Summer is here, and you won’t be the only one feeling the heat. You have the option to start wearing shorts and t-shirts, but your dog may be stuck in a fur coat. Should you shave him all the way to the skin? Do you need to worry about him getting sunburned? What about short-haired or double-coated dogs – should they be shaved, too? Here’s a handy flowchart to decide if shaving your dog is the best way to keep him cool.
Does your dog have short hair?
Examples: Labrador Retriever, Pug, Boxer
NO: You should not shave your short-haired dog. A dog’s fur helps protect his skin from the sun. Think about how a shirt helps reflect some of the sun before it hits your skin. Your dog’s short hair will help reflect some of the heat and keep him cooler than he would be if the sun were hitting his skin directly. Shaving short-haired dogs won’t reduce the amount of hair they shed, either. A thorough brushing with a rubber curry brush or Furminator (just don’t overdo it – you can cause bald spots!) will reduce shedding and protect your dog’s skin from the sun.
Does your dog have medium-length hair?
Examples: Golden Retriever, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Bernese Mountain Dog
NO: Dogs with medium-length hair also usually have an undercoat. Shaving this type of hair can damage the undercoat, which means the hair may not grow back right – or at all if your dog has certain underlying health concerns. Plus, the fur helps reflect some of the sun before it hits your dog’s skin. The best thing for your dog is a very thorough brushing (groomers may call it a deshedding service, carding, or Furminating) with an optional trimming of the feathers on your dog’s belly, bum, and legs. Removing the dead undercoat will help prevent your dog from overheating without damaging their coat.
Does your dog have fluffy fur (thick undercoat)?
Examples: Pomeranian, Siberian Husky, Newfoundland
NO: Shaving dogs with a thick undercoat can ruin their coat so that it never grows back properly. The topcoat also helps regulate your dog’s temperature – just like an insulated thermos can keep drinks either hot or cold, so can your dog’s topcoat help keep them cool as well as warm. You will want to get all of that undercoat brushed out – it’s the impacted, dead undercoat that prevents cool air from reaching your dog’s skin and causing him to overheat.
CAVEAT: If your dog has not been groomed in a year, the undercoat may be matted and brushing it out may no longer be an option. In cases of severe matting, shaving is the best, most humane, option for your dog. Discuss your options with your trusted groomer.
Does your dog have hair that continuously grows?
Examples: Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier, Poodle
YES, BUT: Dogs with this type of hair need regular grooming anyway, and a short summer shave can be a great way to keep them cool. However, leaving a little bit of fur helps protect their skin from the sun. You should leave at least ⅛” of hair on dark-colored dogs and ¼” on light-colored dogs to help protect their skin.
ALSO: Don’t feel like your MUST shave your dog in the summer. If your dog stays inside most of the time, you brush them regularly, and you like the fluffy look, you can skip the summer shave.
Whether or not you decide to shave your dog this summer, you should provide them with shade and water when they are outside and try to avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest times of the day. If your dog is shaved all the way to the skin, baby sunscreen will help prevent sunburn.