Summer is here and you won’t be the only one feeling the heat. You have the option to start wearing shorts and t-shirts, but your dog may be stuck in a fur coat. Should you shave him down to the skin? Should you worry about him getting sunburned? What about short-haired or double-coated dogs? Do they need to be shaved too? Here’s a handy flowchart for deciding whether shaving your dog is the best way to keep him cool.
Does your dog have short hair?
Examples: Labrador Retriever, Pug, Boxer
NO: You should not shave a short-haired dog. A dog’s coat helps protect its skin from the sun. Think about how a shirt reflects some of the sun before it hits your skin. Your dog’s short hair will help reflect some of the heat and keep him cooler than if the sun hit his skin directly. Shaving short-haired dogs will also not reduce the amount of hair they lose. A thorough brushing with a rubber curry brush or Furminator (don’t overdo it – you could cause bald spots!) will reduce shedding and protect your dog’s skin from the sun.
Does your dog have medium-length hair?
Examples: Golden Retriever, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Bernese Mountain Dog
NO: Dogs with medium-length hair usually also have an undercoat. Shaving this type of hair can damage the undercoat, meaning the hair may not grow back properly – or at all if your dog has certain underlying health conditions. Additionally, the coat helps reflect some of the sun before it hits your dog’s skin. Best for your dog is a very thorough brushing (groomers may call this a hair removal service, carding or furminating) with optional feather trimming on your dog’s belly, buttocks and legs. Removing the dead undercoat will prevent your dog from overheating without damaging the coat.
Does your dog have a fluffy coat (thick undercoat)?
Examples: Pomeranian, Siberian Husky, Newfoundland
NO: Shaving dogs with a thick undercoat can destroy their coat so that it never grows back properly. The top layer also helps regulate your dog’s temperature – just as an insulated thermos can keep drinks both hot and cold, so can your dog’s top layer keep him both cool and warm. You will want to have the entire undercoat brushed. It is the damaged, dead undercoat that prevents cool air from reaching your dog’s skin and causes him to overheat.
CAVEAT: If your dog has not been groomed for a year, the undercoat may be dull and brushing may no longer be an option. In cases of severe matting, shaving is the best and most humane option for your dog. Discuss your options with your trusted groomer.
Does your dog have hair that grows continuously?
Examples: Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier, Poodle
YES BUT: Dogs with this type of hair need regular grooming anyway, and a quick shave in the summer can be a good way to keep them cool. However, leaving a little fur will protect the skin from the sun. You should leave at least ⅛” of hair on dark-colored dogs and ¼” on light-colored dogs to help protect their skin.
ALSO: Don’t feel like you HAVE to shave your dog in the summer. If your dog stays indoors most of the time, you brush him regularly and you like a fluffy look, you can skip the summer shearing.
Whether or not you decide to shave your dog this summer, you should provide him with shade and water when he is outside and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest times of the day. If your dog is shaved all the way down to the skin, baby sunscreen will help prevent sunburn.