Shedding and Shavedowns:
The Do's and Don'ts of Preparing for Warmer Weather
As the warmer weather arrives and the Shedding Season begins, now is the time for flowers, bees and tufts of fur drifting under foot. Many people shorten their sleeves and their hair as a part of their yearly routine, looking to be as comfortable as possible. When we see our dog, wearing a thick layer of fur, tongue hanging out in that hot breathy “pant”, we wonder “What can I do to make my dog more comfortable in the warm weather?”
The answer really depends on the type of coat your dog has. There are three types;
Short (Labrador, Great Dane, Boxer, Pit Bull, etc.),
Medium (German Shepherd, Long Coated Chihuahua, Pomeranian, Husky, Golden Retrievers, and any breed whose coat has a predetermined natural length and an undercoat),
and Long (Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, Poodle, and any breed whose coat continues to grow without trimming and lacks an undercoat).
If your dog has a Short Coat you don’t have to do much, provide plenty of water to play in and fresh water to drink. If you’re going on a hike or Beach trip pack along several wet paper towels, folded in a zip lock baggie and periodically wipe the ears and belly areas to help cool the body down.
If your dog has a Medium Coat it takes a little bit of effort but it is not hard. The most effective action you can take is to regularly brush out the dead undercoat, as this acts as an insulator and traps body heat. In Short and Medium Coated breeds the fur is controlled by a muscle in the skin that raises and lowers the angles of the hair, lifting up pulls fresh cool air into the coat and lowering down pushes the hot air out. If the undercoat is clogging the path the air must take, their thermal regulatory system is not as effective.
If your dog has a Long Coat the focus should be split, as matting will trap body heat like undercoat but the style you keep them in also has an effect on their ability to keep cool.
That brings us the ever popular question: “Should I get my dog ‘Shaved Down’?” What does it mean to “Shave Down” your dog? Most groomers will interpret this request as “Cut off all the fur possible”, leaving a ‘Nudie’ or super short result. The problem is the skin contains none of the pigment that protects the body from harmful UV rays, it’s all in the fur (in Medium Coated breeds, only the top coat has it), so we exposed the body when we shave too short and can actually make them hotter. Also, our dog’s skin does not sweat the way ours does and so they rely less on their skins exposure to wind to cool them and more on cool air moving over areas of blood flow, such as their tongue and ears, to lower their body temperature. Then there is the movement of the fur we mentioned before, the short clipped fur cannot pull in fresh air and cannot push hot air out.
Imagine for a moment stepping into a dense forest on a hot sunny day, the canopy shades and cools the underbrush and the breeze passes through, the soil is fertile and moist. Now if you chop all the trees down, the hot sun bakes down on the forest floor and the breeze doesn’t have a lasting cooling effect, the soil is parched and dry. The length of coat protects them.
Long Coated breeds can benefit from a summer trim but the body needs about 1” or so of coat to function as their thermal barrier.
Lastly, regularly bathing will prevent the build up of old oils and should be done once every 4 to 6 weeks. Remember that the products you use have an impact on the well-being of your dog! Please see my article on bathing on my website.
Warm weather brings opportunity for fun and adventure, and is best enjoyed by the whole pack. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at Give a Dog a Bath (413) 663-4819 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kendra Baker is the owner of Give a Dog a Bath Dog Salon and Spa in North Adams MA and has 6+ years of grooming experience. See more at www.giveadogabath.com