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, November 27, 2012

Bathing/Clipping a Matted Dog

I would like to start off this post with a warning.
I know that I have many pet owners that read my blog.
It is important to understand that I very strongly disagree with pet owners bathing their dogs when they are matted, or have not been thoroughly brushed and combed out first. 

Bathing a matted dog and not drying it correctly (as I will explain in this post) will only cause the matting to become tighter.
Shampoo and water could also get trapped under the matting and cause skin irritation.  

I have had several groomers question my method of bathing matted dogs.
Earlier this month Brent asked me to describe my process of bathing matted dogs.
I haven't had any really matted dogs in recently (thankfully), and with most of my Christmas customers being regulars, I most likely will not have any badly matted dogs till after Christmas, or in the spring.
So, this post will be made up of a mixture of a lot of different dogs and pictures that I have taken the last few years.

So here we go.

Like most groomers out there, I was taught to never bath a dog with mats in it. 
I followed this rule for the first 15 years of my grooming career. 
I always preclipped my dogs, even ones that were not matted. 
It never crossed my mind to even try bathing a matted dog.

To be honest, I can't really remember who told me about bathing matted dogs.
I went to a seminar once and met two groomers that talked about bathing dogs without brushing out the undercoat first.
I remember being blown away as they sat there insisting that they could groom a Keeshound in one hour, start to finish, all undercoat removed, by bathing it first and then blowing out the undercoat with a HV dryer. 

Shortly after that seminar I started grooming out of my Mobile Grooming Van.
Because time was so important, and my goal was to spend no longer than one hour to an hour and fifteen minutes at each house, I decided to no longer preclip my dogs.
I started putting every dog straight in the tub.  
My van was booked a year in advance.
 Just about all of my customers were on regular 4 to 6 week schedules, so I rarely had any matted dogs.   

When I opened my shop again, I continued putting all of my dogs in the tub first with no preclipping...even the matted ones.

That was 13 years ago.
I have been bathing matted dogs ever since.

I think that I will write this post in a question and answer format.
I will try to think of all the questions that another groomer might ask.  

Let's get started.

**Why bathe a matted dog?    

In my opinion, it is 100% safer and easier to clip a clean matted dog than a dirty, greasy matted dog.

 Let me ask you some questions....

~Have you ever spent a tremendous amount of time trying to fight a blade through dirty, greasy, matted hair?

~Have you ever had several blades dull in the process of clipping a dirty, greasy, matted coat?
~Have you ever had your blades jam, over and over again, in that dirty, matted hair to the point that you wanted to throw the blade across the room? 
~Have your blades quickly heated up fighting their way through the mat?
~Have you ever scared the sh*t out of yourself because you were not sure whether you were cutting mat or skin?
~Have you ever accidentally nicked a dog because the mat pulled the skin up into the blade? 

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, those are all good reasons to bathe a matted dog before clipping.


 What blade would you have preclipped this matted, overgrown Yorkie with?

A #5, #7, or maybe even a #10 blade. 

   After bathing and drying this once matted Yorkie was able to go home with a cute #3F blade cut.

~The blade never jammed.
~The blade did not heat up.
~I did not have to fight the blade through the clean coat.
~I did not dull any blades.  
~The dog was not nicked.
~The Yorkies clean hair was clipped much faster than if it had been dirty. 

**Will the grooming take longer if not preclipped?

The main complaint that I hear from groomers about bathing matted dogs is, drying all of that matted hair.
As you will read later in this post, you do not have to worry about getting all of the matted hair dry.
Your goal when drying a matted coat is to HV dry only the hair between the dogs skin and the mat.
The hair that you will be cutting...the air space between the skin and mat.

I heard that....'What the heck is she talking about?'   

I will explain in more detail later.

Anyway, remember you have already saved the preclip time by putting the dog straight into the tub. 
I think that you will also be surprized at how much the matting breaks down, under the force of the HV dryer, when the mat is free of dirt and grease.
It can make the drying go pretty quick on some dogs.

On some dogs, the dryer will surprising remove most of the matting.  


What blade would you have used to preclip this dirty, matted Poodle?

 With the help of a special shampoo and conditioner, the HV dryer was able to blowout just about all of the mats in this dogs coat.

Five minutes of brushing while fluff drying and this Poodle was mat free. 

Instead of being preclipped with a #5 or #7 blade, this dog was able to have a clip comb used on the body and legs.

Now, if only the owner will let us remove the mats from the topknot next time. :) 

**Do you bathe a matted dog any special way?


To bathe a matted dog, I like to use Best Shot Shampoo and Creme Rinse.

I use both the shampoo and creme rinse straight, I do not dilute it.

Another product that I like to use on matted dogs is 'The Stuff'.

I will make up a bottle of diluted shampoo and add a cap full of 'The Stuff'.  

 Bathing a matted dog may take you a little extra time, but not much.

I like to hand bathe my dogs.

I like to know that I am getting the shampoo worked really well into the matting.

I also like to work the mats apart that loosen up as the hair is cleaned.

Make sure that you rinse the shampoo very well.

Then creme rinse.

Depending on how tightly matted the dogs coat is, I will let the Creme Rinse sit a few minutes before rinsing well. 

**How do you dry a matted coat? 

In my opinion, a matted dog MUST be dryed straight from the tub.

DO NOT kennel dry!!  

If you do not have the time to HV dry dogs, or do not have a HV dryer, DO NOT bathe matted dogs.


A HV dryer is a must when bathing and drying matted dogs.

I recommend the ones with a variable speed control. 

You also want to remove the pointy regulator from the hose.  

 Use only the wide end mouth end of the hose.

 You want to place the hose right up against the mat.

Your goal is to blow the mat apart and move the mat as far away from the skin as possible. 

 Even if you are only able to move the mat a little bit away from the skin, it will give you a safe, clean air space between the skin and mat to easily get a blade through.

 I like working in a circular motion while working the air under the mat.

My goal is to dry from the skin out.

If you are drying a dog with very big thick mats, it is not important to get the mat itself dry.

The only hair that you want completely dry is the hair between the skin and mat.  

**Will I always be able to get a longer blade under the mat? 

I have found that most of the time I am able to get a longer blade under the mat then if I had preclipped. 
The clip definitely comes out smoother and plushier. 
The blade also slides nice and smoothly under the mat without overheating. 

Here are some examples of what the hair looks like, under the mat, after it has been cleaned and HV dried. 

Matting that loosened up a lot under the dryer.

A Poodle that would have had to be preclipped with a #7 .

After bathing and HVing the matted coat, a #4F blade was able to easily go through the coat. 

 This matting blew far enough away from the skin to get a 3/4 blade through the coat.

We were able to get a #3F under the mat on this dog.

 The mat on this dog was so tight that we still had to clip the dog with a #7F.

If we had preclipped, it would have taken quite a while to fight the blade through the dirty coat.

We may even have had to use a #10 blade, which could have caused skin irritation or a possible nick on this white, tender skinned dog.

Clipping a clean, matted dog allowed us to easily glide the #7f blade under the mat without worry. 

 Well there you go....

That is how I groom my matted dogs.  

It does not mean that other groomers have to do the same.  

Just have an open mind and give it a try sometime. 

You never know, you may be pleased with the results. 

 Sometimes it is hard to break away from the only way you know how, or have been taught, how to do something. 

It doesn't hurt to try something new.
You can always go back to the old way if you don't like it.

Just give new things a fair chance.
Try it a few times.
Give it a chance to get used to it.
If you still don't like the new method, no big deal. :)

I hope that this helped.
If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.
I will eventually answer them. :p
I have 13 comments waiting for me right now. :/

One more thing.
Please forgive any typos you may see in this post.
Blogger has been a real pain tonight.
It has been adding letters here and there, among other things, all night...driving me crazy!
Thanks. :)

Happy Grooming, MFF   


  1. I started bathing matted dogs a few years ago. I was definitely skeptical at first, but it can be absolutely amazing. That being said, I don't wash ALL matted dogs, especially puppies.

    Some dogs you can tell are just going to be terrified of the dryer - I would much rather shave them before the bath and barely have to blow dry them.

    Sometimes when the matting is REALLY bad, I feel like I can't possibly get the dog clean all the way down to the skin. Those dogs I will shave first.

    A lot of once a year dogs are scared of the entire process, so I like to shave them first since that is more important in the grand scheme of things if they freak out so bad that I can't finish.

    Other than that, I love telling people I will probably have to shave their dog down to the skin and then being able to surprise them with a 3 or 4 blade.


    1. Hi Jennifer,
      I don't worry too much about them not liking the dryer. Most of them take to it pretty well. I am usually able to talk the scared ones through, even the puppies. If they really reject the dryer, I can always wet shave them.
      As for getting them clean, I have only ever had to put one dog back in the tub after clipping it, and that was just because the dog was greasy. Believe me, I am a stickler for a clean dog. I have defiantly been known to put a dog back in the tub and rebathe it if I didn't think it was clean enough. :/
      Last year I only shaved one matted dog before the bath, because the mat was so severe. I actually regretted doing that. I think that I would have gotten a nicer finish if I had wet shaved the dog.

      Oh well, to each their own. I think every groomer should groom the way that they are comfortable with.

      Oh, I like to surprise the owners too! :)

      Lisa, MFF

  2. I was raised under a pet-something roof and within the past three years have ventured off on my own. The rule of thumb at pet-something was: Matted? Shave it naked.

    Thankfully, I found your blog and haven't looked back. I don't touch a dirty dog with clippers and have had a booked clientele for 1.5 years because so many people appreciate my resolve for leaving their dog as long as possible. So, with that I say thank you.

    And to other groomers struggling with bathing before clipping, believe me, it's worth it.

    1. Hi,
      Isn't it great to learn something new? It is great when our clients like what we do. :)
      Thanks for reading my blog.
      Lisa, MFF

  3. been grooming this way for years! Just about everyone I've worked with has always thought I was insane, but I'm sorry, can't argue with the results, saftey, and the much happier, fluffy dog!

    1. Hi Kat,
      Sometimes being insane is a good thing! lol.
      Lisa, MFF

  4. I whole heatedly agree with your methods, it is so much less stressful for a matted dog to be bathed first and the results are beautiful.
    I was a groomer for 16 years. I retired two years ago due to a ruptured disk. I cut down on the number of dogs I groomed, but when it started taking me two days to recover from doing a dog, I had to call it quits.
    Reading your blog brings back such fond memories for me. I too took pride and joy in making grooming a nice experience for dogs who were frightened or nervous. It makes me happy to see you do the same.

    1. Hi Heather,
      I am so sorry that you had to stop grooming. I don't know what I would do if I had to stop. It sounds like the grooming world lost a good groomer. I hope that you are feeling better now.
      Thank for reading my blog. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  5. This entry is great! I want to try this on all my matted animals. What do you think about doing this method with cats? At grooming school they teach us always to pre-shave, but I'm a big believer in the power of the HV dryers and a good conditioner or creme rinse. Have you tried the Furminator Conditioner (the shampoo smells gross in my opinion, but I love how the conditioner smells), or the Tropiclean De-Mat? Thank you for this post!

    1. Hi Marge,
      I can't answer the cat question. I don't groom enough of them. I wanted to go to a Cat grooming School, but finding the time and money is not in the foreseeable future. Here is a great website to check out for cat grooming:


      As for the Furminator products..I have issues with them. So, know I have not tried them. I have not tried the Tropiclean De-Mat either, but I do like their products. :)

      Lisa, MFF

    2. We use the Espree version of furminator. (coconut oil base, espree products seem to be all-natural. works wonders on tangly coated pups & unlike furminator, it does not break me out in hives ^^ I don't love the smell all that much, but hey..)

    3. Hi Kat,
      I will have to try out the Espree. Thanks. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  6. You can use the same method on cats as well it removes all mats in my experiences i have been bathing all pets with mats for years and find it can bring mats ojt completely using HV dryer and a coat king or mat breaker

    1. Hi,
      Thank you for the information about the cats!
      Lisa, MFF

  7. I love love love your blog. I went off exploring some grooming forums and poking my head in there, but some of the groomers are really trying to force their grooming religion on me D: I'm so happy that you are open minded, and I really wanted to talk to other people about grooming, but alas I shall just be a commentator on your total awesome blog :)

    Tried to talk about bathing the matted dogs and they were like PRECUTPRECUT YOU WILL SAVE TIME! :( I've done precuts before, and I hated it. I am so thankful for your blog! I love how I can do matted dogs in like 2hours instead of 4!

    I also went with your UltraMax, works wonders, but if anyone is interested in a less expensive shampoo that does just as well (IMO if you want to try or want another scent ;)) I like Tropiclean SPA Hypoallergenic Oatmeal mix :)

    1. Hi Zhitong,
      Thank you! I am glad that you love my blog. It makes me feel good. :)
      I like Tropiclean shampoos. I will have to try that one.
      Thanks again. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  8. I LOVE the blog as well, a client brought in ur post on how u do ur lamb cuts with a pic and wanted her standard poodle done. I have been trying to find the best place to get the Same shampoos and creme rinse, my client also brought in the shampoo u use and i really liked it :) THANKS so much for the good advise, i use a lot of "the stuff" for matting, i used to use stazko spray before they stopped making it then brought it back LOL...

    1. Hi again Stephanie,
      Wow, I sometimes wonder if pet owners read my blog and go to their groomers asking for some kind of cut that I posted about. I worry that the groomer will get upset at me. :p
      I am so glad that it worked out well for you. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  9. Lisa, I see you're using the K-9 variable dryer. I need to purchase a HV dryer. Do you like is for an 'all around' dryer? I think I had a Double K back in the day, it didn't last long and I couldn't find anyone to fix it :( Marg

    1. Hi Marg,
      Yes, I really like this dryer. It does not get too hot as long as your drying room is well ventilated. There have been some days when we have a lot of big hairys, and we use it on one dog after another with no break, that it gets a little too warm. When that happens we just turn on a fan and put it up to the back of the dryer to help keep it cool.
      Lisa, MFF

  10. Hi Lisa,
    I'm still in training so my question may be laughable to qualified groomers but here goes anyway. When using the HV dryer on these matted dogs do you dry all over then start to clip or once you have a dried a small area get straight in with the clippers and just dry a small area then clip that area.

    1. Hi Wendy,

      I do not think that there are any bad questions. :)

      I concentrate on drying the hair between the skin and the mat. That is the hair that I will be clipping. Most of the time the entire dog IS totally dry before I do any clipping. If I have a dog that has big chunks of mats in the coat, I don't worry about getting the mat totally dry, as long as the hair between the chunky mat and the skin is good and dry.
      I hope that made sense. :)

  11. Hello All.... Does anyone have a recommendation of a real good shampoo, conditioner and finish for my Maltese puppy... I've read all info and not very many repeat opinions

    Thank you for ally help and guidance...Carol

    1. Hi,
      You have most likely gotten a lot of different recommendations, because a lot of the time choosing shampoos can be a very personal thing...even for your dog. lol
      One person may love the way THEIR shampoo makes their dog smell.
      Another person may love the way THEIR shampoo makes their dogs coat feel, and so on.
      Even within the same breed, coat types can vary. You need to try different shampoos until you find one that YOU like. It took me a year to find a shampoo that didn't make my Collie itch and still did a great job on him, but I did find it. :)
      Here are some brand names that I like and that you might like to try:
      Best Shot
      Coat Handler
      Pure Pet
      These are brands that I really like and use everyday. Each brand has several different types of shampoo, conditioners, and finishing sprays that you could try. Just Google them to find them on-line.
      Sorry to take so long to answer your reply.
      I hope that this helps.
      Lisa, MFF

  12. I loved this blog!! I just graduated dog grooming school a few months ago and we were taught you must pre clip and get out all mats BEFORE the bath. This is so time consuming!!!! I was lucky enough to get a job grooming right out of school so although I am doing a lot of grooming I am still learning. I don't mind pre clipping a dog that is in good condition because it doesn't take very long at all. But when I get a badly matted dog and have to clip and comb it all out before bath it can take me an hour!! I am absolutely going to try your method, it makes sense and I have nothing to lose for trying!! Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Jeannie,
      Congratulations on becoming a groomer! I glad that my rambling are helping you. Try to always remember that you can always learn new things. I made a big mistake, early in my career, thinking that I had learned everything that there was to learn. I was so wrong. As long as you keep and open mind, and are willing to try new things, you will become a great groomer. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  13. Puss and Snoots Pet GroomingAugust 26, 2013 at 9:03 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing this info.I am def gonna try this.

  14. I was wondering if you have any tips for doing tails? I really see to suck at making the big boofy ones look neat and not choppy. We also see a lot of dogs with curly pig tails that have mats wrapped so tightly around the tail it's almost impossible to save them. Do you see this? Are there any tricks? Love your blog by the way! It's helped me more then any book or DVD could!

    1. Hi Kate,
      I will work on putting a post together about different tails. Give me a little time to collect several different types of tails pictures.
      Yes, I have had plenty of those pelted tails. I have a story about one of those pelted tails too. I'll work on that also.
      Sorry for taking so long to reply. Thanks for reading my blog.
      Lisa, MFF

  15. What a great blog! I breed labradoodles and I am trying to learn how to groom my own dogs. I found it so confusing because I always heard to always bath before clipping but also to never bath a matted dog. I couldn't figure out how you are supposed to de mat a dog first, then bath it, then clip it. I knew my groomer always did my dogs in 1/10 the time that I did. I was also told that an HV blower would help loosen mats and coats so I have just ordered one. I knew there must be a way to bath them first. I just had my blades sharpened too and didn't want to dull them and I've spent hours fighting through a coat with clippers. I can't wait to try your method! :)

  16. Thank you for this great post! There is so much to know that I didn't even know about. My dogs are my best friends and they deserve the best! I have been taking them to the best of the best pet grooming salons for the longest time and always make sure that they are treated well and well groomed before I take them home!
    Holly James | http://barkerybath.com/