Describe A Time When You Experienced Extreme Weather Conditions Not All Dogs Benefit From A Summer Haircut or Shave Down

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Not All Dogs Benefit From A Summer Haircut or Shave Down

It’s impossible to count the number of times a professional dog groomer is asked to shave his dog each summer in an effort to keep him cool. Here in rural Montana where the summers are intense, I have been asked to shave almost every breed. It is a common misconception that all dogs are automatically cold if they have short hair.

First it is important to consider the type of dog’s hair. All dogs can basically be divided into two groups. First we have people that need to be clipped regularly like Poodles, Shih Tzus, Cocker Spaniels, Lhasa Apsos, Terriers, etc. Dogs in this group have hair that grows longer and longer until it is cut. These breeds can be shaved without any difficulty. Shaving and removing excess coat in hot weather will actually make them more comfortable and cooler and won’t damage the dog’s coat. However, this is not the case with the second group.

This group of dogs includes all other breeds, long-haired or short-haired, whose hair only grows to one length and then stays that length. These dogs usually shed more than the dogs in the first group. These include Retrievers, Pomeranians, Great Pyrenees, Chow Chows, Pugs, German Shepherds, Huskies, and the list goes on. Their coats act as insulators against the elements and should never be shaved. Finally, do you take the insulation out of your home in the summer to cool it down? Absolutely not, and the same goes for these dogs.

Dogs in the second group have two different types of hair in their coats, a soft, downy undercoat and a coarse, thick coat called a guard hair. These two types of hair are actually designed to mat and intertwine to form a hard shell or pelt around the animal to help regulate its temperature in extreme climates. Without proper brushing and grooming on a regular basis, this often happens, leading the owner to mistakenly conclude that the dog needs to have its coat trimmed to cool down. However, cutting the hair of these dogs removes their insulation from heat, actually making these dogs hotter and more uncomfortable. Shaving also makes them more prone to sunburn.

It is important to understand that if you decide to go ahead and shave these types of dogs, their hair will never be the same again. Shaving will change the coat forever. Not only does the hair grow back extremely slowly, it also grows back very soft and sparse. The color of the coat will also be different, as the hair will be at least two shades lighter than before.

The worst thing about shaving a dog with this type of hair is what we call clipper alopecia. In simple terms, it means that the hair does not grow back. This is due to the replacement of guard hair after cutting. Clipper alopecia usually develops first in a patch on the dog’s back, just in front of the tail. After shaving, only a thin layer of hair will grow back, usually reaching a maximum length of half an inch. Dogs that develop this condition have coats that appear moth-eaten. This is not an attractive sight!

Well, what if you have a dog that’s skin-to-skin and looking really hot in this bad weather? Consult a properly trained groomer to determine the best course of action. With the many miracle grooming products available on the market, many times the coat can be saved with a couple of intensive grooming sessions and some effort on the part of the owner in daily grooming. This adapts the dog’s coat to perform its insulating function properly. Sometimes, the coat is truly beyond repair and actually needs to be shaved to start over. Your groomer can help you with this decision and give you tips on how to avoid this situation in the future.

It is important to note that if you have a mixed breed dog, it can be difficult to determine which group the dog falls into. Which group does the dog fall into and what action should be taken, what are the dangers, etc. Most breeders can assess a dog’s coat by observing it to let you know.

As a former professional groomer, I strongly feel that it is the groomer’s responsibility to fully explain these things to clients who want to shave their dog. Sharing knowledge with consumers is key to making the best possible decisions for pets in need of pet grooming.

Copyright 2008 Shannon Hegem

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