Dog parents struggle with the same question each year as warm weather returns: Should I have my dog shaved down for summer to keep him cool?

The answer is always the same: it depends.

If you have been diligent about keeping your dog well brushed and he is not heavily matted or solidly packed with shed hair, he can still be cool without stripping him of his coat.

Like most things found in nature, the dog’s coat has a purpose:

It protects him from the elements in winter by insulating him from cold.

In double-coated breeds, the downy undercoat acts as his thermal underwear, waterproofing him as well.

In warm weather, a well-brushed coat “lofts” as the dog moves, air cooling him all the way to the skin.

Removing hair removes this built-in air-conditioning and other features that come naturally to your dog’s coat. That said, if your dog is active or has allergies and is prone to get himself dirty and matted, then a trimmed down coat might be in order for keeping him comfortable. Matted coats trap heat and moisture which is far more harmful than shaving or not shaving.

In a perfect world, all dogs get brushed regularly and no one minds tumbleweeds of dog hair rolling across their living room floor. Then, maybe, you can skip the shave down and maybe go for a trim.

Some breeds have hair that grows constantly so it needs to be trimmed.  They include the Poodle, Bichon Frise and Cocker Spaniel and, unless they are show dogs, the Shih Tzu, Maltese, Lhasa Apso and Havanese. Some require expert trimming to look like their breed standard – the Schnauzer, Kerry Blue, Wirehaired Fox Terrier, Scottish and West Highland terriers, for example.

Unless they were clipped right down to the skin, a short clip would not ruin their coats except in the case of dogs that are customarily hand-stripped, having their topcoats periodically removed by plucking out the dead hair to preserve that coarse terrier texture.  Shaving coats like these may also dilute their color.

But for some Northern breed types, like the Husky, Samoyed, Chow Chow, American Eskimo and their smaller cousin the Pomeranian, shaving their coats off can damage the follicles of the outer coat, or guard hairs, creating a condition known as “clipper alopecia” where only the fuzzy undercoat will grow back.  This unfortunate occurrence is a permanent condition and can result in a dog whose coat will forever look balding and moth-eaten.

Many owners of dogs with big hairy coats do choose to give them close summer clips without adverse results but there is a better alternative.

Often groomers will do a “thin and trim,” sculpting the coat with a comb attachment to leave enough hair on to still look beautiful. Then do a finishing touch-up with their shears to complete this shorter-but-shaped look. Your groomer may call this trim a “Teddy Bear” or “Puppy Cut.”

Despite today’s unending supply of detangling sprays and leave-in conditioners used in the bathtub to expedite brushing, pet groomers still encounter dogs so severely matted that there is no choice but to shave them, but if possible, these types of summer cuts are a happier alternative.

Still confused? That’s okay; dogs are like people, all different with different needs, concerns and solutions to their concerns. If you need help figuring out what you should do to maintain your dog’s coat, consult a groomer. Any groomer worth their salt will be happy to meet with you prior to grooming your dog and discussing what would be the best way to keep both you and your dog happy.

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