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Shaving Northern Dogs

By: Gary Wynn Kelly 

Though northern dogs are renowned for their lovely fur coats, even the most ardent fan of the arctic breeds sometimes dreams of a dog that would just shed a little less, or not require quite so much grooming. When the spring shed comes, it can take time and patience to keep up with the task of grooming these dogs, especially when the dog may not always choose to cooperate.

When people come to us and ask how often these northern dogs shed, I often answer them, For 6 months in the spring, and 6 months in the fall. While shedding varies from dog to dog, there are many northern dogs that surely seem as though they never stop shedding.

Some groomers and some veterinarians suggest that it is okay to clip or shave the coat back during the summer months, or even all year round. This article is written to refute such claims, and inform the owners of these breeds as to the reasons why.

I have met people who claim that their dog is happier shaved, and that their vet told them it is healthier, too, as the dog will not get so hot. This is perhaps a misunderstanding, or a generalization from some other breed that is not an arctic breed.

The northern breeds have a double coat. This double coat consists of an undercoat, that is soft and short. The outer coat is made up of longer guard hair. This outer coat has a sleek sheen, when healthy, and water dropped on this coat will most often run off, never penetrating to the undercoat.

The coat combination offers excellent thermal protection for the dog from extremes of cold *and heat*. Northern dogs, like desert peoples, are better off fully dressed than nude. Shaving away the outer coat exposes the undercoat, which cannot adequately protect the skin from the ultraviolet radiation of the sun. This can lead to severe sunburn. I have seen this in at least one dog, and it took months for the dog to recover.

People have told me that this is not a problem for their dog, as it is not outdoors very often, as it stays indoors, or is in the shade out of doors. I suspect that such owners are often unaware of just how long the dog is in sunlight, or that ultraviolet radiation can be present on cloudy days, too, and still damage the skin of the dog. A dog’s skin has no natural tanning capability to protect it from the sun. The remaining undercoat may just be thick enough to protect the owner from knowing that they have just put their dog’s health at risk.

Copyright© May, 2005