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When a dog sheds hair that is not thoroughly brushed out, it sometimes becomes tangled and forms a mat.
The best way to get out a mat is to pull it apart with your fingers and then use a metal comb to gently comb it out. Using a detangler such as a Coat Handler Anti-Static Detangler Spray can help make the combing a little easier (for you both).
If a dog has too many mats, the most humane way to detangle him is to shave him and start over. Getting numerous mats out of a dog's coat can be painful for him and frustrating for you. Remember, your dog has no vanity and he won't mind being shaved, even if it makes you cringe.
There are two reasons mats form: 1) you're using the wrong tools or 2) you're not brushing down to the skin.
Soft bristle brushes are fine for puppies but once your dog has his grown up coat, it's time to switch to the right tools for his type of coat.
For dogs that mat easily, are double-coated or have long coats - such as the Shih Tzu, Havanese, Pomeranian, Pekingese, or a spaniel -use a slicker brush as shown in the video below.
When you've brushed through his coat, always follow up by using a metal comb to make sure mats are gone. Get down to the skin and comb upwards.
Don't just do his back. All four legs, inside and outside; his belly; his neck; and his tail need to be brushed and combed.
Here's a quick video on how to remove mats.
One of the most popular slicker brushes is the JW Pet Company GripSoft Slicker Soft Pin Dog Brush, Small.
It's sized for small dogs with a smaller ergonomic handle that's very comfortable for women and most men.
Many slicker brushes come with hard or soft pins, but I would stick to the soft pin which is less likely to hurt your dog, especially if you are inexperienced or apprehensive dog groomer.
Greyhound is a United Kingdom manufacturer and their combs are excellent with an anti-static coating. However, in the United States, they are expensive to buy and most people use something like the Andis Pet 7-1/2-Inch Steel Grooming Comb.
Mat Removing Tool
A tool that's easy to hold and that has sharp but not too sharp teeth is the Safari Mat Remover for Dogs.
As the video shows, this would the last tool you use and if you make regular use of the slicker and comb, you won't have to resort to this very often.