The Dangers of Shaving Your Double Coated Dog
When it comes to that time of year when the snow melts, the grass grows and the sun shines bright and hot, many of us with dogs begin to prepare for the approaching spring and summer by going to the groomers. We like trim feet and short feathering, remembering the muck, the shedding and the heat. As loving dog owners we look out for our dog's well being, especially in those hot summer months. Our number one worry is "Are they too hot?".
People ask me all the time to shave their dogs because "They get too hot in the summer". It is shocking to hear that so many people shave their double coated dogs, meaning well, but without knowing the consequences, and it is still more shocking to hear that their groomers didn't tell them what they were getting into.
I write this so that you may be prepared and make good educated decisions about your dog.
A double coated dog is a dog that (obviously) has two coats: a soft undercoat, and a guard coat. These are dogs such as Pomeranians, Shelties, Golden Retrievers, American Eskimos, Shepherds, and Huskies. In these dogs, the undercoat grows much faster then the guard coat, and it is this that sheds for the summer and grows thick for the winter. The guard coat is your dogs armer. It protects the skin from sunburn and parasites while insulating against the cold AND the heat.
When a double coated dog is shaved, the guard coat is gone and the under coat is left. Your dog is left with NO protection from the elements. They are defenceless against the suns rays and are exposed to insects and plants that can cause allergies in your dog.
You must remember that dogs do not sweat like humans. Their cooling process is done via panting from the mouth (expelling hot air), sweating at the paws and cooling the blood in their ears. When the dog has been brushed out, it's guard coat will protect the body from the suns UV Rays, as well a trap cool air against the skin. Shaving the dog does not help to keep the dog cool.
There are also many people who like their dogs shaved because they feel it is neater, cleaner and less work. This is NOT the case. If a groomer is to shave a dog properly, they must first brush out 100% of your dogs loose undercoat. This is because the undercoat grows much faster then the guard coat and can burry the guard hairs, preventing them from growing.
Think of it like a garden.
You need to make room in the grass for the flowers to grow otherwise the grass will strangle the flowers and they will not grow. But you also need to maintain the grass or it will continue to over grow and swallow the flowers. So when your shaved dog gets back from the groomers you have to make it a point to regularly brush out 100% of the loose undercoat to encourage the guard coat to grow back healthy. This is a very lengthily process and if it is not carried out the coat will grow back patchy, splotchy, or not at all.
When I groom dogs that have previously been shaved, they take 10X longer to do because their undercoats have taken over. The coat becomes softer and more plush, which sounds nice, but in reality it matts easily, takes HOURS to fully dry and they often have sores hidden under their fur because there is not enough air flow. These dogs are often on a different shedding schedule then the other dogs I do of the same breed, and they often shed small amounts all year round instead of just losing it all bi-annually.
So, to summarize, shaving a double coated dog will not keep it cool in the summer time. Removing the guard coat means exposing the dog to the elements, especially the suns rays, which can cause skin conditions, even cancer. Shaving your dog does not mean it will be less work as you will have to regularly brush out 100% of the loose undercoat to encourage the guard coat to come back. If the guard coat does not come back, your dog will be defenceless against the weather, parasites, allergens, insects, even other animals as your dogs thick coat is a barrier against bites. The over abundance of undercoat will restrict airflow, cause the dog to be hotter and the skin will become a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
Even though shaving is out, there are many affective ways to keep your dog cool in the hotter months.
In addition to the basic advice of always providing fresh water to drink and shady places to lay down, there are also handy products such as cooling beds, handkerchiefs, and vests. A kiddy pool can be purchased for as little as $12. Fill it with water and let your dog take a dip when they want. Brush brush brush! Removing that insulating undercoat will create airflow and allow the guard coat do it's thing! Try making some refreshing frozen treats to help your pup beat the heat. Fill and freeze a Kong and give it as a cooling snack. Remember that sometimes it's nicer to leave your dog at home. If the family is heading out to the Canada Day celebrations and it's likely to be a hot day, there will probably not be much shade and no river or lake for your pup to cool off in, it's best to leave her in the cool of your home.
Obesity is a huge factor to consider.
Understand that an over weight dog is going to be hot, probably even when its not that hot out. They have extra insulation that will make over heating more likely. Exercise these dogs in the cool hours of the day, invest in a cooling bed and/or cooling vest, and always carry extra water for them to drink or be doused with should they need it.
They can be neat and tidy without being shaved.
It's A LOT of hair, it's understandable that people don't want to deal with it, but don't shave it off and create more problems, just get them "trimmed up tight". Different groomers will have different terms for this but basically, its a groom where all the "feathering" or shaggy parts are scissored short. Tummy, tail, chest, and back of the legs all scissored short and neat. Less mess and easier to brush through at home. It's as simple as that!