Gentle grooming - brushing scared dogs

What kind of dog and what kind of coat? If she's really matted, I'd recommend going to a groomer for a shave down first. But this also depends on what kind of coat we are talking about. Some double coats should not be shaved.If shaving is an option, as the hair grows back in, you can slowly ease Bridget into a brushing routine. By the time mats might occur again, she will be comfortable with it all.
Here's what to do: Have short (five minutes, ten max) play sessions daily, with yummy treats and toys, lots of praise, and just let the brush 'hang out' with you, in your lap or whatever she will allow. Don't touch her with it for a few days. Just let it be there. In fact, let it lie around on the floor all day for awhile, like furniture, so she can see it is not a threat.
Let the play sessions end on a happy note, each time. You are training for positive responses to the sight of the brush.
If she can tolerate the sight of the brush, try turning it over (smooth side) and letting it go over her skin without bristles. Praise her for accepting it with treats and lovins. Eventually she will let you gently brush her, and she should still be mat-free from being shaved. If there are mats, leave them alone until she accepts brushing.
What kind of brush are you using? A "slicker" type is better than a pin brush or human one.
Other options include soft rubber brushes that feel like a doggie massage, and the "zoom groom" (look it up online), that dogs don't mind on their bodies because it feels nice to them. The zoom groom won't take out mats but it's non-threatening, and really great for getting off dead hairs, which means no more shedding if you use it every day.
Now, for de-matting, you can certainly ask a groomer for advice on tools and techniques. Brushes can prevent future mats but should never be used to get out an existing mat. Get a specialized tool for that and ask a groomer to show you how to use it. She won't charge for this but you should give her a tip of 3 or 5 bucks for her time. There are easy ways to take out bad mats without hurting the dog, but using a plain brush would just be painful for Bridget. And for you!
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