Pretreat the mats with detangling/dematting spray and let it sit for about twenty minutes or so, to really penetrate the hair and begin the softening process.
After this has soaked in, the first tools you want to use are your most convenient ones - your fingers! Work with the matted hair from the outside in, gently easing it apart a little bit at a time. Never pull or stretch the hair. At some point you'll be able to use the comb or slicker brush, again starting from the outside and working your way in, to finish brushing out the mat.
When you're working on the armpits, it's much easier to use that triangular-shaped slicker brush. Just be careful not to over brush or be too forceful when brushing in this spot. You may even elect to gently clip out ones you find here, or in other sensitive places, where the hair loss is not seen. Use your blunt nosed scissors to do this.
Ok, so this is the process that I consider ideal, though time consuming, and will result in the least amount of hair loss and discomfort to your dog, if done correctly. However, if you encounter much larger mats or ones that are a real challenge, you may need to bring out the big guns, so to speak. This is where the mat splitter comes in. Use this tool to carefully slice a large mat into narrower pieces going in the direction of outside to in. You will find that smaller sections of hair will be less difficult to untangle. Now fetch your wide toothed comb and use it with a picking action to loosen and untangle the hair, before combing out. If the hair is still damp from the spray, let it dry out first.
For those of you who choose to bathe your dog prior to dematting, here's what to do. Apply the dematting/detangling product first, let it dry, then follow with the bath and a high quality leave-in coat conditioner at the end. While the coat is still wet, start separating out some of the worst tangles with your fingers and a brush. Put your hand behind the mat when you brush so as to avoid pulling or making contact with your dog's skin. When you have most of the bad guys separated, you can begin drying on a low setting, as this will further help loosen the mats while you are combing or brushing.
What about dogs with long hair? Groomers often favor the stripping tool for this type of coat and you can try your hand at it too. This knife, which has a beveled edge, is helpful in releasing tangles by working on the hair above the mat. Again, use some dematting spray and after you get the hair loosened up, you can switch to a comb to finish the job. Some people like the sprays containing silicone, which make the hair more slippery, while others use something right off the kitchen shelf that does the same thing - cornstarch.
Final Thoughts On The MatterOnce you get into dematting, you will find many other tools and products on the market that you may choose to try. By all means, analyze each product to learn which ones might be best for your dog's coat. After a bit of experimentation, many of us choose to stick with a method which mot only gets the job done, but also keeps us on good terms with Rover!
Lastly, some of you may have acquired a dog through a shelter or rescue, that is severely matted. In this case, and to avoid further stress on the dog, the best course of action is to consult a professional and most likely have the dog shaved to give the coat a fresh start.
Having enjoyed years of unconditional love from dogs, no greater motivation was needed to inspire me to write about the many ways owners can return the love of their best friends. The website I have created, www.dog-spoiling-made-easy.com is an ongoing project dedicated not only to my favorite dog pals, but to dogs everywhere in the hope that they may all live long and happily. I support the efforts of the HSUS and Dogs Deserve Better. - Val Witt