It would seem that shaving your furry friend would be an act of kindness in the summer to keep your dog cool, and that would not be an issue with regular dog fur. Some dogs should not be shaved, though, and the shaving causes many other problems later on.
Dog breeds with a double coat should not be shaved down. This double-coated dog trait includes the Husky and Collie breeds, as well as the other herding breeds, like the Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs. The reason to not shave is that the “topcoat” or guard hairs are sufficient to protect your dog from the sun’s rays and hot weather after the undercoat has been shed. Once the colder weather has passed and is no longer needed to keep the dog warm and dry, it is shed and can be brushed out. Air can circulate close to the skin once the undercoat is gone, and the remaining outer layer hairs will reflect the sun’s heat away, preventing burns and skin cancer.
Why is shaving a double-coated dog a bad thing? The main reason is due to the difference between single-coated breeds and double-coated dogs’ fur properties.
A single-coated dog’s fur grows constantly, and if you shave your dog, it will grow back to normal after some time. The texture and feel of the fur will be consistent with the way the coat was before shaving. This is completely different from the double-coated dog’s fur after shaving.
Why You Should Not Shave Double-Coated Dogs
The guard hairs or topcoat on double-coated breeds grow very slowly, much slower than the undercoat hairs. This causes the newly shaved coat to come in with the undercoat outpacing the protective guard hairs. The texture, once the guard hair and undercoat are mixed, is somewhat felt-like. This has a thicker and more coarse feel to it.
The softer undercoat mixed with the guard hairs is denser and will prevent airflow from cooling the skin, causing overheating and “hot spots”. Since the guard hairs are not on the top layer anymore, the sun can reach the skin and undercoat. The result is overheating and sunburning.
Occasionally your double-coated dogs may have gotten the fur so matted or tangled that there was no alternative but to shave your dog. In most cases, the owners say the coat never felt the same after shaving.
Which Breeds Of Dogs are Double-Coated?
As mentioned before, the double-coated breeds are the northern and herding type dogs. This will include hybrid dogs like Goldendoodles, Labradoodles, and Bernedoodles since their parentage includes Golden and Labrador Retrievers, and Bernese Mountain Dogs.
The following is an abbreviated list of breeds with coats that shouldn’t be shaved:
- English, German, and Australian Shepherds
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Shih Tzus
- Bernese Mountain Dogs
- Great Pyrenees
- Golden and Labrador Retrievers
- Cavalier King Charles
How Does My Dog Keep Cool Without Shaving?
First of all, shaving your dog only makes you feel better. Your dog looks so much cooler without that heavy coat, but that would only be true if he handled warm weather the way people do.
Dogs have their own biological cooling systems since they do not sweat as humans do. Dogs keep cool by panting, perspiration at the paws, and blood circulation through thinner parts of the skin such as the ears.
The two layers of the double coat hair will provide insulation in cold weather, and in hot weather, the outer layer guard hairs will conduct cooling air across the skin. This topcoat, while reflecting the sun’s rays, also acts as a shield against parasites and insects.
A significant number of dog breeds, such as the Siberian Husky, have no natural skin pigmentation. Removing the dog’s coat also removes protection from the sun resulting in sunburn and allergic issues.
What If I Already Shaved My Double-Coated Dog?
All is not lost if your groomer surprises you with a summer cut, or you gave up trying to remove your Goldendoodle’s latest foray into the sticker bush and took the easy route. Not all dogs will have permanent damage to their coat, as every dog is different. With hybrids like Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, or Bernedoodles the double coat is inherited from one parent since the Poodle has a single coat. The growth pattern of the under and topcoat with vary just as the texture or color of the final coat will.
It will take a while before you will need to get out the slicker brush to help thin out the undercoat.
While waiting for the coats to grow out naturally, owners can keep the dog groomed and brushed. Keep the skin from getting dried out using a moisturizer and watch out for too much time in the direct sunlight. A dog can get skin cancer just like humans do.
How To Care For Double-Coated Dog Fur
You are probably already aware of what kind of coat your dog has. Your double-coated dog’s undercoat gets into everything-your carpet, your best Sunday suit, the car seats, your mouth. It even counts as a condiment at our house.
Since the fuzzy undercoat is your dog’s natural filtration system, we need to clean it out often. It traps dirt and doggy dander and keeps outside pollutants from reaching the skin, which would make it into the circulatory system.
The steps I use for this are:
- De-shed with a slicker brush and detangler spray like Quicker Slicker. Brush to remove only the undercoat that is ready to come out. Don’t force it.
- Wash your dog using a shampoo specially made for heavy coats. Work it into the coat well.
- Apply an undercoat conditioner.
- Thoroughly rinse, even over rinse.
- Towel dry.
- Brush again to remove the undercoat that has been dislodged during the wash.
- Force dry – This is going to get the last of whatever undercoat is ready to come out.
- Comb out the fur.
I know it seems like a lot of work, but double coats are a lot more labor-intensive than regular single coats. This can always be left to your groomer to do, but it gets expensive since it needs to be done more often.
Exceptions To The No-Shave Rule
Of course, there are exceptions that make shaving the lesser of two evils. They can include:
- Medical emergencies or treatment requiring shaving
- Extreme allergies requiring shaving to allow the skin to breathe
- The hair has become too matted to detangle. A humane approach since it can get painful to untangle a pressed-down undercoat.
As always, consult with your veterinarian to explore options available for your dog.