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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuesdays Tip..Dematting with Thinning Shears

*Note: You will note that this post is titled Tuesdays Tip. That is because I wrote it yesterday, only yesterday a new patch came out for World of Warcraft. Since my son and I share the internet, I could not upload anything while he was fighting in a dungeon, or he would lag and be killed, and then Mom (me) will be killed because my upload made him lag and he was killed and lost whatever it was he was trying to win...
If you have a 17 year old son..you understand.  :/

So anyway, here is yesterday's post.

It seems to be a dirty word in the grooming world these days.
If you can believe all the comments on the grooming boards, most groomers don't demat anymore.

I will admit that I don't demat as much as I did when I first started grooming.
Back then I didn't know how to say 'no'.
I thought that I had to do whatever the owner wanted.

No wonder my wrists are shot now.
All of those coats that I dematted the first 15 or so years of my grooming career.

Yes...I said 15 years...yes, I dematted dogs all that time.
I can't help it if it took me 15 years to get a backbone and learn how to say 'no' to dematting.

Well, lets put it this way..I say 'no' 80% of the time now, for the body and legs anyway.
I almost never say 'no' for the ears, tail and faces.
I don't know why.
It's some kind of hang up that I have.
To me, the face, ears, and tails are the personality of the dogs.
I want hair on the face, and ears so that I can scissor a cute face. 
I don't even want to talk about how I feel when I see a shaved rats tail on a dog.

I know that other groomers would think that I am nuts, but I actually like  dematting.
I guess it is because of all of those years of dematting dogs that I should have been clipping.

I actually got pretty good and fast at dematting, and saving the coat.

To this day I also use every trick I know to save tails, ears and faces.
I am also really good at dematting without hurting the dog.
I also like the challenge. 
But, not at the cost of the dog.

If it is hurting the dog, or the dog can not stand to be brushed and combed, I have no problem getting on the phone and telling a customer that the dogs coat can not be saved.

Boy, I am getting defensive aren't I?

I guess it is because I know that there are so many groomers out there that think a dog should be clipped short no matter how little matting the dog has on it.

"If the dog as any mats, the owner doesn't deserve to have a longer cut."

I have had this discussion with other groomers before.
I have this discussion with my own daughter at least a couple of times a week.

Believe me, I have no desire to do anything to hurt a dog.
At the same time I don't agree that every dog that comes in with mats must be clipped short.

To me there are different types of matted dog owners, and the reason why I demat for them.

~There is the owner that really does try to brush out their dog.
I don't mind trying to save their dogs coat.

~There is the owner that does not even own a brush for their dog, but they are a regular customer that comes in every 4-5 weeks.
I don't mind saving their coat either.

~Then there are the owners that look at you like you have 6 heads when you mention mats. 
They don't have a clue.
You sit there for 10 minutes or more explaining about the mats, showing them the mats, explaining how they happen, explaining what they need to do between groomings to keep their dog mat free, explaining why you may have to clip their dog shorter than they want it.
Then you stop talking.
You look at the owner.
You see the dead look in their eyes.
You lost them way back at 'your dog is matted'.
So what do you do?
I demat the dag-gone dog, because I am drained, I can't explain anymore.

~Then there is the dreaded owner who is denial that their dog is matted.
Well, not really denial, they damn well know that their dog is matted, but they will stand there and argue with you till they are blue in the face.
For some strange reason you let them intimidate you.
You don't want the aggravation.
So, you dematt the dog, and you are pissed off at yourself the entire time, and you sware up and down that you will never do this for this owner again.
You tell the dog to go home and bite their owner for you.
Lastly, you make a note on the file to be booked up until the year 2020 the next time this owner calls.

I never said that all the reasons that I demat are sane reasons.

With the tools available to groomers today, most of the dogs that come into me with mats get most of the mats removed with the shampoos, conditioners, and HV dryers.
Now a days, by the time I put a matted dog on my table, most of the mats have been loosen up considerably, or blown out of the coat leaving very little matting behind.

I will also say that brushing and combing out clean mats is a lot easier than brushing or combing out mats on a dirty dog.

Okay, I have rambled on long enough.

I realize that I am just trying to justify the fact that I like to demat coats that I feel can be saved.

So I'll get off of my soapbox and give a little tip of one of the ways that I demat.

I had a Shih-tzu in the other day whose coat was about 3 inches long.

The owner wanted the proverbial 'puppy cut', about 1/2 inch off all over.

The Shih-tzu had mats here and there all over the body and legs.

After a bath of a mixture of oatmeal shampoo and 'The Stuff', conditioner, and a HV dry to loosen the mats, I used my thinning shears to demat the coat.

First, I find the section of mat that I want to work on.

I brush the mat a little just to loosen it up away from the skin.

 Then I take my thinning shears and make a couple of cuts right across the mat itself.

* Remember that mats pull the skin, so do not cut too close to the skin. Thinning shears will cut skin just as badly as scissors will.

I don't want to cut until the mat falls off.
I don't want to leave a hole in the hair.

I thin the mat just enough with the thinning shears so that I can easily brush and comb the mat out of the coat.

 I brush the mat again.

If it is not coming out easily, I will thin it again with the thinning shears.

I brush again and then follow up with the comb to get the small pieces of mat out of the coat.

Here you can see how the large mat in the above picture was thinned out into a lot of little mats.

Here the comb has finished removing the smaller pieces of mats.

The comb now glides through the coat.

The area where the mat was may be thinned out , but there is no hole left in the coat, and the mat was removed without hurting the dog.

These are the double toothed thinning shears that I use for dematting.

I use these because they are thinners on both sides and don't cut as much hair with each cut as a thinning shear with a blade on one side does.

These thinning shears were my very first ones.
I have had them for 27 years.

They have seen a lot of mats.  :)

So, instead of this little lady getting clipped with a #4 or #5 blade...

I was able to do the good old 'puppy cut'.

What a good girl she was.

She looks happy too.  :)

Below is a really quick video of me dematting a section of mat with the thinning shears.

I hope this helps.

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. Thanks! I got your note today.


  2. Where do you work and why can't you be my groomer? We just had to pull our 11 lb. schnoodle from our regular groomer because they refused to work with us on mats. The little guy loves wearing sweaters, so there are mats wherever the sweater touches. We asked them to preserve the fur length because we're getting married on 3/4 and the dog is in the wedding, and they treated us like lepers because we were trying to find a fix instead of giving him a full shave. This is the dog we refer to as our "fur child," whose teeth we brush daily, and who eats $30/bag food to make sure he doesn't get crystals in his urine. The dog that had health insurance even when I didn't. Yeah, I'm an awful owner. GAH!

  3. Hi Lara,
    First, congratulations on your upcoming wedding! How wonderful that you will be able to have your dog at your wedding.
    I am located in Maryland, USA
    Ugh sweaters. Static electricity and sweaters on long haired dogs just don't mix. I am sorry that the sweater has caused your little guy to get matted.
    Without seeing the dog myself, it is impossible for me to say whether I would even be able to get them out without hurting your dog. Schnauzer hair is notorious for being very unforgiving when trying to remove mats. It can be very painful to the dog.
    I completely understand your wanting to save the coat so your dog looks cute and fluffy for your wedding.
    I am very sorry that it sounds like your groomer was not very nice about talking to you about the mats. I feel it is wrong to make the owner feel bad. I believe in helping educate the owner about matting without making them feel bad.
    Call around and see if you can find a groomer that will work with you, but there is a possibility that the mats are just too bad to save the coat. Maybe the groomer could give your dog a cute Lamb cut. If the body is the only part of the coat that is matted, they could clip the body and leave the legs longer like a little lamb. Then maybe you could find a little tuxedo vest for him to wear for the wedding. His legs will still be fluffy and his clipped body will be covered by a cute doggy outfit.
    Good Luck,
    Lisa, MFF