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Should You Shave Your Long Haired Dog?

Although it’s only May, many parts of the country are already experiencing record-breaking heat, with temperatures in the three digits. Wanting to do what’s best for their dogs, many owners believe that shaving their long haired breeds help them cope with heat, in the same way that we shed layers as the temperature rises. But, this myth may actually be making your dog MORE uncomfortable.

Their Coat is not YOUR Coat

When we get hot, we shed layers. That’s because we wear clothes – an “unnatural” covering over our own skin and hair. Who knows, if Adam and Eve had not started to cloth themselves, we may be a lot hairy than we are today. Instead, we wear clothes according to the temperature outside to help us stay warm or cool.

Since we shed our coats as the weather changes, we often assume our dogs must want to shed their as well. However, we forget two very important points:

  • A dog already goes through a blowing (shedding) of the coat as the weather warms
  • Their coat IS NOT supposed to come off completely

Regardless, of the temperature, a dog is supposed to have the coat he has – whether its long, short, wire, or something in between. His body chemistry and make up is made to go with the coat he has – thanks to nature.

The top coat of a dog acts as a natural A/C as well as a protection against his environment
The top coat of a dog acts as a natural A/C as well as a protection against his environment

Nature’s Cooling System

Contrary to the myth, that long coat actually HELPS your dog stay cool. In the spring, long haired breeds (like my Shetland sheepdogs) blow their undercoat. The owner is left with a skinny, sometimes scraggly looking dog with only the rough top coat left. This part of the coat works as insulation AGAINST the heat and the long hairs allow for air circulation.

Shaving a long haired breed can ACTUALLY CAUSE HEAT STROKE.

Protection

What their coat DOES have in common with our own coats, is that they are both there to help protect the skin from things in the environment that might harm them.

A dog’s coat protects her from:

  • Other animals’ scratches and bites
  • Branches, thorns, brambles, etc.
  • Sunburn
  • Rubbing from collar and leash (just look at a short haired dog to see what these can do, they usually have a bald spot, or two)

When It’s Necessary

Obviously, there are times when a coat has not been taken care of and it becomes a mass of mats. At that point, there is no air circulation, and while the dog is still protected from the sun and other harms, the mats themselves are posing bigger threats such as mold, maggots, hot spots, and hosts of other parasites and diseases. In addition, the mats restrict the air flow, negating the natural cooling system.

At this point, the dog should be shaved, for his health.

So unless your dog is matted to the point your vet says it needs to go for health reasons, you should NOT shave your long haired dog! Just remember, their coat is not your coat. And, if nothing else sways you, be warned: a shaved coat NEVER comes back as nice. When you shave your legs or face, the incoming hair is bristly and rough—the same thing will happen to your dog. I know an Aussie that gets shaved and he looks and feels like a Brillo pad.

About the Author

Based in Tustin, Calif., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She also owns her own custom pet products company, A Fairytail House, where she makes personalized collars, leashes, beds, keepsake pillows and blankets, and anything else your imagine can think up. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs.

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Written by Kristina Lotz
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