Animaux

A Little Less Hair, A Little More Dog

When you have long-haired dogs, the struggle with fur, endless fur, is real! Besides the twice yearly seasonal shedding, there’s those days where random tumbleweeds of fur float across the room for no good reason at all. Fortunately, there are many tools and products to help keep it in check. It still requires a bit of elbow grease, but you can successfully reduce that dreadful dog hair.

Can’t I Just Shave My Dog?

No. Please no. Because this is such a common question (and unfortunately common practice), we need to take a little educational detour on dog coats. Just because PetSmart will take your money to buzz cut your dog doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

Double Coats, Wire Hairs, and Curly Coats, Oh My!

Most dog breeds have some form of double coat, meaning that there are two types of hair present in the coat. There’s an undercoat and a top coat. This will look different breed to breed, but trust me, it’s not like human hair at all. The top coat has stiffer, coarser “guard hairs” and the undercoat is fluffier and provides insulation. The undercoat is what sheds naturally during summer. However, when you shave, you are mostly affecting the top guard hairs which are never supposed to be removed!

Dogs Don’t Sweat Like Us

Humans keep cool primarily through sweat. When we take clothes off, we expose more skin to the air so the sweat can dry. This doesn’t work with dogs because they have almost no sweat glands at all! They have a few seat glands on their paws and that’s it. They cool themselves off primarily through panting. Shaving down the coat does not cool off the dog.

Thanks For That Sunburn, Mom

The guard hairs also provide a very important function: natural sunscreen. Dog skin is actually more sensitive to UV light than human skin. Shaving a dog down removes this natural barrier and dogs can get sunburned, or worse, develop skin cancer.

Permanent Damage

When you shave a dog, the hair really does come back coarser. Or weirder. Or both. Now you may think this is an old wive’s tail, but this is dog hair, not human hair. Dog fur is PDL (predetermined length) while human hair is UDL (undetermined length). Our hair will keep growing until the weight of it makes it fall out. Dog fur grows to a certain point and then stops. And unlike humans that have one hair per follicle, dogs have up to 22 hairs per follicle! It’s a lot more for one hair follicle to handle. A tiny bit of clipper damage to the follicles can drastically change the coat.

Shaving especially can damage the PDL hair follicles forever. The shiny, waterproof top coat never grows back. You then get a dog that only has a rough and scratchy undercoat. The undercoat already sheds naturally, and without the top coat to keep the undercoat in place, your dog will actually shed more after the first shave!

Okay, Okay. I Won’t Shave My Dog. What Now?

Brushing

Regular brushing is incredibly important to remove loose undercoat hairs and prevent mats in the fur. Any dog that has hair longer than half an inch will benefit from daily brushing. It is also a great opportunity to socialize and handle your dog regularly.

Home of Paws Double-Sided Dog Brush

A double-sided brush is a staple for any canine. The wire pin side gently detangles, and the bristle side spreads natural oils throughout the coat. Always brush out the fur with a tool like this one before using a dedicated de-shedding tool.

ANDIS STEEL DOG COMB

Sometimes you need a little more detangling power. A steel comb won’t bend, and the mixture of fine and coarse teeth works on a variety of coats.

De-Shedding

De-shedding gently remove already loose undercoat fur that is trapped underneath the top coat. De-shedding tools push along the natural shedding process. Active, outdoor dogs would naturally remove the undercoat by rolling in the grass or jumping in the creek. More sedentary, indoor dogs need a little assistance. De-shedding can be safely done as often as once a week for thick-coated dogs.

Furminator

Simply brush in short strokes and use the button to eject the hair. Thins out the undercoat very quickly. Comes in long hair and short hair models. I also love the brand’s companion deshedding shampoo and deshedding conditioner which help loosen dead hair in the bath.

Mars Coat King

Hailed by professional show groomers the world over, the Coat King comes in a variety of models to fit any type of canine coat. If other deshedding tools fall short, try this one. I love the double-wide 30 blade version for long coats of my Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Many Arctic dog breeds, such as Samoyeds, will benefit from the longer, curved teeth of this rake.

Mars ergonomic Stripping Knife

Wirehaired dogs, such as most terrier breeds, require precise stripping of the coat. Stripping combs or knives are especially designed for this purpose. The ergonomic handle eases long sessions with big dogs or matted coats.

Clipping and Trimming

When all’s said and done, sometimes our dogs still need a clip or a trim. Mats and dreadlocks will never fully detangle and must be cut out.

Sunbeam Turbo Dog Cordless Clipper Kit

While I would never fully shave a dog, one of my spaniels had significant matting on his leg “feathering” fur. I couldn’t get out the root of the mats with the scissors. With these clippers I shaved off the leg mats in a matter of minutes. Clippers have a learning curve, so make sure you read the instructions carefully.

Eclipse offset bronze Shear 6 Inch

For trims, will need actual hair shears, as office scissors are not sharp enough to cleanly cut fur. Eclipse makes affordable shears and the 6 inch version tuck away anywhere. While these are technically “human” shears, they are identical to pet shears.

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