A Guide to Safely and Effectively Combing Out Mats on Your Dog

CockerSpaniel.org Volunteer Staff

2/21/20243 min read


Mats, those pesky tangles and clumps of fur that can form in your dog's coat, are not only unsightly but can also be uncomfortable and potentially harmful to your furry friend's skin. While preventing mats through regular grooming is ideal, sometimes they still manage to sneak up on us. Fortunately, with patience, the right tools, and gentle techniques, you can safely and effectively comb out mats on your dog without causing undue stress or discomfort. Here's how:

Assess the Situation

Before diving in with a comb or brush, take a moment to assess the mats in your dog's coat. Determine their size, location, and severity. Mats near sensitive areas like the ears, groin, or armpits may require extra care and attention. Additionally, consider your dog's temperament and comfort level with grooming to ensure a positive experience for both of you.

Gather the Right Tools

Having the right tools on hand can make the mat-combing process much smoother and more effective. Here are some essential tools you'll need:

  1. Detangling Spray or Conditioner: A high-quality detangling spray or conditioner can help soften the mats and make them easier to comb out without causing discomfort to your dog.

  1. Wide-Toothed Comb or Slicker Brush: Opt for a wide-toothed comb or slicker brush designed for removing mats and tangles. These tools can gently separate the fur and work through stubborn mats without pulling or tugging excessively.

  1. Mat Splitter or Mat Breaker: For particularly stubborn or tightly packed mats, a mat splitter or mat breaker tool can be helpful for gently breaking up the mat into smaller sections, making it easier to comb out.

  1. Grooming Scissors (Optional): In some cases, mats may be too dense or close to the skin to comb out safely. Grooming scissors can be used to carefully trim away small sections of the mat, making it easier to comb out the remaining tangles.

Prepare Your Dog

Before beginning the mat-combing process, take some time to prepare your dog and create a calm and comfortable environment:

  1. Exercise Patience: Approach the grooming session with patience, understanding, and a calm demeanor. Speak to your dog in soothing tones and offer plenty of praise and reassurance throughout the process.

  1. Use Positive Reinforcement: Offer treats or rewards to encourage your dog to remain calm and cooperative during grooming. Positive reinforcement can help create a positive association with the grooming experience.

  1. Choose the Right Time: Pick a time when your dog is relaxed and comfortable, such as after a walk or play session. Avoid grooming when your dog is tired, hungry, or anxious, as this can lead to increased stress and resistance.

Comb Out the Mats

Once you've gathered your tools and prepared your dog, it's time to start combing out the mats:

  1. Apply Detangling Spray or Conditioner: Spray the mat with a detangling spray or apply a small amount of conditioner to help soften the fur and make it easier to comb out.

  1. Work in Sections: Begin by gently separating the mat into smaller sections using your fingers or a comb. Work on one small section at a time, starting from the outer edges and working your way inward.

  1. Use Gentle Pressure: Hold the base of the mat firmly to prevent pulling on your dog's skin, and use gentle, downward strokes with the comb or brush to work through the tangles. Take your time and be patient, especially with stubborn mats.

  1. Trim if Necessary: If you encounter mats that are too dense or close to the skin to comb out safely, use grooming scissors to carefully trim away small sections of the mat, taking care to avoid cutting your dog's skin.

  1. Reward and Reassure: Throughout the grooming process, offer praise, treats, and plenty of reassurance to keep your dog calm and cooperative. Take breaks as needed to give your dog a chance to relax and regroup.

Follow Up with Regular Grooming

Once you've successfully combed out the mats, follow up with regular grooming sessions to prevent future tangles and mats from forming. Brush your dog's coat regularly to remove loose hair and prevent knots from developing. Additionally, consider scheduling professional grooming appointments regularly to keep your dog's coat healthy, shiny, and mat-free.


Combing out mats on your dog can be a challenging task, but with the right tools, techniques, and patience, you can safely and effectively remove tangles and restore your furry friend's coat to its former glory. Remember to approach the grooming process with care, understanding, and plenty of positive reinforcement to ensure a positive experience for both you and your dog. By taking the time to groom your dog regularly and address mats promptly, you can help keep your canine companion looking and feeling their best for years to come.

brown and white long coat small dog sitting on grey concrete floor during daytime
brown and white long coat small dog sitting on grey concrete floor during daytime