By Michell Evans
“Hi there. I am a country groomer who does a lot of double coated shave–downs. I must shave at least one a day in the summer months. We get Goldens, Border Collies, and Australian Shepherds by the dozens. I have heard that shaving them is not good for their coat. These are farm dogs. They swim in the pond, roll on cow pies and battle flies all day. What should I do with them if I don’t shave them?” – Amanda W.
It is tempting to shave them down, Amanda. Many farm dogs actually enjoy being shaved in the summer. It is probably the quickest and most economical way to get them clean and mat–free. It also allows good monitoring of the skin for fleas and ticks and irritations of various kinds. Farm dogs that swim everyday often get hot–spots from the constant moisture trapped by their matted undercoat at the skin’s surface. They can also get sores from scratching themselves in an attempt to remove mats, debris and parasites. Sometimes shaving is the best choice for the dog.
But shaving the coat off leaves the skin vulnerable. The coat acts as a barrier to the elements, brambles, and their own misguided self–mutilation. It also helps them stay cool in the summer months and warm in the winter months. Also, without any coat to protect them they are much more vulnerable to scratches and bites from other dogs, cats, and wildlife. Plus, coat helps to keep allergens and sunlight off of the skin.
In most cases it is better to work with the coat in as natural of a way as possible. It would make more sense to shave an indoor dog that has few battles with the elements or brambles than it would to shave an outdoor farm dog who truly needs protection. It is a catch twenty two, though. The indoor dog typically has few mats and parasites and rarely needs shaving. Whereas with the outdoor dog it may seem impossible to do anything else. There are no hard fast rules in grooming. We take each dog’s situation into consideration when we are making decisions about the appropriate groom.
Shaving a double coat can have long term effects. Many coats grow back normally but in some cases shaving the coat can change the coat texture and thickness forever. Some of the coat may never grow back the same, or at all. Some of the coated areas may go completely bald and never grow coat again. Often the coat texture is changed to a more “Velcro” type texture which can exacerbate the problems that are causing the coat to need shaving in the first place. Always explain these things to your clients before choosing to shave their dog.
You may want to print a few pictures from the internet illustrating potential outcomes and options. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Many clients will still choose to shave their dog. As long as you have explained the risks you are not responsible for permanent coat damage or other implications. If you choose to shave, consider using a guard comb. It has much less of a negative impact on the coat if you trim the outer or top coat longer than the natural undercoat. You can still trim a lot of the coat off but not shave so close as to shave undercoat. Leave it at least ½ inch longer than the natural length of the undercoat. Think of it as a roof over the insulation in your attic. You need the insulation to keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter and you also need a roof to keep the insulation from being destroyed by the elements. Remove as much of the undercoat as possible before trimming the outer coat. This may allow you to choose a bit shorter guard comb option.
Don’t just rake the jacket or back of the dog. The furnishings which are the bib, chest, belly, pants, and tail might change the most from shaving. They might grow back crinkly and could collect debris even worse than before. By raking first, the removed hairs can grow back as normal unaffected hair, thereby reducing the percentage of affected coat. This is true for the whole coat, not just the furnishings. Maybe choose to avoid cutting the length of the jacket or back of the coat and only trim the furnishings. This can sometimes be a nice compromise.
If the owner chooses to continue to try to manage the longer coat rather than trim it off, it simply takes more regular grooming appointments. Good luck, Amanda! “✂
I am a multi-Best-In-Show and Best-All-Around groomer. I am the recipient of many Barkleigh Honors Awards. I am a Silver and Gold medalist for GroomTeam USA. I am the winner of Show Dog Groomer of the Year. I am an educator for Andis Clipper Company. I have been teaching as The Grooming Tutor since 2000. And I groom to make a living, just like you. Please send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org