One of the best memories I have of my old dog was watching him parade around like Prince whenever he’d been to the hairdresser. Surely dogs don’t have a concept of whether they are looking gooood, but by the way he acted after a haircut, you’d swear he knew. Now, as much as I enjoy that memory, I know that there is some discussion around clipping dogs with different coats. I’m no professional dog groomer, but every year when the weather starts to warm up, I have clients asking, “Is it ok to shave my dog?”
So, I thought we should unpack the question a little.
Whatever the weather
Australia gets HOT! I think it catches us by surprise every summer. And when it does, veterinarians see a lot of their patients sporting new haircuts. Of course this comes from a good place, it makes sense that dog owners want to clip all that hair away to help cool their pooch down. But does it really work?
If you talk to veterinary dermatologists, the canine coat is an amazing tool for insulation. It certainly helps to keep dogs warm in winter but it also insulates against the heat, protecting the skin below from the rays of the sun.
It’s also a bit like a built-in suit of armour. Think of how many sticks and rocks your dog rolls over while he wrestles with another dog in the park or how he bounces off trees as he flies past after a ball. Imagine all the injuries if he did that naked! Imagine how easily ticks and mosquitoes would find his delicious skin if he didn’t have his tough coat to protect him.
Single or double coated?
So, I think we can agree that our dogs’ coats have some important jobs to do but a lot of the debate around shaving dogs revolves around whether they have a single coat or a double coat.
We’ve got all kinds of amazing dogs in Australia. Some of them such as Poodles and Bichon Frise have a single coat with hair that continues to grow like a human’s hair. Left to its own devices without any grooming, a Maltese for example may eventually turn out like Cousin Itt and I’d wonder if it could see anything through its long fringe.
Double coated breeds are some of the most popular dog breeds in Australia. These include Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Labradors, Pomeranians and Huskies. These gorgeous guys and gals have a tough top coat and a softer undercoat which they shed in warm weather to help keep them cool. Shaving these guys can lead to varied results on the regrowth of each layer with the potential for the undercoat to grow back before the protective top coat.
So, perhaps shaving these breeds is not the best idea. In that case, how do we help keep them cool in the warm weather? Regardless of the breed of dog and type of coat, the simple act of brushing the coat can help. Dog's coats are like cleverly designed jackets and if you allow mats to clog up these jackets then airflow will be constricted. Regular bathing followed by combing with a good quality brush helps identify and remove mats, mud and oil which stifle airflow. For tough mats, soften them up first with something like Dr Zoo’s Mane the Mane Grooming Gream and there will be less tantrums from your doggy toddler.
Don't forget to fetch these tips...
Other tips that may help include making sure that your dog has plenty of access to shade and fresh water. Avoid exercise during the hottest parts of the day and limit the length of exercise on hot days. Every summer, vets see dogs that over-heat because they love running and playing more than they hate being hot.
While a dog’s coat is like a blanket that insulates against the heat and the cold, there is no blanket rule about whether or not you can clip it. Every dog is different so chat to your veterinarian and groomer about what is right for your dog. One thing we know that's not right for sure is, when people dress their dogs up in Prince costumes, that’s just a bit weird!
Xo Dogtor Andy