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.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Saving Matted Feet

 Believe it or not, I have been working on this darn post for four days.
Two of those days were spent going through thousands of  grooming photos that I have taken in the last three years.
Yes, I said thousands.
I have 423 folders of pictures of grooming.
That doesn't even include my family photos!
I also haven't sorted them in about a year, so I was doing that too while I was searching.
So you can understand why it took me 2 days to find pictures for this post.

For the last couple of weeks I have been waiting for a few dogs to come in with matted feet....no matted feet.

Just wait...I write this post, and I will have matted feet coming in for the next two weeks. :p

You would think that in all of those thousands of photos I would have found a ton of matted feet that I have taken pictures of...nope.

Here is what I found.
Some are not the greatest pictures, but hopefully I can make up for it with my descriptions of what to do. :)

So, here we go....

Most owners seem to love round feet on their dogs.
Some want them full and round, some want them short, tight and round.

Most owners don't seem to like shaved feet.

Unfortunately, the feet seem to be one of the things that mat up the most on dogs.

It is not surprising.
Dogs lick their feet and cause mats.
Their feet get wet when they go outside in the morning dew, or on rainy days.
They get dirt and things stuck in between their toes.
Mats and things that can only be cut out.

So how do you cut out the tight mats around the feet and between the toes without shaving the foot?

Here are a couple of ways that I save matted feet from being shaved.

Mats between toes:

The mats between toes can be anywhere between tiny to large chunks of matted hair.
It can be one mat between the middle toes, or mats between all of the toes.

This Labradoodle gets a lamb cut, with full leg and feet.

She tends to always have mats between her toes.

This time she only had  one mat between her middle toes.

After I have shaved out the pads of the feet, I pull up all of the hair on the front of the foot, locating any mats.

Once I locate the mat, I put one of my fingers between the pads, under the foot, to help spread the toes so that I can see how deep the mats is between the toes.

I use my fingers to pull up any mats from between the toes and separate them from the good hair.

Only use the very tip of your scissors to remove the mat.

I do not open my scissors any wider than needed to scissor out the mat.

Make sure that you know exactly what and where the scissor is cutting.

 Cut only the mat.

Depending on how large the mat was, it may leave a bald spot between the toes.

If you don't feel safe using your scissors between the toes, you can use your clipper instead.

Make sure that you are holding all of the good hair out of the way, so that that hair will cover the bald spot between the toes.

After you have removed the mat, brush the rest of the foot out.

Once the foot is brushed out, you can shape it up.

You can't even see where the mat was scissored out from between her toes.

Depending on how big the mat was, the foot could be very thinned out.

Curly hair tends to make it easier to hide where you clipped out the mats.

On dogs with long straight hair it is a little harder to hide.

On long hair dogs, I like to try to scissor the mat in half.

I took the top half of the mat off, leaving a smaller mat to easily brush out.

(I am sorry the picture is not better)

 That way there is no bald spot.

After you shape up the foot, it still may look a little thinned out, but at least there is no bald spot.

The owner still gets a nice round foot.

Very matted feet:

Even badly matted feet can be saved from shaving like poodle feet.

Clip the matted dog down to the foot.

I scissor and shape the matted foot up like I would an un-matted foot.

Don't scissor too close to the actual foot.
You want to make sure that you are only scissoring matted hair and not the dogs knuckle.

You also don't want the skin pulling up along with the mat as you scissor.

I use a very light touch when scissoring and immediately stop scissoring if I meet any resistance when cutting.

It helps to pull the mats up a little with your fingers before you start to scissor.

After you have cut some of the mats away, and in half by shaping up the foot, brush the foot out.

If the foot is really tightly matted, brush a little to loosen the mats and then shape up the foot again.

Now brush again.

The rest of the mats should brush out fairly easily leaving enough hair to shape up a nice round foot.

The end result is a short, tight foot, but at least it is not shaved.

 Here is another dog with straighter hair.

The mats on this dog were very tight.

I clipped the foot to just above the toes.

I scissored the foot to shape it up while it was still matted.

There are still mats between each of the toes.

The mats have been cut in half.

Then I gently brush out the mats that are left.

I start at the bottom of the toes and work my way up the foot to the leg.

All of the matting brushed out of this dogs feet very easily.

If the mats don't brush out easily, or the dog objects and fights, brush just enough to loosen the mat up a little, then scissor to shape the matted foot again.

Try to brush the foot again.

Repeat as many times as you need to until all of the mats are out.

Each time you scissor the foot, the mats get smaller and will eventually brush out.

From my description, it may sound as if it takes a lot of extra time to save a matted foot.

It doesn't.

Each of the feet that I have shown in this post only took minutes to save.

Of course they all can't be saved.
I have had plenty of dogs over the years that have had to have their feet practically shaved like a poodle due to really bad matting.

I once had a Cocker that had mats and hitchhikers so bad in his feet that I had to shave them, against the grain, with a #30 to get under the mat.
It was the very first time that I ever gave a Cocker something close to poodle feet.

The Cocker owner loved the feet!

I shaved that Cockers feet for the rest of his life. :)

If you have to shave a dogs feet that does not normally get shaved feet, hold on to the mats that you have removed.
Show the owner the mats, so they will understand why you had to take their dogs feet so short, or that you had to shave them.

I also warn owners that when the feet have been so badly matted, and the mats had to be shaved out with a close blade, there is a very good chance that their dog may go home and lick their feet.
I also warn the dogs owner that if their dog licks their feet enough, they could cause sores.
Tell the owner to stop their dog if they catch them licking.

Always be prepared to educate the owner.
As groomers, you and I would think that it is only common sense that a dog may lick an area that needed to be shaved close because of matting, and we don't think about warning the owner until we get a phone call from them.

If you warn the owner ahead of time, so that they can watch out for the behavior, you won't feel like you have to defend yourself later when they call you, because their dog licked a raw spot between their toes, and the owner asks you why you didn't tell them that that may happen.

Even if you know that you have warned an owner about it before...remind them again.

I hope that this post has helped some of my fellow groomers. :)

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. just curious, what's a "hitchhiker matt?" I've never heard of it being called that before! Thx!

  2. Hi Lisa,
    Thank you so much for posting this - it is really helpful. I now can't wait for a dog with very matted feet to come in so that i can try this method. LOL :-)

  3. LOL Laura,
    By 'hitchhiker' I was talking about those little round sticky pieces off of plants that get stuck in dogs fur when they go for a walk in the woods.
    They can create really tight large mats in no time, and they get all caught between toes.
    My Pom ALWAYS finds those darn plants every summer and fall. :( Sorry about that. They are probably called several different names.
    Lisa, MFF

  4. Great blog, If you dont mind im going to add it as a useful link to my hub? www.jasminrace.hubpages.com/hub/DogHairDye

  5. I just used this method yesterday :) on all four legs :D I was able to save lots of fur, to the surprise of the owner :) <3 your blog and all of it's information!

    1. Hi Zhitong,
      I am so happy that this post helped you surprise one of your customers!
      Lisa, MFF

  6. Article is very nicely written, and it holds valuable truths. I am cheerful to come across your distinguished way of writing the blog post. Presently you make things easy for me to recognize and implement. Thanks a lots for exchanging with us

  7. Thank you dog mats,
    I am glad that I can help. Thanks for reading my blog. :)
    Lisa, MFF