And the Answer Is….. Maybe !
The sun is shining, the humidity is building, the kids are out of school swimming in the pool, and the family dog is at the groomer being shaved. Sounds like a typical summer doesn’t it? But one of the above scenarios might not be the best way to deal with the heat after all.
Breeds such as Poodles, Shih Tzus and Yorkshire Terriers have coats that grow on a continuing basis, and need grooming year round. For these breeds, the owner and groomer may choose a shorter trim for the summer to keep the dog neater and easier to maintain.
So while Sassy the Shih Tzu is primped and ready for annual family picnic, what about Gus the Golden Retriever or Chief the Chow Chow ? They’re leaving chunks of hair everywhere they go! Why can’t we just have them shaved and enjoy a summer without dog hair all over?
Let me try to explain.
Gus and Chief’s double coat actually has a purpose, besides keeping the vacuum cleaner companies in business!
Double-coated breeds have two layers . The outer layer consists of long guard hairs, which in winter protect against snow or ice and even shed rain. The softer undercoat lies close to the skin and keeps your dog warm and dry.
In summer, dogs shed most of their soft undercoat, leaving the guard hairs which will protect him from sunburn and insulate him against the heat. Without the undercoat, air can now circulate through the guard hairs, cooling the skin.
In any weather, the key to your dog’s coat being able to fulfill it’s primary function relies on regular grooming by you and your dog’s groomer. When Gus and Chief aren’t thoroughly brushed several times a week, their coat may become thick and matted. Now when Gus dives in the pool and Chief strolls through a summer shower, the moisture can become trapped next to their skin with results ranging from a smelly dog, to various skin conditions including “hot spots”, yeast , fungal or bacterial infections, all of which will require a visit to your veterinarian.
Which again makes us wonder if having Gus and Chief shaved for the summer isn’t a great idea.
The person to best answer that question is You, the dog’s owner.
If you have the time and resources to keep Gus and Chief thoroughly brushed out and in pristine condition, there is no compelling reason to have them shaved. Air conditioning, fans, cooling mats, pools, plenty of shade and water when the dog accompanies you in the yard, walks and playtime in the early morning or late evening will help keep any dog more comfortable through the summer months.
If your lifestyle is busier, and you admit that despite your best intentions, Gus and Chief might not get brushed by you until September, it’s time to have a honest chat with a professional groomer.
Before consenting to a full shave, first consider having your double coated dog bathed, fully de-shedded and lightly trimmed. This could include shortening up the chest, stomach, rear feathers and groin areas.
A doggie spa visit every 4 to 8 weeks for these services may be all that’s needed to get through the summer heat.
If you choose a complete ‘shave down’ ask your groomer to leave at least an inch of coat to help prevent damage to the hair follicles and skin and avoid sunburn.
Keep in mind that the guard hairs and undercoat grow at different rates and there is the possibility that it may take months or years for your dog’s coat to return to it’s normal appearance.
Shaving short coated breeds such as Labrador Retrievers , Beagles or Basset Hounds will not lessen their shedding. These breeds have short straight hairs that shed on a continual basis, and more so during moulting. Shaving breeds such as this will only result in shorter hairs that are more likely to stick to your carpet, clothes and furniture. These types of breeds need frequent brushing , bathing and de-shedding treatments to manage their shedding. Teaching these dogs to accept vacuuming may also be beneficial.
If you are considering shaving your dog just to help keep it cooler, remember that dogs don’t sweat through their skin. Dogs dissipate excess heat by panting, and also have a few sweat glands in their footpads.
The only right answer to “ To Shave , or Not to Shave” is the answer that works for you and your dogs. A shaved dog is better off than a matted dog with fleas, ticks and hot spots.
If you have questions regarding any aspect of your dog’s care, talk with your breeder, your groomer and your veterinarian, we are all here to help!
Now….. Everybody in the Pool !!
Contributed by Lorrie L Leickel-Koch