I’ve always had the greatest respect for dog and cat groomers. They’re left on their own for an hour or two to do something with our pets that we could never accomplish ourselves. Pets aren’t crazy about the loud noises, unfamiliar smells, and strange hands at the grooming salon, not to mention the appearance of weapons snipping close to their eyes and nose. All of this “fear baggage” can make the groomee downright defensive, and that is a real danger to the person handling the pet. Depending on the individual, a simple claw trim can rapidly turn into a cage match. Gotta hand it to pet groomers, they probably don’t get paid enough. They know a whole lot and take a lot of personal risks to get the job done, and they do all that single-handedly.

That’s why I didn’t dispute it when I heard a groomer say that you should never, ever shave a double-coated dog. The dog will never look right again, I was told! Never?! I did have my doubts, so I looked into it…
First off, what’s a double-coated dog? They are everywhere! Many very popular breeds fall into this category. The “double coat” is a smooth outer layer of long hairs and a kinkier, woolier inside layer that is not often seen. The two-layer canine coat has an important function. Outer hairs protect from trauma such as insect bites and scratches, even sunburn. They shed water and snow. The inner coat, like wool, helps to trap body heat. That makes sense during the winter.

During the summer, however, many owners are tempted to take their pet in for a shave-down in hopes that they’ll be cooler. That’s actually not a good idea. After the shave, unprotected skin (especially that which was recently covered with fur) is more prone to sunburn. The dense undercoat, which grows more rapidly, begins to come back immediately. It quickly forms a thick, fuzzy layer that retains water, rather than repelling it. This new, partial coat retains body heat and stays damp for extended periods. It obstructs air circulation through the fur. All of that is bad for the skin. The ideal coat for summer is the outer layer only, with undercoat removed. Impossible, you say? Every groomer knows how to do it with a combination of the right shampoo, combs, and drying techniques. I told you, they know what they are doing! Your dog might not get into serious health trouble over the shaving of his coat, but you certainly could be making him more miserable for the summer months, instead of less.

Now what about the permanent damage to his self esteem? True or false? I had to dig into some online groomers’ forums to find out. Turns out that the rapid growth of undercoat following a shave blockades the slower-growing outer coat hairs—the visible part of the fur. End result: the fur never looks quite as nice again. Now what that does to his self esteem, I’m not sure.

Dr. M. S. Regan