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5 Reasons Why Your Dog’s Coat Keeps Matting ( and how you can stop it)

Maintaining a dog’s double coat is a full-time job and regardless of how many times you brush them, they are going to get a mat or a few hair mats at some point in time. 

Odin gets mats, Lou gets mats and every Newfie that I’ve ever had a mat here and there. 

It happens and it’s nothing to beat yourself up over. 

Matted hair is common in all dogs but mostly in dog breeds that have a double coat and dogs with a curly coat.

Thankfully, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the formation of mats and stop them before they become painful and ruin your dog’s coat and skin. 

Why Does a Dog’s Hair Get Matted?

Mats form when loose dog hair becomes tangled. 

The hair wraps around itself and forms tightly wound clumps of loose dead fur and live fur.

These mats usually form when new hair growth is taking place but it can’t fully grow because the dead hair is in the way. 

Mats cut off the airflow in your dog’s hair and can trap moisture, which can cause irritation and sores on your dog

If not brushed out, they continue to trap more fur, becoming closer and closer to the dog’s skin.

Mats tend to frequently form in areas where there is friction such as the neck area where the collar sits, behind the ears, under the chin,  armpits, chest (under where their walking harness sits), bottom of their paws, groin, and on the pants or rear legs.

These are often referred to as high-priority areas meaning you should be regularly grooming these spots. 

mats under dog's front leg

Common Reasons Why a Newfie Gets Mats

There can be a lot of reasons why a dog’s fur forms mats but with Newfies, the most common reasons are due to:

  • Water
  • Skin allergies
  • Seasonal shedding
  • Friction
  • Using incorrect grooming tools
  • Brushing/combing the wrong area
  • Lack of combing

Water

Water, water, water and more water. 

Most Newfies are drawn to water whether it be a big body of water to swim in, laying out in the rain or snow and dunking the entire top half of their body in their water bowl. 

If a Newfie gets wet and already has a mat or two, the moisture is going to make the mat tighter and bigger if it’s not removed. 

Newfoundland dog swims in the pool. Close-up of a dog's head in water.

This is why a Newfoundland should be combed before and after they get wet. 

They should also be dried thoroughly with a high-velocity dog dryer and combed again. 

Skin Allergies

Newfoundlands are prone to skin allergies. 

Skin allergies and hot spots are itchy so the dog will scratch the area with their paws or lick the area. 

The moisture and the friction are going to cause the hair to mat in that area. 

dog standing on grooming table shedding

Seasonal Shedding

Newfies shed 365 days a year but they heavily shed twice a year, in the spring and fall when they blow their coat

If regular grooming isn’t being done, the loose hair and dander are going to get trapped inside the new hair creating a mat. 

Mats start off small and get bigger and tighter if they’re not removed.

Friction

Most mats form where a lot of friction happens.

On Newfies this is the hair behind the ears, under the armpits, in the groin, the hair on the rear legs and on their belly.

Newfies also tend to get mats in between their paw pads and on their chest. 

Pay close attention to these areas regularly. 

common areas on Newfies that mat

Odin constantly gets little tangles under his armpits from daily walking with a harness. 

I need to make it a habit to comb that area after our walks. 

It will only take me an extra 60 seconds. 

Incorrect Grooming Tools

Choosing the correct grooming tools is important with Newfies because the wrong tool is a waste of your money. 

You want to make sure you’re getting brushes and combs that have pins or tines that actually make it through the whole coat, not just the top layer. 

A pin brush is great but most brushes will only get the topcoat and you really need to be focused on that undercoat, especially when your dog is heavily shedding.

I am guilty of using a brush more often than I should but I’m trying to break that habit and use a comb. 

how to keep your dog's hair from matting

Lack of Grooming

Newfies require a lot of grooming and if you get behind in it, their coat can become an expensive mess. 

Even if you take your dog to a professional groomer regularly, you should still be combing them at home. 

Every 6 to 8  weeks is NOT the way to maintain a healthy Newfie coat. 

You also need to make sure that you’re frequently combing the areas that mats form. 

It’s easy to sit down on the floor and brush the top part of your dog but you really need to focus on the ears, legs, groin and chest. 

If you only have a few minutes to brush your dog, focus on the problem areas. 

dealing with matted dog hair

Lack of Combing

In my personal opinion, combing is overlooked by a lot of Newfie owners. 

Combing (specifically line combing) should be done more than brushing because a dog comb will get through both layers of a Newfie’s coat. 

Most pin brushes won’t make it past the surface so while it might make the top coat look good, the undercoat hasn’t been touched. 

When you comb or brush your dog you should be able to see the skin, not just the undercoat. 

Line combing or line brushing should be part of your weekly grooming routine. 

are dog mats painful

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So You Found Some Mats On Your Dog, Now What?

If you found a mat or two on your dog, no worries. 

Depending on how big and tight the mat is, there are some things you can do at home to remove the mat from your dog’s hair. 

  • Clippers
  • Detangling spray
  • Mat splitter
  • Cornstarch
  • Comb or slicker brush
  • Scissors

Clippers

Clippers are going to be the fastest and easiest route to remove loose and small mats for most people. 

I have a mini Andis Clipper that I use to trim the hair underneath the paws and for small dog mats but you can also invest in professional clippers. 

When using clippers to remove a dog mat you just want to make sure that you’re using the right blade and that you don’t cut the skin. 

how to stop dog mats from forming

Detangling Spray

Detangling spray is a great option if you’re going to comb or slicker the mat out. 

Simply spray the mat and gently work the comb through the mat.

There are a ton of good grooming sprays to choose from and I use Ice on Ice, Magic Mist and ProGro diluted into a spray the most. 

A lot of people love The Stuff for mats and tangles.

If you don’t have grooming spray, you can dilute conditioner. 

Mat Splitter

I have a few mat splitters but I’m not a huge fan of them because most of them require a lot of pulling. 

I think you can get the same effect using a finishing comb. 

Cornstarch

Using cornstarch to break up a small mat is simple, fast and pain-free.

I use this method on those small knots or tangles underneath the front legs. 

The cornstarch will only work on small mats, not big mats or pelted fur. 

best dog combs

Comb or Slicker Brush

A lot of people recommend using a slicker brush for preventing mats.

I am not one of those people.

I prefer a comb over a slicker brush but you should use what works best for you and your dog’s coat type.

A good dog comb and slicker brush with detangling spray is a safe option for removing small tangles from a dog’s fur. 

Scissors

I saved this one for last because while I do often use scissors to remove mats, it can be dangerous, especially with a mat that is tight to the skin. 

I recommend that most people save the scissors for their dog groomer.

But if you must, to avoid cutting a dog’s skin, I recommend putting your index finger against the skin and cutting the mat in front of your finger.

Then use a fine-tooth comb to gently comb the rest of the mat out. 

removing dog mats from dog's backend

What About Big Mats?

Newfies have a tendency to get big mats on pants or hair on their back legs by their bodacious butt. 

This area often gets pelted or as some say, “yak butt”. 

This area should be addressed by a groomer who has the right tools to safely remove the matted butt hair. 

Any hair mat that is as big as your fist should be professionally removed as soon as possible. 

How To Prevent Matted Dog Hair

high priority areas to brush on a Newfie

The area in red is a high-priority area that should be brushed or combed regularly. This is typically where most Newfies will get matted.

COMB your dog regularly.

And when I write comb, I mean use a comb more than a brush. 

Make sure that you’re getting through to that undercoat and for the love of all things Newfie, teach yourself how to line comb. 

Comb the high-priority areas first.

High-priority areas are the areas on a Newfie that tend to mat the most. 

Dry your dog. 

Get them bone dry.

Even in the winter, dry them. 

Comb your dog between grooming appointments. 

It’s not up to your groomer to remove your dog’s mats every 6 weeks, it’s up to you to prevent them from happening. 

And lastly, if you notice your dog chewing or licking a certain area on their body, check for hair mats.

Most dogs lick their genitals so that area is going to be prone to getting mats, especially the groin area on male dogs. 

A system that I have that works well for us is that I comb the priority areas just about every day when they come inside after dinner. 

It works well because they are standing and I can easily get to each area.

I’m not doing a full groom and it takes less than 3 minutes. 

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Barb

Wednesday 25th of January 2023

Thanks for the tips on line combing and the different combs and brushes I started line combing today odie hair is very thick lance not as bad and ur dogs always look beautiful I don’t know how u do it with all the rain and mud this year lol

Jen

Thursday 26th of January 2023

Hi Barb, You're welcome! The rain and mud this year has been a challenge for sure. Thankfully, Lou is the only one that is attracted to mud. Lol.

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