About Me:

I am a professional Pet Groomer. I have been grooming for 28 years. This Blog is a kind of diary of my work. I wish I had started years ago, writing some of the experiences I have had while grooming. Most days are fun, some can be sad, some can be just down right crazy. If you are a pet owner and come across this blog, I hope it helps you understand how your pet is groomed. If you are a Pet Groomer, I hope you can relate to some of the stories. Maybe even learn a grooming tip or can leave a friendly grooming tip for me. There is always something to learn, no matter how long you have been grooming.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Using a Mat Splitter to Demat a Beard

I know that there are a lot of groomers out there that will no longer do any dematting on a dog.

It took me years to learn how to say 'No' to a customer.
Because of my lack of guts in my early grooming years, I became very good at dematting and finding ways to save ears, tails, beards, and legs.
I became fairly quick at it also.

In those early years I did all of that dematting out of necessity, because I did not know how to tell a customer that the dog should be clipped short.
All the customer had to do was give me a sob story and I would demat.  :/ 

Dematting became a  challenge for me.
I didn't want to hurt a dog, so I liked trying to figure out how I could save a matted area quickly and without too much fuss to the dog.
I learned when to clip out mats in areas that would not show, while saving other hair to cover the places that were clipped.

Let me stop and say right now, that if the dog does not tolerate being brushed, it will be clipped short.
If the dog does not mind being brushed and will let me do some dematting, I like to try to save the hair.

I know that some groomers would say that the owners don't deserve to have their dog dematted if they are not going to brush their own dog.
I agree with that to a point.
I will demat a dog for an owner willing to learn, and who will try to brush out their dog.
I give the owner three chances.
If I don't see that they are at least making an effort to keep their dog combed out, I will cut the dog short.

I also feel that the dog does not deserved to have everything shaved to the skin, because their owner does not take the time to brush them.
That is why I spend the time bathing and HVing a matted coat.
Even if I am only able to get a small air space between the skin and mat, and get a #5f safely through the coat, I would rather do that then shave a dirty coat, fighting a #7 or #10 through the coat.

With some of my tools,and some of my tricks, I am able to leave a cute, short face instead of a shaved face and ears.

Yesterday I had a regular 4 week customer come in with her Wheaton.
This dog is almost always a little matted, but with Best Shot Shampoo and Creme Rinse, most of the mats HV right out, and the rest of the matting brushes out with the fluff dry.

Lately, the Wheaton has been coming in with her beard matted.
It always brushes out easily.
Yesterday she came in with her beard matted worse than I have ever seen it.
I know that the owners can not brush this dog out.
She will not stand still enough for them.
That is why they bring her every 4 weeks.

She is a very sweet Wheaton, but she is as spoiled as they come.
Her Mom told me that the Wheaton has a new habit.
Every time the Wheaton's Dad cuts the grass, the Wheaton runs through the house barking.
That's not all, the Wheaton also runs into the bathroom between barks and sticks her whole face in the toilet, runs to the sofa, rubs her face back and forth still barking.
Then she starts all over again.
Running, barking, toilet, sofa, barking, again and again.
(Don't ask me why they just don't put down the lid on the toilet)

Now I have to say, I really like this customer, and I really like the dog too, even though she is a Wheaton.
This is the customers second Wheaton.
Her first one was so sweet and well behaved.
This one is very sweet and spoiled rotten.

Anyway, I have never used a clipper on this Wheaton.
Her Mom likes her in the Wheaton style, hand scissored.
She also likes a very full beard, and doesn't want me to cut it in any way.

I give this customer credit.
She knew that the beard was very bad, and she was sure that I was going to have to cut it.

 Instead I pulled out my trusty Mat Splitter.

I have had this tool since Grooming School.

I was never taught how to use it in school.

I don't really remember how I learned to use it.

I do know that I learned the hard way that it is one of the most dangerous tools I have.

It is also one of the most helpful tools that I have.

The safety guard allows you to push the splitter between the skin and the mat.

The cutting blade slices through the mat making it a smaller mat.

I use this tool to turn a large mat into a lot of little mats that will brush out quickly and easily.

Depending on how often you use this tool, the blade must be changed once in a while.

How do you know when to change the blade?

When it stops gliding through the mat like a hot knife through butter.

If you have to fight it through a mat, you need to change the blade.

These are the tools you will need to change the blade:
A flat head screw driver.
A pair of pliers.
A pack of replaceable blades.

The blades come in a pack of 10.

These blades have gotten harder to find over the years.

I last found these at a RiteAid Drug Store, in the shaving section.

First loosen the screws on the mat splitter.

Do not remove them.

Just loosen them enough to remove the blade.

Use the pliers to remove the blade so that you do not cut your fingers.

Use the pliers to replace the blade also.

Then tighten the screws back up again.

Make sure that the screws are pretty tight so that the blade is tight and does not move.

This was my challenge.

I like challenges.

It helps keep grooming interesting.

If you look at it as a challenge instead of extra work, it can make grooming more fun.

Well, that's the way I like to look at it.  :)

This beard has been washed, creme rinsed, and HVed to loosen up the mats.

Slowly work the mat splitter between the skin and mat.

Always pull the splitter through the mat straight, away from the skin.

Work slowly to make sure you are not pulling the skin along with the mat.

Always be sure that you are only cutting the mat.

Work in layers.

Work on one section of mats at a time.

Go through the mat as many times as you need, to make the mats smaller, and easier to brush out.

The video below shows me splitting the mats on this dogs beard.

After you have split all of the large mats, brush through the smaller mats.

Brush through small sections at a time.

Below is the beard being brushed out.

 Follow up with a comb to get those stubborn little natty knots that the brush glides right over.

Dematting this beard took me 7 minutes.
That was with splitting, brushing, and combing.

Using the mat splitter did cause the beard to be thinned out considerably, but at least the dog still has a beard.

She would look awful with a clipped face.

Time to go home and rub her beard on the sofa again.

 I will blog later about other ways that I have saved ears, beards, faces, legs and tails.

Groomers should always do what they feel comfortable with.

If you don't like to demat, than don't.
If you can't demat quickly and safely, than don't.
If the dog does not like being brushed, than don't demat.
If you use the mat splitter, or scissors to split mats, be very careful.

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. May I say that I love your attitude? If I wasn't a groomer I would take my dogs to you.

  2. I've given myself some nasty cuts with the mat splitter, too, found two in the bottom of my boss's inherited toolkit. Neither of us really knew how to use it, either, but I googled and posted and soon learned that it was a powerful tool if used carefully. But yeah, now if I could only find some blades!

  3. Deb,
    Wow,thank you! That is a wonderful compliment.
    Lisa, MFF

  4. Bev,
    If you would like to e-mail me with your address, I would gladly pick up some blades for you and send them to you.


    Lisa, MFF

  5. What's HVed? Does it hurt?

  6. Hi Anonymous,
    HVed means to used a forced air dryer to dry a dogs hair. No, it does not hurt. It is loud, and some dogs do not like the sound of it (kind of like a vacuum cleaner sound),but they get used to it once they realize it does not hurt. The force of the air dries and straightens the coat. It also helps to loosen some mats away from the skin. My Collie loved the HV dryer. Hope this helped.
    Lisa, MFF

  7. Don't know if anyone is still following this, but a simple crock-stick style knife sharpener (I use a Spyderco Sharpmaker) will easily put a shaving edge back on the blades in this kind of mat splitter.

  8. Thanks for the information Jason. I will have to check into that.
    Lisa, MFF

  9. hi lisa, i was wondering if you could help me, i just adopted a little cavalier king charles from an elderly lady who lives down my street as she was too unwell to look after him anymore, he is the sweetest most loving dog but his ears are literally matted into two lumps, they are impossible to brush out with any of the grooming products i have so i just wondered if you knew what i should do, im taking him to the vet tomorrow to get him checked out so i will ask them for advice but his ears are in an awful state, i have only had very short haired dogs so i have never seen this problem before, i would be grateful for any advice you could give me, thankyou:)

    1. Hi Michelle-rose, (beautiful name)
      Unfortunately your Vet will probably have to shave all of the hair off of the ears, but don't worry it will grow back! It will take some time , but the hair will grow, and in the mean time you can lightly brush the ears to get him used to being brushed. Once they grow back, if you give them a quick brush out everyday you should be able to keep ahead of the matting.
      Sadly, sometimes the matting gets to the point of no return and all you can do is start over.
      If your Vet does not shave them then find a groomer who will do it for you. The groomer would probably do a nicer job because that is what we do. A groomer may, or may not be able to save some of the hair. :) Good luck with your new guy, they are great dogs.
      Lisa, MFF

  10. Is there any way to calm your dog into letting you brush their beard? My schnauzer has had a bad experience at the groomers and will NOT let me get close to her beard. It's getting matted! Help!

    1. Hi,
      Unfortunately, Schnauzers are notorious for not liking to be brushed....at all!

      It is important for a groomer to help a Schnauzer learn that brushing is okay.

      You can try to teach him, but it will take time and a lot of patience on your part, and he may never learn to like it, only tolerate it.

      Does he like being brushed at all? If he does, start by brushing him where he doesn't mind. Brush everyday. I know that sounds like a lot, but if it becomes his daily routine, he will accept it faster.

      The first time don't even use the brush on his beard. Just use your fingers to rub and very gently separate the hairs. Only do this for a few minutes, but don't stop till he stops pulling away. Talk to him softly, telling him that he is alright and good. (It is very important that you do not get upset and frustrated with him) Then stop and give him a treat, BUT not just any treat. Something really special that he never gets. A small piece of lunch meat, or small piece of hotdog, or boiled chicken. He ONLY gets this treat AFTER a grooming session.

      The next day try the brush, but only brush very, very gently (like hardly touching the hair) Your goal is to try to show him that the brush does not hurt. Even if he only lets you do one or two brush strokes, that is okay. Stop and praise him and give him that special treat. Remember this will take time and patience. Each day try to do a little more. It may take you a week or two before he will let you truly brush out his beard. He needs to learn to trust the brush.
      I hope that this helps. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  11. Hello, I have a mini schnauzer, he's still a puppy and I didn't brush him every day only 3x a week but once I began going to work I didn't have the time to brush him like I used to. I worked for a month and now that I'm no longer working I'm dealing with undercoat mats, on legs and tummy. Also, (if this helps) in the mornings when i take him out to potty he likes to run out in the morning dew, so when he comes inside he's a bit wet. I dont dry him, maybe thats my mistake there. How can I remove them without having to clip his hair. Thank you,

    1. Hi Maggie,
      I hate to say this, but you may not like my answer.

      Schnauzers tend to have different hair. Some have a courser type coat, and others have a very soft, cotton coat. Sometimes mats are very easy to comb out of a Schnauzers coat, sometimes it is just impossible. It depends on how tight the mats are and how your dog tolerates being brushed and combed. In my experience most Schnauzers HATE being brushed.
      Unfortunately, whenever your dogs hair gets wet (like going out in the morning dew) the mats tighten up even more as the hair dries and becomes worse. The most humane thing for your dog may be to bite the bullet and have all of the mats clipped off and start all over again. The tighter the mats the shorter the groomer has to shave your dog. A Schnauzer should be professionally groomed at least every 8 to 10 weeks. If you like to keep your dog really long he should be groomed even more often.
      I hope this helps.
      Lisa, MFF

    2. This is sad news but its for the best, thank you :) -maggie