How to Shave a Dog with Matted Hair

Filed in Dog Health by on May 4, 2022

How to Shave a Dog with Matted Hair

It’s not uncommon for some owners to get busy with other aspects of their life and fall behind on brushing their dog.

Although all dog breeds require some grooming, longhaired dog owners often face more of a challenge, especially with matting.

Matts are severe tangles that can occur on certain parts of the body, or all over if the dog hasn’t been groomed for a long time.

Serious matting can be painful for dogs, as they pull on the skin and can even restrict blood flow as they tighten with time.

Moisture tends to make it worse, so dogs that swim or are bathed often will need to be brushed more frequently for prevention.

With matted hair, it’s best to address the problem as soon as possible before it can cause pain or irritation. If your precious pooch has matted hair, grab your clippers and follow this guide on how to shave a dog with matted hair.

To Shave or Not to Shave

Smaller matts may be able to be brushed out with some effort, but if your dog is extremely matted, it’s important to prioritize comfort and safety over appearance.

Groomers frequently refer to this concept as “humanity over vanity”.

Even when performed by skilled professionals, dematting can be a painful process.

Unless your dog has just a few small matts, it’s more humane to give your pup a shorter haircut than subject him or her to a lengthy dematting process.

Tools for Clipping

using scissors for small matts

When trimming matted hair, it’s important to use the right tools to ensure the safety and comfort of your dog. Small matts can be removed with scissors, but for larger matts, clippers are recommended.

Though you may be tempted to use a longer blade to leave more hair, shorter blades are better for several reasons.

First, many matts form close to the skin and a longer clipper blade will be unable to get under the matt.

Shorter blades, like a #10, also tend to pull less on the hair and skin, while also reducing the risk of accidentally cutting the skin.

How to Shave a Dog with Matted Hair

Step 1: Bathing and Determining Whether Necessary

In most cases, it’s recommended to bathe your dog before shaving. Clipping a clean, dry coat is ideal, but if your dog is extremely matted, you may need to shave before bathing.

A dirty coat will cause more wear and tear on your clipper blades, but baths can tighten matts and make them worse.

Use your best judgement to determine whether you should bathe before shaving or after.

Step 2: Determining Bodily Area to Start

When you’re ready to begin clipping your dog’s matted hair, try to begin in an area where you can reach the skin. Most groomers begin shaving on the neck or shoulders, depending on the condition of the coat.

If your dog has only a few matts, you may be able to clip them out without giving your dog an entire haircut.

Common areas for matting include behind the ears, in the armpits, under the belly, and on the legs or tail. Some pups may also get matts between their toes or paw pads.

Step 3: Trimming and Safety Tips

shaving dog

Now it’s time to start the shaving process. By the way, you may want to look into recommendations for the best dog clippers.

It’s easier to remove matts if you can get the blade under the matt, rather than trying to clip through it.

For best results, try to hold the clippers so that the blade glides smoothly flat against the skin.

If your blade is not getting under the matting, you may need to swap it out for a shorter blade length.

Be sure to work in short strokes in the direction of hair growth and try not to pull too much on the hair or skin.

Matted areas may already be sensitive, so it’s important to be gentle with your dog.

Some dogs may be nervous about being groomed at home, so it’s important to go slow and give your dog plenty of praise.

When trimming your matted dog at home, it’s important to keep safety in mind. It’s very easy to accidentally cut a dog if you’re inexperienced with handling clippers.

Areas with loose skin, such as around the flank, neck, and ears are the most common areas for accidental injuries.

To avoid cutting your dog, be sure to clip in the direction of hair growth and use your hand to stretch or move the skin to eliminate wrinkles. Smooth, flat surfaces are harder to accidentally cut.

This may mean that you need to lift your dog’s legs or move his head or body to get the right angle.

Step 4: Evaluate Your Canine’s Condition and Treatment

If your dog was severely matted, the skin may be red and inflamed, so you may want to consider using a medicated shampoo to help soothe the irritation.

Ointment can be used on any small areas of irritation. If you discover that your dog has any open wounds or sores beneath the matts, call your veterinarian to determine the best course of treatment.

Clipper Safety Tips

As you work, be sure to check your blades often. As clipper blades are used, the friction can cause them to heat up.

If they are used long enough, they can get hot enough to burn the skin, so it’s important to keep an eye on their temperature.

Professional groomers often have several blades of the same length so they can swap them out as needed. If you plan on clipping your dog at home on a regular basis, you might consider investing in a few extra blades.

You may also want to consider purchasing a blade cooling spray. This product is designed to be used on hot blades to help lubricate and cool them so you can use them longer.

However, be careful not to spray your blades near your or your dog’s face as the spray is not meant to be inhaled.

If you do not have the option of swapping out your blades or using cooling spray, you may want to just take a break to give your blades a chance to cool down.

If your pooch is nervous about being groomed, it may be best to take a quick break and let him relax before beginning again.


Well, I hope you now have a better idea on how to shave a dog with matted hair.

With these steps and tips, hopefully your dog will have a pain free experience with removing this matting.

Remember, to give plenty of praise to your dog, so they have a positive experience. Take breaks when necessary and give them treats as a reward.

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