• “Shave Down” Not The Best Option For Your Dog

  • shaved dog

    By Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, ICMG

    “Just take it down, we like it short.” “We don’t like the shedding”. “We do it every summer, she gets so hot!”. “We don’t come to the groomer that often and really don’t want to mess with all the coat”. “My old groomer has been doing it for years!”

    Welcome to one of the hottest “inside baseball” debates in the grooming profession. And thanks for listening to my education-explanation as to why we won’t do this at Love Fur Dogs.

    Dogs need their coats.

    Dogs need their coats for protection from the weather – both hot and cold. Coats need to be clean, well-conditioned, mat free, well brushed and combed, regularly de-shed, but they need their coats. A dog’s coat provides insulation both from hot and cold. It keeps them dry, and it protects their largest organ – the skin – from the external environment.

    Even when a dog has a hair-type coat that can be cut and shaved without permanent damage, shaving does not keep them cooler, it can actually cause sunburn in the summer, overheating, and injury. A Dog’s coat is natural to them. And its a vital (and cuddly!) part of the pets we love. So I’m writing to help us all know how and why to EMBRACE THE COAT your dog has . . . and how to care for it and live with it in a way that gives your dog its best life possible.

    Let’s understand first about a dog’s coat. Dogs have much thinner skin and more dense hair than you and I do. Their thin skin without its natural coat protection, is at risk – no matter what season of the year.

    And whereas we have ONE hair per follicle, dogs have on average between 5 and 22 hairs per follicle. They have primary hairs and secondary hairs that lack a cortex. Their hair/fur is in a constant state of rotation between the three growth stages – anagen, catagen, telogen. That is new hairs growing in, old hairs falling out, and mature hairs resting in between. Lots of activity all going on inside one follicle.

    To complicate this, there are approximately 9 general categories of dog coat, with some sub-types, thanks to years of human genetic engineering of the dog and its functions. These coat types include: Smooth (Boxers), Long (Shih Tzu), Flat (Golden Retrievers), Curly (Poodle), Hard or Wire (Scottish Terrier), Corded (Puli), Hairless (Chinese Crested), Combination (Doodles), and the most common type – Double Coat – that has a fluffy insulating undercoat and a weather-resistant outer coat. Double-Coated breeds come in short (Labradors, German Shepherds); medium (Siberian Huskies); and long (Samoyeds, Collies) varieties.

    Additionally, all dog coat falls into two major categories – undetermined length (UDL) and predetermined length (PDL).  Some people use the terms HAIR (UDL) and FUR (PDL) to distinguish between these two types. The length of Hair, like ours, will just grow and grow until it is cut. Fur will grow to a certain length and stop.

    Each of these different coat types required different grooming approaches, tools, and care.

    Long hair on dogs needs to be cut regularly because without regular haircuts, the dog may be carrying around tons of matted coat, leading to misery for the dog as well as the owner. This is especially important in the winter – wet snow and dry air means the hair mats more easily. Pet owners who think that a trip to the groomer in the winter is bad because their dog’s weather protection will be cut off  NEED NOT WORRY – we don’t do that at Love Fur Dogs. More than any other breeds, dogs with long and curly hair need regular professional grooming, especially in the winter. Clean, dry, mat free hair is a dog’s best protection from the elements.

    To go directly to the topic of this blog, cutting long and curly HAIR on those breeds, even cutting it short, should not cause damage. If you want to shave down your Poodle or Shih Tzu and can protect it from the elements using other tools such as a jacket of sorts, you will not cause any long term problems for your dog’s coat and skin.resuts-shaving-dogs-double-coat-300x225

    But clipping short ANY double coated breed, even once, can and often does cause serious permanent, irreversible damage to a dog’s beautiful natural coat. Further, using clippers to take off a smooth coat, flat coat or wire coat is also not recommended as it can cause other kinds of problems.

    Double-coated dogs are different. This is the natural self-care coat that a wolf has, and you see it in many breeds, in fact 80% of dogs worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. They shed, especially seasonally, out their undercoat. Their topcoat grows on a much slower cycle and must be protected for the health of the coat and skin.

    Shaving off a double coat can lead to a kind of alopecia in the hair follicles, depending on where in the cycle of rotation of the hair follicle the clip down occurs in, that can lead to permanent loss of hair or change in the texture of the coat. Soft undercoat does need to be shed out, but it should NOT be shaved down. As pictured here with the little black and tan Pomeranian mix, the coat that grows back is harsh, and cannot become the double coat it once was with a shiny, weather-resistant outer layer and an insulating undercoat. Its just all like a Brillo pad one uses on pots in the sink – undercoat trying to be both top and bottom coat. Its a tragic outcome for both pet and owner.

    The clippers cannot differentiate between the undercoat and the outer coat. The undercoat as it grows back will try to “become” the outer coat but it will be harsh, scratchy, and the beautiful smooth shiny soft water resistant outer coat may be lost for good. A good brushing and combing, and blowing out after a vigorous bath and condition – those steps WILL differentiate on a double coated dog between the fur that needs to come out and the fur that needs to stay on the dog.

    Shaving a double coated dog does not stop the shedding – it only makes the hair that is shed shorter. Little spikes of hair laying around your house can be even harder to deal with than the regular length hair that is shed off your Best Friend!

    Love your double-coated dog. Know that to DE-SHED it is easier, healthier and more effective than shaving it down. Brush and comb it and regularly bathe and condition it. Better yet, send it to us for regular grooms. Best of all, we at Love Fur Dogs have set very low prices on weekly maintenance so that the shedding hair ends up in our place, not your home.

    Many is the time that I wished there was law in place to require more guidance to people who buy and own dogs regarding their needed and proper grooming care.  I have spoken to devastated pet owners of breeds such as Bernese Mountain Dogs whose coat was permanently ruined by being clipped down. Read what a group of Siberian Husky owners have put out on the internet to protect their beloved breed:

    never shave a husky

    What we ARE supposed to do with double coated breeds is brush out that undercoat! Obviously they shed alot – it is natural and extremely healthy and functional for their coats to do just that! Their coats do an amazing job of protecting them in all sorts of weather. Yes, their undercoat needs to come out – often and regularly – and is easily brushed and combed out. Its also easily removed with the high velocity dryers that we use at Love Fur Dogs. You can see in the photo how easily the undercoat of a double coated breed blows out when a professional groomer properly grooms this coat. Its so much better that your double-coated dog’s undercoat ends up all over our bathing and drying room, rather than your living room!

    blowing out undercoat

    To summarize the proper care of the various kinds of coats: shaving down HAIR on long and curly coated breeds usually is not a problem and can be done by owner discretion. Our preference is to leave some nice fluffy coat on long and curly coats, but we can do whatever cut your prefer on those breeds. Veterinarians recommend leaving ideally an inch of hair to protect the skin’s immune systems from dangers of sun exposure.

    But we will not shave a double coat (unless medically necessary, in consultation with your veterinarian). We are grateful you took the time to let us tell you why.

    We will advise against shaving down any fur-type dog, such as a flat coat, like a Golden Retriever, because as it grows back the coat will be less sleek, more fuzzy, and will not lay flat as before once clipped. When deciding whether or not to clip wire or hard coated breeds like Westies, Schnauzers, Cairn Terriers, etc, we will discuss options with the owners advising them that clipping the coat will soften the wire coat and even cause it to fade. However many terrier owners make the decision that they don’t mind the softened, faded coat that comes with clipping a wire/hard coated breed and some prefer not to commit to a lifetime of handstripping wire coats, which is what it would take to preserve that hardness. At Love Fur Dogs we WILL HANDSTRIP wire coats – we know how to do it and we know what kind of coat benefits from that. But many wire coats that are clippered, with the softened and faded coat that results, still usually live happy, comfortable lives and still look closely like what their breed standard calls for.

    We found this fun chart on the internet and are sharing it with you in helping make the shave-down decision. Its a bit tongue-in-cheek but you get the idea.


    The grand exception to all this is a pelted coat (extremely matted in a solid sheet close to the skin) where there is no humane choice for the dog’s comfort but to clip it off. For a haircut type dog, there is no humane option but to shave. But for Fur Type dogs, there are techniques that will allow the natural coat to be mostly saved. We hope that this option is never forced upon you. We would be proud and happy to spend a few minutes in the lobby with you any time to discuss what kind of coat your dog has and what is the long term best care plan for your beloved dog.

    Thanks for loving your natural dog, nose to tail! Love Fur Dogs professionals are a great asset to you in a lifetime of a loving happy household with a well-cared for dog.