Why You Should Avoid Shaving Your Dog This Summer

June 8, 2023

With summer around the corner, you might have yourself wondering: can I shave my dog to help them beat the heat? The idea of shaving your dog during the warmer months might seem like a good way to help them keep cool, but is it really a good idea? As dog grooming experts, take our word for it when we say shaving a dog can potentially do more harm than good. Read on to discover what dog breeds should not be shaved and why it’s better to put the clippers down this summer.

The Purpose of a Dog's Coat

This might sound surprising, but did you know that your dog's coat is like a personal air conditioning system? For this reason, shaving a dog might not be as beneficial as you think. Dogs don't have sweat glands the same way their human companions do; their only sweat glands are on their paws. This begs the question, how do they cool off if they don't sweat? According to scientist Dr. David Marlin, panting alone accounts for 75% of your dog’s cooling power, but dogs also cool down through a process called vasodilation, which is when blood vessels expand to release heat.

In addition to these two natural processes, a dog's coat also plays a crucial role in regulating their body temperature. It's their own version of SPF — a.k.a. sun protection factor — and thermal wear combined. The fur helps them to stay warm during cold winter months and cool during the hot days of summer. It also protects them from extreme temperatures, the sun's UV rays, and even pesky bugs. This is why shaving a dog does not have the cooling effect you might expect.

Shaving your dog's coat will disrupt their natural ability to cool down. This is especially true for double-coated breeds like Huskies and Malamutes, as their undercoat provides essential insulation from both extreme cold and heat. Without it, they may struggle to regulate their temperature and overheat quickly.

Coat Type Matters

Not all fur coats function the same. Double-coated breeds like Newfoundlands, Huskies, Samoyeds, and German Shepherds have two layers of fur — a soft, fine undercoat and a coarse, hard topcoat. This double layer helps these dogs regulate their body temperature and protect them against both the cold and the heat.

Man wearing a baseball cap cuddles a Huskie with its tongue out on the lawn.

Shaving a thick double-coated dog in the summer might seem like a good idea for cooling them down, but it's not. Generally, shaving animals with a double-layered coat is not recommended. Double-coated dogs naturally shed their undercoat in the summer, leaving just the guard hairs. Not only do these hairs help with insulation, but also promote cool air circulation close to the skin. Interestingly, these guard hairs can serve as a shield against sunburn — especially for dogs with light-colored skin that are more vulnerable to the sun, just like their human counterparts. Plus, a shaved coat allows the sun's rays to penetrate directly onto the skin, which can lead to overheating, sunburn, and potentially even skin cancer.

So, can you shave a short-haired dog? In most cases, the answer is still no. Dogs with short coats, such as Bulldogs, Labradors, Boston Terriers, Dachshunds, French Bulldogs, and Pugs, are also better off foregoing the clippers. Their short fur allows for easy heat dispersion, which aids their natural cooling process.

On the flip side, long-haired dogs that don’t have an undercoat, such as Poodles, Doodles, Shih Tzus, and Yorkies, can be shaved if absolutely necessary. If you have one of these breeds and you’re not sure how to shave a dog, get in touch with a professional groomer before attempting a trim! It’s always better to work with a professional rather than shave your dog incorrectly — especially if you’re dealing with tangled fur and matting.

When Is It Okay to Shave a Dog?

Life isn't always black and white, and the same goes for shaving a dog. While it's generally not recommended, there are times when giving your pup a trim is okay. There are some situations where shaving may be necessary, such as when your dog needs surgery or has skin diseases like hot spots or myiasis — but we highly suggest leaving this to professionals such as a vet or professional groomers.

In some cases, double-coated breeds can experience severe matting. While preventative care is always the best cure, careful shaving may be necessary if the coat has become severely matted and tangled. In these cases, it's always advised to consult a professional and avoid attempting to cut the matting out yourself.

The Barkbus team is experienced at grooming matted dogs. First, we gently pre-shave the coat, and then follow with a conditioning treatment in the bath. After the drying process, we can then finish your pup's haircut and have them looking their best again.  

Potential Health Risks

Shaving a dog's coat by yourself can lead to potential health risks. It's not a decision to take lightly, as consequences can range from immediate discomfort to long-term damage to the dog's coat. There’s even a possibility that it can even lead to more severe health problems down the line. Other risks include:

  • Sunburn. This is one of the biggest concerns with a freshly shaved coat. Dogs with shaved coats are more susceptible to sunburn, which can cause painful skin irritations and an increased risk of skin cancer. The natural coat acts as a protective barrier against harmful UV rays, and removing it exposes the dog's skin to these elements.
  • Skin irritation. Another frequent issue associated with shaving a dog's coat yourself is skin irritation. The wrong technique or tools can result in razor burns or cuts, leading to discomfort, infection, or even an increase in the risk of insect bites. If you’re ever wondering, can shaving a dog hurt them, the answer is yes — and the risk for harm dramatically increases when it’s not done by a professional.

In the long run, shaving your pup incorrectly could also cause a phenomenon known as "clipper alopecia," which can permanently compromise or halt the regrowth of your dog's fur. This could leave your dog at a permanently higher risk of sunburn, heat stroke, and skin irritations.

Given the host of potential health risks and the likelihood of negatively affecting your dog's natural coat and comfort, it’s generally advisable to leave grooming tasks to the professionals. They have the training and experience to groom your dog safely, thus reducing any associated risks and maintaining your pup’s health and well-being.

What to Do If Your Dog Is Shedding Everywhere

If you're finding more of your dog's hair on your clothes than on them, it doesn't necessarily mean you should grab the clippers and start shaving your dog. Shaving might cause itchiness, and in-grown hairs, neither of which are pleasant for your pup. In some cases, shaving can even cause more hair to grow in each follicle, leading to even more shedding! There are several ways to stop your dog from shedding that are more effective than shaving.

Corgi getting brushed by a female groomer.

Prioritize your dog's health and well-being by choosing alternative methods to keep them cool in the summer. Regular brushing during the spring and summer months is healthier for your dog and will help to manage shedding. Buying a good dog brush could be your best defense against the dreaded shed.

Regular Grooming Keeps Your Dog Cool, Happy, and Healthy

There you have it — you now have your answer to the pressing question: should I shave my dog in the summer? It might seem like a hair-raising issue, but in the majority of cases, don’t shave! Instead, prioritize regular grooming to help keep your dog cool, happy, and healthy all year round.

Not sure where to start? We’ve got your back. Barkbus offers scheduled grooming services that make managing your dog’s coat a walk in the park. Book an appointment and see how we help manage your dog’s coat for less shedding and optimal health and comfort all year round.


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