Its summer time and you’ve booked an appointment with the groomer. Upon arrival the groomer wants to know if you are shaving your golden retriever down for the summer. So the question is to shave or not to shave?
Shaving a dog down for summer is a very popular option for pet owners and indeed for some dog breeds it is an ideal practice. But not for all breeds!
With the exception of the hard-coated terriers, dog coats basically come in two types: single, or short-coated and double-coated. Single-coated breeds have coats that will continue to grow longer and longer, much like human hair. Examples of these include the Poodles, Shih-Tzu, Bichons etc. Double-coated or fur-bearing breeds have coats that grow to a predetermined length. This second group can further be separated into two categories: open and closed coats.
Double-coated open breeds have a hard, protective outer coat, called guard hairs, and a soft dense undercoat. These coats are designed to shed snow and ice and provide protection against freezing temperatures. Examples of these dog breeds are Siberian huskies, Pomeranians and Chows. Double-coated closed breeds have noticeably longer guard hairs, which lay down over the undercoat, like a blanket. While the outer, or guard hairs get wet, the undercoat works to keep the dogs skin dry. Examples of dogs with this type of coats are Golden Retrievers, Australian Shepherds and Newfoundlands.
Single-coated dog breeds can be clipped down to the skin and their coats will grow back much the same as they were before the shaving.
It’s different for the double-coated breeds. Shaving them down for the summer is not a solution for the summer heat. Shaving a double coat removes the dog’s natural insulation and causes their systems to kick into overdrive. They will now work to produce a coat to protect themselves from extreme temperatures, sunburn and sharp objects. When the coat does grow back it produces a thicker undercoat with a mix of short guard hairs. This new coat is thicker and softer then the old coat. Why is this bad? A dog’s shaved down false coat acts as a sweatshirt. Its softness soaks up the water and attracts burrs and hitchhikers. The thickness of the coat is extremely hot in summer. During the winter as the coat is growing back the new coat is matting, retaining water and mud and possible causing mildewing. Your pet will stay cold and wet for hours. You are trying to “keep your pet cool”, but you may be keeping it hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
The ideal solution for double-coated breeds is to ask your groomer for a bath and to have the undercoat blown out. This process blasts the dead undercoat out of the pets coat after the bath with minimal brushing and combing, and will provide your pet with a balanced coat.
Don’t forget that after shaving the single-coated dog breeds should be protected from large amounts of direct sun, which can cause sun burns!
So the answer to the question “to shave or not to shave” really does depend on the breed!
For more tips on keeping your pet cool, see our earlier post :
–Written by Beth C., Registered Veterinary Technician at Blue Cross Animal Hospital.