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Key Points
  • Shaving a double-coated dog can actually make it harder for him to cool off.
  • Coats shouldn’t be cut to less than one inch to protect from sunburn and bug bites.
  • Regular brushing improves air circulation and cooling.
Great Pyrenees walking near a lake.
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Temperatures are soaring, your dog is panting, and there’s dog hair all over the house. You might be thinking that a good, close shave down could help cool your dog off while eliminating some of that furry mess.

Well, think again. Many dogs should not be shaved at all, depending on their coat type. Shaving can actually have the opposite effect of what you intend and make your dog even hotter. Here are some insights on shaving your dog, and some steps you can take instead to keep your dog healthy in hot weather.

Double-Coated Dogs

Double-coated dogs have a soft, inner coat of hair close to their skin that serves as an insulating layer, helping keep them warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. In summer, a dog will shed a good bit of this under layer, but what remains will help capture air between the two coat layers, allowing the dog to keep the heat at bay and regulate his body temperature. The outer coat (or guard hair) consists of longer hair that gives a dog his color and is not shed as much.

Examples of double-coated dogs are Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, German Shepherd Dogs, Labrador Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, and English Springer Spaniels. As they shed their undercoats in warm weather, their outer layer, or guard hairs, remains to protect them from sunburn and insect bites.

“Your dog’s coat actually acts as an insulator,” explains Dr. Jerry Klein, AKC chief veterinary officer. “Shaving that coat to reduce shedding or supposedly to keep the dog cool also eliminates that insulating layer of fur makes the dog susceptible to heat stroke and can result in improper hair growth and the possibility of follicle damage. A dog’s fur coat protects him from sunburn and decreases his risk of developing skin cancer.”

Shaving a double-coat can also do long-term damage. When it is shaved down to the skin, the undercoat hair will grow back faster, and sometimes will crowd out the slower-growing guard hairs. This can change the texture and color of a dog’s coat and make it appear patchy and unattractive.

Single-Coated Dogs

Single-coated dogs include dogs such as Greyhounds, Boxers, Dalmatians, Poodles, Maltese, and Afghan Hounds. They can have very short hair or long hair, and it can be wiry, smooth, or curly – but all have even-looking hairs with no soft undercoat.

Certain types of single-coated dogs may benefit from having a professional groomer clip their coats occasionally to prevent matting and to keep them cooler, but the coats should not be shaved down to the skin. It is best to leave at least one-inch of hair to protect them from sunburn, skin cancer, and from bug bites. These dogs don’t have the added insulation of an undercoat, so they need to keep at least one inch of hair to for warmth and protection.

Instead of Shaving

Dogs cool down a lot differently than we do, and shaving really has no big impact on cooling them down. Dogs rely on panting to control most of their temperature regulation. They also rely on vasodilation (blood vessel expansion) to help them cool off, especially on their ears and face. When the blood vessels expand, they bring the hot blood closer to the surface of the skin.

Dogs also have merocrine sweat glands that function similarly to human sweat glands, however they are located only in a dog’s paw pads, and they activate when the dog is hot to cool him down.

Rather than shaving your dog, there are some steps you can take to keep him comfortable when the weather is hot:

  • Brush your dog’s fur regularly to eliminate the dead hair, prevent matting, and allow for better air circulation in his coat.
  • Give your dog regular cool baths to keep him clean and free of pests.
  • Since your dog’s cooling sweat glands are located on his feet, keeping his paws trimmed of excess fur can help the sweat evaporate and cool him off.
  • Groomers suggest it is also a good idea to keep a dog’s legs and stomach trimmed of very long hair to enhance cooling.
  • Make sure your dog always has access to cool water and shade; takes walks and exercises only during the coolest parts of the day; and is never left unattended in a vehicle, even for just a few minutes.
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