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How To Safely Remove Small Mats From Your Dog’s Hair (No Cutting Needed!)

Even with daily grooming, you may find a mat hiding behind your dog’s ear, under their armpit or hidden in the groin area.  These are common areas where friction can cause dog hair to tangle and mat. Here’s a really easy hack that we put to the test using cornstarch and a simple dog comb. 

As Newfie owners, we all know that at some point in time our dogs are going to get mats and tangles. 

It’s a fact of living the Newfie life. 

While there are a few steps you can take to cut down on mats forming, your Newfie is going to get some mats no matter how much you brush, comb, bathe or take them to the groomer. 

You’re not a bad owner when this happens. 

Repeat that to yourself!

You’re. Not. A. Bad. Dog. Owner. If. Your. Dog. Has. A. Mat. 

Common Areas That Dog Mats Form

While mats in dog hair can happen anywhere, they most commonly occur in areas where a lot of friction occurs such as:

  • behind the ears
  • the armpits
  • the groin
  • on the belly 
  • leg hair (on Newfies, if they have long furnishings on their front legs, that hair can easily mat-just ask Odin!)

Now, there are tons of detangling products available to dog owners that make detangling and de-matting our dogs easy but today we’re going to talk about ways that you can remove a mat by just grabbing a common staple that you probably already have in your cupboard. 

dog mat behind dog's ear

Before we move any further I want to make it clear that this easy way to remove mats from your dog is intended to be used on small mats. 

This is not for severe hair matting that happens on the butt, like yak butt. 

With severe matting, your best bet is to take your dog to a professional dog groomer to have that are de-matted. 

This is going to be the best option for the dog. 

There is no reason to let a dog suffer through hours of pulling on a mat that is stuck to its skin. 

Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed, just get it taken care of. 

cornstarch on mat in dog's hair

Other Common Causes Of Dog Mats

While friction is the most common cause of dog mats forming there are a few other causes such as:

Seasonal matting

This is common when breeds with a double coat blow their coat. If the loose fur is being brushed out, it can cause the hair to mat.


Dogs with environmental or food allergies tend to lick their skin a lot. 

This licking can cause mats to form in the areas that are bothering them like the belly, legs, ears or groin. 


Dogs that go swimming a lot or get wet a lot are prone to matting if they aren’t dried properly or brushed regularly after being wet. 

This is why it’s recommended to always check your dog for mats before giving them a bath. 

Water makes a dog mat tighter!

cornstarch to remove dog mats

How To Safely Remove Mats From Your Dog’s Coat With Cornstarch

To remove a small mat from behind your dog’s ear or under their front leg you’ll only need a few supplies:

Supplies Needed To Remove a Small Mat

  • Cornstarch
  • Comb or slicker brush
  • Your fingers
  • Treats, a stuffed Toppl/Kong or another person to help keep your dog distracted
  • Towel for the floor

If you have a lick mat or someone else to help distract your dog, that could be helpful too!

using cornstarch to remove mat from a dog's ear

  1. Hold the mat in your hand at the base of the mat (closest to your dog’s skin). I like to gently pinch it with my thumb and index finger. 
  2. Sprinkle a pinch of cornstarch on the mat. 
  3. Let the cornstarch sit on the mat for about 1 minute. 
  4. Starting at the tip of the hair using a comb or slicker brush and gently work the cornstarch towards the base of the mat.
  5. If the mat is not breaking up, add a little more cornstarch and comb. 
  6. Give your dog some love
  7. Once the mat is broken up, comb the area with a wide-toothed comb first to make sure that the mat is in fact and then run the small-toothed side through the area. 

Other Tips For Preventing Mats In Your Dog’s Hair

Always check your dog for mats BEFORE giving a bath. 

For Newfies, it’s a good idea to line comb them before a bath making sure to pay close attention to behind their ears, under the front legs and their groin area. 

If a mat gets wet, it’s only going to get tighter and will be harder to remove. 

For multiple mats, big mats or mats that are very tight to the skin, reach out to a professional. 

how to remove a small mat from dog hair

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If you don’t want to use cornstarch to remove a mat from your dog’s skin you can also dilute some conditioner and use the same method. 

I’ve used diluted ProGro on mats before and it works well. 

If you’re comfortable with using straight shears, you can of course just clip it out with scissors or clippers. 

I’ve been known to just snip out many small ear mats without any issues but mats that are close to the skin can be a challenge. 

Using cornstarch to break up a mat is a great alternative for anyone that doesn’t feel comfortable clipping a mat. 

If your dog regularly gets a few loose mats behind their ears like Odin, make sure to check those areas weekly and run a fine-toothed comb through it. 

I like to use my small Bass comb for behind the ears. 

Why Does Cornstarch Loosen Up Dog Mats?


It’s kind of weird that this works so well!

People say that cornstarch works well on matted dog hair because it absorbs excess oil and moisture, which is what is making the mat form.

Another plus of using cornstarch is that it’s also used to absorb yucky odors too!

small pinch of cornstarch on a dog hair mat and let it sit for 60 seconds and then gently comb

Today I tackled 3 small mats that had formed under Odin’s right front leg in the armpit area. 

I used the cornstarch on all 3 of them and it worked well. 

You can see in the video that Odin didn’t show any discomfort as I worked the mats out with the comb after letting the cornstarch sit on the hair mats for about 30-60 seconds. 

Odin’s hair mats were small and loose which means they weren’t matted to the skin just more small matted tangles. 

The only con I can think of when using cornstarch to remove dog hair mats is that it can be messy. 

I was wearing black yoga pants and a lot of cornstarch got on my pants but no big deal. 

If your dog is comfortable with being on a grooming table, I do think that it would be better and easier for them to be standing on the table over being on the floor. 

Happy de-matting!

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Lisa Graziano

Wednesday 2nd of August 2023

I am in the hall of shame. My newf Jeb is 2 and he just had yak butt. To be fair, the run for the pond and collection of mud and frog eggs didn’t help, but I own it. I neglected the under the butt tail area. I did not read this. I used our clippers and quickly clipped. You really can’t notice unless you go - down under.


Thursday 15th of June 2023

Also works wonders on burrs!

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