Should I give my dog a hair cut for the summer? Tiki the Westie gets a summer shave
Tiki the Westie with his rescue "puppy" cut
Got a hot dog? Maybe its time for a summer shave
Shopping around for a dog we had a few criteria in mind. We didn't want an overly large dog but one that was large enough to go on hikes with us. No tiny purse dogs. But the main thing we were looking for was a hypo-allergic dog. Poodles are known for being hypo-allergic but they just don't appeal to us and the mash-up Labodooles or Doodle-labs or what ever seem larger than what we wanted. So we decide on a Westie or West Highlands White Terrier.
Westies don't shed which is great for not getting hair on the carpets and having hair floating in the air. But with dogs that don't shed this means you have to manage their hair by cutting it otherwise it just gets out of control and when summer comes along the dog simply gets very hot wearing that full length fur coat around.
Tiki was a rescue from a puppy mill in Tennessee. He road up to NH in a van full of about forty other dogs seeking loving owners in New England. My wife spotting him online on PetFinder.com and when we picked up "TikI" at the PetSmart in Manchester, NH he had been given a "puppy" cut they the pet rescue outfit. They do this so they can check the dogs out for any hidden medical problems.
With his puppy cut, Tiki the Westie, was all set for his first summer in New England. Originally West Highland White Terriers are from Poltalloch, Scotland so they are bred for that damp, cool weather in Scotland. They were bred as hunting dogs for rodent like rabbits and squirrels so running through bramble and shrubs took care of their grooming as the thick brush would pull out tuffs of hair.
An interesting result of this hunting breeding is the white coat of the Westie which is supposed to be the result of a terrible accident where the breeder shot his favorite hunting dog who was brown colored. Other aspects of the breeding for hunting concern the Westies strong tail which is said to be used to pull the dog out of rabbit holes. Westies's tails are suppose to be strong enough to do this without hurting the door whereas for most dogs this would be very painful.
Another breed in trait of the Westie as hunting dog is his high pitched yelp. This piercing yelp is said to be able to signal the hunter as to the dogs whereabouts when dung deep in a rabbit tunnel. The hunter can then dig the dog out!
Westies have a two layer coat. The underneath coat is soft and fuzzy while the outer layer is wiry. This outer coat has the amazing ability to shed dirt which is very handy for a dog who loves to dig holes. When it comes to grooming, if you want to retain that outer layer, you really want the dog stripped. This is a method of pulling out the dead hairs instead of trimming them. The only challenge is finding someone to do it or learn how to do it yourself.
When we picked up Tiki, I really liked his look. He looked all terrier and not like one of those prissy dogs in the Cesar dog food commercials or in the dog shows on TV. His hair cut seemed to fit his friendly, strong-willed personality and went with large amount of spunk, determination and devotion stuffed into that compact little body.
So by the end of the first summer and into the winter we found that our West Highlands White Terrier's hair continued to grow and grow. At first we'd brush him out and his hair would get all silvery and sheen like something in a shampoo ad. But towards spring it started to get so long that bushings became painful as the hair tangled and clumped more. He also started getting hot. It seemed like any temperature above 72 degrees made him miserable. So it was time to get a shave down for the summer.
We took him to the local groomer and got the summer shave down. Everything was shaved close except for the face which was just neatened up so he can hear and see.
As you can see in the before and after pictures, Tiki was nearly unrecognizable after his hair cut! In the before picture he was starting to look like a lion, now he looks more like a lamb. I know the hair will grow back and he'll be much more comfortable this summer. Hopefully the wire like layer will come back. Right now he's a soft fuzzy ball of cotton.
I have read that the stippling vs. shaving might be an old wives tale with the logic that fur grows from the root, not from the tip so shaving is not going to change anything. I'm tending to believe this because Tiki was shaven when we got him and he did develop a wiry outer coat. One thing to watch out for with a shave down is sunburn. Dogs can get sunburned if their skin is exposed to the sun.
I do say having all that hair weight off of him seems to be a relief. He's been jumping around like a puppy ever since we picked him up from the dog groomers.
Note: Video and "Before and After" photos taken with a Pansonic Lumix G2