A lot of times, people in warmer climates ask me if they should shave their dogs.
I’ve looked at information on this from many different sources and believe the answer is a definite “no.”
Your dog’s fur is his thermostat. Just as their fur helps them stay warm in cold temperatures, it also helps them stay cool in hot temperatures. With our German Shepherds, I rarely have to think about how the heat is going to affect our them because it simply never gets hot. It’s splendid.
The key in hot weather for dogs is not over-exerting them and making sure they stay hydrated. They are not children and will not tell you when they are tired. For many dogs, if you keep throwing that ball, they will keep chasing it. My German Shepherds have high ball drives and will chase a ball as long we will throw it. If you live in a warm climate, pay attention to this. Be sure you give your dog plenty of breaks while you are playing so that they can catch their breath, cool down and get a drink of water. Your dog may just want to keep chasing the ball over and over again, but it’s your responsibility to make sure they don’t overheat. The ball drive may simply overpower their desire to stop.
Back to the question: Should I shave my dog? Like I said, I believe the answer is no. Keep in mind your dog’s skin is not made to have sunlight on it. There is a thick coat of dog fur and an undercoat between the sunshine and that skin. While we, as people, have pigment in our skin, our dogs do not. Sunburn can happen to a puppy quickly and easily. It is excruciatingly painful for your dog. Skin cancer can also happen. People do not take their fair-skinned 4 year old children out to sit and watch a parade in the sun without putting some sun tan lotion on them. And their skin isn’t nearly as sensitive as your dog’s.
As most of you know, dog’s cool themselves through panting, not through sweating like we do. The amount of hair on your dog’s back will not effect his ability to pant. Let the dog keep that barrier between the heat and his body. It is what he wants. Even on our bright, all day sun till midnight days, our long haired German Shepherd puppy Lava can stay outside and play. Sure she gets warm, but her thick coat helps keep that heat away from her skin.
Often times, people assume that because less clothing or facial hair or even a shorter haircut are more comfortable for them in the summer the same is true for their dog. It is simply not this way in this case.
Remember, none of this is a substitute for the words of your veterinarian who knows your dog individually. From time to time a vet may advise shaving a dog and we encourage you to use discernment and pay attention to advice from your veterinarian.
Josh Brown is a dog lover, trainer and breeder in Anchorage, AK. He owns Far North Kennel and breeds German Shepherd Puppies. Josh writes a blog with training and behavioral tips for owners of all breeds that you are invited to check out his Dog Blog here.