When the temperature spikes up in the summer, many of us look at our panting dogs and think, “You’d be so much cooler without most of that fluff!” While shaving your dog may be tempting, it’s important to remember that dogs’ coats have specific functions. Shaving may not keep dogs cool at all, and may actually create new problems – besides the dog feeling silly! Here are some frequently asked questions about dog coats and summer grooming, along with their answers.
Q: What does a dog’s coat do?
A: A dog’s coat is like the insulation in a building: it helps keep out heat in the summer as well as retain heat in the winter. Dogs’ coats also protect their skin from the sun and other potentially irritating things, such as thorns and biting insects. By removing this protection, you may actually make your dog more vulnerable to the heat, and more likely to get sunburn or even skin cancer.
Keep in mind that canine systems for regulating body temperature are much different from our own. A human would obviously feel cooler without a fur coat on, but humans sweat through the skin. Dogs don’t sweat in the same way, and their skin is thinner than ours. As strange as it sounds, they need that coat to keep them cool.
Q: What is a double coat, and does my dog have one?
A: A double coat has two layers: moisture-resistant guard hairs on the top and a thick undercoat beneath. To prepare for summer, dogs with double coats will shed much of the undercoat in the spring. It’s no surprise that Arctic breeds such as Huskies and Samoyeds have double coats, but so do Collies, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Newfoundlands, Pomeranians, most terriers, and many other breeds. Shaving a dog with a double coat can actually do permanent damage, because the coat won’t necessarily grow back the same. Your dog could end up with an uneven, scraggly coat that looks and feels more like steel wool!
Bottom line: Don’t shave a double-coated dog unless it’s medically necessary (due to severe matting, for example).
Q: Does shaving a dog reduce allergies or shedding?
A: No. Shaving a dog won’t relieve pet allergies, and a shaved dog will keep shedding – the hairs will just be shorter. There are lots of other things you can do to reduce shedding in your home.
Q: How can I help my dog stay cool in the summer?
A: Keep your dog’s coat healthy with regular grooming, bathing, and brushing, and provide access to water and shade when your dog is outdoors. Of course, our favorite thing to do with our dogs is take them to a dog-friendly beach, but if you don’t live near the water, a plastic kiddie pool is also good for fun in the sun!