Well, it depends on a number of things. Firstly, you and / or your groomer need to assess the tolerance your dog has for brushing. If your pet likes being brushed, she may tolerate the de-matting process, or she may not. If she does not like being brushed, de-matting will probably not be the best solution for her. Many dogs fall between these two extremes, and you just need to try to find out.
Secondly, the extent of the matting needs some consideration. There are two things you need to look at...
1) how much of your dogs body has matted fur on it? and
2) how close (and tight) are the mats to your dogs skin? A skilled groomer can run her hands over your dogs coat, and very quickly determine these things by feel alone, because her hands are accustomed to what a coat should feel like. You can do this too, with the help of a metal toothed comb (plastic teeth bend too easily), and perhaps your favourite pair of reading glasses. First, know where to look. Areas of friction will start to mat first, so where her ears rub against her head, armpits, where she chews her feet, and under her collar or harness. Part the hair, and you should see healthy skin, and smooth hair shafts growing from it. If you can't see skin, and the hair is bunched up, it's a mat. You should be able to take a fine toothed comb (wide teeth for Poodles and other breeds with very tight curls), and completely comb through the hair, root to tip, over your dogs entire body. When your comb gets stuck, you found a mat!
Now, de-matting can be done a number of ways, with various tools. If there are just a few small mats on your dog, this usually is not a problem, with the exception of a very few dogs who have especially sensitive skin. A caring, patient, and skilled groomer can remove these gently, without causing pain or stress to your loved one. (Please note, this procedure takes time, skill, and above all, patience. If your groomer isn't applying any extra charges, you may want to ask yourself why.) Another option is to spot shave these mats. Once again, a skilled groomer may be able to hide these shaved areas with the surrounding fur.
If the mats cover large areas of your dog, or even her whole body, simply having them can be quite uncomfortable for your pet. But not just that. Mats pose a health risk for a number of reasons. If your dog has acquired any sort of skin irritation, either due to an allergic reaction, an injury, or something sharp caught in her fur like a twig or thorn, you won't know about it in order to help her, because you can’t see it. The irritated skin can't heal well because air can't circulate properly, and it can't be kept clean. Additionally, if your dog loves to swim, or she has frequent baths, the coat takes much longer to dry, especially against the skin, which can cause further problems. This moist environment encourages bacteria, fungus, and yeast growth, as well as exacerbating any irritation which may already be there. One of the most unpleasant consequences of a matted coat, is that it is a perfect environment for fleas to congregate and multiply, and nobody wants to invite fleas to the party. In summary, these effects can be quite taxing to your dogs immune system, compromising her health, and making her susceptible to other health issues. Regularly grooming your dog is a very important part of keeping her healthy.
So, should you, or shouldn't you, shave your dog?
Well, often, the best choice is the lesser of two evils. Generally speaking, shaving mats is more humane than brushing, especially for large matted areas. If you do choose to have your pets mats brushed out, ask your groomer if it's okay if you watch. If you're not welcomed to do so, you may want to reconsider either your choice of haircut, or your choice of groomer. If you opt for shaving the coat off, you'll want to put a cozy sweater or coat on your pet before venturing outside. Fortunately, these are widely available, with increasing selections of locally made, eco-friendly fabrics. So, don’t feel sorry she has a very short haircut; be happy she will be far more comfortable, and one step closer to optimum health.
The newest member of your family has four legs and fur, and is just about the cutest little bundle of joy you ever did see. And now, along with the pleasure of enjoying your new puppy, you've also taken on the responsibility of keeping him healthy by feeding him whole foods, exercising with him, and keeping him well groomed.
When it comes to grooming, most dogs have coats which wouldn't normally be found in nature, and it's simply not possible for them to groom themselves. That's where you come in, and you have a couple of choices. You can take your puppy to a professional groomer, or, with a little bit of know-how, you can groom him yourself at home.
Whichever choice you make, it's best to take him to a professional groomer for his first few dates with the bathtub and clippers, while he is young and curious. This serves a couple of purposes. Most importantly, it exposes your dog to grooming in a studio environment while he is at the learning stage in his life, and therefore most accepting of new things; this is the time when his mother would be teaching him about the world and it's many wonders. Later, when his mother would naturally wean him, he'll begin questioning new things, and be wary as a means of survival. At this point, introducing new experiences becomes considerably more challenging.
So even if your puppy doesn’t need a bath or haircut just yet, it’s the experience which is most important! Even if you plan to do your own grooming, there will probably come a time when you require the services of a grooming studio; you may move to a smaller home, you may leave him with someone who isn't able to groom him, it may become difficult for you as your dog ages, or you simply might decide you don't want to do it anymore. The point is, you never know what the future holds.
Visiting a professional groomer also gives you the opportunity to learn which brushes and tools are best suited to your dogs coat type, and just as importantly, the correct way to use them to achieve the best and safest results. She may also be able to give you some tips and tricks to make grooming at home easy and enjoyable.
So, back to our original question of when should you take your puppy to the groomer for the first time. I usually tell people "a week after you bring him home" as a good rule of thumb. If he's eight weeks old when you bring him home for the first time, give him some time to adjust to his new surroundings, then visit your new groomer when he's nine weeks. Ideally, you would have already chosen and met with her - you'll feel much more at ease leaving him there for the first time, and if you're at ease, he'll be at ease.
Remember, dogs mimic our moods because we are taking the roll of their mother, and that's who they learn behavior from. So take your puppy to the groomer early and often while he is very young. This investment will make for a smooth and stress free lifetime of good grooming and good health.
The overcoat is made up of guard hairs which are thicker, smoother, straighter hairs than the undercoat, which has a downy feel to it. The overcoat is water resistant, protects the skin from sun damage, twigs and thorns, and bugs. It acts as a temperature regulating layer between your dogs body and the (ambient) air, but needs proper air circulation to do so. The undercoat is your dogs insulation. She'll grow more of this in the winter, and shed it when the weather warms.
Different breeds of dogs have varying amounts of undercoat and overcoat, and because we've bred our dogs to have coats that wouldn't be found in nature, many dogs need help with the shedding process through brushing. As summer approaches, many people feel their dog is better off when their coat is shaved off, to help keep them cool. Except that, what happens to your dogs coat is this: as each hair has a predetermined length, and needs the weight of itself to fall out at the right time, cutting the hair makes it not fall out when it's supposed to, which can lead to clogged hair follicles, and skin issues. The proper temperature regulating system of the coat is altered, and it no longer performs it's intended functions; keeping your dog warm in winter, and cool in summer. You may also need to be concerned with sun burn, depending on how short the coat is shaved. As the coat grows back, it comes in with an overabundance of undercoat, and lack of overcoat, with a dull, fuzzy look to it. Additionally, this new coat acts more like a sponge, and less like a raincoat, and due to the softer texture, it becomes more prone to matting, requiring even more maintenance.
On some dogs, generally these are older, or have compromised immune systems - but not always - the coat does not grow back. This may happen in patches, or over the whole body. On most healthy dogs, the coat can be restored, but this may take one to two years of not cutting it, before it looks normal. Most people get caught in a cycle where the coat comes back looking unsightly, and their dog is hot again, so they keep shaving it off. In most cases, the dog is hot because she has an overabundance of undercoat which has not been brushed out.
Regular brushing of a double coated dog is essential to keeping her comfortable and healthy.