tool D'Elle links to is really designed to strip out dead undercoat and in my experience doesn't reach far enough into the dense rear fringes to be much help at preventing mats, and definitely not for removing them. That's why I use a rake that has longer tines and the type with rollers on them to prevent as much pulling, important for a dog that doesn't appreciate being brushed. It was the only thing that got thru the dense rear fringes on my border collie/spitz-type mix.

The strippers are indispensable for removing a lot of dead undercoat during shedding season, though my dog still doesn't like it. I just have to work slowly and carefully so as not to pull too hard and I tend to do it in stages (with lots of treats!) over a couple of days rather than the whole dog at once.

This is the kind of grooming rake I use: https://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Double-Undercoat-Rake-Rotating/dp/B0002DIRYG/ref=sr_1_13?keywords=dog+grooming+rake&qid=1564510678&s=gateway&sr=8-13

For a dog that already has mats and/or with dense fringes, a tool like this would come in handy: https://www.amazon.com/Matting-Dematting-Detangler-Grooming-Pet/dp/B0002ARR2W

 

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I will add that when I find a mat in my dog's fur, I often do not resort to a brush at all.  It takes more patience, but I will often work at it with my fingers, gently separating out the mat from the fur until I can pull the mat out without hurting my dog.  I can intersperse this with pats and belly rubs and verbal reassurance, and not have to worry about the fear the appearance of a brush will create. 

If the mat is too big or too tight, the scissors come in, but it sometimes surprises me how much you can get out while your dog is lying relaxed on the couch with you.

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An update: I think we came in a little too hot with the scissors yesterday; what we probably need to start with is about a week of just calmly fiddling with the mats and giving him treats for not being chompy. He so clearly wants to be A Good Boy - it's like he tolerates it for a minute or so and then puts his mouth on my hand and I say "AH ah! Kisses," and then he licks my hand, goes back to resting, until he gets fed up again.

So current game plan: spend the next week working on just getting him used to having his mats handled, and if I happen to feel like it's safe to cut one out while he isn't looking, I will do so. When my husband arrives here in the countryside next week, I'll see if he and I can cut them out while feeding steak treats. But I'm worried that Kev is going to continue being chompy and make it impossible for us.

We should have started the session yesterday with just the petting and soothing, because as soon as we pulled out the scissors he was like "No thank you no thank you!" I want to get him to the point that while I'm just feeling around on the mats, he doesn't start panting out of anxiety.

A follow-up question: would it be wrong, if I can't get him to stop chomping, to use a soft muzzle while cutting them out? I feel very iffy about it; I don't want to break his trust and I'm ok with taking the time to train him to accept me doing what needs to be done with scissors, but right now he just will baaaarely let it happen, he's so skeptical. And eventually we're going to have to get down to the business of actually doing it, and not just practicing. Thoughts?

 

Also: thank you for the tool recommendations!

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18 hours ago, GentleLake said:

The stripping tool D'Elle links to is really designed to strip out dead undercoat and in my experience doesn't reach far enough into the dense rear fringes to be much help at preventing mats, and definitely not for removing them. That's why I use a rake that has longer tines and the type with rollers on them to prevent as much pulling, important for a dog that doesn't appreciate being brushed. It was the only thing that got thru the dense rear fringes on my border collie/spitz-type mix.

 

 

Not wanting to argue, Gentle Lake, but  you are mistaken about the tool I recommended. Not saying it's necessarily the best one for this or any other situation, but it is not a stripper, nor is it designed to take out undercoat.

It is actually made with sharp blades, as sharp as and similar to razor blades, that are within the curved bits and designed so that they will not cut the skin on either dog or groomer. These blades literally slice through the mat, breaking it up in the same way that would happen if you cut into the mat with scissors, only the tool does it from the dog's skin outward rather than inward toward the dog's skin. I know this because I recently ordered this exact tool from Ryan's and have used it on mats in a dog's fur. It doesn't pull on the dog's coat whatsoever, because all it is doing is cutting through the mat.

It is not advisable to use it to take out undercoat, as it would not work in that application at all. It would probably cut some hair unnecessarily and unevenly if you did that, and would not actually comb out any undercoat at all since it is a cutting tool, not a combing tool. It is to be used only to cut through mats that cannot simply be combed out.

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Thanks for the correction, @D'Elle. From the pictures it looks very much like the stripper I use and I mistakenly thought it was the same type of tool. Clearly the one you posted is different.

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Of all the issues we have - and we have our fair share lol - from a pup Mr Merlin had to come and sit by me for a brush before breakfast. It was more of a token brushing when he was little and of course a huge game but now he’s 15 months he not only happily sits while I brush him but if I put his breakfast down he won’t eat it but comes to me for a brush before he’ll go near his food. Despite all of that he’s always wriggly when I get near his tail so although I have the back of his ears well under control he sometimes gets mats in his trousers haha! 

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I am lucky, Charley rarely mats, but I tried the trick I use on my Great Pyr/GSD - I work coconut oil (food grade) into the hair and it de-tangles the not so bad stuff so that it will brush out without pulling as much.  It smells good too, you just have to wipe as much as you can out of their fur or you will have slippery floors and sticky carpets.

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Just spritz him with diluted Show Sheen and work it slowly. The Show Sheen will help prevent mats from occuring as well.

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Update: behold the power of steak!! Kevin is now lying quite nicely to have his mats cut out as long as he gets to eat tiny pieces of steak while I do it. He stayed put for me for a good 25 minutes the other day (I'm working veeeerrrrry slowly so as to be soothing and not overwhelm) - and his left side is basically done. I picked up a good pair of shears as well as thinning shears, which are really helping. And I'm proud of him for being so patient with a grooming process. It turns out the Bun (we call him Bunny, because we're gross :D) will do anything for a piece of steak.

Huzzah! Not finished yet, but well on our way.

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You can also smear some peanut butter on a plate, or honestly I'll just smear it right on the floor in the laundry room... He'll be busy licking it and you can have both hands to brush

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