HELP! Horribly matted tail! - Golden Retrievers : Golden Retriever Dog Forums
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-15-2010, 08:31 PM Thread Starter
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HELP! Horribly matted tail!

I just noticed that Maya's tail is incredibly matted. It is almost like she has dreadlocks! She has just gotten some beautiful feathering and I would hate to have to cut it. I am not sure how it happened. I feel really horrible for not catching it sooner. Last week we were at the beach and she was in the ocean a lot, so I am not sure if that is why it happened. She spent a few hours playing in the ocean, retrieving balls and swimming. She spent some time on the beach as well, doing some digging, but most of the time she was in the water. I don't know if the salt water is the problem or what. Then over the weekend she stayed with friends of ours because we traveled to Kentucky for a baptism. She was in the woods a lot with them and got very muddy. She has never had this issue before, so I don't know what causes it. In the past, she has had an occasional small mat behind her ear in the long fine hair that grows there, but no other mats. I have always just cut out the small mats behind her ear. She has never been to the groomer before, and I am considering taking her for this, but I don't want them to do anything that will torture her. If it comes down to either having to cut her tail hair short or having to cause her a lot of discomfort, I will cut her tail. I would really rather not have to do that though if it can be avoided without making her completely miserable. Maya is my first golden (and my first long-haired dog) so I am very new at this.
1. Is it possible to remove mats without cutting them out?
2. How uncomfortable will the process make Maya? Can a good groomer do it without making a dog miserable?
3. Would a groomer let me stay with her so if getting the mats out was upsetting her too much I could have them stop?
4. Is there a way for me to get mats out at home without much grooming experience?
5. If it comes down to it, how long will it take tail hair to grow back?

I was absolutely horrified when I found the mats. Maya is 16 months and has just gotten beautiful feathering. She has a very pretty tail and I would hate to destroy it. I am guessing that the tail hairs take a long time to grow. The mats are not visible unless one looks at her tail up close and they certainly aren't bothering Maya, but my assumption is that leaving them alone will only make things worse. Is that true?
I would really appreciate any advice.
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-15-2010, 08:43 PM
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You really don't want to get the mat wet as it will usually cause it to make the mat tighter.
Does Maya let you comb her tail? Benett absolutely hated it. I could do anything else except the tail.
Are the mats all the way down to the skin? Hopefully not. How coarse is her hair there?

For my Old english Sheepdogs, I start combing at the end of the hair (away from the body) and work toward the end. Work from the sides toward the center of the mat. Because the girls hair is fine to medium texture, I have saturated a few individual mats with No More Tangles (and it can take several bottles for the girls) and worked on them with a wide tooth comb. It is slow going.

I would start working at the tip of the tail and move closer to the body as you can.
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-15-2010, 08:45 PM
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There are products like Cowboy Magic for dogs that you can get, wet the mat with and then work them out. Or even diluted human condition in a pinch. Unfortunately, it is hard to work them out and most often you end up having to cut them out.

For future, just be sure to brush her tail at least a couple times a week if not every day.

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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-15-2010, 08:52 PM
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There's a very useful tool called a dematting comb or mat removing comb. It looks like this.

Essentially, it's a comb with six or eight curved tines that have a blade on the inside curve. You can pull them through the matted section a bit at a time, and they cut through the mat while cutting as little of the untangled hair as possible. Combined with a rake, it's a great tool for taking out the mats without thinning the hair or creating the chunked out look you can get with scissors.

You can also use a leave-in conditioner to help lubricate the hair a bit as you work so you untangle—rather than cut—whatever you can. I'm a recent convert to Cowboy Magic, which is for horses but works great on GR feathers. I've gotten major burrs out of Comet's forelegs with it and major mats out of somebody else's GR's pants with it.

For future reference, it's very helpful to at least towel dry and brush the damp fur. I don't bother with a blow dryer, but I do like to towel thoroughly to avoid hot spots and brush with a rake before they're totally dry. I find a slicker is great for most of the coat but that I need a rake to prevent mats in the mane, tail, and pants and behind the ears.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-15-2010, 08:59 PM
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You do not want to leave the matts in her tail .. Cowboy Magic is supposed to be very good and there was a recent discussion about how well it worked

Maya probably should not have a wet tail until the matts have been removed since that might wind up making bigger matts. Unless it is really bad, her tail feathers can probably be saved ..

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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-15-2010, 09:16 PM
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You should be able to do it yourself, it'll just take some time. Do a bit at a time while watching TV so she's relaxed.

Do NOT cut the matts directly out! This leaves big holes and will make it look worse.

What you can do is work them out with a comb or your fingers at first, a bit at a time. If you have to, use scissors to cut down the matt in the direction the hair grows, so you cut them into smaller matts and then work those out. If you have thinning shears (they look like a comb crossed with scissors) you can cut the hair above the matt a bit at a time to get it out as well. If you do it that way, her tail will be thinner but there will be less 'holes' where you can see where the hair was cut. It'll grow back though!

Depends on how bad it is as to if it can be saved, and how much work you want to put in. I know most groomers will charge a lot for dematting (I think where I worked it was $35 an hour), but it's an option if you can get them to not hack it all out.


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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-15-2010, 09:23 PM
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I had the same problem with Gunner this past weekend. He went swimming and then rolled in the sand. He had mats on his backside, under his ears, chest and tail. The worst was the tail. I tried to pull it out the best I could but ended up kind of spitting it like Bender stated. I'm going to invest in the dematting comb and get some of the Cowboy Magic for next time.

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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-15-2010, 09:43 PM
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My first golden would get the tail matts all the time after a swim--it's almost as if the hair was really dry and the water would just cling to those areas--his tail would almost get corded at the base--I would call it his "rasta tail." I used the tool that TippyKayak has provided the link to--just be very careful, as you can place one of those tips too close to the skin of the tail, and that's not going to be comfortable for your golden.

I've also used a greyhound comb--combing from the tips, working my way on to the end; I also used a light conditioner on the tail to make it easier to comb. I've also combed while my dog was half asleep or asleep. What I tried to do, and worked out the best, was combing out the tail and pants before a swim, and then drying him off and combing him out after. That did a great job of prevent matts. Did I do it every time? No. Easier said than done. Hopefully, if you have to cut a few matts here and there, the hair won't be missed, because there is so much hair still remaining on the tail.

Also, once you untangle all the matts, trim the tail as per the golden standards, so that the tip is about even with the hock. The tail will look nice and full and you won't notice any missing hair. My current golden Mac gets an occasional matt here and there after a swim, but not anything like my late Jake. I sure do know what you're going through.
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-15-2010, 09:56 PM
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I read a tip on a forum a while ago that one golden owner spreads peanut butter on his fridge to distract his dog while he brushed him. I tried it the other day and odd as it sounds it worked pretty well. Might be useful if you've got to spend a extended time working out mats.

Good luck!
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-15-2010, 11:41 PM
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Ultimately, if she really hates having it done and it is as matted as you say, getting a groomer to shave it off might be the most humane option. While many owners say "If he really doesn't like it, stop" 0/7 groomers I know would stop. Either they want to just get it done or they don't think the owner will get the issue taken care of otherwise.

As much as I love my dog's hair....if things got really bad I'd shave it off rather than make them sit while I comb/brush it out.

And esp if there's burrs and dirt and gross stuff in could be getting gross fast or be a nice place for a hot spot to grow....

That said, a groomer might sit with you and show you some tricks for safely splitting mats.
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