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, March 6, 2013

What Would You Do?...Matted Morkie

I am going to start this post with a disclaimer. :)

** The methods shown in the photos below are preformed by a Professional Groomer. DO NOT attempt to preform these actions at home. Take a matted dog the a Professional Groomer to have the mats safely removed.

This very sweet, little, 18 month old Morkie came in to me yesterday.

This was her second grooming.

Her owners had been attempting to groom her at home.

They had already cut some of the mats out of her legs.

 She also had some matting in her ears, tail and a little on her body.

The problem was going to be safely removing the hard, tight mats that were wrapped around the lower part of each leg.

What Would You Do?

Clip first?

Bathe first?

 Those of you that follow my blog most likely are sure that I put this dog right in the tub.

Well, I will admit that I was torn.

I wanted to get these hard, tight mats off of this sweet little thing as soon as possible, but I wanted to do it  safely, and I did not want to have to fight a blade through the mat if I could help it.

So, I put her on my table and accessed the situation.

I could see places where her skin was already red and sore from the mats and from where the owners had already removed mats.

I was also concerned with how this little one was going to react to having blades run down her legs.

There is a big difference when running a blade down a leg that has no matting, and fighting a blade through the tight matting on the leg.

It did not help either that this dog had very fragile, thin, boney legs.

What did I do?

You were right....I decided to bathe her first.

Now wait....

For those of you that are yelling at your computer screens right now.

I know that there are a lot of groomers out there that believe all matting should be removed before the bath, especially tight, dirty mats like these.

I did give it a thought...really I did.

In the end I felt that bathing her first was the best thing.

Here are my reasons why:

1~ the mats were so dirty, that I knew my blades would heat up fast and dull quickly trying the fight their way through.

2~ there was no air space between the matting and the skin, meaning that I would have to use a #10 or #15 to fight through the mats, leaving more of a chance of clipper irritation.

3~ I was sure that as I washed the mats, I could move them away from the skin, at least a little bit. Just enough to safely get a blade under the matting.

Lastly, I followed my instincts. 


She was not only matted and dirty, but her hair was very greasy also.

The first shampoo that I used on her was Joy®.

I used it to cut through the dirt and grease.

I picked up each leg and really worked the soap into the matting and gently worked the mats away from the skin.

The mats didn't loosen up much, but they loosened up enough, that I was sure that I could get a #7F safely between the mat and skin..

Once I had the mats loosened into several large lumps of mats on each leg, I cut off some of the big, heavy hunks.

*Notice in the picture that my fingers are between the mat and the dogs leg.

I want there to be NO chance of cutting more than just matting.

My fingers will get cut before the dog.

One of the mats on a back leg was pulling the skin on the shin, because the matting on the shin was attached to the matting on the foot.

This was causing the dog pain every time she took a step.

Now she could move that leg without the skin being pulled.

She was so absolutely sweet, and still for her entire bath.

After rinsing the Joy® off, and squeezing the dirty water and soap out of the mats, I bathed her in a clarifying shampoo and rinsed that.

By now there was no longer any dirty water coming from the mats.

Her finial bath was with a soothing Medicated shampoo that I let her soak in for awhile.

I finished up her bath by making sure that the hair between the matting and her skin was rinsed really well, then I gave her a Baking Soda Rinse.

The HV dryer moved the mats a tiny bit more, but not much.

Now, I am going to pause here, because what I am going to show next SHOULD NOT be done by anyone other than a Professional Groomer. Even then, that groomer better be sure that they know exactly what they are doing.

I have personally seen a groomer slice a dogs leg open by carelessly using this method of removing mats.

So why am I showing this method of removing mats?

Believe me, I almost decided not to show this step of mat removal, but the more that I though about it, when done carefully, this method does help greatly when trying to remove mats that are wrapped tightly around a dogs leg, with little to no air space to get a blade through.

Most groomers out there split mats with their scissors when dematting, or clipping mats off of a dog with no problems.
Splitting tight, cast type mats that are wrapped around a leg can be extremely dangerous, for both groomer and the dog.
You must, must, must be careful to make absolutely sure that you are not pulling the skin up with the mat into the scissors.

The first thing that I do is wiggle two of my fingers (my thumb and index finger) under the mat.

My goal is to make a hole (air space) going from the top of the mat to the bottom of the mat.

I want to make an opening that my index finger will fit into.

Once I have gotten that hole, and my finger is protecting the skin, I slide the point of my scissors up into the hole, between my finger and the mat.

The scissors are never touching the skin, only my finger.

The tight mat that was wrapped around the leg is now free on one side and I am now able to get my blade under it.

I use the corner of my blade (the corner few teeth) to slowly work the blade under the mat.

I am going to be a pain and go over this one more time. :) 

Can you tell that I am paranoid?

Make an air space (hole) under the mat.

Slide your finger down into the hole.

Slide your scissors under the mat and on top of your finger.

 Then very slowly cut through the mat, making sure that you are only cutting mat.

Always be prepared to stop and remove the scissors if the dog moves.

You can never be too careful!!

This sweet little lady just laid still on my table while I split the mats.

She did not move.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the clipping.

As soon as I turned on the clipper she freaked out.

If she had not been matted, she would have been a dog that I scissor the legs on.

After a lot of talking, stopping, calming her down, I got the mats off of the first leg.

By the time I got to the third leg she was calm again and I think that she realized that I was trying to help her.

 These are the mats that were on each leg.

I was able to use a #7F blade to remove these mats.

It took me 22 minutes to remove these mats.

I truly feel that it would have taken longer to clip the dirty mats off  before the bath.

Even though I had to clip her legs with a #7F, I decided to use a #4F on her back and blend it into her legs.

 I rounded up her face and left her ears.

The owners left the ears up to me.

I am the one that decided to leave them long.

I felt like those long ears were her part of her personality.

I talked to the owners and tried to very tactfully explain to them how much the mats hurt their dog, and the damage that mats could cause.

I don't believe in yelling at an owner for the condition of their dog.

That will not help the dog.

I educate them.

I help them learn how to take care of their dog and hopefully not let this happen again.

It is amazing how many pet owners truly don't think that matted hair hurts their dogs.

I have gotten some really great, regular, long time customers from owners who first came to me with a solidly matted dog.
They just needed someone to take the time to educate them, without yelling at them, or putting them down.

This dogs owner made another appointment for 8 weeks.
I am praying that she will keep it.:)

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. I just discovered your blog today. I had a day off due to a snow storm so I spent most of the day reading it. I am a professional groomer too. I love the "box" you made on your table. How did you make this? I really enjoyed your blog. You embrace a lot of my philosophies in grooming. I loved your work. Beautiful!

    1. Thank you Unknown,

      We had the day off for that same snow storm....that we never got!! I am not listening to the weathermen anymore. :/
      Anyway, I did a step by step of how I made my backboard for my table. It has been a lifesaver for my back. Here is the link to that post:


      I hope that this helps. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  2. Great work Lisa!
    Ive come up against these type of grooms many times, especially in working old english sheepdogs. It never ceases to amaze me how long owners will leave a dog with mats between grooms. shameful.
    I use the same methods you have used here but sometimes with some of the old english I get it, its can be hard to manoever them and work the mats in the bath as you can imagine so I dry blast them first getting the dryer nozzle right in under the mats if possible and seeing what I can cut away. If I didn't the filth of the mats would clog up my bath and drains in no time. its not nice blasting the dirt around my grooming room but if it gets the job done without distressing the dog, the few extra mins clean up is worth it! Although a dog the size of the sweetheart in your pics is slightly more managable, sometimes I prefer the bigger matted ones simply because Im afraid I might break one in half!! More and more of these breeds are getting smaller and more fragile!

    1. Hi DJ,
      Boy, I hope that you are wearing a face mask when you do that 'dry blasting'. I understand. I have one OES that comes in covered in the 'red clay mud' that we have here. Thankfully his owner brings him every 8 weeks and he gets a #3F blade, so I don't have to deal with mats...just the mud. lol
      Would a piece of fine screen over your drain help keep the mud from clogging your drains? The water would drain slowly, but maybe it would give you the time to catch the big chunks of mud and debris before it goes down the drain...just a thought. :)
      When I first started grooming I had a lady that would bring in two Breaded Collies, in full coat, all matted, muddy, and full of all kinds of grass and pieces of bushes. Their names were 'Bunny' and 'Rabbit". The owner did NOT want them shaved. I did not know how to say 'no' back then. I would cry every time that that lady would bring those dogs in to me. She kept coming back to me, because I was the crazy groomer that would de-mat her dogs and get them clean again. I still cringe when I think about those dogs, and how stupid I was. :/

      You are not kidding about those fragile dogs. I was holding my breath shaving this dogs legs. Especially when she freaked out on me. One wrong turn and I was afraid that she was going to snap her leg in half. Give me the big boned dogs anytime. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  3. What a sweet little pup! She looked so sad at the beginning. I think she laid there and let you work on the mats because she knew you were helping her. I have an affenpinscher and her hair is prone to matting too, though I keep her brushed out and take her to the groomers regularly. She loves the groomers. Hope they keep their appointment with you in 8 weeks also. She is precious.

    1. Thank you Candace. :)
      She was very sad when she first came in. I k now that she feels better now.
      Lisa, MFF

  4. Thanks Lisa. I am going to have my husband make one for me this weekend. I have been trying to come up with something to limit dogs from going over to the far side of the table. This looks like a real back saver!

  5. I have no Idea how I cam across you blog, but really...I'm glad I did. I've read through several of your posts now and girl...I have to say...I'm so glad you exist. I've been in the trade for 20 years now, been around the block...so to speak...and can relate to much of what you are putting out there. You are a fine groomer and one I have so much respect for. I too, educate my clients instead of belittling them. Many times I'll step across my gate, on the other side of the counter and put a hand to their knee and just speak honestly and openly with them....I truly believe, with all of my heart that grooming their pet is an act of love. Anything short of that would be a waste of my time. A waste of my life path. Each time a client brings their pet to me, they are a part of my life and I care. Pets are like the heart of peoples homes....and I hold that in my hands every day. I take that seriously. I also know that I was given an intuition for a reason...so whatever decision I decide to make at work I know fully I'm making the right one for that moment. I always have the best interests at heart. Each day when I turn the key to my door and enter my salon is a promise I make to my community, to the families, to the pets I see.....to do the very best that I can with what walks through my door. I can see that you do the same...so this evening I stand up and clap for you...in recognition. You...are a great groomer, one that I'd proudly walk beside. good job!

    1. Wow! Thank you very much!
      You have wonderful way of looking at grooming. I am sure that your customers are very lucky to find you.
      Keep up the great work ethic. The dogs need and deserve good groomers. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  6. It's insane to me that the day after I read this post I had a shih tzu with nearly the exact same leg mats! Like leg warmers, or ugg boots! Needless to say I did not try your technique, I haven't been grooming more than a few months...but I did bathe and dry her first :) the mats were at least a half inch thick and MOLDY. I ended up loosening them enough to pull them down over her feet and finish shaving them off inside out...then the owner complained her dog still smelled funny. It was imbedded into her skin. I told her it could be a wash or two before she didn't smell funny...I just wanted to scoop the poor baby up and take her home... :,(

    1. Hi Cherie,
      Isn't it amazing that a customer who let their dog get in that condition in the first place, and who has been living with the dogs smell for God knows how long, has the nerve to stand there and complain. Grrrrr. I am with you. She doesn't deserve that dog. I can't tell you how many times I have wanted to grab a dog back out of an owners hands.
      At least she will feel good for a little while.
      Lisa, MFF

  7. I know this article is a few years old, but I came across it tonight because, well, my grandma and I groom my shih tzu fairly often. Her body and ears and legs are fine. But a few days ago I realized we have been neglecting her tail and it is matted really badly. While feeling her tail tonight (to see how bad it is), I now know it is matted close to her sin and very tight. I started crying because this isn't the first time this has happened. I guess we tend to worry about her body more and forget to brush her tail too. This article helped me feel like less of a bad momma. I think I'm going to call the groomer tomorrow. I'm hoping she doesn't have to shave her because winter is coming quickly and I live in Canada which means it gets VERY cold. But I don't really know what else to do to fix this. Usually me and my grandma would sit with her and try to comb out the tangles, but I think this time we're gonna need a pro. Thank u for this article. It just took a way some of the guilt and showed me that my baby will be okay. :)