Removing Mats and Tangles from a Dog's Coat?

September 24, 2008

fluffy white dogI am thinking of adopting a Bichon Frise that has some mats in its coat. I need to know what is the best kind of shampoo and conditioner/detangler to use on her. The current owner has had the dog only 3 or 4 weeks, and used Dawn dish soap for her bath and no conditioner that I know of.


She isn't able to afford vet care or grooming either. I would like the dog, but am afraid the coat is too much to care for, unless there is possibly a budget friendly conditioner/detangler i could make at home. Also, is baby shampoo ph acceptable for dogs?

Pam from Martinsville, IN


September 24, 20083 found this helpful

My dogs have long hair and the only thing I've ever used is Mane and Tail shampoo and conditioner. It repels dirt and the conditioner is wonderful. I even use it on my own hair, and the conditioner to shave with.
At the feed store I pay about 7 dollars for a quart bottle and it last for a long, long time. Can also be found at walmart and some drug stores now though I don't think as cheap as the feed store.

By Shelter Worker (Guest Post)
September 25, 20082 found this helpful

You should use shampoo and conditioners made specifically for dogs. Especially in the smaller most likely puppy milled or backyard bred dogs as they are the most likely to have allergies and skin conditions among other health problems.


A dog's skin ph is about 7.4 while a human's is somewhere between 4.5-6 so even human or baby shampoos are NOT a great idea. No matter how expensive they are they can easily irritate a dog's skin.

If you shop carefully, the dog shampoos shouldn't be too expensive especially if you don't overuse them. Like human shampoo they are often much thicker than they need to be so you can think them out and use only what you need.

Baby shampoo is simply ph balanced to about 5.5 so it matches the ph of the human eye and does not irritate the baby's eyes. That's still below what your dog really needs. If cost is a really prohibiting factor, just go with the dog shampoo and use a small amount of human conditioner on the dog.

Do a small patch test the day before by putting a drop of the shampoo and/or conditioner on their skin and rub it in. Use their back so the dog can't lick it off. Check for any redness or itching the next day to make sure it's safe.


Some dogs have little problems but the puppy milled and backyard bred smaller dogs very often have sensitivities. If the dog is currently tolerating something as horrible as Dawn, it may be ok with mild human shampoo and conditioner until you can get a bottle of the dog stuff.

You also need to consider you will have some vet costs over time. The dog will need vaccinations, spay/neuter if it's not already done, you'll need to clip the nails regularly and put a small amount aside for vet emergencies because eventually they will arise.

There are many shelters that sponsor vaccination clinics and that will help a lot but you should still put aside at least $100 a year minimum for vet care and emergencies.

By Richard (Guest Post)
September 26, 20082 found this helpful

I have a male Bichon. I had to get it groomed when I got him. Now every 5 weeks Summer and 6 weeks Winter, I use a shampoo from his groomer. No problems.

By JenA (Guest Post)
September 27, 20082 found this helpful

That type of dog doesn't shed (I think). It needs a regular grooming hair cut. At this point I'd take the dog to a groomer and have it shaved down. If you try to brush/comb out the mats it will only hurt your dog and make them not like being brushed.


As the hair grows in, if you brush them daily you won't have this problem again. I hope this helps!

September 27, 20081 found this helpful

Where did people get this idea of using Dawn soap on animals? It's very bad for their skin. Use only dog shampoo on your dog.
If your dog is matted, it must need the mats removed by a groomer. It shouldn't cost too much for a small dog. Please see a vet about the basic condition of the dog. If the people who had it let it get matted, they probably didn't take it to a vet.

September 27, 20081 found this helpful

My mom has been grooming dogs for 40 or so years. She has always used baby shampoo and watered down conditioner when bathing the dogs.
(it used to be called creme rinse). It really is hard on dogs and groomers when they get matted. She always recommends that the owner keep the dog brushed on a regular basis , but don't just start brushing the dog after it has mats.


It has to be maintenence. When she gets a matted dog, she will cut the the biggest mats out, then bathe the dog. After drying she will usually cut it short and brush to finish.

September 27, 20081 found this helpful

Adding some omega three to there diet will put some well needed oil in there fur. My daughters vet recommended the same omega three capsules that people take. It was recommended for her pet's hair loss. Possibly the oil will act some what as a conditioner and help with the grooming process.


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September 29, 20081 found this helpful

You can't get the mats out in a bath. Getting them wet will only make them tighter. You'll need to cut them out and then keep the dog brushed.

By Karen Lawson (Guest Post)
September 29, 20081 found this helpful

I have a cockerpoo and from the picture it appears that their hair is similar. I use dog shampoo and conditioner that I use on my hair, which is a moisturizing type. (I use different kinds.) Conditioner for dogs might be better, I haven't used.


The matts will have to be cut out. Preventitive is the key there. I do have her groomed about 2 or 3 times a year now but I cut her hair myself when I couldn't afford it. But it is a big job and worth it to me to pay someone else to do it!

By Pat (Guest Post)
October 1, 20082 found this helpful

I have a Bichon and have him groomed quarterly, using pet products for home grooming. This little dog is the most expressive and loving dog I have ever had. I love all my dogs but this one (given to me because his former owner no longer wanted him) is a little sweetie.

January 29, 20170 found this helpful

I have a cockapoo. Because of me having surgery I haven't been able to take her to the groomers. (can't drive for 3 months) I have been brushing her but she still has some tangles because her fur is getting long. I use dog shampoo and conditioner, I bought them at the pet store. It didn't cost very much. My dog has had some tangles and I tried the detangler from the pet store but I don't find it works very good. So what I did I put some of her conditioner into a spray bottle and sprayed her with that. I works great!!! My dog looks like a polar bear right now because her hair is so long and fine. I hope this helps you.

November 17, 20170 found this helpful

If you have a puppy with fleas you should only use blue Dawn and a flea comb to get rid of the fleas and only if they have fleas instead of using a flea shampoo, it is unsafe. Most flea treatments are unsafe for puppies, even some of those expensive spot treatments and collars too. If you treat them once with the spot treatment and it doesn't work you cannot use anything with flea medication for 30 days on any age dog. So, using the Dawn is the only safe thing and it basically kills the fleas to make it easy to remove them with the comb. I spoke to 5 vets about this because this happened to my puppy and they all said to:

Step 1
Bath puppy using Dawn.

Step 2
Vacuum the house.

Step 3
Wash pet bedding frequently. This will help until you can safely use a flea treatment. You don't bath your puppy everyday with Dawn, as it can dry the skin.

Step 4
In between baths, mix Dawn with warm water in a bowl. Dip the flea comb into the soapy water and comb the dog rinsing the comb and removing the fleas by drowning them in the soapy water. I did this in my tub so if any fleas jumped out they couldn't get out and re-infest our house. If they do jump off and are alive, I just drown them in the soapy water.

May 4, 20180 found this helpful

What is the detailer called that you purchase at feed store or walmart

May 5, 20180 found this helpful

I'd NEVER take my dog to your Mom for grooming.

August 10, 20181 found this helpful

How could you say Dawn is horrible, Dawn is used to get oil off animals from oil spills? Dawn saves lives and is not horrible!!!

January 16, 20190 found this helpful

I work at vet clinic and we use dawn on animal but only on puppies and kittens normally to help with fleas it suffocates the fleas and normally puppies and kittens are too young for any medications but fleas can cause a small animal to become anemic


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February 6, 20190 found this helpful

Dawn dish detergent is often used to kill fleas on dogs. If I find my dogs picked up fleas I use pert Plus shampoo, also kills fleas, but much gentler on dogs.

November 10, 20210 found this helpful

Dawn is commonly used on animals that have fallen victim to oil spills. They use it on seagulls and they use it on seals. Its not as crazy of an idea as say sprinkling food on babies to prevent diaper rash or the same food between your toes to keep your shoes and socks dry as moisture in a warm and dark setting without ventilation are never a good thing. I actually use corn starch in the same way as a baby to keep myself fresh and dry.

February 26, 20230 found this helpful

I have personally used Mane & Tail Shampoo for equines. Its the strongest stuff Ive found and for me, it gets the job done. Im sure itll depend on the type of mats you got . Hope this helps!!!

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2 More Questions

Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

June 10, 2012

Xena at play.What is the best way to keep my dog Xena's (Shih tzu/Bichon) hair from knotting? I brush her, but she still gets knots which I'm sure are not comfortable for her. There has to be an easier way than constantly brushing. Any suggestions appreciated. Thanks.

By Nancy H


June 10, 20120 found this helpful
Best Answer

There really isn't much else you can do besides getting it professionally groomed. Usually with longer haired dogs you have to.

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November 12, 2014

I have a Sable Collie and she has very soft hair. The problem I have is that her hair is matted up. The reason is that I didn't get her brushed out last fall. I was ill and just couldn't do it. Now I have tried this whole year to get it under control, but it's gotten ahead of me. Should I cut all of her hair off and let it grown back? Winter is setting in and I'm not sure cutting it all off would be safe to do; she's in a kennel.

By Ginny


November 21, 20140 found this helpful

You may have to take her to a professional groomer. Tell them she's being kenneled and you can't shave her down. Make sure the groomer feels confident they can solve the problem.
Good luck.

June 14, 20170 found this helpful

I have a sheltie and I give her Sardine Oil daily in her food. NOT Salmon Oil! They are not the same. I usually brush her out thoroughly 3 or 4 times a year, and gentle brushing in between. It is available on line or in specialty pet shops. The hair left on furniture etc is significantly less than when I haven't used the oil. Good shampoo/conditioner also a must. My Shih-Tzu Maltese does not shed, but does need regular brushing. A good detangler is CHI for dogs. Smells great too!

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