4 Reasons You Shouldn't Shave Your Double Coated Dog
The day I shaved my head was glorious.
I went from having thick, luxurious hair tumbling down my back in rich shades of red and brown, to a bare, shiny scalp.
It felt great. It was June and I was working out five to six days a week. Trust me, having that shave felt like heaven!
It’s easy to look at your big, floofy dog and assume they’d feel the same way. It’s getting warmer by the week and they’ve got so much hair! You think, I’d be doing them a solid to shave him down for the summer...
But you wouldn’t! And we’ll get to why in a moment. First, we need to establish what I mean by floofy.
The lowdown on a double coat
Double coated dogs have a thick undercoat of short hairs, usually wooly in texture, beneath a top coat of longer guard hairs. If you’ve got a particularly floofy dog, that means he’s got a thicker undercoat.
That undercoat traps air and insulates your dog, keeping them nice and snug in the winter, and cool in the summer. (Remember that I said that last part!)
Popular double coated breeds:
- Husky (Alaskan, Siberian)
- Shiba Inu
- Great Pyrenees
- Australian Shepherd
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Saint Bernard
There are many smaller breeds who have double coats, too. Poms, Goldendoodles, and Yorkies are a few that often head to the groomer for a shave.
Unless a dog is so severely matted that shaving those areas are the only option, any double coated dog, no matter the breed, should not be shaved.
I got to talk with professional groomer Amy Dean-Coleman. She holds over 10 years of experience. She worked for Best Friends Pet Care while living on the east coast. When she moved back to west Michigan she worked for The Pink Poodle, though they have since gone out of business. She’s well-versed in dog training and ran a doggy day camp for two years.
Because most searches on the topic will bring you to the same points, I’ve summarized the most important ones here, which happen to be ones Amy can vouch for.
ONE: Your dog needs the insulation... even in the heat
It sounds counterproductive at first — especially if you’ve felt the gloriousness of a shaved head in the summer like I have! But in most cases your dog is going to shed that undercoat in the summer.
When this happens, your dog is left with their guard hairs. As you can see in the graphic above, that coat continues to insulate their body while letting cool air circulate over their skin.
Remember, dogs don’t sweat like humans do. They sweat from their paw pads, where there’s little to no fur, as well as their noses. Shaving your dog doesn’t help them because the apocrine glands located all over their body release pheromones, not sweat.
Bonus: the topcoat protects your dog’s skin from the sun, too! Just like humans, the paler their skin is beneath the fur, the more likely they are to burn.
But my dog never sheds her full undercoat.
Don’t worry — I’ve got you covered later on! But since you mentioned it...
TWO: Shaving won’t actually stop shedding
Typically, dogs get shaved down to an inch or so from their body, so it seems like you’ll get a reprieve from all the fur around your house. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
“Shaving a dog does not stop them from shedding. They may even shed more after being shaved because the top guard layer is now completely gone. The hairs will just be smaller and more of a pain.”
She saw a lot during her tenure as a groomer, including what can happen to your dog’s coat after the shave.
THREE: Their coat will never be the same
This sounds dramatic and sure, some dogs might get lucky. But the thing about double coats is that they grow at different rates. When a dog is shaved down to the undercoat, the delicate balance between layers is broken. The undercoat grows quicker than the top coat, the latter of which can take years to grow back!
Patchy, uneven fur growth. And the older the dog, the worse it can be.
I can attest to this too, and I’m about to call myself out to do so... even though I’m talking about a cat.
We’ve shaved our Maine Coon a couple times due to matting. He’s like the exorcist when he’s being brushed, and I’d let him run the show. Each time we did it he looked less like the grand, gray floof he used to be.
Take a look at this picture I took today. He’s a pretty guy, isn’t he? But here’s the secret: 90% of his body should be the darker gray fur, with only a little bit of the lighter gray showing through.
Yes... cats are different than dogs, but my chat with Amy about coat regrowth confirms all the facts you’ll find online, plus my suspicion: the varying growth rate of each layer did a number on my cat’s fur. He’ll probably always be oddly colored and patchy.
Thankfully, we’ve found a grooming regimen that he doesn’t hate. You’re looking at almost two years of growth here! While he no longer resembles his forest cat brethren, he looks better this season than he has in a while. I consider myself lucky that nothing worse happened.
FOUR: They’re at risk for more serious conditions
I mentioned sunburn in section one, and while I personally have never seen a sunburned animal, Amy has. A dog’s skin is especially sensitive because it isn’t regularly exposed to UV rays like yours or mine.
I know you know the feeling. You’ve been out in the sun all day, but you figure you’re fine. You didn’t burn that bad. It’s not until you’re inside and changing clothes that the feeling starts to set in...
And soon enough, you’re in pain and feel miserable.
It’s exactly the same for dogs. And in more severe cases, sunburn can increase the risk of your dog developing skin cancer.
Here are other issues your dog could encounter:
- Skin problems: ingrown hairs, bumps, lesions, dryness, sensitivity
- Clipper injuries: cuts or mild burns
Now that I’ve explained the risks and the reasons not to shave your dog, what can be done to help them feel more comfortable?
My dog never sheds their FULL undercoat
I didn’t forget about you!.
Double coated dogs shed their undercoats twice a year, and the topcoat sheds once a year. While most of the fur sheds in spring, it’s not uncommon to have some undercoat left — so you aren’t alone on this one. It’s why so many assume that shaving will be helpful.
All you need to do is make a spring appointment with a groomer you trust — and count on that appointment being lengthy. To give some insight: based on the breed, Amy would block out 3-hour sessions for her four-legged clients with double coats.
The package names will vary depending on what groomer you see, but the steps are typically the same:
- Bath, allowing the dog to sit with conditioner on for several minutes
- Blow the coat, then rinse
- Repeat conditioning time, repeat blow and rinse as needed, until the dog is no longer blowing coat
- Final rinse
- Combination of force dryers and towels
- Brushing: Amy uses a pin brush first, then a Furminator tool
- Trimming of paw fur so pads aren’t covered up
She stressed that brushing at home is vital, and to expect a little more shedding after an extensive grooming appointment like this. But don’t worry — it’ll only last a couple days, and it’s worth it!
What else can I do for my dog this summer?
So you’ve gotten your dog’s undercoat groomed, which means those guard hairs will have an easier time doing their job. But there’s a few more things you can do to keep your best friend from overheating:
- Track their activity levels. My new dog loves running around with her tennis ball. I’ve had to take it away from her so that she remembers to drink water!
- Also, bring water with you. Yup, I’m mentioning water again! You can pack a bowl and water bottle for your afternoon trek, or get a portable water bottle for dogs to attach to their leash.
- Hey… let them play in it! I bet you’re seeing a pattern here! We differ from dogs in matters of shaving, but not swimming. If you don’t live in an area with dog-friendly lakes or rivers, you can get a doggie pool for your yard.
Don’t forget about indoor comfort, too. If you’re blessed with AC, then you won’t have any trouble. For the rest of us, placing a bowl of ice in front of a box fan gives your dog a cool reprieve on the floor. Speaking of ice, they make for fun play on kitchen floors and double as a cool treat!
Where I live, we’re still waiting for the temperatures to make it past 68°! Fingers crossed, right?
But if the temperatures are already scorching where you are, now you’ll have a better understanding of how to keep your double coated dog safe and comfortable — without shaving off their fur.
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