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Dog owners often believe they should shave their heavily coated dogs in the summer to keep them cooler, but this well-intentioned grooming move isn’t always the right way to go. Mother nature gave your dog that downy coat for a year-round climate control, and you know that they say: You can’t fool Mother Nature.

But whether to shave a dog in any given situation is actually a complicated and controversial question. The answer is often shrouded in myth and misunderstanding but the truth really does seem to be, ahem, rooted in how a dog’s coat actually grows.

Myth No. 1: You’ll ruin the coat!

Ask a group of professional groomers or dog breeders about cutting down a long, heavy, or doubled coat, and you are likely to hear a variety of (and sometimes heated) opinions — some based on knowledge of anatomy , and some based on direct experience. Perhaps the most common reason why the experts will tell you never to shave a dog’s coat is that you risk destroying the coat’s color, texture, or length. It will never grow back the same, some say. They’ve seen it. Others disagree, saying that for a fact the coat will grow back just fine after shaving. They’ve seen it!

The Truth is somewhere in the middle, and both camps are right — sometimes. Certain coats will grow back differently if shaved,depending on the coat and the circumstances, most of which are within the control of the person wielding the clippers. Groomers often get accused of ruining a dog’s coat because of shaving. But the fact is that if you shave a dog down correctly, and the dogs does not have an underlying health condition, the coat will grow back normally.

The reason why shaving must be done correctly– and is probably best handled by and experienced professional groomer–is because of the way dog hair typically grows. Humans have a single hair follicle per hair. Dogs have one hair follicle containing anywhere from 7 to 25 hairs. On a double-coated dog, in that mix of hairs, you have certain percentage of the coarse, glossy guard hairs and certain percentage of the soft, fuzzy undercoat hairs. Because the undercoat grows faster that the guards hairs, if the coat is shaved too close, the undercoat will grow out first and then the guard hairs can’t get out. The follicle opening gets clogged or occluded by those fuzzy undercoat hairs, and it can sometimes take years for the guard hairs to grow back properly. But, if the coat is shaved so that the guard hairs remain comfortably above the follicle surface, all hairs–guard and undercoat–will continue to grow as nature intended. The coat texture and color will remain intact. Basically, you don’t want to damage the hair follicle, and a good groomer will know how to clip a double coat to prevent that damage.

Then you’ve got you wiry terrier-type coats. These grow differently then typical double coats, shaving down a wire coat instead of stripping or carding (pulling out the dead hairs by hand or with a tool), will actually result in a softer coat texture and diluted color. This is not because of shaving –its because of not stripping. With terrier hair, the hair shaft dies and thins out, and the hair then dies and loses its color, if you don’t pull those hairs out, the new hair can’t form and the new coat can’t grow because the dead hair shaft is blocking the way. As long as you strip or card your wire-coated dog, shaving won’t harm the coat. Many groomers also insist that stripping wire coats will keep skin healthier and could ward off common skin ailments in wire-coated breeds. Some groomers will agree to strip wire-coated dogs, but it’s a time-comsuming and expensive process best left to a professional.

Finally, there is a scenario in which a coat, properly clipped, will not grow back as it should. An under-lying health issue such as a thyroid problem can compromise regrowth. If the dog does have a health problem, the  the coat wasn’t growing properly anyway but the existing coat was masking the symptoms. Get the dog’s health in order, and then worry about the coat.

Myth No. 2: But he looks so hot!

A second misunderstanding about heavily coated dogs is that their coats suit them for cold weather and snow but not for hot weather and sun. Not so! Many double-coated breeds have weatherproof coats that not only keep them warm in the winter, but serve as insulators in the summer. A dog’s coat protects him from head, sunburn, and even skin cancer. Shaving removes their protective later, putting the dog’s skin at the mercy of the elements. Think of a heavy coat as your dog’s sun umbrella. Keeping a double coat in good condition with regular brushing is the best way to help a dog stay cool in summer. Because dogs don’t sweat the way humans do, shaving  the coat doesn’t actually help facilitate the thermoregulating process. One thing you can do for some of those big cold-climate breeds is to shave the belly hair short in the summer.

Small dogs with long coats, such as Maltese, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, and Yorkshire Terriers, won’t be cooled off by a shave either. The only reason to cut them down is if the pet owner doesn’t want to take the time to care for a long coat.

The bottom line is that dogs have their coats for a reason. Still, there are a number of reasons to cut a dog’s hair short. Some dogs (just like some people) do seem to enjoy a shorter haircut. Arthritic senior dogs may not be as comfortable enduring long grooming sessions. For some canine athletes, a shorter cut could be more practical, although some active purebred dogs also compete in sports, and their coats rarely seem to slow them down.

Unfortunately, what groomers say often happens is that pet owners neglect their dog’s long, heavy coats, resulting in mats, parasites, mold, and skin problems, A shorter clip when the dog is still in good condition is kinder and more responsible. If you aren’t willing to do the work, cut the dog into a shorter clip rather then letting the coat go, then you won’t ever have to shave the dog way down. When a dog gets to the point of a destroyed coat and compromised skin health, concerns about a coat’s potential for regrowth must be secondary. But for pet owners willing to brush regularly, rake out the undercoat, head off mats, and keep a dog clean, groomers and breeders alike usually agree: A dog’s natural coat, perhaps with a bit of appropriate trimming or shaping, is almost always the most weather-proof in any season.

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One Response to A Close Shave – Do “summer cuts help or hurt.” Scottsdale dog grooming

  1. Finally, someone with all the right answers.

    Thank you

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