The Great Shave Debate

Shaving a dog down saves times but could lead to irreparable coat damage.


Q. I just cringe when I see beautiful double-coated dogs shaved down. I've heard many grooming shops defend this practice saying it’s good for the dog and it saves time. I've also read about sunburn, coat, and skin problems that can occur when shaving the coat down to the skin. As a novice groomer, I ended up leaving a job because I was criticized for not shaving the dogs completely bald. Do you ever think there will be a time in the grooming industry when people might talk about these types of shaving issues?

A. I applaud you for wanting to find out if this practice is harmful. The short answer is it depends on the dog. In my shop, we never shave a Northern breed such as the Husky, Samoyed, Norwegian Elkhound or Keeshond down close to the skin – or a Labrador Retriever or German Shepherd Dog either – because their double coats can be irreparably damaged in the process.

Brushing out the undercoat, and some trimming and shaping is fine, but cutting the hair to the point where you end up with a bald dog may permanently damage the hair follicles. The dog may end up with a moth-eaten appearance – bald spots here and bits of fluff there – for the rest of his life instead of the beautiful coat Mother Nature provided for its protection. Unfortunately, as a novice groomer, I did shave a Samoyed down at the insistence of his owner and I saw the results firsthand. I learned this lesson the hard way.

On the other hand, many dogs can be clipped short with no ill, but I still don’t think shaving them right down to the skin is a good option unless they are so matted that there is no alternative.

Neither is it necessary to shave dogs down in the summer to keep them cool. A well-brushed coat has “loft,” allowing air to circulate within it and cool the pet while offering natural protection against the elements. 

I am glad you are dedicated to the health and well-being of the dogs you work with. Good luck in your grooming career.

Kathy Salzberg, NCMG, is a Certified Master Groomer and writer who has been grooming pets since 1976. With her daughter Missi, she owns The Village Groomer in Walpole, Mass. She has also written extensively on pet care for several consumer magazines and authored three books on dogs and careers with pets. Kathy lives with her pets on Cape Cod.

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Kate   Aberdeen, Maryland

7/11/2013 9:06:47 AM

I have had no problems with any groomer shaving my well groomed Samoyed, until now. I take her faithfully once a month for a groom, which includes bath, trim, and nail clip. It's hard to find a groomer that will brush teeth also like I used to have but moved. Anyway, the first groomer moved and went to another recommended where she got attacked by a dog there. Next groomer did well but was at a vets where they wanted to give her a vaccination each time, against the recommendation of my vet who gave her all the ones she needed. So once I refused had to take her to a new groomer at my vets. Funny, never heard they even had one. Went to pick her up and she was shaved BALD. I was shocked and mortified! How could this happen when she had no need for a shave , nor insturctions to do so. I saw how my dog was even sad as she hung her head for a day, even though I told her how beautiful she was and hid my dislike of it. I don't think she was even a professional. She took 7 hours to do this to her, and later I found she was actually a tech there that is wanting to be a groomer. How deceptful was that. I was glad to find this article to see that it is indeed not recommended by professionals. I thought oh well, it is summer. But then noticed she could only take 10 - 15 min. outdoors before showing distress from the heat. I posted a YouTube video called "Samoyed Grooming Fail" to vent my disdain over this happening to my dog. I also included a link to this article so I would stop getting comments of criticism of how she probably feels better, and it looks good what's my problem. Thanks for the valuable information for us Samoyed owners.

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Janet   Bethlehem, PA

7/19/2011 5:20:39 AM

good article, thanks

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emma   new york city, NY

3/12/2011 2:38:19 AM

I agree with NEVER shaving a double coated dog to the skin for temperature reasons, or for easy grooming (if you didn't want to spend ages grooming, don't get a long coated dog) but it has to be done in cases of injury or surgery. My Samoyed had to be shaved for surgery and his hair has grown back fully but has a completely different texture. As for shaving them to keep them cool, there is no need. This is just in reference to Sammy's but their coat is white therefore it doesn't absorb the heat from the sun as dark coats do, it deflects it. If you touch a Sammy's coat in hot weather it feels cool. If you shave the hair off you aren't helping the dog stay any cooler. They can do that by themselves.

Thanks for reading what I have to say.

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Amanda   San diego, CA

1/22/2010 12:19:11 PM

Poodles and schnauzers are not double coated breeds, they have hair not fur. This is what you can shave any hybrid poodle mix or spaniel and most terriers. As a groomer and from experience, I know first hand shaving a double coated dog is and can be very harmful to there well being. Even if you shave them once and nothing happens, shaving any TRUE double coated breed it increases shedding, can cause heat stroke, skin condition, hair loss or the hair not growing back, and other majorhealth issues. If you don't want shedding then dint get a dog that sheds get a non-shedding breed. If you're worried they'll be too hott, don't! It's there natural insulation and protection. Just give them water and a shady or cool place to stay. Shave them can actually over heat them. :)

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