Grooming, Health

How To Brush Out Matted Dog Hair – Tools & Techniques

dog brush matted hair

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Brushing Out Matted Dog Hair


brush matted dog hairAs we all know most dogs are very active animals and at some point, they will get matted hair. It just happens.


You can keep matted hair to a minimum by regular brushing but at some point, you’ll have a mat to deal with. Of course, how often you brush your dog depends on the breed and the style of coat they have. If you have a short-haired dog then you’ll need to brush them less often but if your dog has long hair then you’ll need to brush them regularly, maybe even on a daily basis.


But even my Shih Tzu, whose hair I like to keep short with clippers can develop small mats, especially on his belly.


As matted hair on your dog can lead to some serious health problems it’s important for us as dog owners to know how to remove them and the equipment we’ll need to complete the job.


In this article, I’ll touch on the health problems caused by matted hair, give step-by-instructions on how to remove them, and recommend some quality brushing tools and products you’ll need.

Jump straight to recommendations of the tools you’ll need



  1. Gather your tools.
  2. Apply detangler or conditioner spray.
  3. Find the mats and tangles.
  4. Detangle with your fingers.
  5. Use your dematting comb.
  6. Final comb through.
  7. Bathe your dog.



Health Concerns With Matted Dog Hair


Apart from being uncomfortable for your dog, matted hair can have some very serious health consequences.


If you don’t brush out the matted hair when they first appear they will become denser as time passes and this is when the serious problems can begin. Matted dog hair will trap moisture and this creates the perfect environment for fleas, bugs, bacteria and other unwanted things. These little critters can cause serious sores and infections and you might not even notice until the mat is removed.


In more extreme examples, severe matting can cut off the blood flow to certain areas and inhibit air circulation. If this happens your dog’s skin can become very unhealthy. In some cases, this can lead to areas of the skin developing open sores that can be very painful for your dog.


Even mild matting can cause a lot of pain for your dog when trying to brush it out.



Step-By-Step Instructions For Brushing Out Matted Dog Hair


1. Gather Your Tools


If you want to do a good job dematting your dog in as painless a way as possible then you will need the right equipment. These are the tools I have in my dematting arsenal:


  • Detangler/Conditioner Spray.
  • Slicker brush.
  • Mat splitter.
  • Steel comb.
  • Massage Glove.


They are often available in pet supply stores or the pet section of superstores or alternatively, you can buy them online. If you would like to read a detailed review of what these tools do, why they are important and where you can buy them, then please read my article – Shih Tzu grooming supplies.


2. Apply The Detangler Or Conditioner Spray


The first thing you should do is to spray your dog with a detangler or conditioner spray, rubbing it into the matted areas. Don’t over-do this, you want the coat to be moist but not wet.


Most detangling and dematting products come in spray form. You can check your dog’s breed and find out the best detangler to use. Some pet owners use coconut oil or cornstarch to make the mats looser, but if you find homemade solutions a chore, you should definitely consider store-bought ones.


If you don’t have any detangler or dematting spray at home and you would like some recommendations you can read my article – Best detangling spray for your Shih Tzu.


3. Find The Mats And Tangles


Using your slicker brush, gently comb through the hair to find where the mats and tangles are before you start working on them. This process also removes loose or dead hair around the matted regions and in the entire coat. Do not yank or pull too hard when you reach a knot as this can be painful for your dog.


While brushing, you should always start from the ends. Starting from the base will cause the tangles to knot even more, and this can be painful for your dog.


Start brushing at the paws and from there move up to the sides, then the back area, and finally the head. This prevents ruffing up of the fur, as individual hairs will easily lay on top of each other. While trying to brush out matted dog hair, alternate the process by pausing to massage your dog. This helps to relax them and assures them they are not being punished in any way. It will also make the process easier for you.


If you have a particularly anxious dog you could consider buying a massage brush or glove to pass through their bodies after a session of combing. If you do not have a massage tool, you can simply pet them and talk to them in a soothing tone.


The important thing is to make them feel safe so that the process is faster and safer. The last thing you want is your dog jumping about and struggling. It’s not only stressful for them but can also result in injury.


Check out some massaging dog tools on


4. Detangle With Your Fingers


After spraying the detangler and finding the matted areas you can use your fingers to separate the hairs bit by bit. Gently massage the area of matted hair from the tip to the base and try your best to prise apart the clump of hair. Remember to not be too forceful as there could be sores or infections underneath.


If you find the tangles are still tight after trying to loosen them with your fingers you can use a mat splitting tool to comb them through.


5. Use Your Dematting Comb:


For stubborn areas of matted hair using the slicker brush and your fingers might not be enough to get the job done. If this is the case you’ll then need to use a mat splitter.


A mat splitter (also called a mat breaker, or mat rake) is a specially designed tool for effectively cutting through mats. It has sharp razors with a protective edge and will do a good job at removing the stubborn mats you can’t get out with a normal brush.


Choose a dematting comb that has a firm grip as will be holding it for a long time depending on the intensity of the matting. When using this type of tool don’t pull too hard or use a ‘stabbing’ motion. You don’t want to hurt your dog or be left with a messy finish.


Always remember to brush downwards, in the direction the dog’s hair grows.



If your dog has a lot of matted hair the brushing session might take a while and you may need to respray your dog with some dematting spray.


Check the prices of dematting combs on


6. Final Comb Through


When you’ve removed all the mats it’s a good idea to give your dog a good comb through to definitely make sure you’ve removed all the mats of hair. I like to use a good quality steel combo comb for this task.

If you find any areas of matted hair you have missed then just start the process again.

how to brush out matted dog hair top tip



7. Bathe Your Dog


When you are sure all the mats have been fully removed, it is time to give your dog a bath. Use a good quality gentle shampoo and a conditioner so that more tangles and mats don’t develop soon after. If your dog has sensitive skin or is prone to allergies then you should use a shampoo and conditioner that are chemical-free and use only natural products. For more information and recommendations for the best shampoo to use, please read my article – Shih Tzu Shampoo And Conditioner – Because She’s Worth It!


If done well, you can use the time to brush out matted dog hair as a bonding time between you and your pet.



Important Notes


If your dog’s coat is extremely matted then you should take them to a professional groomer or even your vet.


If your dog has a severe case of matted hair you should not attempt to give your dog a full coat trim with clippers if you are not experienced. There may be serious sores and infections under the mats that you can’t see and you could seriously hurt your dog if you cut into these and cause further infections. When your dog has a serious case of matting you should always take them to a professional groomer or your vet.


If you are considering giving your dog a full groom at home including using clippers then you might like to read my article – How To Groom A Shih Tzu At Home – With Confidence And Style!



Recommended Equipment & Products For Brushing Matted Dog Hair


To remove your dog’s matted hair with as less discomfort and stress as possible you will need some specific tools and products including a detangling spray, slicker brush, mat splitter comb and a steel comb.


Below I will give you a list of quality tools and products and links to where you can buy them. I only list products that have at least a 4-Star rating on Amazon so you know you are getting a quality product. I’ll also provide links to customer reviews so you can check these out for yourself.


Detangling / Dematting Spray


Earthbath 3-in-1 Deodorizing Vanilla Almond Spritz


shih tzu detangler spray


best choiceThere are a lot of features I like about the Earthbath Deodorizing Spritz. Firstly, it’s made using all-natural products, something that is an important consideration for me. It’s natural essences deodorize, while meadowfoam seed oil, colloidal oatmeal, aloe vera and vitamin E help to condition, rehydrate and soothe skin.


Being a leave-in spray it means that no rinsing is required. You just spray it onto your Shih Tzu and then brush. It’ll help to brush out any tangles and mats and will leave your dog’s coat shiny and smelling great. It’s a gentle formula that doesn’t contain any chemicals meaning it’s suitable for any skin types. This is very important if your dog has any allergies or sensitive skin.


It’s also suitable for use on puppies. This product has a good 4.5 star rating on and you can see the reviews for yourself here.


Best features:


  • No rinsing needed.
  • No chemicals.
  • No animal testing.
  • Suitable for all skin types.
  • Nice subtle scent.
  • Can be used on other pets.
  • Tear-free.
  • 100% biodegradable ingredients, paraben & phosphate-free.



Check the price of the Earthbath Detangler on

Check the price of the Earthbath Detangler on Amazon




John Paul Pet Oatmeal Conditioning Spray


john paul conditioner spray


John Paul Conditioning Spray is another great choice to help with tangled fur. It’s a leave-in conditioner and contains thirteen conditioning agents, including aloe, chamomile, and panthenol. The almond oil helps to condition the skin and also leaves a nice fragrance. John Paul is a well known and trusted brand, testing all their products on humans first meaning there is no animal cruelty involved with the production and manufacturing of their products.


This conditioner has an excellent 4.6 out of 5-star rating on and you can see the reviews for yourself here.


Best features:


  • Leave-in conditioner.
  • Almond oil leaves skin nourished and fragrant.
  • No animal testing – tested on humans.
  • Made in the USA


Check the price of the John Paul Conditioner on

Check the price of the John Paul Conditioner on Amazon



Slicker Brush


Hertzko Self Cleaning Slicker Brus


hertzko grooming slicker brushhertzko grooming slicker brush


best choiceMy first recommendation would be the Hertzko Self-Cleaning Slicker Brush. For the price, this is an excellent brush if you are on a budget. One of the best features of this brush is that it’s self-cleaning. You simply click a button that retracts the bristles making it easy to wipe away the hair. This brush has a good density of bristles that are angled as not to cause discomfort for your dog when brushing. It has a strong, comfortable anti-slip handle that helps towards avoiding wrist strain when brushing for longer periods. This product has an excellent 4.5 out of 5 stars rating and you can read the reviews for yourself here.


Benefits of Hertzko Slicker Brush:


  • Suitable for all hair types.
  • Fine bent bristles for comfort.
  • Good bristle density.
  • Easy to clean with a self-cleaning button.
  • Strong, comfortable grip.
  • Anti-slip handle.
  • Amazon Choice award.
  • Excellent rating & reviews.


When considering the value for money, the features and in particular the reviews, I have given this my best choice award for a slicker brush.


Check the price of the Hertzko Slicker Brush on

Check the price of the Hertzko Slicker Brush on Amazon



JW Gripsoft Slicker Slicker Brush


jw slicker brush


Another great choice for a slicker brush is the JW Gripsoft Brush. The brush has been designed with a rubber sheathed handle for maximum comfort while you’re grooming your Shih Tzu. The handle is also non-slip giving you more control with those harder to reach places on your dog. The teeth come in two different lengths making them great for removing mats and tangle. The teeth are also angled at 90 degrees to prevent any raking on your dog’s skin. 


This brush has a 4.3 Star rating on and you can read the reviews for yourself here.


Best Features:


  • Rounded head and angled pins.
  • Effective on double-coated breeds like the Shih Tzu.
  • Comfortable non-slip grip.
  • High-density pins.
  • Ergonomic handle reducing fatigue in the hands.


Check the price of JW Grisoft Slicker Brush on

Check the price of JW Grisoft Slicker Brush on Amazon



Mat Splitter


Safari Dematting Comb


safari dematting shih tzu brush


best choiceThe Safari Dematting Comb get our best choice award for a dematting comb. It’s designed to easily remove mats and tangles from all types of coats. The comb is produced from stainless steel and has a comfortable grip for easy use. One of it’s best features are the changeable blades meaning you can use it either right or left-handed. This comb has an excellent 4.7 out of 5 star rating and you can read the reviews for yourself here.


Best Features:


  • Stainless steel blades.
  • Suitable for all breeds and coat types.
  • Comfortable grip.
  • Excellent reviews and rating.
  • Reasonable price.
  • Trusted brand.
  • Reversible blade for right or left-handed use.


Check the price of the Safari Dematting Comb on

Check the price of the Safari Dematting Comb on Amazon



Hertzko Mat Remover Comb


hertzko mat splitter grooming toolhertzko mat splitter grooming tool


My second choice is the Hertzko Mat Remover Comb and also comes highly recommended. It’s an all-in-one comb that’s suitable for long, medium, thick, wiry or curly hair. This comb also has a nicely designed handle for comfort and grip with an anti-slip handle. It also has sharp, fine curved blades that prevent pulling hairs and causing any damage to your dog’s skin. This product has a 4.4 out of 5 star review on Amazon with over 550 views that you can read for yourself here. This is a good sized dematting comb for a Shih Tzu.


hertzko mat splitter grooming tool


Benefits of Hetzko Mat Remover Comb:


  • Works for all hair types.
  • Sharp, no-scratch teeth.
  • Comfortable, anti-slip grip.
  • Strong, durable design.
  • Good size for a Shih Tzu.


Check the price of Hertzko Mat Remover Comb on

Check the price of Hertzko Mat Remover Comb on Amazon






Andis Greyhound Comb


andis greyhound grooming comb


best choiceMy best choice for a greyhound comb goes to the Andis 7 ½ inch Steel Comb. This is a simple but well-designed comb featuring both fine and coarse teeth. This comb is sturdy but light weighing only 2.4 ounces. It has an excellent 4.7 out of 5-star rating on and you can read the reviews for yourself here. This comb is simple, well-designed and good value for money.



Check the price of the Andis Greyhound Comb on

Check the price of the Andis Greyhound Comb on Amazon


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2 thoughts on “How To Brush Out Matted Dog Hair – Tools & Techniques

  1. My shih tsu is very finickity about having his face (especially mouth area) being touched or worked on. (He’s very sweet and gentle in other respects.) I was hoping for help in this area. I’m also nervous about working around his eyes, as the hairs are getting in his eyes. (As I write this, our nation is suffering the problems of the corono virus, and in New York State pet groomers are currently closed.) As I live alone, I have no one to hold the dog while I try to work on his face a little.

    1. Hi Anne, I’m having the same problem with my boy at the moment as all the groomers are closed here too. My approach is to just do a little bit at a time. I make sure the scissors are nearby then put him on my lap and relax him as much as possible, then try my best to cut a little bit. Then try again a few hours later. And make sure the scissors are sharp so you get a quick clean cut. Not too much help I know but it’s what works for me at the moment.

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