This Tangled Life

Jun 26, 2017

My Shih Tzu, Toto, has two main purposes in life: to provide unconditional love and to be the little cute thing that makes me happy. The fluffy ball of fur, however, turns into a monster when I try to brush his hair. What can I do about my dog’s matted coat? Please help. – Rekha Pandey, Mumbai

First of all, don’t panic—even with daily brushing, some dogs manage to get their hair tied up in knots, but removing them may be easier than you think. Rather than the occasional brushing that a short haired dog requires, owners with dogs such as poodles, Shih Tzu, Lhasa, Maltese, Yorkies, Bichons, Pekingese, Poms and many others have coats that require daily brushing. If such a breed goes too long without a thorough brush and comb out, mats are going to take over. Do not, however, yank on the mat or pull roughly. Dogs will remember something that is painful and will not be so eager to have their mats pulled out in the future. Keep everything positive and stop at the first signs of stress. Dogs seem to have a keen memory of distressful situations and will avoid them in the future. So, if your dog is really matted, it is better to shave him down or have the groomer do this rather than subjecting him to any painful de-matting. You might get the job done, but if it meant hurting the dog, you will have lost the dog’s confidence in you as a D.I.Y. Groomer and protest the next time you try to groom him. Finish off any grooming session on a positive note with a hug, praise and a treat if you like.

Shih Tzu Mat

All mats are not alike. Small matted dog hair can occur daily because your long haired dog is continually shedding dead hairs. This shedding process is not like those breeds that leave hair all over your house. Rather, the long haired dog sheds its hair into the coat causing small mats to form. As new hairs grow in, mats can occur very close to the skin. Shih Tzu dogs have very thick coats made up of two layers: A dense outer coat and a soft cottony inner coat. Brushing the outer coat will make the dog look good, but may not get at all the mats. Sometimes the only way to assure that the dog has been brushed thoroughly is to go over the entire body with a metal comb.
Matted hair not only make the coat look disheveled, they actually add to a dog’s distress and cause skin irritation. When this happens, the dog bites at its skin or tries to scratch causing the mat to grow in size and the hair to get even more tangled. A severely matted dog is not a happy dog. Small mats or knots are easy to remove if the dog is brushed daily or several times a week. Larger knots form when a part of the dog’s coat has been neglected for some time. Even with proper training and socialization to the grooming process, some long haired dog dogs do not like parts of their body brushed. Under the front legs, the legs themselves, behind the ears and at the base of the tail are areas that often knot if not brushed frequently. These are also areas that are very sensitive to the dog so the dog protests when these areas are being brushed.

Tangles Tips

  • Always brush your dog before you give him a bath. The bath water tends to set the mats making them even harder to remove. Use a good quality dog shampoo followed by a conditioning rinse.
  • Use a blow dryer after a bath. Blow the dog’s hair as you brush. You can brush in the direction the hair grows as well as in the opposite direction. Brush or comb a section of hair as you are drying the hair. Hand held dryers that have stands work really well if you need an extra hand. If you are using a dryer without a stand, you can create a temporary stand by rolling up a small towel and placing the dryer on it. Use a low, cool setting and monitor the dryer carefully so that the air intake is never blocked by the towel.
  • Never brush a dog without first spraying it with a styling product such as a de-tangling spray or a diluted conditioning spray. Brushing and combing dry hair will tend to split it and you are likely to be fighting against static electricity.
  • Use a pin brush and part the hair with a rat tail comb so that you are brushing small sections at a time. Begin at the lowest portion of the dog (paws) and work up the sides and then to the back and head.
  • After brushing the entire dog, go back with a steel comb and comb the hair completely. You are likely to find some mats that were missed with the pin brush. Use a slicker brush for styling and making the coat look sleek and beautiful.
  • Never brush the same area more than 10 strokes at a time. Go onto another section and come back if necessary. Brushing in one area, even if you know that knots are present, only tends to irritate the skin (and the dog).

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