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Will shaving my double-coated dog really keep him cool?!

A dog’s coat serves a purpose based on what the dog was bred to do. Terriers often have smooth coats that allow them to burrow into small holes without getting their fur caught on roots and rocks. Water and mountain dogs, like Labradors and St. Bernards, have thick coats that repel water, snow and ice. Other examples of double-coated dogs are Akitas, Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. Dogs such as these have two coats – a longer outer layer and a softer undercoat.

Here is a thermal image of a dog with a portion of its body at 24°C (75.2°F) and the clipped portion at 30.8°C(87.44°F.) The hair is present for several reasons, one of them being for temperature regulation.

If your dog has a double-coat and is shedding a lot, you may think it will be helpful to shave him down in order to move the shedding process along. But in fact, shaving a double-coated dog is the worst thing to do. Shaving prevents cool air from getting to the skin because the undercoat is still present. And a shaved coat doesn’t protect against the sun either, which exposes your dog to greater risks of overheating, sunburn and even skin cancer.

Single-coated dogs can be repeatedly shaved down because the shaving process does not change the texture of their hair. The hair will just keep growing and growing whereas a double-coated dog’s hair will grow to a certain level and stop. The texture of a double-coated dog will change once you shave it down. The guard hairs, once shaved, can become coarse and things like burrs and twigs will stick to them. At times, depending on the age and health of the dog, the coat may not grow back at all. The shaving process can also put your dog at risk for uncomfortable mats and skin irritations like hot spots. Please note that you should never bathe a matted dog as bathing causes the mats to tighten up, making your dog even more uncomfortable.

It is always best to consult with a professional groomer before shaving any dog. A good groomer will have the expertise to know what type of service will best meet your dog’s needs. If you don’t have a groomer that you use regularly, check with your veterinarian’s office as they may have a service to recommend.

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