Caring for heavy coats in summer
It’s hot. So you shed a couple layers and slick on some sunscreen before you jump in the pool. Lucky you. Summer clothing choices are easy for those of us without double coats of fur, like Aussies, Collies, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Huskies, Malamutes, Sheep dogs, Pomeranians and most herding dogs and terriers.

But before you get too concerned that your dog’s fur is causing him to sweat, remember that nature put all that hair there for a reason (well, that and the fact dogs don’t sweat). However, there are a few things to consider for keeping your fur-loaded friend comfortable in the heat of summer.

Shedding

Corgi Shedding

Corgi lying beside his shed winter coat. Source

Double-coated dogs will shed their undercoats in the summer. A good brush and a good deal of patience can go a long way.

By brushing your dog, you help get rid of the fluffy undercoat and allow air to circulate around the dog’s skin, which is one of your dog’s natural cooling mechanisms.

Helping your dog shed his undercoat can also help the skin stay drier, which in turn can help prevent skin complications from insect bites and hot spots. Give your buddy a daily brush to help keep him cool and comfy.

Shaving: should you?

Although it may seem contrary to logic, shaving a dog with a double-layer coat can actually do more harm than good.

A dog’s undercoat serves as insulation. That’s why they naturally shed it in the spring and summer. The topcoat allows cooling air to reach a dog’s skin while also protecting it from the elements, such as the sun’s UV rays. Shaving this outer layer removes your dog’s built-in cooling device and may expose his skin to the harmful effects of the sun and other elements, like biting insects.

So while it may be hard to imagine how all that fur could actually be keeping your pet cool, remember that dogs don’t sweat anywhere other then their nose and paws. They shed excess heat through panting. So put down the shears and fill up the kiddie pool.

That all being said, there are a few occasions when a trim can be beneficial. You may want to consider a canine haircut if your dog:

  1. Has long fur (1” or longer)
  2. Has a single-layer coat
  3. Lives primarily outdoors
  4. Has matted or knotted fur
  5. Gets wet often (including swimming in the pool or lake)
  6. Has a dark-colored coat
  7. Suffers from hot spots

If you do decide a trim is in order, here are a few tips:

  1. Never shave a double-layered coat.
  2. Hire a professional. Paying for this service is much less expensive than paying to mend a lesion or a burn caused by inexperienced clippers.
  3. For dogs with a single-layered coat, never cut the hair shorter than 1”. Anything shorter subjects your dog to sunburn, ingrown hairs or even cancer.
  4. Take care to remove any matted spots, as these can serve as hotels for pests, parasites or bacteria. But prevention is still key. Proper brushing and maintenance of long-haired dogs should prevent the need for drastic haircuts.

Cooling techniques for your dog in the summer.

 Water, water, water

The main way dogs regulate their body temperature is through their mouths. Panting allows them to circulate the necessary air through their bodies to cool down. So keeping cold water available for them to drink is imperative to prevent dehydration.

Splash town

If your dog likes water, let him swim. Purchase a wading pool just for him, or take him to a dog park with a lake for swimming. Just remember to always put safety first. Use a flotation device if you take your dog on a boat, and never leave him around bodies of water unsupervised. Also, rinse your dog of chlorine or salt after a swim and make sure his coat dries thoroughly to prevent skin infections.

Too hot to trot

Hot asphalt can wreak havoc on any dog’s sensitive paw pads. When walking your dog, try to keep him on the grass and limit your time outdoors in the heat of the day. Take walks in the early morning or evening and always carry water.

Made in the shade

If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, ensure he has access to plenty of shade. But even in the shade, temperatures can soar (especially for dogs that were built for cold weather) so keep cold water available at all times and limit outdoor time if possible.

If you have concerns about your heavy-coat dog overheating, contact your vet. Also talk to your vet before trying any new cooling techniques, including a haircut.