Do You Need to Shave Your Dog in Summer?

If I had a dollar for every time someone said that they needed to have their dog clipped short for the summer, I would be very well off. Like, my own helicopter, well off. 🚁 The idea that a dog with more hair than other dogs means they are hotter, is incorrect*. An animal with more hair can keep themselves warmer than an animal without, though this does not mean they are unable to keep themselves cool, subsequently, requiring hair to be removed or to be shaved. In fact, they have their own mechanisms for keeping cool naturally and shaving them prevents this system from working.

There are a few reasons why hair may need to be cut shorter on a dog, none of which have anything to do with temperature.

Why would pup NEED a hair cut?

Glorious Poodle Mane. Courtesy of the ANKC
  1. Their hair grows constantly.
    Breeds like Poodles, Yorkies and Maltese Terriers all have coats that grow constantly. They appear to shed less as their hair follicles have a longer life cycle than other breeds, meaning each strand stays “alive” or “attached” for longer. These dogs could become mini woolly mammoths if not trimmed. Think about how big a Poodles top knot can get!
  2. Their hair has become matted.
    Matted hair often needs to be shaved off if they are especially tight to the skin. Once shaved off their skin can breath and the hair has a chance to regrow healthily. Shaving off any mats creates a clean canvas for you to work on. Brushing out a matted coat can be painful for pup and is often time consuming and difficult.
  3. For cleanliness and hygiene reasons.
    If your dog grows hair around their bottom and/or private areas, these can be shaved short to prevent infection and make bathing at home easier. I’d personally say this would be a must for pups that sleep in your bed! And If your dog’s eyes ‘leak’ or ‘cry’ a lot, the hair between their eyes can end up staying wet and cause an eye infection as the bacteria sits in the corners of their eyes so this hair can also be trimmed away.

Shaving your dog will prevent/limit shedding?
Sorry, not true! It often seems that way because during a groom, whether they are being shaved or not, a lot of loose hair is removed. Be that from brushing or from bathing. If your dog is shaved, the hair that is shed after this time is shorter (or smaller) and the quantity is reduced as so much hair has already been removed. This can give the appearance of a dog that sheds less. The same amount of hair, however, would be shed from the dog if they were not shaved – the hairs would just be longer and therefore, more visible at home.

Lydia Scarpari, Guest Wellness Keeper, Organix Dog Spa

Signs Pup is Hot
It is completely normal for your dog to Pant, lay in the shade, lay in some water, sit in a cooler position eg: lay on their side when they usually lay curled up, drink extra water and have sweaty paws. If it is hot, pup IS going to act hot. I can just about guarantee that your pup will exhibit these signs with or without being shaved. However, it IS possible for pup to be TOO hot to the point of overheating – just like we can. Young puppies, elderly and sick are more susceptible – just like we are. Certain breeds are also more susceptible, like Brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds.

Signs pup has Heatstroke/Overheating
Heavy Panting & Raspy Breathing
Bright Red Gums
Stumbling & Falling Down – Seeming drowsy or dizzy

Prevention is Best & Common Sense is Key
Plenty of shade, freshwater & a cool place to lay down are not only things pup should have access to daily, but are all things that will help prevent Heatstroke. Use your common sense, if it’s an unusually hot day, try and keep pup inside. Where this isn’t possible, you can offer a shallow pool for pup to wade in if they like water or you can try some store-bought cooling options like cooling mats or gel mats.
You should also ensure pup has places to go that haven’t been purposely cooled. For example, don’t put ice packs under all of pups beds or they won’t be able to escape them.
Know your pup, what do they naturally like to do to keep cool? If they’re the type of pup to splay out on the tiles then a cooling mat or ice packs might be a good option. If they have a tendency to dip their paws on the water bowl then a kiddie pool or a few extra buckets of water would be ideal.

A lot of people try to offer unnatural cooling options to their dogs and wonder why they don’t want to use them. I’ve always found it easier to work with their instincts and find an option that suits what they already and naturally try to do.

Lydia Scarpari, Guest Wellness Keeper, Organix Dog Spa

Recommendations

If you suspect your dog is feeling hotter than usual, but, not to the point of heatstroke, of course. Give them a bath and a really good brush – but don’t go crazy either. Excessive brushing can damage their coat, remove live hair and/or scratch their skin. You want to get all the LOOSE hair out. This will maximize your dogs natural cooling ability. Too much undercoat laying around, sitting on your dogs skin is what increases body temperature.
Shaving your dog exposes their skin directly to the suns rays making it harder for them to keep cool and increases your dog’s chances of sunburn. It’s a bit like taking the roof off your house. Without hair, your pup won’t have anything to block the suns rays.

The Organix Method of De-Shedding – Hydrate & Release
Some groomers may advise you to have your dog “de-shed” for summer, in theory, an excellent choice. In practice, it can be done via excessive brushing which I would highly advise against. It’s important to speak with your groomer and find out what’s involved in their De-Shedding process and decide whether or not it’s right for your dog.
The Organix Method involves a deep hydration treatment (natural/organic/effective) that conditions the dogs skin and coat. A coat that is properly conditioned allows loose hair to basically slide out so there is no need for excessive brushing or damaging the coat. A dry coat traps hair and creates knots. Properly hydrated skin also allows for healthy hair to grow back through.

*Assuming the dog’s coat is in good condition. A poor coat with lots of loose undercoat can affect airflow and cause pup to become hotter than they should be.

For more info on Dog Heatstroke