Mats are solid clumps of fur that can form anywhere on the body but are usually found behind the ears, in the folds of the armpits, around the anus, on the backs of the thighs, in the groin area, and between the toes. Mats are evidence of neglected grooming or grooming with the wrong tools. Dogs with softer hair are more prone to develop mats.
To remove mats, first saturate the clumps of hair with coat conditioner for several minutes. This rehydrates the hair and closes the barbs. Then separate as much of the mat as you can with your fingers.
Some mats can be removed with the tip of a comb. However, most require the use of scissors, an electric clipper, or a mat splitter. Cutting into mats with scissors must be done with extreme care, because a dog’s skin is not attached to the underlying muscle and tents up as the mat is pulled. Do not slide the scissors beneath the mat and attempt to remove it flush with the skin. You will almost certainly remove a piece of skin. When possible, slide a comb beneath the mat as a barrier between the scissors and the skin. Then hold the scissors perpendicular to the comb and carefully snip into the fur ball in narrow strips. Similar care must be taken with electric clippers. Tease the mat out gently. After the mat has been removed, comb out residual snarls.
This technique also works for removing burdocks and tangled plant material. Nonstick cooking sprays may help to ease the plant material out of the hair without cutting any coat.
To remove gum, put an ice cube on the gum first, then try to slide it off. If that doesn’t work, you will need to carefully cut it out.