Are you worried about your Australian Shepherd overheating in the summer? Or are you looking for ways to reduce your Australian Shepherd’s shedding?
If so, you might have considered shaving your Aussie. But this is a very bad idea, as shaving can cause permanent damage to your dog’s coat and has a number of negative effects.
Keep reading to find out why shaving is not recommended for Australian Shepherds and how best to care for this breed’s coat.
- An Australian Shepherd’s Double Coat
- Should You Shave an Australian Shepherd?
- Why You Shouldn’t Shave Your Australian Shepherd
- Are There Any Situations When Shaving Might Be Required?
- How Should I Care For My Aussie’s Coat?
An Australian Shepherd’s Double Coat
Australian Shepherds have a double coat that’s both protective and insulating. Understanding the function of this coat is key to realising why Aussies should never be shaved.
Inner and Outer Coats
The inner layer (undercoat) is made of dense, shorter hairs. Its main purpose is insulation, although it also has some protective properties. In comparison to the undercoat, the outer layer (topcoat) is longer, silkier, and less dense. It protects the dog from parasites, UV rays, water, and dirt.
These layers form an excellent protective shield for your dog. Both layers also stop growing when they get to a specific length – they don’t keep growing in the way that hair on single-coat breeds does.
How Double-Coats Keep a Dog Cool
Contrary to common belief, the Aussie’s thick double coat can also keep the dog cool in hot conditions – not just warm when the weather is chilly!
To achieve this, the Australian Shepherd (and other double-coated breeds) go through bi-annual “coat blows.” During this time, the undercoat sheds and regrows to be suitable for the upcoming season.
During the summer months, a well-maintained undercoat captures cool air and prevents your dog from overheating. It also guards against UV radiation, which prevents sunburn.
However, as winter comes, the undercoat sheds and regrows with greater density. In fact, the undercoat is so dense during these months that you probably won’t be able to see the skin. The result is that it’s more effective at protecting against the cold.
In other words, the coats of breeds like the Australian Shepherd are naturally optimised for the different seasons.
Should You Shave an Australian Shepherd?
The simple answer is that you should not shave an Australian Shepherd. Doing so can permanently damage your dog’s coat, reduce its insulating properties, make it harder for your dog to regulate their body temperature, and won’t stop your pet from shedding.
There are several reasons for this, but the core issue is that shaving reduces both the undercoat and the topcoat to the same length. Unfortunately, the undercoat tends to regrow quicker.
Faster undercoat regrowth interferes with the topcoat’s return, meaning the undercoat effectively becomes the external layer. This leads to issues with shedding, matting, and overall coat health. The undercoat also doesn’t protect against UV radiation, making the dog’s skin more exposed.
Shaving an Australian Shepherd is also known to cause long-lasting damage. In some cases, the coat doesn’t regrow properly, leading to bald patches. In others, the coat loses its normal texture and colourings.
A few exceptions exist for dogs with severe matting or certain medical conditions. However, these are rare, and should only be on the instruction of a vet or professional groomer.
Why You Shouldn’t Shave Your Australian Shepherd
We’ve established that Australian Shepherds shouldn’t be shaved, other than for medical reasons. Let’s take a closer look at why this is the case.
Shaving Doesn’t Help Your Dog Stay Cool
As I mentioned in a previous section, the Aussie coat actually helps to keep the dog cool during the summer months. Dogs don’t sweat through their skin (aside from the paw pads), so they don’t need large areas of exposed skin in order to stay cool when it gets hot.
Instead, your dog’s undercoat will naturally shed before summer so that it’s much less dense. This allows cool air to circulate and become trapped near the skin, which helps lower your dog’s body temperature.
The result is that shaving your dog’s hair can make it more likely that they overheat. Your coat is no longer able to trap a layer of cool air, making it harder for your pet to keep cool as the temperature rises.
Even though shaving isn’t an option, there are many other ways to keep your cool. Some examples that work for both single and double-coated dog breeds include:
- Always make sure your dog has access to water. During summer walks, bring plenty of water for both you and your dog, along with a foldable bowl.
- Ensure your dog always has a shady location to rest. During the hottest hours, bring them indoors and switch on the air conditioning.
- Avoid intense exercise with your Aussie during warm weather. Instead, go on relaxed walks in the morning or evening when the weather is cooler.
- Consider using a cooling mat instead of your dog’s regular bed.
- Provide your dog with damp towels to lay on, as these have a cooling effect and are more comfortable to rest on.
- Dog pools can be a great way to keep your dog cool when the weather gets hot.
Shaving Ruins Your Dog’s Coat’s UV Protection Properties
The topcoat, which is made of guard hairs, also protects against UV radiation. These hairs shield the skin and reflect sunlight, which is vital for preventing sunburn.
Shaving the coat immediately removes any UV protection the dog receives from their coat. This can lead to sunburn, as the dog’s skin isn’t accustomed to direct sunlight. In the long run, repeated UV exposure can increase the chances of skin cancer.
Shaving Doesn’t Stop Your Aussie From Shedding
Aussies are moderate shedders, so it’s natural to want to find ways to reduce shedding. However, shaving an Australian Shepherd will not stop shedding.
At best, shaving your dog just means that the shed hairs are shorter than they should be, making them less noticeable. But shaving the dog may actually increase shedding due to poor coat health and faster regrowth, even if the hairs are shorter.
Ultimately, there’s no way to stop your Aussie shedding. This is a natural and important process for maintaining coat health.
The key to minimising shedding is to take good care of your dog’s coat. Brush your Aussie’s coat several times each week, while removing tangles and preventing mats. Brushing removes hair before it falls out around the house and spreads healthy oils across the coat.
You may also want to use an undercoat rake during your dog’s bi-annual blow. Rakes can remove large amounts of undercoat hair in a short amount of time.
Be careful not to overdo it though – it’s easy to accidentally damage the hairs or skin when using the rake. You only want to remove the loose hairs, not the entire undercoat!
Other Reasons Not to Shave Your Aussie
- Australian Shepherds have coats that naturally stop growing when they reach a certain length. You don’t need to worry about the hair getting too long.
- Shaving the fur damages the natural coat cycle. It can take years to grow back, and even then the coat is prone to patchiness and thinning.
- Shaving ruins the Australian Shepherd’s beautiful and unique appearance!
Are There Any Situations When Shaving Might Be Required?
There are two situations when shaving an Australian Shepherd might be the only course of action: health problems and severe matting.
In the case of severe matting due to neglect, the coat may be causing pain due to tangles pulling on the skin. You should always ask a professional groomer if they can use specialist tools to remove these mats and allow for regular grooming. But if that’s not possible, then shaving may be the only sensible option.
There are also certain health conditions that might require shaving, although this is rare and only on the instruction of a vet. Your veterinarian may also need to shave part of the dog’s coat to perform surgery, but you should discuss this with them before any procedure.
How Should I Care For My Aussie’s Coat?
One of the best things you can do for your Australian Shepherd’s coat is brush it 2-3 times weekly.
Aside from preventing matting, brushing promotes new hair growth and spreads natural oils. You’ll need several different brushes for an Australian Shepherd to tackle different parts of the coat, including a slicker and pin brush.
You can also use deshedding rakes, such as the popular “Furminator.” These brushes remove loose undercoat hairs, which reduces household shedding and allows for proper insulation. The key is not to overdo it though – you should only use de-shedding rakes when your dog is going through a “coat blow,” and a maximum of once per week.
Additionally, you can wash your dog every 4-8 weeks. Regular bathing not only keeps your dog’s coat clean but can also aid in controlling excessive shedding. It’s best not to wash your dog any more than once per month though, as doing so could lead to skin dryness and other coat issues.
Important: Only ever use shampoo that’s made specifically for dogs. Avoid using human conditioners or shampoos, as these are optimised for a different skin pH and can cause irritation.
Australian Shepherds have beautiful double coats that provide insulation and protection. It’s important not to shave the Aussie’s coat, as doing so ruins the insulating properties and can cause long-term coat issues.
Do you have any questions about whether you can shave an Australian Shepherd? Please let us know in the comments section below.