Grooming is all about hair concerns coming to a head ;). Taming frizzy hair, and waxing unwanted hair, and getting that “I just woke up like dis.” au natural hair.
And then there are our dogs! It seems intuitive–to keep dogs cool and hygienic, so we should shave them, right? Well, hold your clippers, snippers and grooming tools, motherpuppers. We talked to two dog professionals who say shaving a dog’s coat is rarely the solution.
Dr. Eric Peterson, owner and veterinarian at west Michigan’s Northside Veterinary Hospital says:
“I advise against shaving dogs down to the skin. The hair protects them from sunburns, skin cancer, and from scrapes and abrasions.”
Instead, he recommends a closer trim down to 3/4-1 inch of hair or fur, which “keeps dogs comfortable and more energetic, particularly in humid conditions.”
It makes sense—a dog’s outer layer serves as a screen of sorts, and a lot of veterinarians compare the coat to the insulation in your home: during the winter, it adds a layer of warmth and keeps the skin dry, and during the summer, it functions as a kind of air conditioning system.
By removing this protective barrier then, we’re making our pups more vulnerable to the sun’s damaging effects, and preventing the coat from doing its job of regulating body temperature. One exception: dogs whose coats are so severely matted that shaving is the only solution.
This is particularly important with double-coated breeds, such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Australian Shepherds, and Siberian Huskies. These dogs have very sensitive skin, and shaving them makes them susceptible to razor burn, hot spots, sunburns, and a phenomenon known as post-clipping alopecia, a condition in which a dog’s undercoat never grows back.
“With these breeds, it can be best to have the deeper undercoat stripped, which can help keep them cooler and does not damage the coat,” says Dr. Peterson.
The ASPCA similarly opposes shaving, advocating instead for regular grooming and bathing, which improves a dog’s air circulation, encourages them to shed their hair naturally, and helps eliminate dander, aka, allergens.
A groomer from Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood had another idea: shave a strip on their belly so that they can lay on cool surfaces, and get maximum coolness. Or as I like to call it, a cooling, landing, strip.
There are plenty of other pre-cautions we can take to keep our dogs comfortable in the summer heat, says Peterson, just consider the breed and appearance of your dog.
“Darker-colored dogs will absorb heat from the direct sunlight, getting markedly warmer than a lighter colored dog.”
Meanwhile, dogs with thin coats, or lighter-colored coats are especially vulnerable to sun damage. He urges dog owners to use common sense, giving pups access to plenty of cool water for drinking and soaking, and limiting exercise between 11am and 2pm. “Above all, pay attention to what your dogs are telling you, and look for signs of overheating.”