Hair tangling elves

I am pretty sure you have the "What the heck are hair tangling elves?" face reading this. LOL

It's for a good reason. Most of the people are not talking about these little elves, because the don't know they exist! It does worth it though to talk about them, cause they have a big impact on your dog's wellness, comfort and last but not least on your bank account.

Hair tangling elves cause tremendous amount of discomfort for the doodles and a lot of sweating for owners and groomers alike.

So what are they??!!??

First the name. :) I gave this funny name to them so it'll be easy for you to remember them. Second, they describe a group of accessories, happenings, circumstances in your and your doodle's life, to help you put them "in the spot light".

These little elves thrive in the dark you know. They enjoy that you don't know about them so they can do their business. But once you know them and you start noticing them, they won't be able to unnoticeably make a huge mess and crazy tangles, deep mats out of your gorgeous doodle's mesmerizing coat. Which often results in a partial or full military shave or the feared "rat cut".

So the elf family is pretty big, now is the time to grab a cup of tea, snuggle in with your pooch and read on... :) Here they are! 

Bows - rubber bands

I highly not recommend bows or rubber bands at all. They are pulling the hair, causing constant discomfort on the dog's skin and make a huge tangle and mat in the area. Doggies tend to try scratching, rubbing them off on the ground making the tangles into big mats in no time.


I suggest to avoid them especially for very high energy level dogs. In case you can't imagine your doodle without one, you can meet me half way by paying very close attention to the hair around the neck area, where the bandana is rubbing against the hair and skin. Daily brushing is highly recommended and if you want to avoid that, a shorter trim, like 1/2 in or 3/4 in is desired to keep the elves away for about 6-8 weeks.


Collars are a great way to have an ID on your dog. Most pups nowadays are microchipped. Both methods are a huge help to find the owners fast in case the pups wonders away. Since you'll need to take the dog to a vet to check for a microchip, I assume having a collar with your info on it will make it easier and faster in an emergency to locate you and get your pup back. The down side of the collars are most pet owners keep them on constantly, even for night time. The wider the collar, the bigger surface it rubs against so the bigger chance there is for mats and tangles developing. (And the most pressure is on the dog.)

A few things I found helpful for finding a collar which will less likely to cause tangles and discomfort.

  • thin and soft fabric
  • custom length, not too loose, not too tight
  • least buckles or snaps available
  • least amount of D rings available
  • no spikes
  • no stones
  • no pinch / prong, collars at all

Collar tags

Collar tags are the actual stuff we keep the dog's info on, like phone #s, address, home again tags, rabies tag, a cute custom tag we've got from grandma or surprised ourselves with or God forbid a bell. Sometimes, however all of those tags, especially if we keep a bunch of aluminum (stains the hair to gray), stainless steel tags around there, they'll become a bell as is. All of that jiggling and wiggling around will cause a super cute bunch of hair tangling elf pack, right on your dog's neck. Let alone it'll drive your dog (groomer, baby, husband) nuts.

Realizing the impact it has on the dog's hair and the pack members nerve endings, I collected a bunch of details on how are going to be able to find the best solution to keep your dog's info in him and to have a badass recall even when your dog will be over 10 years old, keeping his hearing intact.

  • embroidered collar "tags"
  • printed collar "tags"
  • Small/medium collar tags attached with rivets
  • collar tag silencer

Gentle leader

Also called as walking harness, head halter, halti. They rub against the nose and chin, and buckle up behind the ears. They are usually pretty tight, to make sure they won't fall off. Personally, I'd get a trainer to build a deeper connection with my doggy and understand my dog's triggers and the environment better so I would be able to control him with my voice only, so he would be able to get a harness and a regular leash.

Some occasions do arise, like back problems for the owner so they won't be able to physically handle big pulls on their body. For those cases, frequent brushing in the affected area is key to keep the tangled and elves away.


Let it be a car harness, sport or service / companion / working dog harness, all of them cover up a pretty large surface on the doggy when used. They are super for keeping the dog's neck and spine safe, especially for those pups who have been yet to be taught to joy of the loose leash walks. They are also useful to share info about the dog's profession or it can be life saving bullet proof piece for police dogs.

Whatever it is, the surfaces it is rubbing agains gets matted in a split second, so my recommendation is to get your pupper brushed out in those areas after every walk to make sure no tangles will be left in there and they won't develop into mats. 

Dog Clothes

Doggy clothes can be super helpful for doggies who have not been blessed with Mother Nature's comforting coats for winter time. Some dogs get pretty shivery even with thicker coat, due to they sleep indoors in a heated environment. Since they cover huge surfaces on the dog, it is incredibly important to get the doggy brushed after each use (daily) so their coat won't be all matted up.

Personally, I am finding dogs super gorgeous in their own, natural "fur clothes" and I am pretty sad when I seeing doggy faces when they are dressed up around Halloween or other holidays.

Given that I am also a dog trainer, their faces tell me more than it does to someone without this knowledge and I would like to bring more awareness to the dog's feelings and needs about it.

Doggy boots

They are incredibly useful for keeping doggy paws from burning summer time on the concrete, keeping sticker burrs off of the feet. Winter time it is our best ally to keep salt off of the paws and to keep the paws from freezing if you live in a place like Canada.

From grooming perspective, they need to be tightly fit on the leg so they will stay in place. The down side of that is that -yes, you guessed it- it tangles up the hair big time, resulting in deep mats right where the boots meet the leg and feet.

Frequent brushing and / or short hair is recommended in case you are using doggy boots on your doodles.

Ear infection

Ear infections cause a very uncomfortable sensation for the doggy. Itching, burning is very common, so the doggy is constantly trying to resolve it by scratching by the ears and the cheeks. BIG, deep mats develop in no time around there and they are most often impossible to open up, so a short shave is the only way to keep the pup comfortable and to keep our friendship.

Extensive amount of ear hair

Super similar situation occurs when the doodle has the same mesmerizing amount of hair in the ear canal as he has outside on his body. Most often constant scratching by the ears and cheeks are the symptoms for that, too.

For those pups, who are in this category, I recommend ear hair removal to stop the itching and scratching. (See my other article about ear hair removal guidelines and details.)

Extensive amount of Ear hair removal

When a doggy has a decent size ear hair forest in his ears, the ear hair removal itself can cause some temporary itching, scratching, shaking the head (few hours most) right after ear hair removal. It occurs very rarely in case the dog has ginormous amount of ear hair in there.

Much more frequently occurs when the ear hair removal is done with hemostats, rather than fingers with exam gloves on. With the gentle finger+gloves method, it's very rare that a dog will show this kind of sensitivity. With the hemostat method, since the care provider is pulling much bigger bunches out of the ear canal at the same time, often times the skin gets injured and it is painful for the dog.

When we are using our fingers with the "tiny at a time" technique, the dogs will cooperate willingly, won't show late discomfort signs and will stay still.

(See my ear hair removal article for more info and videos for you to see how does it look like to remove ear hair from a puppy the gentle way.)

Tightly matted hair

It is a vicious cycle. Matted hair will pull on the dog's skin, forcing the dog to solve it or at least do something about it. So they'll scratch more. The tighter matted the hair is, the more irritation the skin is exposed to and the more scratching the dog will do.

Tangled tightly matted on a bigger surface (whole body) causes itching on the skin due to lack of oxygen, making the doggy to scratch even more.


Puppy playmate, play dates, daycare friend, new playful dog pack member in the family is a big risk of hair tangling elves around. Chewing on ears, tail, legs & feet meanwhile playing is a natural way doggies hang out and get rid of of some pent up energy while socializing, so be prepared with the brush to remove them before they'd spread like wildfire.


Surgeries often follow the use of cone and lots of rest, tiredness and laying on the sides. Spaying, neutering or other surgeries and the cone afterwards made it to this list, too.
Our pup feels overwhelmed, tired, often times are in pain, so we naturally skip brushing. Often times by the time we get back on track after recovery, it's already too late.

If you can, plan ahead and get your pupper groomed before the surgery. Ask for a shorter trim so it will do fine even without brushing so you don't have to worry about mats afterwards.

Sweet Spots

Those cute doodle faces are hard to resist! We all know where our pups' sweet spots are and we are not afraid to rub them! The most often these sweet spots are:

  • head
  • behind the ears
  • belly rubs
  • butt rubs
  • chest rubs

Greeting or petting your dog in specific locations (ears, chest, cheeks, top of head, butt, etc.) makes it much of a fun for all, because that "rub me more" face is priceless.

However it is good to keep in mind that those spots needs some more attention with the brush as well.

See my other article about brushing.)


Rainy/humid, especially snowy weather makes a huge mess and suuper deep mats in suuper short period of time. With a longer trim, dedicate enough time to keep up with the fun runs in the snow and rain and puddles to avoid the short trim.

Skin irritations

Allergies, yeast infections, insect bites, external parasites cause a lot of itching, scratching, chewing on the pups. Doggy saliva makes it very hard to brush those areas when we skipped a day or two with brushing.


Removing tangles and mats before swim time/bath time and brushing and after that will help you tremendous keeping your pup tangle and mat free and your money in your bank account.

Leftover Shampoo, conditioner in the coat

Improper rinsing after bath: Shampoo/Conditioner left in can cause a lot of very intense itching, chewing, scratching.
Reaction to shampoo, deodorizing spritz, dry shampoo, etc. (itching, scratching, rubbing, rolling,) is the same scenario.

Instant, deep rinse is needed and a detailed tangle and mat removal right after to let the skin get some air to dry and heal.


I had a client from India and I found a string on her dog's leg. As I brought it to her attention, she explained the Indian tradition for friendship. For the ceremony, her daughter put a string on the dog’s leg and on her leg and kept it there for a few days.

I am touched about the meaning of this tradition at the same time also terrified. Those kind of strings anywhere on the dog is a very dangerous way of showing the connection between daughter and dog. I wish they were able to find other ways of expressing their bond keeping in mind the dog's safety, too.


Frequent butt wash is another way of inviting the hair tangling elves over. Short hair in the area is your best bet to keep the skin safe since pups with diarrhea often times do not tolerate much of disturbance back there.


Doggy diapers are another type of doggy "accessories" which are very tight and cause a lot of mats by the hips and butt regions. Frequent brushing or shorter hair are your best bets to avoid discomfort and the super short shave.

Frequent "pee" washes (especially without sanitary trim for long haired dogs) cause tiny matted hair tornadoes on the privates and cause huge amount of discomfort for the doggies.

Sticker Burrs

Sticker burrs and other plant parts get stuck in the hair, causing pulling, chewing, itching and more chewing. I think by now you know the cycle. Brush, brush, brush. And some more brushing.

Miscellaneous stuff

If you asked what are the weirdest things I found stuck in dog hair, well, I have list for you. :D Medication (Advil), Supplements (soft gel), fruit loops, puffed rice, corn, whole acorn, mud, chewing gum, leaves, dead cockroach body parts, twigs, just to mention a few. Brushing is a neat way to find those and remove them on time.

Vacations, Holidays

When we're on a vacation, often times the least task which comes to mind is brushing the dog. Often times our pups are not even with us. Getting your doggies groomed before we leave for a vacation is very useful keeping the tangles away.


Boarding facilities are a great way to get wiled without worrying about burning paw pads on the beach or doggy fights at the table when we visit family. Most of the boarding facilities / people offer a wide variety of activities, most often involving water, splashes and swimming.

Most may offer a doggy bath after the boarding, however doodle owners be very careful! Ask around whether they have a professional groomer on board for performing the bath, because it is super important to remove any tangles before the bath. In case they do not have that, I'd get my pup groomed short enough before the boarding or find a place which offers this brush and bath bundle by a pro groomer.