Have you ever seen the t-shirt that says, “Dog hair is my bling”? There are many days dog hair is my bling. And on those days, I’m hoping the lady on the checkout line staring at my fur-laden black leggings has seen that shirt too.
Shedding may be the one thing dog owners would say is the downside of owning a dog… if there is such a thing as a downside.
A better understanding of why and when our dogs shed can help us minimize the little fur balls around the baseboards… and maybe even the “bling” on our clothes.
Of the eight dogs I’ve owned in my life, only one of them was what people would call a non-shedder. But really… there is no such thing as a dog that doesn’t shed. All dogs shed (except the hairless ones). Some breeds just shed more than others.
This one “nonshedder” I had as a kid was a Kerry Blue Terrier. A Kerry has a single coat. It has no undercoat. Dogs with an undercoat are double coated.
And hair and fur, they’re often interchanged when we talk about a dog’s coat. But hair and fur are different. A dog with a single coat has hair. Dogs with a double coat are said to have fur.
The misconception that some dogs are nonshedders exists because dogs with a single coat shed much less than dogs with a double coat. But they too have to get rid of old hair, just like humans do, to make room for fresh healthy new hair. So they will shed but only minimally.
This distinction is one you’d be wise to understand if you’re thinking about getting a new dog. Knowing if the dog you’re considering has a single or double coat tells you a lot about how much you can expect your new best friend to shed.
The double coat
Many breeds have double coats, particularly breeds that originated in cold climates… breeds like Siberian Huskies, Malamutes, Labradors, Newfoundlands and Akitas.
But there are many other breeds that have double coats you might not lump into the “cold weather dog” category. Greyhounds, Beaucerons, Collies, and Wheaton Terriers have double coats too.
And I’ve only named a few of the double-coated breeds. The list is a lengthy one.
If you understand what a double coat is, you’ll understand why dogs that have them shed more.
A dog with a double coat has a soft insulating undercoat (hair closest to the skin) with a coarser topcoat made up of longer guard hairs that repel moisture.
The furrier Nordic breeds have fluffier heavily insulated double coats to keep them warm during those cold Nordic winters. Their coats change with the seasons. They do this by blowing their coat twice a year—a very heavy shed in the spring and fall.
In the spring, a double-coated dog will shed its winter undercoat to empty the hair follicles and prepare for the new growth they’ll get for the summer.
A summer undercoat won’t be as thick as the winter undercoat. But it serves a different purpose… protection from the heat and sun.
Right about now, your double-coated dog may be blowing his summer coat. That’s typical in the fall when they’re preparing to grow their thicker winter coat.
These seasonal periods of shedding are more pronounced if your dog lives outside. The coat of an indoor dog that lives in a temperature controlled environment won’t change as much with the seasons because they’re not as reliant on their coats for protection from cold and heat. They’ll shed more consistently throughout the year.
Shaving the double coat
Because I live in a warm-weather climate, I often see double-coated dogs that have been shaved… presumably to keep them cool. Or maybe to keep the fur off the furniture.
Don’t do it. The purpose of the double coat is to keep the dog warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Just because we’re cooler when we shed a layer of clothing doesn’t mean our dogs are cooler with less fur. We sweat through our skin. They don’t.
In fact, shaving your dog can cause some serious problems. They can suffer from folliculitis, and other conditions that affect the coat and skin. And because they rely on their coat for protection from the heat and sun, they can easily overheat without it and get sunburned.
There are things you can do—other than shaving your dog—to cut back on the amount of hair that ends up in unwanted places.
Good grooming habits are the first line of defense. Brush your dog daily with a brush that’s meant for a shedder. This will loosen the hairs that would otherwise end up on your furniture.
When you bathe your dog, use a gentle shampoo made for normal or dry skin. Medicated shampoos or shampoos for coarse hair are often too harsh and can make your dog’s skin dry. The drier and itchier your dog’s skin, the more they’ll shed.
And a professional grooming once in a while will get a lot of the hair out. A groomer will vigorously rake the undercoat and do a de-shed treatment leaving the undercoat on the groomers floor instead of your floors.
Most importantly, keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy by feeding them a food rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids like Husse’s Lax & Ris or Husse’s Lamm & Ris. This will substantially reduce shedding.
If you have a big shedder, your vet may recommend B vitamins. They can prevent conditions that cause dry itchy skin.
But if your dog is shedding so much that it seems abnormal to you, there could be more going on. Stress, disease and parasites can all cause shedding.
And hair that comes out in clumps leaving bare skin is not normal shedding. See the vet if you think the amount your dog sheds is unusual.
Hormonal factors play a part too. If you have an intact dog, they will shed with changes in their hormone levels. As a result, spayed and neutered dogs have denser fluffier undercoats. Hormones will cause pregnant and lactating dogs to also shed more.
Knowing why and when your dog sheds can help you get on top of it. But in spite of our best efforts, a shedder’s gonna shed. Duct tape… it works!
How do you deal with your shedder? Share with us in the comment section at the top of the page.