The Shaved Dog Debate

The Shaved Dog Debate…

There’s an interesting debate that has just popped up, I’d welcome your input. The image below is of a double-coated dog who has been shaved. The shaved area is apparently hotter than the unshaved area. The advice that resulted was to stop shaving your dogs in summer as it messes with their thermoregulation. But asides the fact that shaving a double-coat can ruin it’s texture for life, something all groomers out there can testify to, just what exactly is the truth to keeping the dog cool?

the shaved dog debtae

This Dogs Naturally piece explains they why it should keep your double-coated dog cool:

Double-coated breeds have two layers to protect against arctic weather. The long guard hairs form the outer layer and protect against snow or ice and even shed water. The soft undercoat lies close to the skin and keeps your dog warm and dry. In winter this undercoat can be so thick you may have trouble finding your dog’s skin.

In summer, your dog should shed his soft undercoat, leaving just the guard hairs. The job of the guard hairs in warm weather is to protect your dog from sunburn and insulate him against the heat. Without the undercoat, air can circulate through the guard hairs, cooling the skin.

Not everyone is in agreement. An interesting counter-piece to this theory explains a thermal camera measures radiation, not temperature, per se (though temperature does increase with radiation…I’m confused). Also we are only measuring the outside of the dog here:

His cooler coat does not mean he is cooler at this moment. It means his coat is doing a great job of trapping his body heat well away from the air and not a lot of heat is escaping from his body”.

This is interesting. This is not a measure of body temperature but coat temperature. When you consider that asides the Mexican Hairless Terrier, dogs have no sweat glands on their backs, only a few between the pads of their feet (hence you see sweaty paw prints on tiles). Hence blocking them won’t raise body temperature on hot days compared to say, a human. Most thermoregulation in the dog is done by panting.

mexican hairless terrier
Mexican Hairless Terrier

Thus, if your double-coated dog stood in the sun, it might warm up the surface of his outer-coat but does that mean his body too will increase in heat? Possibly, it just hasn’t been tested. The way to do this would be an internal thermometer or measure pant rates in the dog at certain temperatures, with or without his double coat. Also, double-coated dogs are a cold-climate adapted dog. Dogs in warmer climates have short, tight, single coats.

While I’m a bit confused it’s worth noting that the very large amount of consensus is leaning towards do not shave but do groom your double-coated dogs. You need to remove that undercoat in double coated dogs in warmer months. It can accumulate like a matt and cause issues. Here’s a Youtube vid of how’s to do it:


Dr. Conor Brady

After a doctorate studying the effects of nutrition on the behaviour and gut morphology of animals, five years with Guide Dogs as a trainer and supervisor, some success on Dragons Den with the finest raw dog food company and the last few years both writing and speaking on canine nutrition and health, I can say with some confidence that the pet food and drug industry cares not a jot for the health of your pet.