When temperatures start to soar, it’s only natural for dog owners to wonder if their best canine pal could benefit from a summer hair cut to help keep him cool. Though this seems to be a common assumption amongst dog owners, the truth is shaving most dog breeds for the purpose of helping them beat the heat is generally not recommended. If you’re on the fence as to what to do, check out our advice on whether or not you should shave your dog for the hot summer months.
Is Shaving Dogs in the Summer Months Recommended?
Whether or not a dog should be shaved to help beat the summer heat depends largely on its breed. Some dog breeds were bred to possess coats that carry weight and bulk to them. If not a double coated breed, these dogs can be safely shaved without any risk to their coat regrowth or skin.
However, short-coated breeds should not be shaved. Dogs who never develop any length to their coat hair end up with their skin exposed to the sun when only a thin coating of fur remains to protect the skin. This can easily lead to sunburn, a condition which causes pain and discomfort to dogs.
Other dog breeds that can benefit from shaving include dogs that spend the majority of their time outdoors or dogs that have badly matted coats. These types of dogs face other risk factors that could negatively impact their health if a longer coat is allowed to remain on the dog. Outdoor and matted dogs are prone to such problems as myiasis (maggots in the coat hair) and hot spots.
What About Double Coated Breeds?
There many different breeds that possess double coats. A double coat is essentially two distinctly different layers: a coarse outer coat or top coat and a soft, billowy undercoat. A double coat helps to protect dogs during time spent in the outdoors. This was particularly important for dogs like Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds, and Siberian Huskies whose main job was to work as messenger or sled dogs in Arctic conditions. Their double coats helped to provide the insulation they needed to remain warm and dry during freezing cold winter temperatures.
Many terrier breeds also possess double coats. Though terriers typically do not live outdoors or spend lengthy amounts of time in cold conditions, their coats were designed to be weatherproof, primarily providing protection against rain when out on a hunt.
Dogs that have double coats typically shed some of the bulk of their undercoat when the temperatures start to soar. This leaves in its place a small coating of hair known as guard hairs. These hairs provide protection against sunburn but also help to keep the dog cool during bouts of overly warm temperatures.
Double coats have a different coat trajectory to single coats. Unlike other types of fur, double coats will only reach a certain length before the hair dies and is ready to fall out or be removed with a brush or stripping knife. This means that for a single coated breed, there is no change in coat texture when the dog is shaved. This is not so for dog types with double coats.
When a double coated breed is shaved, it can ruin the coat permanently. Since this type of coat serves an important purpose for the dog, it can leave Fido more vulnerable to the effects of both extreme cold and extreme heat.
What Does Shaving Do to Double Coats?
Not long after shaving the coat of a double-coated breed, a layer of fluffy coat will reappear quickly. This soft layer of hair is undercoat. Unfortunately, the guard hairs that are needed to keep the dog protected against the heat are the last to grow in, meaning the dog will have a harder time regulating its body temperature than pre-haircut.
Instead of making the double coated dog cooler, the dog will instead find the heat even more oppressive. The new growth of guard hairs and undercoat coming in at the same time lead to a coat that offers no air to penetrate to the skin, leaving the dog hot and with the potential for skin problems.
This new texture also traps heat against the skin, leading to easy overheating. During the winter months, the results of the shaved coat lead to fur that easily succumbs to matts, meaning continued shaving is often necessary unless the owner is committed to daily brushing and combing. This matting can also leave the dog prone to the development of frequent hot spots.
Also noticeable is the fact that the feel of the new coat is very different post-shave. Instead of having a coarse, pelt-like coat that naturally repels things that want to stick it, the hair will instead act like a magnet for elements from the yard including burrs, grass, branches, seeds, and whatever else the dog encounters during its day.
What Can I Do to Keep My Dog Cool in the Summer?
There are several different things owners can do to help keep their double coated dogs cool in the summer months. These include:
- Regular grooming appointments
Double coated dog breeds require regular grooming from a professional dog groomer. This is even more important in the summer months when the dog should have its undercoat blown out with a force dryer and the rest combed free with a rake. This will leave only the guard hairs as the layer of protection the dog needs to stay cool in the summer.
- Keep water on hand
Water isn’t just good for drinking! Having water on hand during outdoor adventures is a great way to keep a dog hydrated as well as to provide a quick cool down when the dog has worked up a lather playing or walking.
- Limit activity in hot weather
Some dogs will play all day, seemingly oblivious to the heat. For dogs like this, it is necessary for the owner to monitor the dog’s activity level and bring the dog inside for a drink and a nap when the dog is getting too hot.
- Install a doggy pool
Putting a doggy pool in the backyard is an inexpensive solution to dogs that get overheated in the summer months. This allows dogs to enjoy more time outdoors with access to a clean supply of water for cooling down whenever the mood strikes.
- Provide easy access to fans or air conditioning
When the temperatures outdoors are just too oppressive for man or his beast, it is a good idea to use fans and air conditioning to help combat the heat. Cooling pads can also be purchased at pet stores to help Fido cool down when feeling a little too warm.
- Use a cooling coat
High quality pet retailers sell cooling coats. These are placed in the freezer then removed when chilled to place on dogs in need of cooling off. However, most dogs with thick coats do not benefit from cooling coats, leaving the dog feeling uncomfortable.
Wondering if shaving your dog is the best way to keep him cool in the summer months? Consider our top tips to keep Fido stylish and comfortable all summer long.