To trim or not to trim: that is the question. For a lot of us, summertime brings with it an abundance of sweltering temperatures. People often like to beat the heat by cutting their hair shorter in the warmer months which provides us with some sweet relief. While we often assume that cutting our dogs’ fur would yield a similar result, is that necessarily the case?
Determining whether you should cut or shave your dog’s fur largely depends on their breed and if they have a single or a double coat. Double coats indicate two separate fur layers, with a shorter, denser layer of fur on the interior and a longer, protective layer on the exterior, also known as the “guard layer.” Double coats naturally provide temperature regulating properties to dogs, and thus you should avoid shaving double-coated breeds.
Some common double-coated dog breeds include Siberian Huskies, all collies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Samoyeds, German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers, but a simple google search should help you determine your pup’s coat type if you are uncertain.
Single-coated breeds only have a single layer of hair, like humans, and therefore you can trim or shave those types of dogs, but you should always be wary not to trim their fur too short: the golden rule is to not trim or shave your dog’s fur shorter than an inch in length. This is because fur provides all dogs with protection from the sun (think sunburn and heatstroke), insects, and skin infections, among other things.
The inner layer of a double coat, the "undercoat," has natural insulating properties which works to keep your pup cooler in the summer months and warmer in the winter months. The inner layer, being denser, shorter, and softer, is usually thickest in the cooler months, providing more heat.
In the spring and summer, however, double-coated dogs often shed a lot of the inner layer of their fur, and this reduced inner layer allows for more air to penetrate the fur, trapping the air against the skin and cooling your pup down that way. Refer to the below infographic created by Brook Wilkins for a visual idea of what I am referring to:
As owners, we can assist our dogs in getting their coats to the ideal state in the spring and summer by bathing and brushing them regularly. There are a few different varieties of brushes on the market that are designed specifically for double-coated dogs that can assist in producing ideal coats. This is important because dogs do not have the same temperature regulating mechanisms that humans do.
Aside from their fur providing some cooling properties, dogs “sweat” through their paw pads and pant to cool themselves down, and their ears and noses also provide them with some heat regulation through a process known as vasodilation. Vasodilation works to dilate blood vessels and distributes heat that way.
Shaving your dog’s double coat can also ruin the look of their coats, at least temporarily. When you shave a double coat, the inner, denser layer is often the first to grow back, and it may do so in patches instead of evenly. Therefore, your pooch can end up with some unsightly tufts of fur, and not only that, but the quality, color, and consistency of their coat may be impacted negatively.
Another interesting fact is that dogs’ double coats shed water, providing them some natural waterproofing, which is pretty cool! This further supports the argument that you shouldn’t shave a double coat.
There are, of course, exceptions to shaving or trimming double-coated breeds, such as if they have a skin condition that needs to be addressed, if they require a surgery where the fur needs cut down, or if their fur is severely matted.
If you’re looking for other ways to keep your pup cool in the summer, check out this article all about how to keep your dog hydrated. You can also create some frozen treat recipes for your pup to enjoy, such as the pupsicles outlined in this article.
Lastly, a dog’s coat type can help you figure out what the best dog breed is for you to own! Are you allergic to pet dander? Single-coated dog breeds are more likely to be hypoallergenic because they typically do not shed as much as double-coated breeds do (although this isn’t always the case, so be sure to do your research first). You may refer to this article for more great methods to determine which dog breed is best suited to you.
Overall, while you may feel compelled to shave or trim your dog’s fur this summer, this article will hopefully offer some insight in deciding what the best option is for your pup based on their particular needs.
Show us how you and your pup like to beat the heat and enjoy the summer by tagging #LetsChewNatural!