As summer approaches, concerned pet parents may wonder, “should I give my dog a summer cut to keep them cool?” The answer isn’t a simple yes or no—it depends on the breed, and if they do need a trim, you want to make sure it’s done correctly. Otherwise, you may end up disrupting your dog’s natural cooling system. That’s why a professional groomer is often the way to go (and hey, sometimes they even come to your house!)
Before you call your groomer, here’s what you should know about giving your dog a summer cut.
The benefits of a summer cut
Dogs have bodily mechanisms, like sweating, panting, and shedding to keep themselves cool, but they’re still at more risk of overheating than we are. Feeling overheated can quickly turn to heat stroke, which is more common and serious for dogs than you may think. So during the summer months, it’s important to keep your pup as cool and comfortable as possible.
Since a dog’s coat acts as insulation, it works great during the winter but can backfire during the summer by trapping heat close to their bodies. For dogs with naturally heavy coats, a closer summer cut by a trained professional can allow excess heat to escape from their bodies, helping give them a little relief.
Summer cuts can also help to reduce shedding in double-coated dogs that are prone to it.
To shave or not to shave?
In short: don’t shave your dog. Dogs evolved to have hair for a reason, so removing it entirely puts their health and comfort at risk. Dogs have multiple layers of fur to protect them against the elements, including the hot summer sun. Body hair shields your dog’s body from harmful UV rays, which keeps the surface of their skin cooler.
Can you imagine how you’d feel if someone suddenly shaved off all your body hair, took your clothes, and forced you to go on a walk in the sweltering heat? Probably not great. The same is true for dogs—without the protection of their coat during the summer, they’re more susceptible to overheating, sunburns, and skin cancer.
Summer cuts for double-coated dogs, like huskies and retrievers, should never cut down to the undercoat. As groomer Katie Soistman said in an interview, “I suggest … tak[ing] length off, but not down to the undercoat which can affect hair growth in the coming months after a cut.”
Which dog breeds need a summer cut?
While every dog is unique, some breeds naturally have more hair than others. It’s a common misconception that certain breeds don’t shed at all, but it’s true that some have longer growing cycles than others.
So-called “hypoallergenic” dogs—like poodles and doodles—have finer, longer hair that prevents their undercoat from falling easily from their bodies. Other breeds, like Saint Bernards and Bernese Mountain Dogs, were bred for harsh winter weather, so their thick, heavy coats are no accident. With more hair on their bodies, these breeds naturally retain heat. Along with any other breed that requires regular grooming (like Yorkies), they would likely benefit from a closer cut as the weather warms up.
To sum it up, dog breeds that benefit from a fresh summer style include:
- Portuguese Water Dogs
- Yorkshire Terriers
- St. Bernards
- Bernese Mountain Dogs
Any dog that needs a regular trim for maintenance, like a Bichon Frise, Shih Tzu, Pomeranian, or an Afghan Hound, is on the list for a summer cut as well. Of course, in their cases, they need fresh trims pretty frequently—and summer is no exception.
For dogs with naturally short coats, like Boxers or Boston Terriers, a summer cut isn’t necessary.
Keeping your dog cool during the summer
If your dog has rock-n-roll hair, it’s probably time to call an experienced groomer who can help tame that beautiful mane before it starts really heating up. Otherwise, the following checklist applies for all dogs:
- Make sure they have plenty of fresh, cool water throughout the day
- Bring water with you on walks
- Never leave them in the car on a hot day
- Avoid extended, strenuous exercise in the heat
- Allow your dog to seek out shade or go for a swim when they need it
- If you notice your dog panting heavily, find some shade and get them some water
For most people, summer is their favorite time of year (hello, vitamin D!). With the right hair cut and a caring owner (like you) who looks out for signs of overheating, it can be your dog’s favorite time of year, too.