Brush it out! Don't Shave it off!
Most dog owners regularly deal with furry situations, we become accustomed to fur speckled houses or tufts of fur clinging to someone as they get off the couch. We clean our houses routinely (or try) and still the "dog without legs" that drifts around as we walk through the hall keeps returning.
How we handle our furry friends' fuzz depends on the type of coat your dog has, I've mentioned in previous articles that there are three coat types: Short, Medium and Long.
This article is mainly addresses the Medium Coated, or Rough Coated breeds but also the Short Coated as they provide endless shedding fur as well.
Generally, all coat types follow basic skin science and proper hygiene is always going to provide the largest benefit because healthy, clean skin produces and maintains healthy coat. So bathing your dog with breed appropriate products every 4 - 6 weeks and thoroughly brushing out the coat weekly will aid the natural process of the skin cycles and prevent excess shedding.
If your dog has a Short Coat you will need a boar bristle brush. Weekly brushing with boar bristles will help distribute the natural oils along the coat and aid in the release of dead fur and skin cells, and most dogs enjoy the soft touch and attention.
Medium coats will require a varied set of tools. You will need a slicker brush, but they are not all created equal. Some slickers have short tines (the metal pins) while others have longer tines. The length of fur determines the tine length needed, usually 3" or more of fur will need a long tine slicker. Some slickers are made cheaply by simply mechanically clipping the ends of the tines during manufacturing, while higher end slickers are buffed to a smooth tip after the tines are clipped. I would caution any dog owner away from cheaply made brushes as they can scratch the skin and cause little nicks in the coat which can encourage matting.
If a brush is well made, it will be pricey but the investment will save you money on dematting services at the groomers, and can save your pup from brush burn (a rash that mimics a burn, caused by the brush scraping the skin repetitively). You will also need a comb to check for tangles. You may also wish to get a good pin brush, but it is optional. A pin brush is for quick, light brushouts in between major brushouts and can make the challenge of a major brushout a lot easier. When you are doing a major brushout, the best technique to use is called Line Brushing.
A good resource is The Leading Edge Dog Show Academy's "Line Brushing Tutorial: Double Coated Breeds" video on Youtube. There you can see how a professional would set about thoroughly brushing a Medium Coated breed. There can be a lot of work involved in deshedding a Medium Coat, and a lot of dog owners are understandably overwhelmed. Start with one small section and focus your efforts until you feel confident you have done a thorough job.
Sometimes in my salon I will be presented with the request, "Can you give my dog a haircut? He's a (Pomeranian, Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, etc), he's full of hair and I want him to be cool for the warm weather." It used to be a common practice not that long ago, before professional groomers had access to education based on valid scientific research. However, now we are able to better understand how our canine companions bodies work.
Did you know there are some dog breeds that you should not shave? Short and Medium Coated breeds have a coats that protect them from the elements, including heat and will not grow past a predetermined length. If we shorten the coat, in an attempt to make them more comfortable, we undermine their natural thermal regulatory system and expose them to the heat we are trying to save them from. We also expose them to harmful elements such as UV light, allergens, irritants, parasites and potential trauma to the skin. Our dog's skin is 6 - 8 times thinner than ours, and without their fur they have very little to no protection, but when paired with their fur it functions with amazing efficacy. Shaving a Short or Medium Coated breed disables their ability to regulate their temperature. It can also be detrimental to the structure of the coat, which is very difficult to restore once lost. We must work WITH the body to keep them comfortable. As much as they are member's of our family and we love them like family, we must remember their bodies are very different from ours, and what works for us does not work for them.
If ever you have questions about your dog's specific needs, please call me to learn more.