That Summer ‘Do

It is hot in Calgary today.  HOT.  My pale ginger self is hiding inside in front of the A/C as I type, and I am probably still at risk for sunburn.

According to the always-trusty The Weather Network, it is currently 28°C, with a “feels like” of 34°C.  That’s 93°F for our friends south of the border.

Pre-cyst, we used to take Moses for a nice long swim to cool down. We hope to resume that activity post-cyst.

As the hot summer days go by, advice abounds about how to help our pets cope with the heat.

There are the obvious precautions:

– DO NOT leave your pets in a hot vehicle for any length of time

– Ensure your pets stay well-hydrated and have constant access to fresh, clean drinking water

– Be careful about over-exercising your pet on hot days, and if necessary, plan walks for early morning or late evening when it’s not so warm.

– Learn the signs and symptoms of heat stroke so you are able to monitor your pet

– Consider the summer-time uses of Musher’s Secret and help protect your dog’s pads from hot pavement

There are lots of options to consider for keeping your pet cool and comfortable in the summer.  And there are lots of things to be cognizant of to keep them out of potential danger.

But there is one trend I cannot get on board with.

Quite some time ago – last summer or perhaps even the summer before – I came across a female Great Pyrenees throughout the normal course of a warm Saturday in June.   I don’t remember the dog’s name, but I will never forget the encounter for two reasons:

1.  The dog was overweight.  I mean, extremely overweight.  I’m guessing she could’ve easily shed 30+ excess pounds.  But that’s a soapbox for another day.  My main concern today is…

2.  The dog was shaved.   Fully and completely shaved.  Head to toe.

She looked kind of like this... only fat.

So I naturally (and mistakenly) asked the owner if the dog had some sort of medical condition that elicited the shave.  After all, there are lots of legitimate reasons for shaving a double-coated dog, including a skin condition or a surgical procedure.

Moses himself is sporting a bit of a shave job these days.

And there are lots of legitimate reasons for shaving and cutting the fur on several breeds of dogs – because it’s not fur at all.

Breeds such as the Poodle, Bouvier, Bichon Frise, Schnauzers, and Portuguese Water Dogs (among others) are single-coat breeds that actually have hair, not fur.  They’re sometimes called non-shedding or hypoallergenic dogs, but that is a bit of a misnomer because they actually shed hair as much as you or I would.  (Well, maybe you.  I actually shed quite a bit and have been the sole demise of more than one vacuum.)  Though they do have less dander than fur-shedding dog breeds.

These dogs require regular haircuts to keep all that hair under control.

Umm... no comment. (Photo credit: http://www.pics24h.com)

But to my original inquiry about the Great Pyrenees, the owner simply explained it was her “summer haircut”.

And it took every fibre of my being to restrain myself.  Because it’s not polite to lecture complete strangers.

I suppose some people conclude that because some dogs get haircuts, their furry dog must be in need of a summer shave to help keep them cool.

And to that I say:  WRONG.

Yes, double-coated breeds such as the Great Pyrenees and the Newfoundland do have a lot of fur.  But they should absolutely NOT be shaved (barring an extreme matting situation or one of the legitimate reasons noted above), and nothing would make me cringe more than coming across an intentionally shaved Newfoundland.

OH THE HUMANITY. (Photo credit: Flickr - 2-Dog-Farm)

So I suppose the ridiculousness of shaving these dogs kind of speaks for itself, doesn’t it?  I mean look at that guy.  Can’t you just feel his shame?

But what many don’t realize is that you are actually doing your double-coated dog a huge disservice by shaving them in the summer.  And any groomer worth their salt will do their best to talk you out of it.

The Groomer, out of Ottawa, Ontario, lays out the very important reasons not to shave your dog on their website (on the main page, no less), advising that just like your dog’s fur insulates them from the cold in the winter, it also helps keep them cool in the summer: insulation from the heat and sun is also provided by the double coat.

It is important to remember that dogs do not sweat like you or I.  They sweat from the pads of their feet, period.  So while you and I may want to shed layers to help air out our perspiring bodies, that is not the case for dogs; they will be cooler with their natural summer coat.  Even a black Newfoundland like Moses.

Precious Paws Grooming from Guelf, Ontario, also addresses this issue, including the added concerns:

– a shaved double coat can sometimes grow in thicker than it was before (kind of defeats the summer time purpose, doesn’t it?)

– sometimes it doesn’t grow back properly or evenly (or even the same colour), and if the undercoat grows back faster than the outer “guard” coat, the undercoat is more likely to mat and create need for another shave – a vicious cycle – since it is the guard coat that prevents matting (that last part is credit to The Groomer).

– you are now putting your dog at risk for a sunburn (aloe vera, anyone?)

– their thick coat also protected them from biting flies and mosquitos, a defence they would no longer have if shaved (the Edmonton Humane Society has a safe-for-dogs, homemade bug repellant recipe here.)

– not used to being shaved, they can sometimes scratch excessively, irritating the skin or creating hot spots

– behavioural changes in dogs not used to being shaved have been reported, and anecdotes I found online seem to report resulting in increased insecurity in some dogs (however, whether or not that should be attributed to a bad grooming experience is probably a discussion to be had)

What can happen when you shave a double coated dog, in this case, a Pomeranian. Having been repeatedly over-groomed, this poor guy developed alopecia (uneven growth/bald spots). (Credit: http://www.thoughtfulpawsgrooming.com)

And if you’re shaving to reduce shedding, The Groomer advises that even with the shorter ‘do, the shedding will continue – it will just be shorter fur on your clothes and couch.  And since you have interrupted their natural shedding cycle, you may actually cause more shedding.

And lastly, for those water dogs such as the Newfoundland – that rely on their oily coats for increased buoyancy – shaving them can impact swimming.  Heck, some say they’re not even supposed to swim for a couple weeks after a bath until those natural oils come back to aid their swimming abilities.

Instead, to keep your double-coated dog cool and comfortable in the summer, keep their fur clean and brushed.  Brush regularly to take out the excessively thick or dead undercoat, but don’t shave it off.   You can even take them to the groomer in the early summer for a thorough bath, blow-dry, and brush-out to get rid of as much dead and excess undercoat as possible.

And remember that mats WILL result in a hot and uncomfortable dog.

But that should be your only grooming concern, so save your money.  Otherwise, keep them out of the heat by using the usually recommended techniques like keeping them out of the direct sun and well-hydrated.

Not sure if your dog has a double coat?  Check before you do anything drastic!  Commonly known breeds with double coats are, according to this source:

– Newfoundlands and other long-haired mastiff-types such as the Great Pyrenees and Tibetan Mastiff

– some herding breeds, such as the German Shepherd or rough-coated Collie

– Spitz-type dogs like the Siberian Husky, Malamute, Akita, Samoyed, and Pomeranian

– some terriers, even though their outer or “guard” coat may be quite wiry – examples include the Tibetan Terrier and Cairn Terrier (I should note the source includes Wheaten Terrier in their list, and I think that’s incorrect)

– some sporting dogs, such as retrievers (both the Golden and the Labrador varieties)

So please, stop the madness.  Back away from the razor.

And if you thought an inappropriately shaved DOG was pitiful... (Photo credit: whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)

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About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

21 Responses to That Summer ‘Do

  1. Awesome post! and that pic of the shaved Newf gave me chills!
    I hope Moses gets to swim soon, when he is all healed up!

  2. Julie-Beth says:

    We deal with these questions ALL the time with Charlie in the summer…”Oh, why don’t you shave him, he must be SO hot”. So annoying. Some points of interest:
    – Charlie would add to the anecdotal ‘insecurity’ you mentioned. After telling a new groomer to “under no circumstances” shave the dog, we picked up Charlie to find his butt and back legs were ‘trimmed’ down to nothing. The poor guy was forever trying to hide his back end every time we went out for a walk.
    – We have a cooling blanket that has worked wonders for Charlie in the summer as well as a cooling jacket (though that only gets used in rare/unusual walk situations – longer, hotter than norm situations).
    – And yeah, swimming is a solid form of exercise and heat relief all rolled into one! Charlie was not comfortable with swimming right away, but one long summer full of ‘lessons’ (for us and him!), he is now a swimming machine!
    Hope Moses is back to swimming soon as well!

    • thatjenk says:

      I’ve heard of those cooling jackets – I hear they work quite well.
      Yeah, people have also asked us about shaving Moses in the summer – they did not expect the can of worms they opened. Haha.
      If you shaved Charlie, people would probably just mistake him for a Greater Swiss.

  3. It scares me how much I don’t know. Not that I ever considered shaving my dog. But I never knew why I shouldn’t. And with both malamute and GSD in his genome (most likely), does that make him a quadruple-coated dog?

    Now please excuse me while I fill water bowls– sorry, liquid refreshment bowls– with Diet Coke and beer to beat the heat. I mean, nothing says “summer cooling” like a cold brew and a haircut, eh?

    (I probably shouldn’t joke; someone might think it’s a good idea to give your dog Diet Coke.)

    • thatjenk says:

      GSD and Malamute – explains all the shedding! You DO need a Dyson 😉

      Haha. Yes, you better footnote your Diet Coke joke – it takes all kinds. WordPress tells me someone found my blog by Googling “are apple cinnamon cheerios good for dogs” – which means someone out there felt the need to look that up. I can only imagine…

  4. 2browndawgs says:

    That kitty looks ticked! Thunder has shaved spots from his surgery and we are hoping they all grow back nicely before hunting season starts. Since he is a double coated variety, it is a real concern. So far his fur seems to be growing back OK. Both our dogs had heavy winter coats this year and both lost them this summer. We find mother nature has a way of taking care of the density of their coats without the need for shaving.

    Keeping a working dog cool in this heat is a real concern for us though.

    • thatjenk says:

      Moses had a large shaved spot after his bloat surgery, too. Luckily, it all grew back fine. I think the repeated shaving is where the grow-back concern becomes real.

      Stay cool!

  5. Kate says:

    I have one dog who has recently developed a fear of the water bowl – we have one of the “water-cooler” ones that automatically refills, as even my two small dogs go through a surprising volume in the run of a day, and Oliver’s so terrified of the bubbling noise that the bowl makes on refilling that he refuses to drink out of it and actually became quite dehydrated… talk about a neurotic puppy! He now gets his own supply in a regular bowl. Keep those pups cool!

  6. Kristine says:

    It always weirds me out when people shave their double-coated dogs as well. I didn’t know enough to say anything but I think I will try in the future. Growing up we had a Siberian Husky who absolutely loathed the heat but shaving her never even came up. The idea is ridiculous. Nor would I ever even shave my current short-haired dog. She may be hot but doing that to her skin would not be pretty. Or even helpful.

    • thatjenk says:

      Yeah, I had known in advance not to do it for a couple of those reasons, but learning about how you can mess up their coats permanently means I’ll be less likely to hold my tongue next time I see an offender. Not sure if that’s a bonus or not! Ha. Ridiculous, indeed.

  7. lexy3587 says:

    Great post! My neighbours just shaved their newfie, poor guy. None of them were happy about it, but he’d developed too many mats (they are now very very compulsively brushing him to prevent this issue from arising again)… he looks like a GIANT black lab now, very strange. I actually asked them when i first saw him, if they had visitors with a dog.
    Gwynn (aussie doodle) is both a double-coat (from the australian shepherd side of him) and a wire-coat (mysterious). I was lucky to run into a groomer who mentioned that he had a wire coat, because all the others we visited were planning on cutting his hair. Instead, he got his wirecoat stripped (and his undercoat was almost exactly 1″ long, exactly what we wanted), which meant less of the noisy clippers, and a much more natural look. If we’d gotten him cut, the wirecoat wouldn’t have grown properly again, and it would have led to much more matting.

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  9. reid says:

    Question: Aware of the disservice shaving a newf brings, we took in a little guy that needed care after being attacked by a Great Pyrenees while trying to steal a bite of his food. We had to shave him down to find the six puncture wounds and two tears. He is very itchy. I mean constant. Any suggestions?

    • thatjenk says:

      Sorry to hear about your little guy!

      Itching should go down significantly once any staples or stitches are removed, so until then it’s all about preventing scratching and the glorious Cone Of Shame. Depending on wound location, a tshirt is a great alternative to the Cone. And giving them something else to focus on like toys, games, walks, or a but raw bone is a good redirection, because if he’s bored and itchy, scratching is inevitable. Supervise closely in the meantime.

      Not sure what diet you feed, but adding fish oil (especially to kibble, but also to raw would help) can really help improve skin and coat, and could help to reduce some irritation if it continues. Or even safe topical human products like Vaseline can help combat dryness. And brushing regularly as the fur grows back (maybe even some pet-friendly spray-in conditioner).

      If it’s particularly bad or lasts a long time (or is very present but not near the wounds) that would be the time to follow up with the vet about possible infection or a completely separate issue like an allergy or irritation due to exposure to something he’s usually protected from.

      I wish him a healthy and speedy recovery!

  10. DuffydogSpearcy says:

    I’m almost in tears today. Everything you wrote is true and I think I will have to shave my beautiful Newfie, Brew. He’s not all that beautiful right now as he was diagnosed with atopia (sp?) yesterday. I have to bath him twice a week and have to get the shampoo down to the skin and rince off completely. Vet says it must be done. Sure could use some positive words as I hate that he’s going to look “ugly”.

    • thatjenk says:

      I’m very sorry to hear about Brew!

      Even though he may look a little ridiculous, if it’s got to be done for medical reasons – Atopic Dermatitis (Atopy) – then it’s a necessary evil and not really subject to my rantings and ravings above.

      Not to worry – if It will clear up Brew’s condition, it should be done.

      However… as with all diagnoses, I would considering getting a second opinion and discussing treatment options. There could be tablets, shots, or more natural remedies – I’ve read that Omega Fatty Acids and some dietary supplements can even help alleviate Atopy. Of course, I am not at all a DVM, but I have learned enough to ask more than one vet for an opinion when it’s a serious issue, and I do like to get a holistic opinion, too (even if those treatments don’t end up being right for your dog, they are usually far less invasive and cheaper to try).

      When Moses went in for spinal surgery last year, his shoulders, neck, and a large portion of his back were all shaved (the incision was about 12 inches long, and the shaved part was huge). It took a long time for the fur to get long and thick, and has only been in the last couple months that you can’t tell anymore where he was shaved. But the good news is that it does grow back!

  11. Melodee says:

    Hey there! This post could not be written any
    better! Reading this post reminds me of my good old room
    mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to
    him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

  12. Kevin Lawrence says:

    Please provide Support for your claim that Double coats keep dogs cool in the summer the same way they keep them warm in the winter. The Newf Coat was designed for an area that gets far below zero in the long winter, and rarely above 75 in the summer.

    I have been able to find exactly one study that supports your claim, but they only tested it over 10 minutes. they did not study what happens over a longer period of time.

    A double coat keeps them warm in the winter because it retains heat. So, that is the exact opposite of why it will keep them cool in the summer. During the summer, it will also retain heat and make them hot, and will also make them take longer to cool down.

    Please provide data that supports your claim. Double coats keep dogs cool in the summer the same way they keep them warm in the winter.

    • ThatJenK says:

      Please provide data that supports your claim, how about?

      The double coat traps temperature – not just heat. So it traps warmth in the winter, but cooler body temperature in the summer (when body temp is below ambient temp).

      A simple test is just to feel your dogs skin in the summer – it will be cooler than their outside coat.

      That is not to day it is okay to walk your dog in +40 degrees celsius – of course not. But that also means shaving your dog is not the answer, and is detrimental to their coat growth and natural shedding cycle.

      And it looks stupid, so there’s that, too.

      (My opinion, my blog. Don’t like it – don’t read it.)

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