A summer cut for your dog
It’s a tricky topic and not something that should be done on a whim: shearing your dog for the summer. It might seem like an easy and effective option for keeping your dog cool but it’s a little more complicated than that. Whether or not your dog will benefit from a summer cut depends on their coat type and the length of their fur. There is not an easy ‘yes or no’ answer to be found here, so the topic needs some looking into.
Well-groomed coat = healthy dog
Let’s start with the basics. Even though it looks like dogs only benefit from their fur during the winter months when it keeps them warm, a dog’s coat basically has the same function during the summer. Like a thermos that keeps warm drinks warm and cold drinks cold, a dog’s fur works the same way. The coat creates insulation close to the dog’s skin, which keeps them warm during winter and cool during summer. It also protects the skin from direct sunlight, mites and other unwanted irritants. For that reason, taking care of your dog’s coat and keeping it well-groomed is important not just for the summer months, but for the whole year round. Some coats require more effort than others, depending on the breed and the length and texture of your dog’s fur.
Single or double coated?
The major difference between different dogs’ coats is their layers. There are breeds with single and double coats, both of which react differently to being shorn or cut.
The fur of single coated dogs can vary in length and texture (from short to long, from smooth to curly or wiry) but the fur itself is basically the same all over the dog’s body. Depending on the length of their fur, a summer trim might be appreciated to help air circulate close to their skin. For example, Boxers and Maltese are both breeds with a single coat, but while a Boxer’s short coat won’t give them much trouble during the hotter months, a Maltese might benefit from a breezier cut. Keep in mind that the fur should not be cut shorter than three to four centimetres (about an inch to an inch and a half). By removing too much of your dog’s fur, you can actually reverse the effect you’re aiming for: instead of cooling them down, heat and sun radiation will have an easier time reaching your dog’s skin. Like sunscreen, your dog’s coat works as UV-protection and sunburn and skin irritation can be the consequence of cutting it too short.
Double coated dogs have two different kinds of fur: the top layer and the under coat. The fur of the top layer is thicker, longer and serves as the protective shield from direct sunlight, insects and dirt. The fur of the under coat is thinner and lighter and keeps them warm during the winter months and cool during the summer. Twice a year, between winter and spring, and summer and autumn, dogs with a double coat, like Golden Retrievers, Australian Shepherds and Bernese Mountain Dogs, will shed their under coat in response to seasonal changes. You’ll probably have no trouble identifying this period, as evidence of it will be found all over your floor, sofa, carpet and clothes. While taking care of your dog’s coat is a year-round job, it’s most important during this time. By putting in the work during spring, regularly brushing out dead and loose hair, both you and your dog will thank you in the summer as it will be much less of a hassle to groom your dog’s coat if it’s already in a healthy state.
Contrary to dogs with a single coat, whose fur will just grow back the way it was before, a summer cut for a double coated dog is a bit more complicated. Regularly brushing out the undercoat is already an effective way of helping your dog stay cooler during summer, because it allows air to reach your dog’s skin more easily. Shearing, however is generally advised against as the top layer and the undercoat will grow back at different speeds, resulting in a patchy and irregular coat. A light summer trim, mainly focussed on the belly, the legs and paws can make a great difference and still keep your dog’s coat intact.
Knowing about the different coat types, their functions and characteristics should give you the ability to make the right decision about your dog’s summer cut. By keeping their coat healthy and well-groomed throughout the year, you are already making your dog’s life a lot easier, especially during summer. When you do decide that shearing your dog is the best option for them, find a professional groomer that you trust with the job. They should know whether your dog’s coat is actually suited for the treatment and the best way of cutting it to ensure that it grows back healthily.
Just like getting a new haircut doesn’t fix all of our problems, a summer cut is but one of many options to keep your dog cool during the hotter days. It’s worth taking a look into alternatives as well, so you can find a healthy combination of measures to relieve your dog of the summer heat.