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Newfoundland dog resting on grass

The essentials

  • Shaving your dog can make them hotter — Double-coated dogs have multiple coats to regulate their temperature. Shaving them can have the reverse effect.
  • Shaving makes them susceptible to harmful things  — Your dog’s double coat protects them from the sun, heat, and insects.
  • You can keep them cool in other ways — Brush their fur regularly, give them access to clean and fresh water, and provide shade. Always walk them during the coolest part of the day, and don’t leave them unattended in a vehicle.

Shaving your double-coated dog can actually do more harm than good. Despite what you may have heard, their double coat keeps them more comfortable than if you were to shave them. If your dog seems hot, especially during the summer, you can cool them down in other ways. Here’s what pet owners need to know about shaving double-coated dogs.

What is a double-coated dog?

Double-coated dogs have two coats of fur: a top coat, the outer coat, and one beneath it, the undercoat. This double coat acts as insulation, keeping them warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. Even when shedding their undercoat during the hotter months, the fur traps cool air between the layers, helping regulate their temperature. Their outer coat protects them from the sun and pests.

Dog breeds with double coats that you should never shave include:

5 reasons you shouldn’t shave a double-coated dog

Dog breeds initially needed their coats based on what they were designed to do. Shaving a double-coated dog can lead to numerous issues. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t shave a double-coated dog.

Long-term consequences of shaving a double coated dog can be sunburn trauma, increased risk to solar-induced dermatitis or possibly certain skin cancers.  Poor hair regrowth is always a risk, as is choppy hair coat or no protective regrowth for the winter months. It’s best to hand-strip with a quality de-shedding tool.

Dr. Bruce Armstrong

Does not improve shedding

Dog lying down out of focus and person holding a dog brush with shedding fur

Contrary to what you may think, shaving a double-coated dog doesn’t stop them from shedding. While it may seem logical to reduce the amount of hair by shaving them, the reality is these dogs continue to shed their undercoat. You’ll also likely have a harder time dealing with the shedding of the now short fur compared to their typical fur length. Spiky short hairs can embed themselves into fabric and rugs, making them difficult to remove.

Fur grows back differently

If you shave a double-coated dog, it usually grows back differently. Shaving disrupts the natural hair growth cycle, making them look peculiar. The hair may grow back thinner, thicker, a different color or texture, or even unevenly. The result is slow-growing fur that comes in patchy and coarse. It can even lead to post-clipping alopecia.

Post clipping alopecia

Sometimes, shaving a dog’s coat can prevent it from growing back, known as groomer’s or post-clipping alopecia. When double-coated dogs get shaved, it can cause bald spots, permanent hair loss, or changes in the coat’s texture. The coat may not grow back to its original coat or grow back at all. Although it’s not understood how the condition works because it disrupts the fur’s density, it’s thought to alter the natural hair growth cycle.

Vulnerable to sunburn

Shaving your dog also exposes their skin to the sun’s rays. Your dog’s skin is not prepared for the intensity of the sun after being covered for their lifetime. This exposure makes their skin susceptible to sunburn, skin cancer, and overheating.

Increased risk of hypothermia and heatstroke

Two Samoyeds laying and sitting in the snow

Your dog’s coat is a natural temperature regulation system. The double coat keeps your dog cool by insulating them and helping them regulate their body temperature. Shaving their coat, especially in hot climates, makes them unable to regulate their temperature as well, putting them at risk for heatstroke.

During cooler months or in cold climates, the double coat helps keep them warm, even in extreme temperatures. Without this coat, they lose their insulation and risk hypothermia.

👉 Want to keep your dog’s coat healthy and shiny? Check out the best dog skin and coat supplements.

Alternatives to shaving your dog

Alternatives exist to shaving your double-coated dog, and many include regular maintenance and hygiene. Removing dead, matted, and tangled fur and regular grooming can keep your dog comfortable and safe.

  • Regular brushing. Regularly brushing your double-coated dog is a better alternative to shaving them. Not regularly brushing them can also lead to mats and tangles, causing discomfort and skin issues.
  • Frequent baths. Semi-frequent baths can help keep their coat in optimal condition. Bathing them every couple of months can help maintain the fur’s health and reduce shedding by removing dead fur. However, over-bathing can strip the natural oils from their skin, leading to dryness. Speak with your vet or groomer about the frequency.
  • Take them to the groomer. Professional grooming is one of the best ways to maintain your dog’s double coat. A professional groomer has the correct tools and knowledge to care for and remove the undercoat. Take them to the groomer twice a year, before summer and winter.
  • Use the right shampoo. The right dog shampoo, specifically formulated for shedding, can help maintain it. Some de-shedding shampoos and conditioners can cause dry skin, leading to more shedding. Use them as directed and not too frequently. If you have questions, ask your vet or groomer for their recommendations.
  • Use specific tools. The right grooming tools can help maintain your dog’s double coat. Some tools are only suitable for double coats to remove loose fur from the undercoat without damaging the outer coat. Properly and gently using brushing tools like a wide-toothed metal coat, slicker brush, grooming rake, or grooming stone can prevent damage to your dog’s skin.

👉 Want to take your dog to a groomer but don’t know where to start? Use this directory to find a pet groomer near you

Caring for a double-coated dog can be challenging and frustrating. However, the alternatives to shaving can make a huge difference. Regular brushing, bathing, the right tools and shampoos, and trips to the groomer can help maintain their coat (and shedding) without resorting to shaving. These alternatives can help keep your dog comfortable, allowing them to regulate their body temperature and keep their double coat maintained.

Frequently asked questions

Is it inhumane to shave a double-coated dog?

Yes, shaving a double-coated dog removes the fur that helps them regulate their body temperature and protects them from the sun. Shaving them can disrupt their shedding cycle and cause the fur to grow back differently.

How short can you cut a double-coated dog?

You should not clip or shave a double-coated dog’s fur. Removing their dual coats disrupts their shedding, makes them prone to heatstroke and hypothermia, and prevents them from regulating their temperature properly.

Which dog’s coat should never be shaved?

You should never shave double-coated dogs. These breeds include Bernese mountain dogs, Akitas, Australian shepherds, German shepherds, golden retrievers, and Labrador retrievers. Other breeds include Alaskan Malamutes, chow chows, border collies, English springer spaniels, Siberian huskies, Pomeranians, Newfoundlands, Old English sheepdogs, and Samoyeds.

Should long-haired dogs be shaved in summer?

Shaving your dog can cause your dog to overheat, leading to heatstroke. Without their coat, they cannot regulate their body temperature as well since the fur that keeps them cool is gone.

What not to do with double-coated dogs?

Do not shave your double-coated dog. Aside from potential skin issues, shaving a double-coated dog does not cause them to shed less and leaves them prone to hypothermia, overheating, and sunburn.