What Dog Breeds Should Not Be Shaved?
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With the arrival of summer and the increase in temperatures, many guardians believe that cutting their dog's hair will benefit them. They may even think that shaving their coat will help to keep them cool. Although they may have the best intentions, sometimes shaving a dog's hair can be detrimental to their health and well-being. Other guardians might not have the practical well-being of the dog in mind. They may want to shave their dog for purely aesthetic reasons. In these cases, if they disregard the well-being of the dog, it can essentially constitute abuse.
At AnimalWised, we ask what dog breeds should not be shaved? We look at when it is and isn't suitable to shave a dog's hair and provide some general background on dog grooming.
Can all dogs have their coat shaved?
Not all dogs can be shaved. For some canines, having their coat cut close can cause them more harm than good. For too many guardians, they treat their dog's coat like they would treat their own hair. It is important to stress that not only is a dog's coat not like human hair, the dog does not get to make grooming decisions the way we do.
One of the main differences in a dog's coat and human hair is density. We humans grow one individual hair per follicle, but some dogs can grow several. It is this ability which allows them to have different layers in their coats. What characteristics a dog's coat will present depends on their genetics. This means many different breeds will have particular coats and mixed-breed dogs can vary greatly.
In addition to the enormous variety of canine coat colors and patterns, we can find dogs which have:
- An undercoat
- No undercoat
- Short hair
- Long hair
- Soft fine hair
- Hard wiry hair
- Curly or wavy hair
- No hair at all
Given this wide variety of dog coat types, it cannot be claimed that all dogs require the same care. For this reason, it is vital you learn about your individual dog's coat care and meet the responsibility of maintaining it. In this way, we promote the health and hygiene of the dog.
Why are there dogs that should not have their hair shaved?
Especially if they have adopted a longhaired dog, many guardians think the length of their coat will be annoying to their animal. During the warmer months of the year, they think that shaving their coat will make them feel cool. Unfortunately, this is a misconception. A dog's coat not only protects them from the cold, but also from the heat and other threats to their health.
A dog's coat acts as a protective barrier against the following:
- External agents: such as dirt, allergens, parasites, debris from nature, etc.
- High and low temperatures: meaning their coat is important during the warmer months as well as when it's cooler.
Coat protection is especially important for dogs with a double layer coat. These dogs have a longer external coat made up of guard hairs and which mainly defines its appearance. They also have an undercoat made up of shorter and woolier hairs. Air pockets are created between these coat layers. The purpose of these air pockets is to thermoregulate their body temperature, both when it is too hot and when it is too cold.
When we shave a dog's coat, we prevent the formation of these air pockets. This stops their natural protection and thermoregulation. Dogs do not have sweat glands, except on limited areas such as their paw pads. When we shave them, they can still pant, but they are less able to regulate their body temperature when ambient temperatures rise.
A dog's coat also acts as a barrier for the sun. If we shave their coat too close, we are exposing their vulnerable skin underneath to ultraviolet rays which can promote problems such as sunburn and canine skin cancer. This is especially a problem for dogs with very light skin tones.
Another issue which occurs regardless of the time of year is the regrowth of their coat. If we shave a dog's undercoat, it will grow faster than the outer guard hairs. This is not only an aesthetic problem, but it can mean the new coat does not grow properly and cause problems such as ingrown hairs.
Dog breeds that should never have their hair shaved
Generally speaking, no dog should be shaved close to the skin. Having some layer of coat will provide important barrier protection against the threats mentioned above. This is why hairless dog breeds will need very specific maintenance such as sun protection during summer.
Some breeds in particular can become very damaged when we shave their coats. These include either purebred or mixed-breed dogs with medium-length hair and double-layered coats. Nordic breeds and ancient dog breeds also do not fare well when their coat is shaved closely. The following dog breeds and their crosses should never be shaved:
- German Shepherd
- Siberian Husky
- Alaskan Malamute
- Belgian Shepherd
- Border Collie
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- Mastiff breeds
- Water dog breeds
- Chow Chow
Although the majority of dogs should not be shaved, this does not mean grooming is not important. There are many dog breeds which require some level of grooming, especially to their outer coat. These breeds include:
- Yorkshire Terrier
- lhasa Apso
- Shih Tzu
In the case of these breeds or similar mixed-breed dogs, it is important to know that a cut is not the same as a complete shave. Cutting and trimming a dog's coat may be very helpful to maintain hygiene, improve comfort and avoid tangles. Some may even be able to see better if we trim the long hairs around their eyes.
A good dog groomer knows what each animal needs depending on their coat type. They should never perform or recommend a haircut to a dog that should not have this done. Neither should they accept requests from a client if they think grooming is inappropriate.
Learn about other types of coat grooming with our article on whether we can cut a dog's hair in summer.
Alternatives to shaving a dog's coat
Although coats of certain dogs should not be shaved, this does not mean they do not require maintenance. For the protective and insulating effect of the coat to be really effective, we must brush it regularly using brushes specific for their coat type. We should also occasionally bathe the animal with a quality shampoo suitable for dogs.
In dogs with double-layered, medium-to-longhaired coats, de-shedding should be carried out. This should be carried out during their molt and it requires the use of specific brushes. This helps to reduce the volume of the coat, keep it clean and help their skin to breathe. We can do it at home, but some dogs may really benefit from expert grooming. How much de-shedding is required depends on the volume of the coat.
For dogs with short and/or hard-haired coats, a technique called stripping is helpful. This is essentially the same as de-shedding, except a special tool is used to pull out the dead hairs. Some dog groomers also used hand stripping without a tool, but this takes knowledge and experience as we don't want to cause the coat any damage. Stripping is usually more time consuming, but it may be useful for your dog.
Also, clipping some parts of the dog may be helpful. In some breeds such as Schnauzer type dogs, guard hair can grow around their paws, eyes and other sensitive areas. In these clases, clipping the hair can help them walk, see and perform certain tasks more easily. A professional groomer will be able to advise on what is best for your dog.
When can you shave a dog?
Although dogs generally shouldn't be shaved, there are some exceptions where a closer cut can be helpful. These include:
- Medical surgeries: shaving is necessary to make an incision and keep the wound site clean.
- Parasites: in some cases if a dog has acute issues with external parasites, shaving certain areas can be helpful, but only as a last resort.
- Allergies: if a dog has suffered a strong allergic reaction, shaving some of the area can help the skin breathe.
- Knots: in cases where a dog's hair has become extremely matted and tangled, shaving can help remove them and allow the coat to grow back better.
Some dogs such as Poodles can tolerate shaving for aesthetic reasons, but these still shouldn't be close to the skin. In these cases, we stress the difference between clipping the hair to make it shorter and shaving it close. You can learn more with our article on haircuts for Poodles.
If you want to read similar articles to What Dog Breeds Should Not Be Shaved?, we recommend you visit our Fur care category.