A matt is a mixture of topcoat, undercoat, dirt, and moisture along with other surprising things, and comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes. The matted coat can become so compressed it can look and feel like a wet rug or appear as long loose tangles.The size of the matting is coat type related, with the general rule of thumb that coat types that are considered to have undetermined hair growth have bigger, more solid masses and they matt in a fashion that is very difficult to brush out, whereas breeds with coat types that have determined hair growth can be brushed out. Matts can also look like "sunburned hair" or can have the appearance of a cotton ball.
What causes the hair to matt?
Each individual hair has small barbs, much like a thorn brush. Some coat types have more barbs than others. Coat types with more barbs and more length are more likely to matt than others. In fact, dogs with determined hair growth do not matt as tightly as dogs with undetermined hair growth.
Why do canine coats matt?
Some coat types matt and others do not, and how quickly matts occur and how difficult they are to brush out depends on the type and the length of coat, the overall maintenance schedule and the products that have been used on the coat in the past. Dogs with a smooth coat type like the Doberman cannot matt, however, dogs with a tight curly coat like the Poodle do matt. The tight curly, loose curly, drop, sporting and sporting saddle coat types, considered to be undetermined hair growth, matt more than the other coat types. In fact, these coat types will matt to a point that they become unbrushable. This type of matted coat has to be clipperered very closely with blades such as #10 or #15, and often times the coat is so severely matted that a surgical blade such as a #40 has to be used to remove matted coats like this.
Dampness causes matting
Some dogs spend lots of time in the water, whether it be the pond, running on the beach or in the swimming pool in the back yard, creating a situation in which the dogs with the longer and thicker coat types stay in a constant state of dampness. If a Labrador Retriever and a Standard Poodle are in and out of the pool all day and sleep on the porch at night, after several months the Lab could be beautified with a good brushing, but the Poodle could matt to a point of no return and would end up on the "shave down" list, including shaving the coat on the head and tail. In addition, severe matting on the undetermined coat types can also cause serious skin disorders due to the lack of air to the skin and the constant dampness. To maintain a healthy skin and coat, recommend to these active pet families that they keep their pets in a "water active" trim so that the coat is easily brushed and is able to dry on its own between the times when the dog goes swimming.
You will never see a matted Doberman but you will see a matted Maltese. The length of the coat is the biggest culprit when it comes to matting for many reasons, but the main reason is simply too much coat to keep brushed out for the average pet family! Drop coated types such as the Maltese are maintained daily when shown in the conformation ring to maintain the beautiful long and flowing coat. These dogs that are actively showing are very pampered and the coat "very maintained" and the thought of one taking a dip in the pool is just not heard of. Other breeds such as the Afghan Hound and the American Cocker Spaniel, with the sporting saddle coat type, are considered to have undetermined hair growth and can also matt to a point that they too must be shaved down if not groomed on at least a six week schedule. Tight curly coat types such as the Poodle and the Bichon Frise have undetermined coat growth, and are breeds that when neglected over a 4-6 week time frame can be placed in this "shave down" category because the coat reaches a stage that is considered unbrushable, meaning that it cannot be brushed out in a compassionate manner. The Wire Fox Terrier, however, has a tight wire type coat, and is considered determined, therefore it grows to a specific length for the breed and then stops and sheds in a block or band fashion. The texture of the coat is harsher, also making it harder for the coat to matt.
Shedding plays a major role in matting. If the shedding coat is not removed, the dead hair can remain in the coat creating a "packed" appearance. The coat can intertwine with such density that you cannot part the coat and see the skin. The coat texture appears to be that of a "cotton ball look." Breeds such as the Pomeranian and the Chow Chow, Nordic and rough Nordic coat types, are typical breeds that have this "cotton ball look" to their coat when the coat begins to shed and has no place to go except to stay trapped in the coat.
Whether it be the right side or the left side, most pets have a favorite position for resting and hanging out, making this the side where you will find the most matts, especially senior pets. Recommend a comfort type trim to senior pets, in which the coat is trimmed short enough to keep the dog cool in the summer and long enough to keep the dog warm in the winter.
Friction is another variable that causes matting on dogs with longer coats. Longer coated breeds such as the Golden Retriever have matting areas behind the ears, and under the front and back legs. Another common area for dogs with longer coat to matt is under the tail, especially the tail waggers. Clippering matted coat from these friction areas rather than brushing is definitely the most compassionate method of dealing with these matts.
A clean dog does not necessarily mean a coat free of matts. In fact, dogs that are bathed weekly and not properly prepped, brushed and dried can have really tight matts that are full of shampoo and any other product that has been sprayed on the coat to make it look and smell good. The most common are the small, drop coated breeds like the Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese and the Shih Tzu that arrive at the salon smelling wonderful but are trapped in a hard shell of hair that has been bathed over and over and has never been correctly brushed.
It takes practice and an acquired knowledge of coat types for the professional to be able to determine and practice the “brushability” on all coat types.
Dematting Coat Types
Dematting the various coat types starts during the prepping phase and normally continues through all phases to properly dematt with compassion and safe and gentle handling. The professional must consider the impact the dematting procedure will have on each individual dog. The physical condition and the age of the dog must be considered when evaluating how to remove matted coat along with the coat type in reference to determined or undetermined hair growth.
During the prep phase, the professional must determine whether or not to remove the matts by clippering, scissoring or thinning or to bathe the dog with the matts still in the coat and use products during the bathing phase that will assist in "blowing" or forcing the matts out during the drying phase.
During the bathing phase, shampoo and conditioners are used to soothe the skin and remove dirt and grease. Conditioners are also applied to the coat to assist in the brush out. A rubber brush is used to work the coat to help pull loose coat.
Drying Phase Removing Matts Using the Brush Drying Technique The brush drying technique is used to remove matts by line brushing the coat during the drying process. The force of air from the dryer separates the coat so the professional can easily see the matt. The matt is gently brushed in all directions, using a circular motion. Removing Matts Using the High Velocity Technique The high velocity dryer is used to blow the dead coat out on breeds with coat types like the Dalmatian, Labrador and the German Shepherd. It is also used to lift the matted coat away from the skin on breeds with undetermined hair growth such as the Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog, and Bichon Frise.The condenser cone is normally used and held as close to the skin as possible and with as much air flow as possible, keeping compassion for the pet as the number one concern. The condensor cone is placed near the base of the hair and directed outwards forcing the matt away from the skin . After force drying, the matted coat is either brushed or clipped to remove the remainder of the matting.
The Best Place to Force Matts Out of the Coat
Force drying matts and undercoat from a coat works best in the bathing station, especially if the station has easy to clean surfaces. After bathing the coat types that shed in a block and band fashion, the determined coat types, the hair will fly all over the bathing and drying area, especially after the coat starts to dry.
Check the Skin and Coat
Conditioning the coat excessively as part of the bathing phase to help remove matted coat, then utilizing the brush drying method, has been used for years. With the introduction of the high velocity dryer, new techniques have been developed to remove matted coat using the force of air. In both cases, the coat is heavily conditioned to assist in removing the matts. A good routine to establish when utilizing this method is that you may have to bathe the coat again after the matted coat has been removed to prevent over-conditioning the coat.
Due to the matting, the skin can be irritated after the removal of the matted coat. Clippering with a #10 or #15 can irritate the skin, especially if a surgical blade has to be used. Removing dead coat by handstripping can also irritate the skin. A soothing bath after these procedures using the proper shampoo for the skin and coat eliminates the dog reacting to the skin irritations by excessive scratching.
Client Relations: Notification to the Pet Family
Pets that are severely matted and are going to be "shaved down" require a signature from the pet family. The pet family must acknowledge that they have been told that their dog will be "shaved" due to severe matting.
Client Relations: Recommendation to the Pet Family
The schedule that best suits their individual pet.
Client Relations: Pet Family Education
- The importance of a regular scheduled grooming and styling appointment, especially with a long coated breed such as the Yorkshire Terrier.
- The critical time during the shedding of puppy coat to the adult coat, especially with a Standard Poodle.
- The risk of "a weekend at the lake with a Maltese."