Should You Shave Your Dog in the Summer?
The Function of the Dog's Double Coat
As the weather warms up, it comes natural for us to want to remove layers of clothing so we can effectively cool off, but should we do the same and think about shaving our dogs as the dog days of summer approach? The correct answer is that we should think it over before grabbing the clippers out of our grooming kit or scheduling an appointment with our favorite groomer. First and foremost, we should seriously give the dog's coat a thought and learn more about how Rover's coat functions and its role.
If you are considering shaving your dog in the summer, most likely your dog belongs to some sort of Nordic breed equipped with a heavy, double coat. Breeds with double coats include German Shepherd Dogs, Great Pyrenees, Golden Retrievers, Australian Shepherds, Siberian Huskies and many more.The double coat of these dogs can be compared to our winter jackets.
About the Undercoat
Most likely, you'll notice how the coats of these dogs have an interior insulating layer made of fleecy, short, wavy hairs. The main function of these hairs, which are found closest to the dog's body, is to prevent loss of body heat. The undercoat hairs are lost in great amounts during shedding season when the dog gets rid of his winter coat in preparation for the warmer spring and summer months. Once the winter coat is shed, it's replaced by a less dense under-coat perfect for the summer.
About the Top Coat
On top of the undercoat, you'll find the outer coat, also known as the top coat. This coat is made of long, stiff and coarse guard hairs meant to protect the dog from the external factors such as rain and dirt while at the same time protecting the undercoat and skin. These guard hairs tend to prevent the dog from getting wet; indeed, water just rolls of these hairs allowing the dog's undercoat to stay warm and dry.
Not many people realize though that the undercoat also cools the dog during the summer and that the top coat is also meant to protect the dog's skin from ultraviolet radiation, bug bites and skin cancer, all maladies that come with the summer months!
Dog breeds that are often shaved
An exception to dogs who shouldn't absolutely be shaved down, are dogs who have a single coat and have hair and not fur. Dog breeds like Shih Tzus, Poodles, Bichons and Yorkies require regular grooming and groomers recommend haircuts; therefore, they can be shaved down with little consequences other than at times their coats becoming softer or occasionally exhibiting some odd color changes. Many owners of these breeds report that their doggies enjoy being shaved in their puppy and lion cuts, and that once the hair is gone they are friskier and happier. These dogs need to be though taken care of, owners must be attentive that they do not get sunburn and that in the winter they are provided with a coat to keep them warm as necessary.
So Should you Shave Your Double-Coated Dog in the Summer?
The answer is for a good part no, especially if your dog is kept outdoors most of the time, and there are several reasons why. Fact: we remove layers of clothing because he tend to sweat, when dogs have other methods for cooling down. Dogs cool down by panting and perspire through the pads of their feet and noses. Removing the coat will not help them. Here is a list giving several reasons why it is counter-productive to shave a dog with a double coat in the summer.
- You dog's coat helps prevent bug bites. Bugs are quite common in the summer. The bites can be quite painful and may potentially cause allergic reactions, hot spots and irritation. A longer coat will be more effective against fleas and mosquitoes.
- Your dog's coat provides insulation and this goes both ways for cold and heat. Just as in your home, insulation helps maintain your dog's temperature stable by preventing heat loss, but at the same time it helps keep the dog cool.
- Your dog's cost protects the skin from the negative effects of the sun rays which may cause sunburn and even cancer in the long run.
- Cutting your dog's coat may lead to a coat that is unsightly and may take a while to regrow. Let's admit it, the top coat is ultimately what gives dogs their beautiful looks. The top coat is glossy, shiny and sign of a healthy dog. It also features the typical colors of the breed. Once you shave down your dog, the top coat is gone leaving the dull, undercoat that is visually unappealing. And you may be stuck with this look for quite some time, Indeed, the top coat takes quite some time to grow back and the shaved undercoat may have trouble growing back as it's supposed to. At times, the undercoat tangles with the top coat as it grows.
- Last but not least, if you thought that by shaving your double-coated dog you'll have less hair around think again. Shaving your dog will not reduce the shedding. The hair shed will be shorter, but you'll be doing nothing to decrease the shedding in the first place. Actually, according to Friendly Paws Pet Supplies and Grooming, by shaving your dog's top coat, the undercoat will be allowed now to grow inhibited which only leads to more shedding!
Of course, there are exceptions. If your dog has hot spots, you want to shave the area to help it dry out and heal properly. If your dog's coat is full of mats, you may also want a groomer to shave the coat so to prevent irritations. Your vet may also recommend shaving to help treat medical conditions of the skin. Dogs with long hair around their back end, may also benefit from a trim back there to keep the area clean. Dr. Karen Becker in the video below discusses how shaving dogs in the summer can often be a subject of controversy. She also states how dog owners should grant their dog's wishes if a particular dog appears to be happier once shaved, and the dog lives indoors for the most part, and when outdoors is supervised. See video below for more details.
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Dr. Karen Becker discusses shaving pets in warm weather
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For further reading
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- Acute Moist Dermatitis: Hot Spots in Dogs
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