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Some dog breeds are best suited to particular climates. For instance, double-coated dogs are built to withstand frigid temperatures, but excessive heat can be uncomfortable or even dangerous for such canines.
So, you see your double-coated dog suffering in the high temperatures of summer. Your air conditioning is cranked up, but you don’t want to keep your dog locked up inside all summer while the sun is out.
It’s a conundrum that has you considering shaving your dog to help them cool down. After all, you’ve seen plenty of shaved pooches on Instagram, even double-coated breeds like Huskies!
But is shaving a double-coated dog ok?
Under normal circumstances, you should never shave a double-coated dog. Their coats are designed to help them regulate their temperature and shaving a double coat can actually make your dog hotter. Plus, you’ll be removing their natural protection and could even ruin their coat long-term. A double coat shouldn’t be cut shorter than one inch.
You might think that shaving your dog would help them cool down, but it could have the opposite effect and could even expose your dog to other unintended problems.
We’re going to explore four good reasons you should never shave a double-coated dog, but we’re also going to discuss the times that even double-coated dogs need to be shaved- though they are few and far between.
After that, I’m going to provide a few ways to help your double-coated dog cool down without shaving them.
4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Shave a Double-Coated Dog
Barring emergencies and extreme circumstances, shaving a double-coated dog is seldom in their best interest. Let’s look at the 4 main reasons why.
Reason 1: Shaving Impedes Temperature Regulation
Though that double coat might seem like it’s causing them to overheat, removing it can actually make matters worse.
It might seem like a double coat could only help protect your dog from the cold. Double coats are definitely best in cold weather and help breeds like the Rottweiler succeed in the snow, the insulation that double coats provide can actually work both ways.
A double-coated dog has two layers of hair. The inner layer is an insulating layer while the outer layer, known as the guard hair, gives a dog their color and offers physical protection but doesn’t provide much insulation.
When temperatures start to rise, a double-coated dog will shed quite a bit of that inner insulating layer of hair, though the outer coat will remain mostly intact. This is sometimes called blowing coat and many double-coated breeds like German Shepherds and Rotties are famous for it.
The remaining hair of the inner layer now becomes an insulator against the summer heat.
It manages this by trapping air between the two layers of hair. This layer of air becomes the insulator, keeping the heat away from your dog’s skin and making it possible for them to regulate their body temperature through panting. This effect is the same idea behind wearing comfortable long sleeve shirts if you’re outside all day.
When you shave your dog’s double coat, you’re removing this insulating ability. Your dog will no longer be able to protect themselves against the heat and this could leave your dog more susceptible to heatstroke.
Said another way, shave you shave down your dog’s double coat, you don’t actually reduce the density of the hair but instead just interrupt the existing heat regulation system! This video does a great job visually explaining this:
Reason 2: Hair Protects A Dog’s Skin from Physical Damage
All of that hair, particularly the outer layer, also helps to protect your dog from physical damage.
Without that thick coat, your dog is far more vulnerable to scrapes and cuts. There’s no protection for your dog’s skin at all if you shave them, so everything they rub against can potentially irritate the skin.
It’s not just cuts and scrapes you have to worry about though. Bug bites could now become more of an issue as well.
Before shaving, that thick coat protected your dog from most insects. Without it, your dog is wide open to bites and stings from anything that flies, from mosquitoes to ants and more.
Reason 3: Shaving Will Expose Dogs to the Sun
Physical harm isn’t the only type of damage your dog’s skin can sustain without their coat to protect them.
A double-coated dog’s skin isn’t used to having the sun’s rays reach it. Usually, that thick double coat prevents any UV from reaching the skin, so sunburn isn’t a problem for double-coated dogs.
Once that double coat is gone though, your dog’s skin is ripe for burning. Their skin is now exposed to the sun and will burn very quickly as it’s not used to those harmful UV rays.
Of course, some of this will depend on how much you shave and how thick your dog’s coat was to begin with but if you’re working with a northern breed like husky there can be a major difference that could lead to sunburn.
Reason 4: Shaving Can Ruin Your Dog’s Coat
Even if you’re considering shaving your dog’s coat, you’re probably not planning on keeping your pup shaved year-round.
But shaving your dog’s double coat can cause it to grow back improperly, effectively ruining its looks and ability to protect your dog.
As mentioned, your dog’s coat contains two distinct layers.
After shaving a double-coated dog, the inner layer often grows back faster than the outer layer. When this happens, it can ruin the appearance and texture of your dog’s coat, causing it to look patchy and strange.
As the inner layer grows out, it doesn’t leave enough room for the outer layer to grow properly, and this means that your dog’s coat might not grow back the way it was before, even if you give it loads of time.
In other words, your dog’s double coat is more complex then it looks!
Shaving a Dog with a Double Coat
Still, there are some rare occasions when cutting a double-coated dog’s hair might be necessary.
When Should You Shave a Double-Coated Dog?
There are only two times when shaving a double-coated dog is recommended: when your dog has a medical condition that requires it, and when their fur is so matted that it can’t be groomed.
Regular grooming can help prevent your dog’s fur from becoming incredibly matted.
Even so, some breeds are predisposed to having matted fur and will require extensive grooming to reduce the chances of this happening. In other cases, dogs may enter a shelter after years of poor care and be left with no other option but shaving in order to restore their coat.
Additionally, there are a few medical conditions that can also cause a need for shaving your dog’s double coat, such as infestations of fleas or ticks. Thought its rare for conditions to reach this point.
Treating many skin conditions can also require the coat to be shaved so it doesn’t hamper treatment.
Surgeries will also often require part of your dog’s coat to be shaved.
Of course, your vet will take care of the hair cutting in this instance, so you won’t have to give it much thought.
How Short Can You Cut a Double-Coated Dog?
When your dog’s double coat does need to be shaved, you’re not going to do it with a razor! You never want to shave your dog’s coat all the way down.
Instead, you’ll be using a set of clippers.
Since double coats can be very thick, you’ll want to go with dog-specific clippers, as they’re built to handle thick dog hairs.
It’s recommended that you never cut your dog’s coat closer than an inch.
Can You Shave a Matted Double Coated Dog?
Barring certain medical conditions, the only time you should shave a double-coated dog is when their coat becomes so hopelessly matted and tangled that you can no longer groom them.
Generally, it takes many weeks of neglect for a dog’s coat to reach this status, and you can easily avoid it by ensuring you’re keeping up with daily grooming.
Still, sometimes things happen, and if your dog’s coat gets out of control, you might need to break out the clippers.
You should still stick to the rule of cutting your dog’s coat no shorter than an inch though. This will at least leave your pooch some protection from physical damage and sunburn.
How to Help Cool Your Double-Coated Dog Without Shaving
As we’ve established, shaving your dog’s double coat will have the opposite effect of what you had intended if you’re cutting your dog’s hair to keep them cool.
Luckily, there are several ways for you to help keep your dog cool without cutting off their luscious double coat! Follow these steps to ensure your double-coated dog remains cool, even in the summer heat.
Keep Up with Daily Grooming
Daily grooming is essential for a double-coated dog. Removing all of the loose and dead hair from their coat will prevent matting and tangling.
Moreover, it will ensure there’s adequate room for airflow, which will allow your dog’s coat to naturally insulate against the heat, allowing that thick double coat to block the heat from reaching your dog.
Bathe Your Dog Regularly
Bathing your dog regularly can also go a long way toward keeping them cool.
Even with regular grooming, loose and dead hair can get tangled into your dog’s double coat. But regular washing can ensure that there’s no dead hair, dirt, or debris blocking airflow in your dog’s coat.
Remember, the air that gets trapped between your dog’s two coats is what provides insulation against the heat or the cold. Anything blocking that will prevent your dog’s coat from working as it’s supposed to.
Ensure Constant Access to Clean Water
Your dog’s coat isn’t the only system in place for regulating your dog’s temperature. Dogs can regulate their temperature through other means such as panting as well.
But none of that works if your dog is dehydrated. A dehydrated dog is far more likely to overheat and is, therefore, more likely to suffer from heatstroke.
If you want to keep your dog as cool as possible, make sure they have access to as much clean water as they can possibly drink.
If you notice that your dog isn’t drinking water, then this could be a sign of something else going on.
Without sufficient water intake, your dog is at higher risk of overheating, so make sure they’re consuming plenty of water, especially when it’s hot outside.
It’s rarely a good idea to shave a double-coated dog. Even though you might think that shaving them would cool them off in the summer heat, it can actually have the opposite effect, ruining your dog’s natural cooling abilities.
Furthermore, you’ll be removing their natural protection from physical harm and the sun’s UV rays.
So, unless your dog has a severe medical condition that calls for shaving their coat or their coat becomes so utterly tangled it can’t be groomed, stick to daily grooming and regular baths to help your double-coated dog stay cool and avoid shaving their coat if there’s any way you can help it.