If you are a dog owner or even a dog lover, you would have noticed the differences in fur between different breeds. Each dog breed has a different kind of coat and each coat requires a different kind of upkeep to keep the dog healthy. Broadly, dogs have a few coat types that are defined as smooth coat (like Daschund), double coat (like German Shepherds), long coats (like Lhasa Apso), wire coats, and curly coats (like the poodle). You even have dogs with a hairless coat!
With each coat comes a different kind of care that you should be regular with. However, I have noticed that there seems to be some sort of confusion when it comes to double coated dogs. Here in India, every summer there are cases upon cases of pet parents shaving down their double coated dogs because they think it will help their dogs stay cool and that shaving will help reduce shedding. I have personally come across cases where vets have advised the family to shave their dog (without any medical reason to substantiate). There is so much misinformation regarding this that I felt the need to write a blog article on this topic as well.
While it seems logical that you should shave your dog down to help them deal with the heat, it actually it is detrimental for their health. Unlike, long coated dogs like the Shitzu that do require regular grooming, double coated dogs have an undercoat of hair that is meant to protect them against the cold, the heat, and direct sun rays.
So lets start with the basics.
What is a Double-Coat?
A dog coat that has a second hidden coat under the longer outer coat (which is visible), is called a double-coated dog. There is also a common misunderstanding between double coated dogs and long coated dogs. All hairy, fluffy, dogs are not double coated. To be called a double coated dog, they must have this second layer of fur that sits closer to the skin.
Basically, the undercoat helps trap air which insulates the dog keeping them warm in winter and cool in summer. It also protects the dog from facing the suns rays directly on their skin and causing sunburns or rashes. Dogs with a double coat, have very sensitive skin that cannot handle direct sunlight.
(The hair image is not mine and belongs to the rightful owner)
Another thing a lot of people think is that by shaving your dog, the shedding will reduce. In reality, that is not true because all that’s going to happen is that your dog will shed shorter hairs. Doesn’t really help the problem. Your best bet to reduce the amount of shedding is by brushing your dog regularly. You should be doing this daily for dogs with double and long coats. Regular brushing also helps keep the coat cleaner and avoids excess shedding.
Cool Your Pooch Without Shaving
If you want to help your pooch who has a double coat then the better way around it would be to brush them regularly using a special undercoat brush. What this does is that it combs the undercoat and pulls out the loose hairs. The more you brush the more it reduces the undercoat without getting rid of it completely or cutting into it. This will cool down your pooch and even reduce the amount your dog sheds. You can get a groomer to do this or do it yourself at home.
Groom At Home
If you plan to groom your dog at home, at least for their regular weekly baths, then the best way to do this is by following these steps:
Start by brushing your dog before you give them a bath. This helps remove the already loose hairs and take out any smaller tangles.
Then you can give them a bath during which you should really use your fingers to detangle the hair and go deep into the coat to clean and loosen up the fur that is about the shed. For this you can also use these special bath brushes. Such as the ones below (image taken from the links directly).
After you have given them a proper bath (I personally also like to use conditioner on my boys because it makes their coat all soft and fluffy), you should blow-dry their coat to clean and separate their hair.
Then brush them again. The blow dry will actually help this second stage of brushing and make it easier. This should actually help reduce both the shedding and it will cool your pooch.
Shaving your dog doesn’t really help keeping them cool or the amount they shed and over time it also causes the hair to grow back unevenly. When the dog is young and healthy, the hair will grow back but over time, the coat does not grow back as well as it used to.
Overall, the understanding is simple, you do not need to shave your dog in the summer to keep them cool but you do need to put in effort to help them stay cool. From ensuring that your house is kept cooler for such breeds, not taking them out during peak heat hours, brushing them regularly, and giving them access to cold water constantly, we have to do our part for these glorious breeds.
I do make one exception to the no shave rule though, which is when the ticks become too much to handle (on advice of a reputable vet only). This situation can be avoided by being proactive in putting tick medicine, using tick collar, and anti tick shampoos. But in case this does get out of hand, then yes shaving is probably a better bet as you will be able to see each tick and pull it out. This does not mean that you need to shave down to the skin, just enough where you can separate the hair to search for ticks and avoid cutting the undercoat. Please only go to a respectable groomer to find out the right amount to shave your dog.
Have a happy summer!
PS: I found this image on one of the dog groups I follow and found it very interesting. I do not vouch for its accuracy but if it is at all accurate then its worth putting here.
Here is a thermal image of a dog who was given the Lion cut *rolling eyes*. As you can see the portion of the dog where the hair was left untouched shows a cooler body temperature of 24˚C and the portion that was trimmed down is at 30.8˙C.