Fur, fuzz, and fluff: a dog’s coat is more than just part of his looks and personality, it’s actually part of an intricate biological cooling system that helps him beat the heat, keeps pests at bay, and even avoid sunburn. In some cases, however, he could use a hand from his pet parents to help keep his magnificent mane under control – knowing when and how to shave a dog’s fur, however, is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Considerations such as breed, environment, and even season affect the best grooming practices for his coat: sometimes a shave can help, but there’s a larger chance that a close shave will actually end up being harmful. Here’s how to ensure he’s getting what his fur really needs – no less, no more.
Avoid Actual Shaving
A periodic dog wash, groom, and trim is normal and healthy for many breeds and ensures their coat stays looking attractive and low-shedding. Actual down-to-the-skin shaving, however, is harmful and should be avoided – in fact, some dog lovers go as far to say that reputable groomers would refuse to trim that short. Professional canine associations like the American Kennel Club (AKC) recommend that a dog’s fur should never be trimmed shorter than an inch long, for both safety and comfort reasons. A shaved dog loses his protection from the outside environment, which can be damaging to his skin and cause other issues to arise.
Shaved fur can expose a dog’s skin, normally protected by fur, to the sun. This can lead to painful or harmful sunburns, particularly for dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors. Be aware that shaving your dog can risk the following outcomes:
- Shaved fur can interfere with a dog’s natural ability to keep himself cool in hot weather
- Shaved fur can also expose a dog to parasites or insects (e.g., mosquitos, ticks and fleas) that his coat might otherwise protect against
- Shaved fur can, in some aquatic-oriented dogs like Chesapeake Bay retrievers, damage the natural buoyancy or oiliness of their coat quality, leading to dangerous swimming problems
- And finally, shaved fur can affect the way his coat grows back in and fills out over time; when both the coats are shaved back at once, the undercoat can sometimes grow back too quickly, making him look patchy and unattractive
Double-Coated Breeds and Shaving
Compassionate double-coated dog breed owners know that a human wouldn’t wear a heavy fur coat on a hot summer day, which is why they often make a beeline for the groomers. Logic would dictate that removing what looks to be a hot, heavy coat of fur would help dogs like golden retrievers, huskies, and malamutes stay comfortable in the heat. Consider, however, that these breeds (or their similarly-built ancestor canines) existed long before groomers did, and they still managed to stay comfortable. His fur is built to insulate, and that goes for both heating and cooling – a properly-kept natural coat works like an umbrella would in the sun.