A matted dog is an unhealthy dog. Mats result in bacteria and debris being trapped against the skin, where they can cause infections and sores, or even burns, from the friction of mats rubbing and moisture and debris being trapped in sensitive areas. A matted dog may be in a significant amount of discomfort, and removing the mats is going to cause even more discomfort if not done carefully and correctly. A dog with mats may lick at and chew the mats in an effort to relieve discomfort and skin irritation under and around the mat, which can further contribute to skin disorders. Long-haired dogs are more prone to matting, as are dogs that spend a great deal of time outside where burrs, debris from underbrush, and exposure to water can quickly create tangles that become mats if not addressed quickly enough. A dog with parasites such as fleas will also chew at and interfere with his coat, which can cause mats to form.
To address mats you will either need to untangle the mat if possible or, in some cases, remove the matted hair with scissors or clippers.
Getting a matted dog that is probably already uncomfortable, and may be experiencing pain in the area of the mat, to sit still while you untangle or remove the mat can be challenging. From your dog's perspective, it hurts having his coat pulled by brushes and combs or the mat pulled back from skin to make room for scissors. Clippers can be used, but a dog that is not used to being clipped can be frightened of the clippers, and sensitive skin can still be hurt even with clippers. You will need to work slowly and carefully to avoid causing your dog discomfort and pulling the hair and mat unnecessarily. Giving your dog high-value treats or a chew toy to distract him during the process may make the whole experience a little more pleasant.
Try to prevent mats from occurring in the first place by regularly brushing your dog.
Invest in the correct tools, if you have a longhaired dog, to ensure you can address tangles and mats as soon as they occur.
Regularly remove burrs and debris in the coat that can form mats.
Regularly check and treat your dog for parasites to prevent mats.
Ensure that skin sores that occur under mats are medically treated if necessary with appropriate antifungal or antibiotic medications.
Be careful when working with clippers, that they do not overheat.
Use caution cutting mats out with de-matting tools or scissors; do not point scissor tips at the dog, keep tools parallel to the skin.
A matted dog is not just unsightly, he is uncomfortable and his health could be at risk from skin infections. However, your dog is not going to be super happy about the mat removal process. Use the best tools available and work slowly and carefully to remove mats. Better yet, prevent mats from occurring in the first place with regular grooming and removal of tangles, or shave your long haired beauty down before mats form. Clipping your dog may be advisable, depending on the situation. For example, a long-haired farm dog in the summer may spend a lot of time running through ponds, swamps, and fields, and may be more comfortable clipped all over to prevent mats from forming.