Clip or not to clip my dog? This is the question many dog owners asked themselves when the days get warmer.
A few years ago, whilst I was visiting my parents in Slovakia, I came across a dog magazine called “Pes pritel cloveka”, which translates as “Dog, the human’s friend”. When I used to live in Slovakia, this was my favourite dog magazine ever. It was always full of interesting articles on dog training, behaviour, diet, breeds, etc. Over the years I’ve read many different dog magazines (UK, US) and I am happy to say that Pes pritel cloveka is still a very valuable read.
In one of the issues, I found an interesting article by Silvia Antalikova and MVDr. M.Stourac, CSc. about the pros and cons of clipping dogs in summer. Because this article is so good and eye-opening, I decided to translate it for my readers.
Should I clip my dog in summer?
The logical answer would be yes. If we help our dogs to get rid of their “winter accessories” they will feel better in summer. We too get rid of our thick winter coats when it gets warmer…
However, the coat of an animal has many more functions than just keeping the animal warm. It also protects the skin and the whole body from all the effects of the weather: cold, wind, heat, and sun radiation.
Simply said – if we remove a dog’s coat, he/she will be hotter than if we leave the coat.
The cover of the dog’s body is its coat, which is composed of individual hairs. The stronger hair we call guard hair; the finer, shorter hair is called the undercoat. The hair, the coat, acts as a protection against trauma, UV radiation, external weather conditions, and various chemicals. Dependent on the attacks of the external environment, over time the ends of the hair tend to become damaged and collapse. The coat is replaced by the normal recovery process called moulting. Moulting allows the hair to stay in good condition. The cycle of moulting is affected by many factors including hormonal activity, length of daylight, heat, radiation, stress, and genetics. It is more pronounced in autumn and spring. Serious illness, stress, and pregnancy can also cause a dramatic, total but temporary change of hair.
Most mammals try to keep an average skin temperature of about 29 degrees Celsius. The sun can warm the hair up to 66 degrees Celsius!
Very important in this case is conductivity.
This is the speed taken for the temperature of the skin to equal the temperature of the surface of the coat. The lower the conductivity, the longer the skin stays cool. If the coat is long, for example, 15 cm, the conductivity will be 10.8, and the dog’s skin will remain cool for a long time, but if the same hair is cut to 2.5 cm, the conductivity will be 65 and the skin will be heated very quickly. And if the same hair is cut by the clippers to 3mm, the conductivity will be 520! The temperature of the skin will instantly be the same as the ambient temperature.
Double-coated breeds should never be clipped. Their coat features as an excellent insulation for both heat and frost. Air is a natural insulator, and the air “trapped” between the hair is really effective to maintain the body temperature in equilibrium. Breeds with these types of coats must be regularly brushed, especially in the spring season, when the undercoat is quickly released. This dead mass of hair can interfere with the circulation of air between the skin and the dog’s coat.
Dogs are not cooled by sweating like humans.
An important fact to realise is that dogs are not cooled by sweating like humans or horses. The coat does not stop/prevent a dog’s thermoregulation. Dogs are cooled with intense panting, and they sweat only on their paws.
It is true that black or dark colours attract sunlight more than light colours, however, the trimming of such a coat does not eliminate this fact. Black remains black, and we also risk sunburn or even skin cancer by clipping it. The skin of the dog has only 6-10 layers; therefore, it is more prone to sunburn than human skin with its 16-20 layers.
Unless there are skin issues (e.g. hot spot, skin infection, surgery), there is no reason to shave the coat. (Note of translator: I would also add a solid, matted coat that should be clipped off.)
For a dog’s well-being, we do best when we brush and comb him/her on a regular basis.
To this article I would like to add the following:
The last sentence of the article is talking about the importance of brushing and combing. As a dog groomer, I can’t stress this enough. Especially when it comes to breeds like Shih-Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Poodle, Bichon, and also popular “low maintenance” crossbreeds like a Cockapoo, Poochon, Labradoodle and other doodles and poodle crosses.
It’s common knowledge that dogs with a coat like a poodle don’t moult… Well, they do still lose the dead hair, however, you won’t find these on your carpet or sofa, they stay in the coat. These curly and wavy hairs easily tangle with the other hairs and that causes matting if they are not removed.
And if we don’t remove the hair and the coat gets matted, the air can’t move freely within the coat and fulfill its function as a natural insulator. It’s better to keep a coat like this at a reasonable length than to have it too long and matted. In the end, if the coat becomes very matted the only humane and discomfort-free option for your dog is to clip it off. If you struggle with regular bathing and brushing, take your dog to your groomer just for a bath & brush between your regular styling sessions and everybody will be happy.