Should I shave my dog in the summer?

There is a very common misconception that long haired dogs should be shaved in the summer.  It does seem like that would be the right thing to do, but in fact, it is not!

Dogs with long hair often actually have two coats:  an inner and an outer coat. During the cold winter months, the inner coat will become very thick with the outer coat acting almost like a barrier against the elements.  At this time, their hair insulates them and keeps their heat in. However, in the summertime (and this is what most people do not know), the inner coat actually thins itself out (hence all that shedding they do in the spring) and keeps the heat away from their body.

Breeds that have double hair coats include, but are not limited to, Labradors, Huskies, Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Chow Chows, Collies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and Newfoundlands.  If your dog is not listed here but you are unsure of whether they may be included in this category, ask your veterinarian.

When these double-coated dogs are shaved, it is common for them to have issues with the regrowth of the hair.  The inner coat grows back much more quickly, but will still shed normally. When this happens, the outer coat will not grow as fast or maybe even not at all because it gets crowded out by the faster growing inner coat.  The results are a patchy hair coat, follicle damage and clogging, and loss of weather and water protection.

These double coats are Mother Nature’s way of keeping our pets warm or cool at the right times.  Other ways dogs keep themselves cool is by sweating through their foot pads (the only place dogs sweat) and panting. Also, dilated blood vessels in a dog’s ears and on their faces carry warm blood closer to the surface allowing heat to escape.  These are all ways of nature and are not affected at all by shaving the hair, making it rather pointless.

Another perk to that longer hair is that it acts as a natural sunscreen for our canine pals.  Dogs can get sunburned just like we can when their hair isn’t there to shield them. It is a good idea, though, to use a pet-safe sunscreen on their noses, tips of their ears, and even their bellies where there is typically less hair.

To help keep your pup cool in the hot sun, make sure they have shade or shelter if they must be outside.  Kiddie pools with a few inches of water can be great for cooling off and entertainment! For a dog that isn’t a big fan of water, they may enjoy lying on damp towels.  Indoors, lying on cool tile or linoleum with a small fan blowing will help immensely.

If you still have any questions or concerns regarding shaving your pet, visit with your veterinarian.  They will be happy to share more information with you!