Summer is here! Time to get outside, do some spring cleaning, dust off the gardening tools and shave the lab…but before you think about shaving your lab, husky, malamute, sheltie or similar double-coated breed let me give you some things to ponder.
I’ve been grooming for 8 years and throughout them I’ve heard many reasons for why people shave their dogs. Toby sheds a lot, Jake gets hot in the summer, I can see the fleas better on Sophie, Pepper gets so matted, I like how Daisy looks when she’s shaved.
Let’s start by explaining some key things about the coat of these breeds. Labradors, Shelties, Aussies, Golden Retrievers, etc have what is referred to by professional groomers as a ‘double coat.’ They have a tougher outer coat (also referred to as ‘guard hairs) that repels water and helps protect their skin, then underneath is a soft insulating undercoat. Their coat grows to a determined length, then dies and falls out, which is the process we refer to as “shedding.” During winter months these breeds will grow very thick undercoat to insulate them from the wind and cold. Then as the months grow warmer they will shed most of the undercoat and some of the guard hair. The effect is similar to you changing out of a wool sweater to a cotton t-shirt.
You can also compare your dog’s coat to that of the tunics people wear in the desert. They wear them for protection from the sun, wind, rain, parasites and it helps to keep the sun from beating down on their skin.
If you’re still not convinced about this let me explain one more detail, dogs sweat ONLY from the pads of their paws and nose. Shaving doesn’t allow air to evaporate sweat like wearing shorts does for us. Shaving a dog is comparable to turning on the a/c and then opening the windows. Because none of the cool air is going to stay inside when you’ve take all of the blockades away.
However, these breeds may require assistance in losing their undercoat and this is when most owners look to shaving. But there are many problems with that as you shall soon see.
Since their coats grow in such a way to naturally ‘weatherize’ them, shaving is simply unnatural to how their coat works. When shaved these breeds may develop post-clipper alopecia, which is a big word for saying their hair may never grow back or grow back looking the same. Your once beautiful sheltie with it’s glorious coat may soon look more like a scarecrow with straw sticking out from everywhere. Alopecia can also turn the skin black and scaly, cause severe itching, hair to grow in patches and other similar symptoms.
Dogs who have been shaved should also never be left outside. Their skin will be very sensitive to sun burn and attract parasites.
Shaving can also make the shedding problem worse. Because instead of shedding only the soft undercoat your dog will begin to shed the (now) short prickly guard hairs. Which when stepped on can hurt as much or more than a wooden splinter.
So what IS best for your beloved canine during the scorching summer months? Start with a good bath and brush out. You can use a professional or buy your own tools. I recommend the Furminator shampoo, solution and brush for most breeds. The shampoo and solution will help loosen up the hair making it much easier to remove, then you can brush as much out as possible. In effect, you will be removing your dog’s ‘sweater,’ but at the same time leaving his protective outer coat. Just beware of brush burn and check the skin regularly to make sure it isn’t getting irritated.
Then make sure your dog has plenty of shade and water at all times. It’s even better if you can let them inside during the hottest times of the day.
So is it ever okay to shave? Not really. But in some instances there aren’t any other choices. If your dog has developed a hot spot, needs surgery or is severely matted, the only option may be to shave them. For dogs that matt easily a trim to help prevent matting is far better than shaving. And if you still want a little more drastic of a haircut it’s better to leave several inches than to shave them.
I hope this helped you in deciding whether to shave or not to shave. I trust you and your fur baby will have a wonderful summer!