- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
When the weather heats up or tumbleweeds of fur roll around their home, pet parents might consider shaving their dogs to help them cool off or stop shedding. Well, think again.
Jerniece Ballard, lead stylist and a Fear Free certified groomer for Patrick’s Pet Care, says that contrary to popular belief, pet parents shouldn’t shave their dogs to cool them off.
Instead, Ballard advises its best to reserve shaving as a last resort for dogs with wild, severely matted fur, if they’re older or have a medical condition or disability. Additionally, pet parents should never shave their dog with a double coat.
A good shave from a groomer or home leaves your dog’s remaining fur even with minimal cowlicks. Below, we’ll outline everything pet parents need to know about shaving their dogs and provide tips to help keep your dog cool and shedding to a minimum.
Should I Shave My Dog? Drawbacks & Benefits
With so much information swirling around, dog pet parents might not know whether or not to shave their dogs. Ballard and Melissa Weaver, Associate General Manager of Fear Free Grooming & Husbandry Training at Patrick’s Pet Care, explain why and why not to shave your dog.
5 drawbacks of shaving
- Overheating. Pet parents might think shaving their dogs makes them cooler. However, the opposite happens. Weaver explains that dogs have an undercoat that acts as an insulating layer to keep cool in the summer. If you shave that, they no longer have that natural cooling mechanism and protection, making them more susceptible to overheating.
- Coat damage. Some dogs shouldn’t be shaved (more on that later). If you shave a dog with a double coat, Weavers says this can change the texture and color of a dog’s fur and make it appear patchy and unattractive. It’s also a myth that shaving decreases shedding long-term.
- Sunburn. Shaving leaves your dog’s sensitive skin exposed to harmful UV rays from the sun, especially when summer rolls around. Long-term exposure without dog-safe sunscreen can lead to sunburn.
- Other skin problems. Like sunburns, other skin problems arise when a dog is left shaved and vulnerable. For example, Ballard says insects, like fleas and ticks, have an easier time biting shaved skin. Other possible post-shave skin problems for dogs include dryness or ingrown hair.
- Clipper injury risk with fearful dogs. Clippers are sharp and often spook dogs unfamiliar with them. During a shave, if your dog is moving around a lot, they might get injured with the clippers or get burned by hot clippers.
4 reasons to shave
- Remove unkempt, matted fur. When your dog’s coat becomes so matted that brushing safely is impossible, it’s time for a shave. Weaver explains that a shave is preferred for mats instead of de-matting because brushing can pull on your dog’s skin and cause pain.
- Keep older dogs clean. Older dogs lose mobility as they age, making keeping them clean and groomed more difficult. Instead, shaving can increase their overall comfort.
- Restart healthy fur growth. Weaver says shaving quickly removes lots of hair at one time and helps jumpstart fur growth. “Shaving removes fur evenly,” she says. “In comparison, hand scissoring takes a long time and is a specialty for some advanced groomers.”
- Easier to groom. A shaved dog is easier to groom, especially when they’re older. Grooming your dog is important to maintain their skin health and overall health.
Why Did The Groomer Shave My Dog?
Do you ever take your pup to the groomer expecting a trim, and they return shaved? Sometimes, groomers choose to shave a dog instead of brushing or trimming.
“The biggest reason we shave a dog instead of just a trim is if the coat is not salvageable,” Weaver explains. “Our priority as groomers is the health and safety of a dog, and this includes the health of their coat and skin.”
What is unsalvageable fur? Weaver explains this fur is dangerously matted too close to the skin, and it would be unwise to attempt de-matting. When groomers cannot remove those mats, washing and drying the dog is challenging. Lastly, severe matting makes it harder for groomers to inspect the fur close to the skin for other problems.
If a groomer opts for shaving, Weaver says they should always be transparent with pet parents. “We always call the customer before shaving if that wasn’t discussed at drop-off and we found that the coat is unsalvageable,” she explains. “Most [pet parents] understand and will go with your professional recommendation.”
Which Type of Dog Should Not Be Shaved?
As previously mentioned, double-coated dogs should not be shaved. Weavers says, “If you shave a double coat, the undercoat will grow back faster than normal, overtaking the slower-growing outer coat/guard hair.”
She adds that excess fur makes it difficult to remove the undercoat, so the undercoat continuously grows more than expected. When in doubt, brush your double-coated dog to keep them cool and to help reduce shedding.
Unsure if your dog has a double coat? Ballard says some examples of dog breeds with a double coat include the following.
- Siberian Husky
- German Shepherd
- Shiba Inu
- Golden Retriever
- Australian Shepherd
- Border Collie
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Great Pyrenees
- Alaskan Malamute
If you do shave a dog with a double coat, don’t panic. Weaver reassures pet parents that a dog’s fur is constantly growing back. “Compared to humans, dogs have a lot more strands of hair growing in each follicle, so even if they are constantly shedding fur, they will never actually look bald or thinning,” she says.
What Dogs Can Be Shaved?
Not all dogs have a double coat; there are curly, wiry, and super-long coats, among others. If you have a dog with any of those, you’re okay to shave them. Weaver says some dog breeds that can be shaved include the following. Contact a trusted groomer if you’re unsure if your dog is due for a shave.
|Old English Sheepdog||✓|
|West Highland Terrier||✓|
One exception to shaving is dogs with a silky coat. “Some [pet parents] are okay with shaving this coat type, but it will ruin the coat,” Weaver explains. She adds that the fur will grow back incorrectly, usually with cowlicks, and no longer lie flat. Some examples of dog breeds with silky coats include:
- English Setter
- Irish Setter
- Cocker Spaniel
- Clumber Spaniel
How Are Dogs Shaved?
Dogs are shaved with special grooming clippers made just for them. Weaver explains they’re similar to human haircutting clippers with different blades. While their fur can be shaved when dirty, it’s always easier and better on your clipper blades if they have clean, dry fur.
“The times that we shave before a bath are when there is lots of matting or the fur is very long and the [pet parent] wants a short shave,” Weaver says. “Getting the fur shaved beforehand means less fur to wash and dry (shorter bath time for the pup!).”
How To Shave A Dog Correctly At Home
Shaving your dog doesn’t always have to happen at the groomer—you can do it at home too! Weaver outlines these five steps for pet parents ready to shave their dogs safely. Just make sure you have the proper tools at the ready.
- Shave down toward the tail, starting at the neck/head.
- Reverse shave if you want (go in the opposite direction of fur growth) but know this can irritate some dogs.
- Start slow when trying something new with a grooming pup.
- Take breaks in between shaves to allow your dog to calm down.
- Pair shaving with yummy dog treats, praise, and plenty of gentle pets.
Lastly, Weaver notes that pet parents can shave in any direction for their dogs with curly or wavy coats. This is because their hair doesn’t grow in any particular direction.
Trimming vs. Shaving vs. Brushing
When grooming your dog or taking them to a professional, knowing the difference between brushing, trimming, and shaving is essential. Luckily, brushing is pretty self-explanatory; no clippers are involved, and pet parents can do this easily at home. Brushing your dog, especially if they’re long-haired, every week to prevent mats is recommended.
On the other hand, Weaver explains that trimming takes longer and requires more skill. However, the benefit of trimming over shaving is that using shears won’t harm your dog’s coat and fur growth. Also, trimming is a better option for dogs afraid of clippers. “You may need to trim them instead until you are able to build up that dog’s confidence with clippers,” Weaver says. “The sound and sensation of clippers can be a lot, but you can help a dog learn to tolerate them using fear-free grooming techniques.”
10 Ways To Keep Your Dog Cool & Clean
As previously mentioned, shaving is not the best option if you’re looking to keep your dog cool and clean when higher temperatures and shedding season come. Instead, here are ten surefire ways to keep your pup cooled off and clean as a whistle:
- Never leave your dog in a hot car
- Purchase a dog pool for them to splash around in
- Learn how and when to bathe your dog properly and how to dry them off to prevent matts and hot spots
- Invest in a high-quality cooling mat or cooling bed
- Keep your dog hydrated with plenty of water bowls or dog water bottles
- Put dog booties on your pup if they’re walking on hot pavement to prevent paw pad burns
- Try to take your dog for walks in the morning or evening when it’s cooler
- Make sure to purchase the appropriate dog brush for your pup’s coat type
- Whip up dog-safe frozen treats, like popsicles and ice cream
- Invest in high-quality grooming tools for at-home hair removal