It’s Doggy Dan, your friendly dog trainer 🙂
One non-training question I hear all the time from dog parents is “Doggy Dan, should I shave my dog?”
I get it; we all want our four-legged family members to be comfortable in the heat and maybe, JUST MAYBE, it will help with all the shedding around the house!
While we humans are able to take our jackets off when we get warm, our dogs wear their coats of fur year-round.
It only makes sense that the thought might cross your mind to help your pup cool off with a little shave.
Before you make the decision to shave your dog, I want to talk a little bit about how dogs regulate their temperature.
Fun Fact: Panting Is Not A Bad Thing
You see your dog huffing and puffing in the hot summer sun and think they must just be so uncomfortable.
Here’s a little secret…
A dog’s sweat glands are actually located on their paws and on their tongue!
So that panting you see is not a sign of distress, it’s how they self-regulate their temperature.
AKA…IT’S THEIR WAY OF COOLING OFF.
Dogs sweat to cool off just like humans, we just can’t see it because it’s on their tongue and the bottom of their feet.
This is why it’s probably a good idea to trim some of the hair between your dog’s paws to help him sweat and cool off better.
But when it comes to shaving your dog’s fur, the type of coat means everything.
Before we explain the difference, allow me to explain the purpose of a dog’s fur.
Why Do Dogs Have Fur Anyway?
Dogs’ fur is not just to make them look oh-so-cute (although it does do that too). It serves a real purpose, offering protection…
…from cold or hot temperatures.
…from water or dirt.
…and so much more.
That protection is something you need to consider before shaving off that fur.
Do you live in an area with lots of sun? Then you might risk sunburn if you shave the fur too short. So while they may be cooler (for single-coated dogs…I’ll get there in a second), they’re also more exposed to the elements.
It’s all about understanding the pros and cons and deciding what’s best for you and your pup. And it varies from dog to dog. I’m going to share some dog grooming best practices to show you how shaving can affect both single-coated and double-coated dogs…
When dogs are single-coated, it means they have only one coat of fur. That fur can be long or short, smooth or curly, and everything in between.
But no matter the texture, the identical hairs are always the same length.
Think of dogs like Dalmatians, Boxers, Greyhounds, Poodles, or Maltese.
Single-coated dogs can be shaved repeatedly because their hair will grow back evenly and will continue to look the same as it did before they were shaved. The shorter hair can also offer a little relief from steamy temperatures.
But it’s important to remember that when you shave a dog, you are removing the protection of their fur. If you shave too close to the skin, they can be more vulnerable to sunburn or bugbites
If you do want to shave your single-coated dog, most groomers recommend that you keep at least one inch of hair so they keep a little of that protective layer.
Wow, a dog with two coats of fur…that must mean that they get really hot in the summertime…
Quite the contrary!
Their double coat of fur actually keeps them warm in the winter AND cool in the summer.
How can two coats of fur keep a dog cool?
It’s so interesting how it works!
You see, the inner coat of hair is soft and acts as an insulating layer. As it begins to warm up outside, double-coated dogs shed a good portion of their inner layer of fur.
That’s why they shed so much in the springtime. That shedding is preparing them for the warm months ahead, and it’s actually a good thing (even if you’re tired of all that hair piling up on your couch)!
The part of the inner layer that’s left is there to trap air between the two layers of fur. This helps your friendly canine keep the heat away while working to regulate their body temperature. That air in between the two coats of fur provides a buffer against the hot summer sun.
It’s kind of like how a wetsuit helps swimmers regulate their temperature. The suits are made with a material that lets a little bit of water in. That water is then trapped between the wetsuit and the swimmer’s skin to protect them from extreme water temperatures.
That same concept is in action for double-coated dogs!
And that thick outer coat of fur? That’s the one that doesn’t typically shed. This coat is considered a “guard layer,” and it helps guard their valuable inner coat while protecting them from extreme cold temperatures and sunburn.
Now that you know the purpose of each layer…should they be shaved?
Double-coated dogs should be groomed with caution because shaving can have a lasting effect on the appearance and function of your dog’s fur.
But what’s the big deal??
Well, since a double-coated dog has two very different types of fur, it may not grow back the same way. It might be patchy, and the “guard layer” may never be the same again. That’s because the inner hair can grow back faster than the outer hair, crowding that guard layer and stunting its growth.
Since the inner layer is made of soft, fine hair, your double-coated pup can become more susceptible to heat stroke and sunburn.
Always check with your groomer before shaving a double-coated dog so you avoid damaging their beautiful mane.
Luckily, there are other ways you can keep your pup comfortable.
Instead of Shaving…
If you’re not ready to embark on a full-on shave for your four-legged friend, a light trim might help them immensely. That way, you’re not shaving their fur down to the skin, you’re just taking some of the edge off.
Trimming can be great for all dogs, no matter what type of coat they have. Just be careful to avoid cutting the “guard layer” too short in double-coated dogs.
Brushing is another way you can keep your dog looking fresh and feeling comfy. And in the springtime, when dogs (especially the ones with a double-coat) begin shedding their winter coat to prepare for the warmer months ahead, regular brushing can get rid of those dead hairs and allow better air circulation.
Regular bathing, especially cool baths in the summer, can also help eliminate those dead hairs, prevent matting, and keep your dog warm or cool, depending on the season.
Last but not least, make sure your dog has plenty of water, shade in the summer, and shelter in the winter. And never leave your pup unattended in a vehicle, even for just a few minutes.
If you have any questions or concerns about shaving, talk to your vet. They will let you know if shaving is a good option for your pup or if there are other ways to keep them cool in the summer heat.