Will PetSmart Groom a Dog With Severe Matting? The Truth Revealed

Overview of PetSmart’s Grooming Services

PetSmart offers professional dog grooming services at over 1,650 locations across North America (https://services.petsmart.com/grooming). Their groomers provide a wide range of services to keep dogs clean, healthy and looking their best. This includes bathing, haircuts, nail trimming, ear cleaning, teeth brushing, deshedding treatments, flea treatments, and more.

According to their website, PetSmart groomers are trained through their PetSmart Grooming Academy which provides over 800 hours of hands-on experience before groomers are able to work on pets without supervision. They are also safety certified in dog and cat first aid and CPR. This ensures customers that their pets are in good hands with knowledgeable groomers.

In addition to their standard grooming services, PetSmart offers premium spa packages like the Shed-Less Treatment and Lavish Luxury Bath to pamper pets. Customers can book grooming appointments online, over the phone, or by walking into a store.

Risks of Matted Dog Fur

matted fur on dog

Matted dog fur can pose serious health risks and discomfort for dogs. As fur becomes tangled and matted, it essentially forms clumps that trap moisture against the dog’s skin 1. This promotes bacterial growth and can lead to painful skin infections, sores, rashes and foul odors 2. The matted clumps also prevent air circulation to the skin, causing the area to overheat. Dogs rely on air circulation to regulate their body temperature. Without proper airflow, they can easily become overheated.

In addition, mats pull and tug at the skin, which is very uncomfortable and painful for dogs. The constant irritation from matted fur can cause dogs to excessively lick, bite and scratch at the affected areas, leading to further injuries. Removing severely matted fur requires shaving the dog down to the skin in many cases. This puts dogs at risk for nicks, cuts or abrasions if warts, moles or skin folds are trapped in the mats 3. Allowing a dog’s coat to become matted is detrimental to their health and quality of life.

PetSmart’s Policy on Grooming Matted Dogs

As one of the largest pet retail chains, PetSmart has developed a comprehensive policy on grooming matted dogs at their salons. According to the PetSmart grooming guidelines, groomers will first assess the severity of matting on a dog to determine if the dog can be safely groomed.

petsmart storefront

For dogs with minimal to moderate matting, PetSmart groomers will use brushing, dematting tools, and clippers to gently work out the mats and restore the dog’s coat. However, for dogs with severe, tight mats close to the skin, the groomers may determine that shaving is the safest and most humane option. Tight mats can trap moisture and urine near the skin, causing irritation, sores, and infections. Shaving prevents the groomer from nicking or cutting the dog’s skin while trying to remove dense clumps of matted fur.

While PetSmart’s goal is to make every dog as comfortable as possible during grooming, the safety and health of each dog is the top priority. Groomers are trained to recognize when matted fur cannot be brushed out safely. In those cases, they will explain to the pet owner why shaving may be necessary before proceeding. With the owner’s consent, shaving the dog may provide immediate relief and allow the fur to grow back healthy.

So in summary, PetSmart does have a policy permitting groomers to demat and groom dogs with matted fur within safe limits. But if the matting is too severe, shaving may be recommended to avoid harming the dog’s skin or causing undue stress.

Techniques Used to Groom Matted Dogs

Professional groomers use a variety of techniques to safely remove mats from a dog’s coat. They often start by gently brushing out the edges of the matted clumps, being careful not to pull on the dog’s skin. Special dematting rakes or tools can help separate and loosen mats without hurting the dog. For extremely dense, stubborn mats, groomers may carefully use thinning shears to cut into the mat and reduce its size. In cases of severe matting across large areas, it is often kindest to shave down the dog’s fur in those spots rather than try to painfully rip out solid mats. However, shaving is always a last resort. The goal is to remove the mats while keeping as much coat length as possible. According to WagWalking, groomers follow this process: “Start at the neck and work toward the back of your dog. Go slow and be gentle, when you encounter a mat work slowly. Loosen mats with combs, scissors, de-matting tools and your fingers, don’t just hack at them” (source).

groomer brushing dog

When PetSmart Won’t Groom a Matted Dog

While PetSmart’s groomers are trained to handle matted coats to some degree, there are cases when they will have to refuse service. This is typically due to safety concerns for both the dog and the groomer.

According to PetSmart’s own grooming guide, they may not be able to groom a severely matted dog if the mats are causing sores or are extremely tight next to the dog’s skin (source). Trying to forcefully demat these areas can cause injury and significant discomfort. Additionally, if the dog shows signs of aggression or extreme stress during the grooming process, the session may be halted (source). This is for the safety of the dog and groomer.

In cases where the matting is too severe for PetSmart groomers to handle, they may recommend the owner have the dog shaved at a veterinarian’s office. Otherwise, they will likely suggest regular deshedding maintenance done at home by the owner to avoid matts developing in the future (source).

Owner Responsibilities Before Grooming

It is the pet owner’s responsibility to regularly brush and comb their dog’s coat to prevent matting. According to an article on The Pinup Groomer, “It is the responsibility of the groomer to provide options to help pet owners mitigate matting issues. When it comes to nail maintenance and coat upkeep, it is the owner’s responsibility to maintain their pets on a regular basis in between grooming appointments” (Source).

Owners should aim to brush their dog’s coat thoroughly at least once a week. For long-haired dogs or dogs prone to matting, daily brushing is ideal. Using a slicker brush and comb will help detangle the undercoat and prevent tight mats from forming close to the skin. It’s also important for owners to inform the groomer beforehand about any sensitive areas on the dog’s body or pre-existing skin conditions. This allows the groomer to take extra precautions if mats need to be removed around sensitive regions.

Aftercare Following Matted Dog Grooming

After a matted dog has been groomed, it’s important to provide proper aftercare to allow the skin and coat to heal. When thick mats are removed, the underlying skin can become irritated or develop sores from being pinched and pulled prior to grooming. Owners should closely monitor their dog’s skin over the next few days for any redness, bumps, or open wounds which may arise. Gentle application of a hypoallergenic moisturizer like coconut oil or shea butter can help soothe sensitive skin in freshly shaved areas.

woman applying coconut oil to dog's skin

It’s also crucial to maintain a regular brushing and combing routine of at least once per day after a dog has been shaved or clipped short. This will help prevent mats and tangles from quickly forming again as the fur grows back in. Using a slicker brush all over the body and a steel comb for detangling will help smooth the coat and remove dead hairs before they can become tightly knotted close to the skin once more. Regular brushing is key to preventing painful matting from recurring after a close shave.

Professional vs. DIY Deshedding

When it comes to deshedding a matted dog, professional groomers have the proper tools and training to do it safely and effectively. Grooming shops like PetSmart have high-velocity dryers, detangling sprays, clippers, shedding blades, and combs that make getting through thick mats much easier and reduce the risk of harming the dog’s skin.

DIY dematting can be risky, as pulling and cutting mats without the right technique can damage the skin or cause cuts and irritation. Even with the proper brushes and tools, untrained owners may end up being too aggressive trying to work out severe mats, causing pain and injury. As PetSmart notes, “Removing a heavily matted coat includes risks like nicks, clips and skin irritations”[1]. For severely matted dogs, it’s best to leave dematting to the professionals.

While regular brushing and bathing at home can help prevent mats from forming, once they’ve set in and tightened it takes a delicate touch and grooming expertise to remove them without trauma. Owners should be careful about DIY approaches to dematting and know when it’s time to seek professional help for their dog’s health and comfort.

[1] https://services.petsmart.com/content/why-does-my-dog-need-a-haircut/

Alternatives to Shaving a Matted Dog

While shaving is often the easiest and quickest solution for removing mats, there are some alternatives pet owners can consider before resorting to shaving off their dog’s coat:

Finding a professional groomer willing to work out mats gently is one option. Although labor intensive, some groomers will carefully brush out mild to moderate matting if the dog is tolerant and the mats are not dense or close to the skin. This takes patience, but can preserve coat length. According to this article, dematting is a delicate process requiring expertise to avoid irritating the dog’s skin.

Regular brushing and deshedding at home is key to preventing mats in the first place. Pet owners should commit to a routine schedule of brushing, ideally daily during shedding seasons. Rubber grooming brushes and deshedding tools can help remove loose hair and prevent tangles from forming into mats. Catching mats early makes them easier to gently brush out.

In many cases, keeping up with frequent brushing and professional grooming appointments is the best way to avoid matted fur altogether. However, if matting still occurs, working patiently to brush out mats or trimming the coat shorter are preferable alternatives to shaving, when possible.


PetSmart’s groomers are trained to safely and humanely work with matted dogs. They use techniques like dematting combs and loosening mats with their hands to gently remove mats without shaving when possible. However, severely matted dogs often do require shaving for humane reasons. The best way to prevent mats is by regularly brushing and combing your dog’s coat at home. With proper prevention and care between professional grooming appointments, PetSmart can maintain your dog’s coat length without needing to shave down to the skin.

PetSmart provides professional grooming that follows industry standards for handling matted coats. Their focus is doing what’s best for the health and comfort of each pet. By bringing your dog for appointments before severe matting occurs, their groomers can humanely remove minor tangles without shaving the coat. With some preparation and diligence from owners between visits, PetSmart can keep your dog looking his best.

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