To Shave or not to Shave, That is the Question

Every Summer, we see a long line of clients asking about or looking to shave their long haired or double coated dogs.  When we hesitate, we’re often asked immediately “but isn’t he/she hot?”  While an important question, there are many further implications to the decision to shave your long-haired or double coated dog and not all of them have to do with weather.  Double coated dogs are identifiable by their two types of coats.  The first, also known as down hairs, ground hairs or undercoat, are the super fine, fluffy hairs that lay closest to the skin.  These hairs are most often shorter and more crimped than the longer hairs and have the effect of insulating the pup to keep them warm in the winter as well as cool in the summer.  But this lighter, softer coat generally does not need to be shaved unless irreparably matted.  However, a good undercoat raking with the appropriate shampoos and conditions and/or special tools is imperative.  The result of this methodical undercoat removal will be a dog who feels cooler.  The ‘top’ coat is comprised of the guard hairs that lie on top of the undercoat and the guard hairs typically do not shed.  They provide most of the protection from the sun as well as additional insulation from the heat/cold.  As a compromise, we will sometimes shave a strip on the belly so laying on cool surfaces can provide maximum relief.

There are many double coated breeds and they include Pomeranians, Chow Chows, Huskies, Akitas, German Shepherds, Malamutes, Samoyed and some (but not all) Golden Retrievers.  And as much as we love these breeds, shedding is a never ending battle to be waged by their owners.  Be aware that the decision to shave will not end your shedding problem.  The hairs will be shorter, true; but your pup will continue to shed without the use of de-shedding shampoos, conditions and ongoing regularly scheduled maintenance.  The most important thing to remember is that the decision to shave (not trim) a long haired dog is also a long-term decision.  Once shaved, not only does the texture and growth pattern of the hair often change; but the older your furbaby is, the less likely it is for the guard hairs to grow back adequately.  This leaves your older pup susceptible to sunburn which is both painful and can take a long time from which to heal.  Ongoing issues from sunburn can also be dandruff and scaling even after the hair has regrown.  Remember dogs like poodles, maltese, Yorkshire terriers, shih-tzus and many others require regular grooming and haircuts.  And even dogs with undercoats can benefit from a good trim.  To shave or not to shave?  As it turns out this is a question not easily answered…

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