DEAR DIDI: We have a long haired breed dog. He is super sweet and goes to the groomer every six weeks. With the hot weather we are considering shaving him short. What do you think? – Doggy Mommy in French Camp
DEAR DOGGY MOMMY: I am not a groomer so I called on my favorite groomers at Aunty’s Grooming. Cindy, Kristi and I, are in agreement that since you maintain your pooch’s coat through regular salon visits it may not be a good idea to shave him short. Dogs have multiple layers to their coats and although you and I would not sport a fur coat on a 100 degree day his coat is actually helping him. A healthy, well maintained fur coat acts as insulation from heat and cold. At the very least, it blocks the sun from reaching his skin and putting him at risk for skin cancer.
Dogs cool themselves by panting and, to a lesser degree, through sweat glands in between the pads of their feet. Their fur does not affect their ability to pant. Our canine friends also do not have pigmented skin to block sun rays. Skin cancer is definitely on the rise in the veterinary world.
If you have a breed whose hair grows in length and requires periodic ‘clips’ then it is probably okay to shave him short. This would include Poodles, Cockers, Lhasa Apsos, Terriers, Maltese, etc. Just be vigilant about limiting his ‘sunbathing.’ However, if you have a long haired breed whose hair stops growing at a specific length, such as Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Huskies, Pomeranians, St. Bernards, etc., it is best to leave their coat intact.
Sometimes a groomer will agree to a ‘shave down’ when the customer’s canine has a severely matted coat (this is completely preventable). In this case, shaving it short is preferable to the pain that the dog would suffer while trying to comb out every mat. Dogs that have severely matted coats frequently suffer from skin issues and live in such discomfort that they are ‘grumpy.’ A truly ethical groomer will not shave certain breeds of dogs unless the owner has a written ‘prescription’ from a veterinarian. It is vital that dog owners check into the grooming needs of their individual breeds and maintain them appropriately. Some breeds need daily brushing in order to have a healthy coat. I realize it is hard to find time every day to brush a dog especially if he doesn’t particularly like it. I also know it is hard to find the finances to let a professional do it for you. Grooming is, however, part of the basic health care responsibilities of dog ownership.
I need to also dispel some myths of dog shaving. It will not make your dog more hypoallergenic. It is the dander of a dog that causes allergic reactions and the dander comes from their skin. So shaving will not stop allergies. Shaving will not stop shedding. Your dog will still naturally shed whether their hair is 12 inches long or a half-inch. They are not shedding because they are hot. It is a natural cycle.
A good groomer is worth their weight in gold! Besides providing a spa day for your dog, they will check ear health and anal gland function. Groomers are frequently the first one to notice minor health changes for you. A quality groomer also makes the experience as painless as possible for your dog. Taking your dog regularly not only helps maintain good health physically but also mentally. The dog gets used to going and the routine just becomes normal and accepted.
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Didi’s Dogs. For a free consultation with Dierdra or to ask your dog behavior question, email www.CaliforniaCanineUnleashed.com.