You might be concerned that your Labrador is suffering under the thickness and heat of its coat during summer and that the obvious solution might seem to be shaving the dog. But is this really the best solution for your pet? Should you send your beloved Lab to the groomer to be shaved or are there alternative options?
Should I shave my Labrador? No, you should not. The main reason you should never shave your Lab is because he has a double coat and this double coat serves several purposes.
In this article we will cover 5 reasons why shaving a double coat is a bad idea:
- Shaving removes the dog’s protective layer against sunburn,
- The undercoat provides insulation for keeping cool in summer and warm in winter,
- The fur regrowth will be hard, prickly, and uncomfortable,
- The double coat protects the dog from dirt & moisture,
- Shaving the coat does not get rid of shedding.
Your Labrador’s double coat is great for a nice warm snuggle on a winter’s night, but it is just not that great when your furry friend starts to shed or overheat during the warmer months of spring and summer. What should you do instead of shaving your Lab?
If you are looking for some advice about shaving your Labrador’s coat, we are glad that you have made it to this post. Shaving your Labrador is indeed a bad idea. It will merely create an uncomfortable situation for both you and your pet. Why, you ask? Let’s take a look below at why people consider shaving their Labs and how it can negatively impact your dog’s quality of life.
A Labrador’s Double Coat
You might know that your Labrador has a “double coat”, but what does that really mean? Does it mean that your Labrador has a different type of coat than other dogs? Dog’s that have a double coat, have a particular type of coat that is made up of 2 distinctive layers. Many large breed dogs have this type of coat including Alaskan Huskies and Australian Shepherds. The double coat consists of an outer layer and an under layer.
The under layer which is right up against the skin is called the undercoat. This is a dense layer of fur that is made up of short hairs, which are usually woolly or soft textured to the touch.
Above this softer under layer, there is an outer layer that consists of coarse hairs. This layer is often referred to as “guard hairs” and provides somewhat of a barrier to the undercoat and of course, the dog’s skin.
The denser your dog’s undercoat is, the more you will have to groom your dog to keep its coat healthy and to ensure that your dog is cool in the summer months. There are many functions of a double coat including temperature regulation, sunburn protection, and cleanliness.
Unfortunately, many people misunderstand how a double coat works and what it truly means for their pet. This often leads to incorrect grooming, care, and maintenance techniques being imposed on the pet. Before you get a family pet with a double coat, it is important to know that it does require a bit more effort than other coat types.
Shedding is something to be aware of with a double coat. When it comes to double coats, shedding is somewhat different than with regular dogs. This can be a surprise for first time Lab owners when they encounter their first change of season with their new Lab.
Labradors, in particular, have a type of shedding style that is called “coat blow.” Regular shedding typically happens all year round whereas coat blow happens when a dog’s coat is transitioning from a winter coat to a summer coat.
Common Myths That Lead Owners to Shave Their Labradors
If you have owned Labradors for a long time and have already learned about their double coat and the pitfalls of shaving it, you might wonder why anyone would be tempted to shave their Lab. Many people simply do not know that shaving their pet can have undesirable end results and unfortunately, not all groomers offer up this advice when a Labrador is booked in to be shaved.
This article hopes to shed some light on the topic of a Labrador’s coat and why shaving it should not form part of your ongoing maintenance and grooming strategy.
The problem with shaving a Labrador’s coat is a result of the fact that there are common misconceptions and myths out there that are particularly confusing for first-time Lab owners.
One of the most popular myths that Labrador owners tend to believe is that shaving their dog will help to keep it cool in the summer months. Unfortunately, shaving your dog for summer coolness is not a good idea.
Yes, dogs will get hot in summer (that’s completely normal), but the Lab’s double coat provides great insulation that keeps the dog warm in winter and cool in summer. That is what a double coat is really designed for. When you start to tinker with a dog’s double coat, you stand the risk of unbalancing its natural cooling and heating processes, and that could mean a few sensitivities and problems to follow.
Another common myth is that shaving the dog will help to prevent shedding. This is absolutely wrong. Unfortunately, there is no magic cure for shedding (least of all shaving), especially for dogs with double coats. It is a simple fact of life and something to be considered before you commit yourself and your family to a pet with a double coat, such as a Labrador. The best thing you can do is manage the shedding situation.
How do you manage Labrador coat shedding? You can manage coat shedding by ensuring that your dog has a highly nutritional diet for a healthy coat. You should also commit yourself to regular grooming, and weekly vacuuming to keep stray pet dander under control.
If you have been shaving your Labrador up until this point, you should stop now. Your Labrador has the type of coat that is coarse and repellant on the exterior and soft beneath the surface and shaving can change the texture and growth of your Labrador’s hair.
5 Reasons Why You Should Never Shave Your Labrador
1. Shaving Your Lab’s Cost Removes Its Protective Layer Against Sunburn
You already know that Labradors have a thick coat with a protective undercoat. It might not be immediately obvious to you, but the undercoat (and the outer coat for that matter) is tasked with protecting your dog’s skin from the elements. The softer fur that grows just under the coarser outer layer of fur should be left in place.
While this undercoat is in place, your Labrador can run around outside and spend time in direct sunlight without getting sunburned. How often do you slather your kids in sunscreen and watch them spend hours outdoors playing with the family Labrador and not give sunburn for your dog a second thought? Do not worry – you have done nothing wrong. You probably have not given it much thought because your dog has never been sunburned, regardless of how much time he/she spends in the sun.
Why is this? What stops your Lab from burning while the sun ravages the skin of your children? The answer is quite simple: your Labrador can spend hours in the sun unscathed by the UV rays, thanks to its double coat. When you remove this coat (by means of shaving it off), your dog might get sunburned as the skin (which has not received any exposure to the sun thanks to its double coat up until this point) is now exposed to the sun.
2. The Undercoat Provides Insulation to Keep Cool in Summer & Warm in Winter
Monitoring the behavior of a recently shaved Labrador can tell you everything you need to know about the negative impact of shaving. When you shave your Labrador’s coat, she might start feeling the cold a bit more and even seem a bit more sensitive to heat and humidity. This might be confusing to you – surely shaving the coat should have helped the dog, not make it more vulnerable.
The reason your dog becomes sensitive is because its soft undercoat usually provides insulation that helps to regulate body heat. This insulating layer has been working for your Lab from birth and its body has grown accustomed to this function. When you remove that layer, everything changes. It throws the Lab’s natural temperature regulation processes off and can cause discomfort for the pet.
3. Fur Regrowth Is Hard, Prickly, & Uncomfortable
This is one that many people don’t think about until after it happens. Unfortunately, hair regrowth isn’t always fun for pets and owners.
When you shave a Labrador’s coat right down to the skin, the soft undercoat will be removed. It will not grow back soft and fluffy like it was before. While it is growing out, it will be short and prickly.
In some Labs, the undercoat might never grow back exactly as it was before. The regrowth might even be itchy for the dog, just like hair regrowth can be itchy for humans. The hairs will be spikey and scratch and poke you, which does not make for a comfortable cuddle and you can also expect your Lab to feel uncomfortable while it is growing back.
4. The Double Coat Protects the Lab from Dirt & Moisture
What does the outer coat do? While the undercoat has a lot to do in terms of temperature regulation and ensuring that the skin beneath the coat does not burn, the outer coat (coarser coat) also serves a very important purpose. Once it is removed, it can no longer serve its function.
The outer coat is a hardier type of fur, which means that it is able to repel moisture and dirt from your pet. As such, it is quite important for the active Labrador.
When you shave your Labrador dirt and moisture will easily reach your pet’s skin and as a result, you might find that your Lab is more difficult to keep clean. Your dog might start leaving dirt on its bed, on your couches, and around the house on the floor once it is shaved.
You also might feel that you need to wash your dog more frequently, which is not good for your dog’s skin. If this is the case, you might quickly realize that shaving your Labrador can create more work for you, not less.
5. Shaving the Coat Does Not Get Rid of Shedding
Shedding is something that many people loathe. It’s safe to say that owning a Lab comes with a lot of shedding and this is something you should be willing to deal with.
Some people think that shaving their Labrador will stop or slow down shedding. Unfortunately, this is a misconception. Instead of stopping or slowing shedding, your Labrador will simply continue to shed the short, prickly hairs, which might even prove harder to remove from couches, clothing, and carpets. Shaving a dog does nothing for its shedding – it’s a much better idea to manage shedding instead of trying to “cure” it.
Alternatives to Shaving Your Labrador
Is this the end of the road? Is there no way to keep your Labrador cool, clean and groomed during the hotter months? While shaving has proven to be a no-no for your Labrador, there are alternatives you can opt for in order to keep your Labrador cool and clean when the spring and summer months come around.
The best alternative is to opt for grooming, instead of shaving. Keep in mind that your Lab will need to be groomed more often during its shedding periods then it will during the rest of the year.
How often do Labradors shed? You will find that while Yellow Labradors tend to shed all year round, most Labradors only shed heavily twice a year.
During the shedding season, which is usually during the hotter months (or when the seasons change), it is important to regularly brush your Lab with the correct grooming brushes. This will ensure that loose hairs that trap heat on your dog’s skin are removed and air can circulate better through the coat, thus allowing the dog to keep cooler.
It is also a good idea to send your Labrador to a professional groomer at least once a year to remove excess loose dander and ensure that the skin is clean and healthy too. Most people opt to send the family Labrador to the professional groomer in spring.
If you want to bathe your Labrador, save it for the warmer months and consider blowing the undercoat out. This removes any dirt and sweat that might have caked the fur be irritating the skin. It can also remove any smell that your Lab might have been collecting along the way.
Another way to ensure that your Labrador stays cool is to provide sufficient water to drink. When a Lab gets hot and doesn’t have access to fresh cool water, it can struggle to regulate its own temperature. You should also consider investing in a kiddy’s plastic splash pool, which he/she can play in on particularly hot days.
Grooming Tips for Labradors
Grooming is the best possible alternative to shaving your Labrador, but how do you go about it correctly? Below are a few tips for Labrador grooming:
- Incorporate regular grooming into your schedule. How often should you groom your lab? Be prepared to groom your Labrador two or three times per week during heavy shedding times to minimize the risk of matting.
- Make sure you use the correct grooming equipment/tools. Use an undercoat grooming rake to ensure that grooming efforts effectively remove dead hairs from the Lab’s undercoat.
- Use a slicker brush on your Labrador’s rear area as the fur can be quite thick and long there and difficult to detangle with a regular brush.
- Matted knots should be removed. To cut any matted knots out that cannot be brushed out, make sure that you place your fingers between the knot and the skin to make sure that you don’t end up cutting your dog’s skin.
- To remove loose top hairs and to boost shine, use a bristle brush on the outer coat as your last step.
While it is obvious that shaving your Labrador is a bad idea, it does not mean that there is nothing you can do to help keep your pet cool and clean in the summertime. With the right grooming technique, your dog can be kept comfortable all year round – no need for shaving.