Dog on the Couch

2016-12-22 06:01

Hi Susan,

I was planning to have my dogs shaved for summer but have heard some confusing ideas on the subject. Do you have any suggestions?


To shave or not to shave, that is the question. I’m not surprised you’ve heard conflicting views on this controversial subject as some people insist on shaving and others advise strongly against it. You don’t mention what breed you have, so what follows is generalised advice.

Firstly, for the purpose here, it helps to understand that there are basically two types of coat in dogs, single-coated and double-coated. Shih Tzuz, Bichons, Maltese and Poodles are examples of single-coated breeds. These dogs have a top or over-coat that grows all over the body. They usually get shaved, but care should be taken that they have some protection from sunburn. Double-coated examples are Border Collies, German Shepherds, Shetland Sheepdogs, Siberian Huskies, Pomeranians and Samoyeds.

The two coats help provide insulation and protection against the summer heat. During spring the dense undercoat thins out naturally by detaching from the body in what is known as a moult. If not brushed out, this can become a matted heat- trap.

Regular brushing will remove dead fur and leave the second layer of guard-hairs to deflect the heat while the inner layer keeps the skin cool.

Many dogs such as Maltese and Poodle types will need to be shaved and kept trimmed. However, the Northern dogs and other Shepherd types which have double coats may have their coats ruined by shaving, the new growth feeling “sticky” and having a Velcro-like texture, the top-layer of the coat acts as an air conditioner, with minute muscles connected to each hair-shaft enabling the hairs to stand up and capture the breeze, thereby cooling the dog or offering protection against the sun. Shaving this will result in the undercoat absorbing the sun directly, which is likely to cause overheating in hot weather.

Older dogs tend to suffer more in the heat than youngsters. I have experienced denser re-growth on two thirteen-year-old Border collies who had their under-bellies and pantaloons shaved for a hot summer, and the re-growth did appear to be denser.

Note that hairless dogs like the Chinese Crested types, and dogs that have been shaved or have bald patches, will need a dog-safe sunscreen. Ask your vet for recommendations. Do not use sun screen intended for human skin.

There are nevertheless many good reasons to shave a dog, such as needing to use medicated shampoos for certain skin allergies. Your vet will also be the best advisor on the pros and cons.

There is a veterinary brand of dog food which has been shown to reduce shedding in dogs by 80%. Enquire at your vet.

If you feel your dog is uncomfortable in the heat, use a de-shedding tool to thin out the undercoat and remove excess hair. You may also want to ask a groomer to shave the belly so that the dog can lie on a cool floor, but leave the fur on the areas the sun beats down on.

Avoid walking in the midday heat. Rather take your dog out in the cooler morning or evening temperatures, and avoid hot paving and tar. I often see people subjecting their dogs to prolonged periods on hot surfaces.

Make sure plenty of water is available at all times and that the dog has a cool shady area to retreat to. A children’s plastic sandpit or pool will be much appreciated especially by the retriever type dogs. I hope this has been helpful. -

Susan Henderson© (Accredited Animal Behaviourist)

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