Summer Shave Down | Know the Potential Risks

As summer and warmer weather fast-approaches, many pet owners opt for shave them all the way down to be comfortable. This is a great for some types of dogs, but not all. Does your dog have fur or hair? Do you know the difference? Fur-bearing dogs are defined with hair that grows to a predetermined length like Shepherds, Huskies. Hair-bearing dogs have hair coats that grow to an undetermined length like Poodles and Shih-tzus. The coat of a fur-bearing dogs is like their protective armor – shaving it all off (unless medically necessary or is a humane option for badly matted or neglected coats) to ‘keep cool’ can in fact, do more harm than good.

What are double coats?

A double coat type of a fur-bearing dog is characterized by long guard hairs with a dense shedding undercoat. Typically these dogs will "molt" or shed heavily twice a year. These are not necessarily "long haired dogs" as you might think, as many shorter coats are defined as double coats. Don't let the length fool you. If you can pull tufts of hair out with your fingers, you most likely have a double-coated dog.

Double-coated breeds include German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Corgis, Golden Retrievers, Huskies, Malamutes, Pomeranians, Pekingese, Great Pyrenees, Newfoundlands, Shetland Sheepdogs, and more. They can be mixed breeds as well like Shepherd mixes, Lab mixes, Golden Mixes, etc. Also, all cats have double coats.

Did you know that all wild canines naturally have double coats just as the dog breeds named above—Wolves, Foxes, Coyotes, and African Wild Dogs. So next time you think your dog is ‘too hot’, think about their coat as protection from the heat and sun. If African Wild Dogs can tolerate their full-coat of fur, so can Fluffy.

Why is it not recommended to shave them?

A dog's undercoat provides natural insulation and protection from the sun. Dogs don't have sweat glands like humans do and their only method of cooling down is through panting or a little bit of sweating through the pads of their feet. Their undercoat keeps a layer of air trapped near their skin, which helps to keep their temperature stable. When the hair is shaved off, this mechanism of cooling goes away and the dog is at risk of overheating and sunburn. Shaving the dog does nothing to keep the dog cool.

Shaving of the coat interrupts the dog's normal shed cycle, which relies on longer guard hairs to weigh down on the undercoat to help it shed out. When the hair grows longer, this leaves a dry, coarse coat texture because the guard hairs grow at a slower rate than undercoat. The hair sits in the follicle instead of releasing which can cause pimple-like infections, ingrown hairs, or worse, retards the growth of new hair entirely.

Yes, you read that correctly…Shaving of double coats can impede the growth of new hair! This issue can be temporary, but in some cases it can be permanent! This can be caused by the aforementioned ingrown hairs or skin infection, or can be caused by a clipper blade that is too hot, or underlying medical issues such as thyroid problems or cancer.

These haircuts oftentimes aren't pretty. Yet another reason professional groomers do not favor shave downs is because this type of hair rarely cuts easily, or smoothly because of the density of the hair. It’s difficult to achieve a quality looking cut on a double-coated dog. Also some dog’s coats with a beautifully marked/spotted appearance can look completely different under all that fur, and it’s often a surprise to the owner once the entire coat has been removed.

What is an alternative to the shave down?

We recommend regular professional bathing with hi-velocity drying and De-shedding Treatments like the Furminator® Shed-Less Treatments for your double coated breeds. By removing the bulk of the undercoat and allowing air to circulate, you thereby reduce shedding. More air circulation = fewer hotspots or skin irritations. The dog will still have the needed protection from the sun by keeping its coat, but will have less weight to deal with. Larger sanitary trims or ‘belly clips’ can provide some additional relief when the dog lay on the floor. Brushing your dogs and cats weekly with the correct combs, Furminator® tool, or rubber curry brush to loosen undercoat is an at-home grooming routine must to help keep pet hair at bay.

Need some professional grooming advice?

Consult with our Bathhouse Pet Stylists! Grooming appointments available 7 days/wk in both store locations. Our team can help provide direction on how to properly brush your pet, guide your selection of best at-home grooming tools, determine the proper grooming schedule that fit’s your pet’s breed and lifestyle, and much more.

Be Well!

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