Got hair? Got knots!
Although dogs with short hair are not as prone to knots, any dog can get knotted hair. Dogs with curly hair, soft hair, shedding hair, or long hair are especially prone to knots. Dogs have rough hair shafts that can stick to themselves, causing knots where hairs rub together, like under the limbs or where the dog lies down, on the belly, or hips. Dogs that have double coats, that is a thick undercoat with longer overcoat hairs protruding through, are very prone to knots--if not properly groomed down to the skin, the undercoat can easily become tangled and go unnoticed. As hair sheds, dead hair that stays in the coat can cause other hair shafts to wrap around it and become knotted, or burs and other debris from the environment can get tangled in hair and become the basis for a nasty knot.
If you regularly groom your dog you can usually prevent knots from forming or address them before they become difficult to remove. Also, keeping your dog healthy helps their coat stay in good condition and natural oils make knots less likely to form. Eventually, though, just about everyone with a dog is going to have to untangle a knot, like it or not!
Your dog probably enjoys all kinds of activities that are likely to cause knots in his hair: playing outside in underbrush, wading through swamps, and chewing or rubbing an itchy spot. If the knot becomes large, it can form a mat, which can also result in skin conditions. Large knots under the limbs, around the tail and anus, behind ears, and on the neck can become coated with debris, interfere with movement, or just plain get itchy. When knots have to be removed, pulling on hair to remove them can be painful if not done carefully and correctly, which can make your dog avoid grooming. Care to make the process as pain-free as possible is recommended. Maybe a little bribery with some treats is warranted.
Always be careful using sharp implements around dogs so as not to cut or poke your dog. Hold scissors and blades flush against skin, and be careful not to catch skin.
Work slowly and patiently to avoid pulling and pinching your dog and causing stress.
Use of a detangler or cornstarch makes the job easier.
Regular brushing to keep hair coat in good condition will prevent knots from forming in the first place.
Good nutrition makes a coat healthier with natural oils and more resistant to knots.
Bathing regularly to clean your dog's coat and remove dead skin and hair helps prevent knots.
Keep your dog free of parasites to promote good hair health and avoid tangles.
Rather not have knots? Prevention is the best method. Grooming and ensuring your dog is healthy will reduce the incidence of knots. If you catch a knot early enough, it can usually be worked out with grooming tools, products, and a little patience. Particularly nasty knots can be cut out, but be careful not to pinch or cut your dog while doing this, or he will be running away next time he sees you with a pair of scissors!