By Robyn Michaels
It’s that time of year. It’s getting warm, and dog owners are starting to complain about shedding. You’re likely seeing more de-sheds being scheduled and mountains of dog hair to be swept up between each groom.
Why Dogs Shed
There are a lot of factors for why dogs shed, including genetics, sunlight, diet, stress and hormones. Double–coated dogs tend to lose more hair than single–coated dogs. And most dogs tend to shed more when the weather starts turning warm. However, dogs may shed a lot in the winter if the home is very dry because their skin, like ours, dries out.
Diet may also affect why a dog loses a lot of hair. Virtually all commercial dog foods are formulated so the “average” dog can maintain his health. Some dogs may need more essential fatty acids in their diets, with all other factors being equal. A pet owner may have to experiment a bit, but too much is not good and could cause the dog to gain weight or have diarrhea.
Stress is a very important reason dogs shed. Your clients may notice that there is more dog hair around when they enter their homes after they have been away or when they take the dog to the veterinarian, to be groomed, or whatever the dog experiences as stress. This is called “flight shedding”.
Hormones definitely affect shedding. Intact dogs shed more than neutered dogs, and neutered dogs often revert to puppy–type hair and have more undercoat.
Why Clipping Is Not the Solution
Undercoat is what most of the shedding hair is. Nobody knows why it happens, but clipper alopecia is thought to be a stress response. What happens is that the hair, once clipped, does not grow back the same texture as it was originally. Yes, sometimes it does, but usually the response is more undercoat, or a patchy regrowth. The dog may not shed if he is bald, or the undercoat may grow back thicker and shed more. There have not been adequate studies to determine why or how the coat will regrow.
I try to warn dog owners, but we’ve all had those who tell us that the veterinarian said it won’t make a difference. It does. Some of my fellow groomers have clients sign a contract waiver if asked to shave a double–coated dog. That’s a great idea.
Here’s the deal: for the amount of work shaving a double–coated dog is, and wear and tear on our blades, it takes us just as long to rake out undercoat, which would be the more appropriate response. We always charge more to shave double–coated dogs for this reason. We also tell clients that whether the dog is raked out or shaved, it’s only going to be effective at the most for about six weeks.
You should also introduce your dog–owning clients to various brushes and encourage them to use them between appointments. Partly because of price, partly because of durability and partly because of effectiveness, we generally urge clients to buy a medium curved slicker. For most dogs, the gauge of the wire works very well, and the brush lasts a long time. For the more delicate dogs, or dogs with short hair but lots of undercoat, a slicker with a finer gauge wire works well.
For the really hairy dogs like Rough Collies, Pyrenees, Berners, etc, we suggest rakes. A dematting rake is great for dog manes and butt cheeks, but the coat king–style rakes may be better on the bodies of dogs. They also come in various gauges to suit small to medium dogs and cats.
We suggest that our pet owners deshed dogs once a week, and advise them that the average dog takes about 15 minutes. If they groom the dog once a week, they will get the dog into a shed cycle, and that helps. We also invite them to come in for a blow out if the dog doesn’t really need a bath. If the dog is brushed out once a week with the proper tool, the owners should be able to keep shedding under control.
Do Deshedding Shampoos Work?
Of course! But I always tell clients that it depends on why the dog is shedding. Deshedding shampoos/conditioners typically work because they have extra emollients in them which will make the skin more supple and get out the hair that is about to shed, as well as what is now shedding. It’s hard to tell how effective they are because so few of our clients brush their dogs with the proper brush. I advise clients to try it once, and let us know.
What Else Will Help?
There are two other things dog owners can do to help alleviate shedding:
1) Get rid of carpets. You may have clients with drape–coated dogs who are showing those dogs. Wool fibers are serrated, and if the dog rolls or rubs on carpet, that will break hair as well as pull it out. Synthetic fibers are manufactured to mimic wool, so you have to decide whether you want carpets or long hair!
2) Exercising the dog adequately. Many dogs need a job. If they have too much energy and can’t work it off, they are going to be under stress…which results in shedding. One reason so many adult dogs end up in shelters is that the owners were not adequately screened by sellers regarding how much care a dog would need.
I hope this information helps you talk with your pet parents about the dreaded shedding! ✂️