Poodle Tangles and Mats

The most common reasons for Poodles getting tangles and mats in their hair is incorrect brushing or not brushing enough. When a tangle forms, it will continue to grow – pulling in more hairs from the coat – little by little.
We will discuss how to properly brush to avoid tangles and mats with the Poodles and also how to get out a tangle from a Poodle’s coat.
Too many tangles or mats can ruin a Poodle’s coat and once 1 appears, it can quickly grow…sometimes leading to the only fix of clipping it out…So let’s dive into this important subject.

grooming matts from Poodle
Hugo, 16 months old
Photo courtesy of owners: Anka & Hugo

Why Poodle Hair Becomes Tangled, Matted, and Knotted

Even if an owner selects the proper brush and comb, they are often used incorrectly…perhaps only whisking through the topcoat instead of going through to the skin. The dead hair becomes tangled with the live portion of the hair and within a very short amount of time, a solid block of matted hair can form near the Poodle’s skin.
Even With Proper Brushing – ‘Tangle Phases’
Even when you know how to properly brush a Poodle’s coat, there are very important “tangle phases” to face. This means certain times when the Poodle’s coat can mat up even with proper brushing. What are these “tangle phases”? Let’s look:
  • Longs spells of damp weather and humidity
  • Heavy snow that lands on the Poodle’s coat
  • Dogs that go outdoors and become soaked without the coat being brushed and dried properly
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: When the Poodle is “blowing it’s coat”, which means when the coat of the dog is changing from puppy to adult texture – at this time the ends of the hair are rather sparse while the coat at the skin is much thicker. The fine puppy hair is being replaced by a coarser hair in the same follicle. AS the new, harder coat grows in, it becomes tangled with the soft puppy coat. During this changeover, if the Poodle is not brushed every single day, the mats form almost overnight…And forms large clumps near the skin. The most troublesome spots are:
  1. The neck
  2. The shoulders
  3. Behind the ears
  4. In the “armpits”, under the front legs
  5. Between the back legs
The change of coat texture can be exasperating to owners of show prospects; in fact this interval often separates the true exhibitor from the amateur, because it’s usually the time that many owners decide that they are not up to growing and maintaining a show coat.

Anatomy of a Mat

Before you can cope with Poodle mats it is necessary to understand how it is that these tangles form in the first place. All types of hairs (both human and canine) have 2 basic parts: the root and the shaft.
The root is implanted in the skin and the shaft is the part that projects from the surface. The Poodle’s hair is made out of 3 separate layers:
  • The cuticle (outer layer)
  • The Cortex (middle layer)
  • The Medulla (inner layer)
The cuticle is formed by overlapping, hard and flat scales (similar to roof shingles or fish scales). These scales project upward and outward like barbs in the direction of the Poodle’s hair growth. On healthy hair ( that is brushed regularly and correctly ) these scales lie flat and reflect light. However, they tend to attract dirt, debris and foreign matter. If the hair is neglected or subjected to harsh brushing techniques, the scales become uneven, raised and very dry.
Then, when there is a lack of oil on this dry hair shaft, the ragged edges of the barbs interlock with those of other hairs…like Velcro grabs onto itself…and this is how the Poodle’s tangles form. The longer the dog’s coat is ignored, the more extensive the tangles area becomes. It will never fix itself! If the coat is continuously neglected, one solid mat will eventually result.

Static Electricity
Hair is also charged negatively by static electricity accumulating on the cuticle. Excess electricity causes flyaway ends and it also can cause mats and tangles. Also, fine hair tends to tangle more easily than coarse hair.