double coated dogs, shave down, de-dhed, undercoat, guard hairs, protection from elements

Double Coated Breeds

June 12, 2014

This is a useful diagram, to better explain how the double coat actually insulates them from the heat and the sun during the warmer months:

Double coated dogs, such as Shetland Sheepdogs, Golden Retrievers, Huskeys and
German Shepherds, have two types of hair on them. The outer coat is made up of harsh hair or guard hair, which is there to protect the dog from the elements. The soft undercoat, which on some breeds can be quite thick, is there to insulate the dog and keep them warm in cold weather, and even to keep them cooled off in hot weather. The undercoat is what the dog releases when they are shedding, and what you will find all over your house.

The most important thing I want to mention about double coated dogs is that they should never be shaved down, unless it is vet recommended or the coat is in such a severely matted condition where it would be more humane to remove the coat instead of brush it out. Removing the double coat can cause a number of problems for your dog. When you remove this protective coat, you are exposing your dog's skin to the elements, and to the sun. This can cause sunburn, skin conditions, and can cause your dog to overheat in the summer which can cause death from the shock to their system. If the coat is shaved really short, it can also damage the hair follicle and the coat may never grow back again after, or may grow in patches where the soft undercoat grows back and the overcoat never does.
This is Tucker, a Golden Retriever.  He was de-shedded with a de-shedding tool.
To help you with your double coated dog, your groomer can de-shed your dog. De-shedding is the process of brushing out all the loose undercoat, which helps make your dog feel much more comfortable, and doing this alone will keep your dog much cooler in the summer. Removing the undercoat also helps prevent mats from forming as easily, and not to mention keep it off your floor!  Make sure you ask your groomer to de-shed your dog for you.
What happens if you do decide to shave down your double coated dog?  I already mentioned that it could be a total shock to your dog's system and that the coat may never grow back, or may never look the same again.  But the first thing you will notice is that your dog is no longer the same color.  When you shave down a double coated dog, all the vibrant colors of the top coat are being removed and what you see left on the dog is the dull color of the undercoat.
Below is a golden Retriever who was clipped down very short.  The color of her coat used to match the color of her head, but now is several shades lighter.
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