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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Did you know bathing with the right products can stop the shed? Good shampoos and conditioners help in two ways: loosening dead fur so it goes down the drain instead of spreading all over your house, and calming the skin so dogs are less inclined to scratch and pick at their coats.