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For mats, somebody recommended "Cowboy Magic" (cowboymagic.com) to me years ago, a detangler for people and horses (of all things). It looks like clear silicone. I work a blob of it into the mat, then hang on to the skin side of the mat very tightly so as to cause my dog as little hair-pulling as possible, and pick and tease out the mat with a steel comb. Work slowly, taking a tiny tuft of hair on the outer edge of the mat, and gradually work your way in. The dog HATES it. But the other option is cutting it out--and that can look hideous for years.
Don't try to tease out mats behind the ears. The hair is very thick behind the ears--many hairs per follicle, like Chinchilla, and very fine, and it will rip out by the roots and bleed. If it's matted, get it shaved down to the skin as with a proper Irish Setter cut. I find it hard to believe that ANY amount of grooming will keep that area mat free. You can see in the picture how the backs of Dwyn's ears are shaved. We do that once a year, in the Spring when the weather's starting to warm up.
To avoid mats, first brush their DRY hair thoroughly with a fine steel brush - the kind that looks like a carder for wool. Then use a steel comb to comb through the flags right down to the skin - this will reveal any mats. Then take your detangler and pick out the mats. I think the whole secret is to use that steel comb to find the mats hidden in the flags when they're just beginning to form.
I find you don't actually have to comb them all that often to keep up with the mats. I don't even comb him once a week, although I'd do it right away if we've been around burrs. And I'm ALWAYS petting him so twigs don't get a chance to take up residence in his coat. I find that little twigs caught in the flags turn very quickly into giant matts. Also I don't bathe my dog unless he reeks. I don't think their skin takes kindly to it. Mind you, he has a blindly shiny coat that he can get all muddy and then it goes back to being shiny as soon as it dries. A Scotchguard Irish Setter, if you will.
We put these Cosipet trouser suits on our setters when they're off for muddy walks. They peel off at the end of the walk just leaving head and paws to clean. They're great when the cleever balls and burrs are around
Plush Puppy OMG grooming spray is the best disentangler i know....it definately works!
I walk mine in the woods every day and they get tangled up with the ''needle holder'' from the pine trees....when I remember I use Avon Skin So Soft on the coat before I go out and these horrid things just slide out...and it tends to keep their coat free from tangles too.
But there is no better thing than regular grooming...especially under the arms and between the back legs...and behind the ears...they are the worst places for tangles..
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