There is one issue that I am very passionate about, and if you learn nothing else from this blog, I hope this sticks with you: There is no reason to shave a double coated dog. Why? Let’s break it down.
First, some basic information, so we all start out on the same page. A double coated dog is any dog with a harsh outer coat and a soft undercoat. The soft undercoat is what sheds and leaves tumbleweeds all over your house. German Shepherd Dogs, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Australian Shepherds, and Siberian Huskies are just a few examples of a double coated dog. (Shih Tzus, Maltese, and Yorkshire Terriers are NOT examples of double coated dogs. This information does not apply to them.) These two coats grow independently of one another and to different lengths. The outer coat is longer, and tends to grow slower. The undercoat is shorter and grows faster, and also turns over, or sheds, twice a year. Now that we all understand basically what we’re dealing with, why shouldn’t you shave a dog like this?
1- Dogs with double coats have sensitive skin. This means that your shaved dog is likely to come home with razor burn, irritated skin, and is much more likely to be sunburned. The skin of these dogs is more sensitive, because the thick hair protects it from the sun, bug bites, and anything else that your dog encounters during a hike, a romp in the backyard, or a roll on the carpet. These dogs can end up with hot spots, lick excessively, and are generally miserable. No one wants that for their dog.
2- It does NOT make them shed less. Double coated dogs shed twice a year, and that is under coat. The rest of the time, the shedding is normal hair turn over, and that is seen in all animals with hair (including you, your poodle, your Aunt Sally, and the squirrel in your backyard). Shaving them does not prevent this from happening. It makes the pieces smaller, and damages the coat in the process. Instead of having your dog shaved to get rid of unwanted hair, having the dog professionally groomed on a schedule will remove all the dead undercoat, leaving only healthy coat and stopping those tumbleweeds from rolling across your floor.
3- It permanently damages the condition of the coat. The under coat, as I said before, is short and dense, while the outer coat is longer, glossy, and harder hair. The undercoat is all that is left when you shave a dog, and as it grows faster than the outer coat, it takes a very long time for the outer coat to catch up, if at all. This means that there is no outer coat to protect the under coat, which becomes brittle and breaks off, and that there is no shiny, glossy hair on your dog. On some dogs, the under coat never grows back properly, leaving the dog’s coat sparse and just plain ugly. It also damages the cycle of the hair, making the shedding times unpredictable and in some cases, never end. It can also mean that you’re stuck shaving the dog for the rest of his life.
4- With so many breeds to choose from, it’s easy to find a coat you like. If you don’t like the hair of a Collie, go for a Smooth Collie. If you don’t want a dog with as much hair as a Golden Retriever, maybe a Boxer will be more your style. The hair of a dog serves a purpose, and is part of the package. A little bit of research goes a long way.
5- The undercoat provides insulation in the winter and cools the dog in the summer. If your dog has a well groomed coat, with no dead undercoat, the coat keeps the dog warm in the winter by providing insulation and keeping the dog’s skin dry. In the summer, it provides a sort of air conditioning system to the dog, keeping him cool. Yes, this does mean he needs to be groomed, it just means that he doesn’t need to be shaved. He’s not going to be hot with all that coat, it’s actually keeping him cool and protected. As long as he isn’t shaved or severely matted, his coat will do it’s job and keep his temperature regulated.
6- It just plain looks bad. The under coat is dull and dense and not visually appealing. A dog in a full, beautiful flowing coat is much more attractive. You’re going to spend the same amount of money and I’m going to spend the same amount of effort, so wouldn’t you rather your dog look good? It’s also going to make you stand out as a dog owner who isn’t doing their research and doing the best thing for their dog. No one wants to be that guy.
7- It is never to breed standard. I know pet owners are fond of saying “Oh, I don’t want a show dog!” and I plan to cover that topic all on it’s own in the future, but the breed standard exists for a reason. Be proud of your dog and his glorious coat, and how educated you are on why he needs that coat.
8- It increases the amount of allergens on the dog’s skin. I have heard people say that they shave their dog because they are allergic. That just doesn’t make good sense. The dander of the dog is what you’re allergic to, and having it right on the surface is not going to help your allergies. Having the dog groomed will keep up with the dander and the loose dead hair, and that will help.
I will not be shaving any dogs this summer, or any summer after that. A dog can’t tell you that shaving him makes him uncomfortably hot or gives him sunburn, but I can, and I will try to educate as many owners as I can.