My post last summer (that short cuts, or shave downs, were not the best option for your pet) got more comments and sad story affirmations than any other dog grooming blog I have ever written. Please, take a few minutes and read that post again, and especially pay attention to the gut-wrenching REGRET and HEARTBREAKING comments in the comment section from people whose beautiful dogs’ natural coats were ruined, perhaps for life, by someone who thought shaving the dog down was a good idea.
I won’t repeat the science – just re-read the post on this same blog series HERE. But I can’t stop talking on this extra hot June day about this issue! Groomers everywhere are either cooperating with, or advising clients to shave their dogs down . . .because they are “hot” or because they are a little matted. They are wrong to do so – a dog needs its coat to protect itself against the heat. A clean, mat free coat is the best protection for a dog on a hot day. Bared skin with little protection causes more suffering, not less.
Featured in this photo (of one of our beloved regular clients in the Ristic family) is a great example of a cut that is a pleasant manageable length – long enough to be cuddly and cute, as well as to provide protection from the elements. But short enough to be practical and not mat too badly between grooms. That said, the Ristic family takes excellent care of their dogs and they are at our shop regularly for baths and monthly for haircuts. They rarely have a tangle on them. Our handscissored cuts for that longer length work very well for all concerned.
I get the “super short summer cut” request from clients frequently this time of year. And as long as there is at least an inch of hair to protect from the elements, I am happy to oblige. But those who believe that a super short coat, or shaved, or “smoothie” cut will provide relief from heat are operating under a mis-impression.
I try to take time to explain to my beloved clients that dogs have thin skin and thicker hair – the opposite of thick-skinned, thin-haired humans – and that their hair is what insulates them from the environment. Shorter hair is less protection – not more. The analogy that works is – did people living in the Arabian desert in the 1700’s wear NOTHING in the sun to keep them cooler? No, they donned sheets, head coverings – loose clean clothing that allowed wind in and reflected sun away.
I make it a practice to never disparage any of my beloved grooming profession colleagues. Grooming is art and well as science and there is plenty of room for diversity in our field. That said – the groomers that routinely shave down dogs, or go along with this request from their clients when it isn’t a medical necessity are usually groomers that are not certified, well-trained, or tops in our field. They are concerned with speed because that means more money in a day. Worst of all, too many of us completely ignore the seriousness of clipping a double-coated dog, and will shave them as well. The heart breaking and often permanent damage to the coat of a double-coated breed is horrific, and should be lead to government regulation of our unregulated grooming industry in my opinion.
Groomers nationally are generally not as well paid as their hard work warrants. Speed in a groom makes a big difference to their bottom line. But we should all place the well-being of the dogs we are entrusted to care for ahead of our own well-being. I do. I spend many long hours (often requiring explanations to my clients about why it takes so long to do the grooms we do) brushing out dogs who are often matted, or who have gone too long between grooms.
There is another side to this issue of short cuts, though.
Shorter cuts can be a lesser of two evils when the dog has significant coat and where the grooming has not been frequent enough and the coat becomes matted.
Love Fur Dogs has many wonderful clients with big dogs with lots of hair and that like their babies fluffy! And most of these clients do not have the time to maintain these high-maintenance coats themselves. We are glad they bring them to us! We are here to help!
But a short cut may be the only option if the matting is too severe, or if the dog is not healthy or tolerant enough of a long, painful brush out. Or if additional expense for the staggering amount of extra time for the groomers is not affordable.
I know I do not charge enough for these bigger and longer brush outs. I am working on it. I try to do the super-hard brush outs of a matted dog with significant hair – but just once. After all, I did not become a groomer to torture dogs. I became a groomer to LOVE and help them.
After a first big demat and brush out, we expect to put the dog on a schedule that will work for the client and their pet’s lifestyle to give them the look they want, but without putting the pet through horrific stress. And without putting significant physical strain on the groomers’ delicate backs and hands (another blog for another day!).
Most of my clients have no idea how long and hard my staff and I work to present the fluffy pup to them at the final pickup that they see in our lobby! This transformation is especially difficult when they are some of the dogs that had come to us a matted mess. If the owner asks us to brush it out – that they do not want the short cut – we will explain options and choices. We cannot work miracles, and we cannot do dematting in a way that is fast and painless. It never is. Dematting is painful for the pet! And it is very long, hard work for the groomer.
We can certainly understand how once things might get neglected for genuinely good reasons (life’s emergencies DO happen!) and we try to always accommodate these requests to do the big brush out of a matted dog that has gone too long between groomings, within the tolerance of the dog’s own ability to take what this kind of a groom will require of him/her.
I always use the words “painful” and “expensive” when discussing de-matting with clients. But I always try to do what they ask.
The first time.
But when they also bring the dog back in the same condition each time, and want the service to be inexpensive, fast, and not hurtful to the dogs, I don’t know what to say sometimes.
Fortunately, most of our clients do not ask this of us. Most of our clients are in for regular groomings that are appropriate to the grooming needs of the coat the dog has, at the length that the pet parent wants to keep it.
But requests to brush out significantly matted coat (especially in our era of “doodle-mania” – Doodles as mixed breeds have combination coats that are highly prone to matting – few people are told this when they purchases a Doodle!) does happen to us regularly, and I felt that you who read this blog might want to know from our perspective what these kinds of cases are like for us and for the pet.
I do work to educate my clients about the stress on their pets in a big dematting process. And I am working on trying to get all my clients on a schedule that will empower the length that they want for their dog’s lifestyle in a way that will minimize stress in the groom, keep the price affordable, and that doesn’t “reward” a pet owner for neglecting their dog and then bringing it to us expecting us to work a miracle.
But sometime I have to be the one that tells them a short shave-down, or a “smoothie” as we call it, is vitally necessary under the circumstances
In this case, the pet will need extra protection for a while from the sun. Wearing a t-shirt or “onesie” type covering will help protect their delicate skin until some hair grows back.
So, to review – warm or cold weather, LENGTH of COAT does not generally affect a dog being hot or cold much. More important is the CONDITION of the coat – that it is clean and mat free.
Don’t worry when dogs pant when it gets hot because that is how they cool themselves. You have probably heard that dogs don’t have sweat glands and they rely on respiration to balance their body temperature. Owners do not need to worry if a dog is panting a lot on a hot day – only if they show symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Keep your dog’s coat CLEAN, well -conditioned; mat, tangle and undercoat free. Get a good de-shed. Let the wind reach their skin with a well-brushed and combed out coat. But do not take away that which protects their thin skin from the direct impact of the sun, parasites, etc.
The best reason for a short haircut this summer is if you and your dog spend a lot of time swimming or walking in the woods. Swimming + Longer Hair = Mats and tangles! And the longest coats make it hard to see Ticks, which are 2017’s biggest problem!
But some length of coat actually protects a dog from a tick gaining too easy access to their skin and their blood-sucking, disease-risking attachment. A dog can easier shake off the tick with an inch of hair. You can – and should – search through your dog’s coat for ticks after time in the great outdoors this year! Use a blow dryer to search every inch of the coat and skin, even underneath in armpits, between toes, etc. Ticks are dangerous and this year they are everywhere!
If your dog is not a “haircut breed” do NOT cut or clip the coat. Just keep the undercoat brushed and well-combed out. And keep the coat at the dog’s natural length. But keep it clean and well brushed and combed. You still need to tend to toenails every few weeks, and dogs should be bathed and brushed every few weeks as well.
And if it is a haircut dog, keep it about an inch long at least. Keep it clean and well brushed. We can help with our LOW-coat maintenance where we do all the brushing and combing starting at a mere $10.
If you dog is panting, it is because that is the way dogs respirate and cool themselves down. Keep plenty of cool clean water nearby, keep them at a healthy weight, and they will be fine. If they have a heat stroke you will know – they will collapse, not recover after rest, etc. More symptoms of a true heat emergency here.
I am on a one-woman mission (along with hundreds of other GREAT groomers!) to raise awareness about the evils of the short-shave summer cut. I am proud to be one of the good groomers that will not shave down your dog.
Oh, we do “summer cuts” every day for all sorts of practical reasons, but we will push to leave 1/2- 1 inch of coat on our haircut dogs at least.
And if you take your lucky pup swimming in Lake Michigan, bring them to us for a BEACH BLOWOUT – only $10 and no appointment necessary. We will rinse out the sand and blow out the coat with our high velocity dryers, sending the coat home damp but clean.