Fur-bearing dogs are dogs that shed. The undercoat grows to a predetermined length and then falls out. Examples are Malamute, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Great Pyrenees, St. Bernard, Huskies, Samoyeds, Pomeranians, Chows, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Pomeranians, etc.
What you do when you shave your double-coated dogs is actually interrupting the natural shedding process. You are actually cutting into the top coat, possibly damaging it, and causing the undercoat to grow uninhibited, as the undercoat grows much more quickly than the top coat, or Guard coat. The guard coat is the coarser hair that separates the finer undercoat hairs, preventing it from matting. When this coat is clipped, the hair will appear to grow back softer because you are seeing only undercoat as it grows back. This hair is thick and will matt easily and possibly result in patchy, uneven growth until the guard hairs eventually regrow. By then the coat may be so damaged that it will need to be shaved down again. Also, by interrupting the natural shedding cycle, you can actually be producing MORE shedding. The exact opposite of what you want!
It is a well- known fact within the animal medical community and experienced groomers that shave downs of the fur-bearing dogs may lead to alopecia (hair loss) and skin disease. There are a myriad of skin disease, under the category of “Coat Funk” that are either caused by or triggered by the shave down groom of the fur-bearing dog. A dog’s coat provides insulation from the heat and sun. Dogs do not perspire like humans do. They only perspire from the pads of their feet and their noses. A Husky, Golden, Lab, Malamute, and even a Newfoundland will be cooler with its coat on.
While shaving your pet seems logical, it is not a good idea for our furry friends and can, in fact, be dangerous. While shaving a single-coat dog is acceptable and may provide some relief, shaving a double-coat dog will actually have the opposite effect. The main concern is sunburn that can lead to skin cancer. Repeated exposure to sun rays stimulates Melanin production in human skin giving use a tanned complexion. Unfortunately, dog’s skin cannot tan and Melanin production is used mainly for skin and hair coloration. A limited Melanin production (photo-blocking agent) combined with the shaving/clipping of the protective coats may be the perfect recipe for sunburns, skin cancer and heat exhaustion. The undercoat is the insulator and the topcoat/guard-coat acts as a light diffuser, breaking up the sun’s rays as they bear down on the fur.
In addition, the topcoat prevents the undercoat from matting excessively. Clipping/shaving the topcoat can permanently compromise the quality of the re-growth of this layer of fur, while clipping/shaving the undercoat stimulates it’s growth; leading to more shedding, to a reduced heat/UV-radiation protection and ultimately compromises the coat’s quality in both appearance and health. In some cases, shaving a double coat can also cause alopecia and the fur can take years to grow back. A properly maintained double-coat dog should have a lustrous and free-floating top-coat without any appearance of bulk.
All of this brings us back to the question – what to do about the dogs as they face another heat wave? One could have the belly area thinned out. This would allow the dog to find a cool surface to lie on and soak up the coolness without the risk of sun exposure, while ensuring that the rest of their body still has its insulation coat and guard-coat. People of the deserts do not walkabout in T-shirts and shorts, they have layered clothing to protect them from the heat/UV-radiation and the cold.
A sensible solution to summer heat is a good grooming and brushing session by a professional groomer. Groomers can thin out the dense and often matted undercoat. They can execute a meticulous brush-out that will remove the old hairs from the guard-coat, while breaking apart any mats, thinning and removing excessive undercoat hairs. All this, followed by a warm cleansing shower with a pressurized professional shampoo, a high velocity drying session executed by a trained technician and the groomer’s final trims. A professional pet styling session will transform any double-coat dog into a cool looking show dog.
We can assure you that you will see a big difference in quantity of shedding in your household and, best of all; your pet will feel cooler. A properly maintained double-coat dog will have an optimal heat/UV-radiation protection, a healthy & mat free undercoat and shiny topcoat. Finally, drying time after a cool summer swim will be greatly shorten while avoiding the onset of unpleasant odors and skin irritations (hot-spots) due to dense and often matted undercoat that can take days to dry out.