OK, so this is something I would NEVER have tried a few years ago. I would have just gone for the #10 and zipped the thing off of the poor baby. However, today I was inspired by another groomer blog I read (you can check out Ms. BB's post here) about mat removal. So here's my experience today with the dreaded deed!
First, of course, I needed a very patient subject with a high pain tolerance and a mat :) Miss Betsie was a perfect candidate. Second, I needed enough grooming experience (years) to know what amount of pressure a Maltese ear can take before ripping open. I've never done it, but I know it is very possible. Maltese skin is thin and sensitive, especially on the ears! Next, I needed the right tools. Finally, I needed about 15 minutes without interruptions ("Leave a message!").
You can see Betsie's left ear has a huge mat blob. There was a little free hair to the left, but hopefully you can see how huge and "involved" this mat is. First, I saturated the mat with Bark2Basics D-Mat Conditioner. I really rubbed the stuff into that mat. Might I say that the Cucumber Melon scent is very soothing at a time like this!
Next, I really worked through the thing with my greyhound comb. I dug in behind the mat and pulled toward myself in quick and tiny motions. My main goals here were to work the D-mat in even further and to get enough space between the ear and the mat to use my next tool:
The mat breaker. Be very careful with these things! The ends are blunt, but the side facing toward you should be the one with the razor sharp blades made for actually cutting through the mat. You slide it behind the mat very carefully, then make a couple of very small saw-like motions with the tool in an "up and away" direction from the skin. You'll see faster progress with this tool than you saw with the comb.
Finally, once you have the mat loose enough that you only have a few "remains," you can pull the rest off with your fingers, the comb, and a slicker brush. Tada! You now have an ear that will probably look thin and "holey," but not bald!
Below is the sweet Miss Betsie. Everyone say, "Awwwww!"
Edit: I have been asked, "What exactly is a greyhound comb?" Well, it's just another word for "finishing comb," a long comb with no handle consisting of two different sizes of teeth divided half and half. I guess it's like calling a tissue a "kleenex" :) If you want to see a brand-name greyhound, click here.