Archive for June, 2010

To Shave or Not to Shave?

June 14, 2010

Many people ask us to shave their long-haired dogs during the summer in hopes that it will do one of two things:

  1. Help with shedding.
  2. Keep the dog cool.

Contrary to popular belief, shaving does not eliminate shedding. The dog will still shed, but since the hairs are shorter, you just don’t notice them as easily! Brushing a dog regularly will keep the  shedding down. For the purposes of this discussion, we’re talking about Huskies, Labs, Golden Retrievers, Australian Shepherds, and the like. There are other long-haired breeds–such as Labradoodles and Standard Poodles–who still need clipping.

As far as keeping the dog cool, pets have a different way of keeping cool than we do. In this system, the coat actually helps to keep the dog cool. The coat acts as insulation against heat as well as cold. As long as the dog’s coat is well-maintained and the undercoat is removed, leaving the coat on is best.

Dogs have no sweat glands, so cooling by condensation like a human doesn’t work. (The one dog who does have sweat glands is a certain South American hairless breed.) So while you would certainly feel too hot if you were wearing a fur coat, your dog doesn’t. Instead, dogs pant to keep cool, and they must have access to cool water at all times during the warm months.

Not only does the coat insulate against heat, but it protects the dog from sunburn. Dogs lack natural skin protection from sun exposure. Skin burn in dogs can be painful as well as set them up for skin cancer. Yes, dogs can get skin cancer just like humans and it’s usually from sun exposure.

If you’ve ever had your long-haired dog shaved just remember how bad that coat looked in a month or so. The guard hairs grow out first, while the undercoat grows out slower.  It looks terrible.  Sometimes the coat never makes a full recovery. There can be bald patches or thin patches.  It can even change the pigment of the skin. The dog sometimes has to be shaved every time to make it look presentable.

One of the few times I would agree with shaving a long-haired dog is if the dog has a heavy coat and is elderly. Older dogs don’t lose their undercoats as easily and have trouble with keeping cool in the usual way.

The other time I would agree with shaving is if a dogs undercoat is so matted that shaving is the least painful way to deal with the coat.  Keeping your pet’s coat in good condition is the best thing to do.

I would also agree to take a pet’s coat shorter — not shaved — in the summer if the pet swims a lot. A long coat can stay wet for quite some time and start to smell sour. A shorter clip can be done on most breeds as long as the undercoat has been taken care of properly.

I know some other groomers will be upset with this post since big, hairy dog shaves are a good source of summer income. I care more about the health and look of the pet than the money I could pocket.

I try very hard to talk owners out of a shave if I feel that we can accomplish a good groom and maintain a good coat on the dog. Get a good brush and comb to keep your dog cool this summer. It’s better than the clippers.