Summer is here- Quick shave off the dogs!

Dogs come in a multitude of shapes, sizes and colours; they also have different grooming needs. Read more here. What they don’t vary in is that they are susceptible to heat stroke and get matted if not brushed effectively. So it follows that you shave off all dogs in summer to keep them cool don’t you? Is that idea based in science or is it based on humans who think that dogs cool the same way we do?

Do we shave Poodles, Shih Tzu’s and Maltese to make them cooler or just to make them easier to maintain?

Should we shave Border Collies, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Siberian Huskies?

Humans cool by producing sweat from our biggest organ, the skin, and cool by the effect of evaporation of this perspiration as air moves across our skin. This system is controlled by a sweating centre in the brain.  Dogs however have a panting centre which stimulates panting which is rapid shallow breathing that causes air to be passed through the nose and over the tongue allowing efficient evaporation to occur. The tongue has a rich blood supply and heat produced in the muscles and tissues enters the blood and is transported to the tongue. A dog’s nose maximizes this process due to its many tissue folds that increase the surface area the air can come in contact with and body heat is reduced.

Dogs also have sweat glands in their feet and ears; however they are inefficient and play a very small role in thermoregulation. A dog’s fur acts as insulation both against heat and cold, functioning much like the insulation in the roof or walls of your house. It keeps in warm air and cool air as required. Their skin has a number of hairs growing through each follicle with a guard hair that is normally longer than the others. Dog’s piloerect (raise these guard hairs) by contracting or lengthening muscle fibres therefore insulating against cold and heat with degree of insulation increasing with fur thickness. The natural seasonal shedding in summer and winter is the dog’s way of dealing with the amount of hair required to cope with varying temperature demands but only if the dog is kept well groomed.   Dog’s also utilise behavioural adaptations to handle heat, resting in the heat of the day and being more active at dusk and dawn.

So let’s say we decide to clip off a Border collie or Golden Retriever, what happens to its ability to deal with heat?   Biophysics, in the form of Newton’s law of cooling, provides a formula for measuring temperature at the tip of a hair and temperature at the surface of the skin and this estimates the ability of hair to conduct heat. Studies show that dogs with longer hair have less heat at the skin than those with shorter hair.  If you surgically clip with a very short blade such as a 10 or 30 the number becomes dangerously high. Hence educated groomers will attempt to find a happy medium between clipping short and clipping off half the length of the coat using snap on combs. If the dog’s coat is heavily matted and removed and the night time temperature decreases then the dog will be losing skin heat i.e. becoming hypothermic. A matted coat impedes the dog’s ability to vary the length of the hair (piloerection) and the mats also alter the dog’s ability to dump heat from their skin surface to the outside air, thereby causing heat stress. Therefore dogs that heat stress do so not because of the length of the coat but due to the coat holding unwanted loose hair. 

Barbara Bird, Certified Master Groomer, recognised worldwide as a leading groomer educator, has this to say about clipping dog breeds.

“In the US, a growing number of groomers are declining to do shave downs on double coated breeds, or will do them only when the owner signs a release form that states that they are aware of the possible outcomes and agree to hold the groomer harmless in the event of poor regrowth, sun damage, or heat related episodes”

Continuing to clip off dogs whose coats are not meant to be clipped can lead rise to clipping alopecia and also often produces a coat that is short but is in fact more prone to harbouring fleas and ticks as the coat is shorter but more dense.

(insert picture of clipper alopecia)

Do I clip off my black Belgian Shepherds when we get consistent temperature over 30oC in summer?

No I don’t but I do try to ensure they have well groomed, dematted coats, plenty of drinking water and a cool place to lie. I do some clipping for my very old dogs to remove some coat around the britches and groin area. Your groomer can advise on humane methods of dematting that maintain the guard hairs but remove the shedding undercoat and this should be undertaken 3 or 4 times per year as the natural coat growth/shedding cycle occurs.

For the full scientific principle and references used to produce this article – click here.


Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) runs the Pet Care Magic club where devil dogs, horrible horses and crazy cats are turned into perfect pets using Relationship Animal Training. The program provides owners and pet professionals assistance with with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas  She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues for owners and also assists pet care professionals in setting up and growing their businesses by the provision of customer handling advice, sales and marketing strategies and up to date product information that allows for the differentiation of their pet care business from their competitors. The Pet Care Magic Club is part of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia but can be found on internet enabled devices worldwide.   |    Like us on Facebook

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Posted on October 17, 2013, in Grooming, Health, Mobile & Salon Groomers, Pet Care Businesses, Pet Guardians and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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