Dog Shedding and Good Grooming

Keeping your dog's coat well-groomed will help keep him healthy.

Information on Dog Shedding and Hair

Dog shedding occurs in nearly all dogs and is a natural process of eliminating dead hair to allow a new coat to come in, and because of the seasonal changes in temperature. Several dog breeds like Siberian Husky or the Great Pyrenees, are known to have double coats-a soft undercoat, and the outer and much coarser topcoat. These breeds can shed profusely, “blowing” their coat twice a year in what seems like endless amounts of fur. “Blowing a coat” is a term that describes the heavy shedding that takes place twice a year; once in the spring time and another in the fall.

Sometimes it may seem like your dog sheds all year round, and in some breeds it’s actually possible. Year-round shedding typically occurs with indoor dogs as they have a bit more insulation from the extreme temperatures that are taking place outdoors. With the artificial climate inside, a dog’s natural body regulation gets thrown off balance when they step outside and experience a sudden change in weather. Because this takes place every time they go in and out, their body registers smaller changes, thus the continuous light shedding.

Dog Hair out of Control

Dog shedding can certainly be annoying – especially with a full blown shedder like a Newfoundland or Siberian Husky. We experience hair everywhere, on our clothes, on the furniture, floating in their water bowl and even in their food. This even seems to occur despite the fact that we regularly groom the dog and vacuum daily. With some breeds, you just have to learn to love them, and all that comes with them. That’s not to say there is nothing you can do about it! Another common consequence that comes from heavy dog shedding is vacuum cleaners clogging and breaking. It might be a good idea to purchase an inexpensive vacuum to take some of the load off your expensive vacuum.

Tips to Reduce Dog Hair and Shedding

Grooming your dog is the single most important key to reduce dog shedding. Regular brushing with a slicker brush is the best way to keep the loose hair from falling on the floor or your furniture. Once a week try to sit down and do a thorough grooming session. Unlike their feline counterparts, most dogs do enjoy being groomed and it’s a great way to bond with your dog. This session would include taking the shedding comb and pulling it through the hair until it runs through smoothly. For the breeds with double coats, it’s best to use an undercoat rake to pull out the loose undercoat. Again, continue pulling the rake through the fur until it runs through easily. If you run into mats in the fur, use a de-matting rake to cut through it and untangle the mats. Typically, you will pull some small chunks of fur out, but that is okay since there was too much hair for this area of skin in the first place–thus the reason for the matt.

Some dogs don’t like these rough tools and you might need to spend some time incorporating them into their routines. In the mean time, you can use regular hair-removal sticky rolls, the same thing you use on clothes to remove excess loose hair. You can also try using the remote attachment on the vacuum to suck it off excess loose fur, provided the sound of the vacuum doesn't bother the dog. Some common grooming tools include: undercoat rake, slicker brush, shedding comb, de-matting rake and a fine comb (flea comb).

If you groom your dog frequently and there still seems to be an excessive amount of shedding, there may be an underlying physical problem. Some abnormal conditions that can cause large, abnormal amounts of shedding are ringworm, skin infections, stress, mange and cancer.  It is also not normal for your dog's coat to thin as the dog gets older. If your dog's hair loss is abnormal you will see bald spots.  If you see bald spots or you think your dog is shedding abnormally, never let this go unchecked. It's always best to talk with your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has an abnormal condition.

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Various Dog Breeds Require Different Grooming Practices

  1. Longer, thicker coats such as Akitas and Newfoundlands need regular brushing with a firm bristle brush. More frequent daily brushing and combing is recommended when they are shedding their coats. Don’t bathe these breeds too often as it removes the protective oils from their coats. Probably one bath in the spring and one in the fall will do unless they have gotten really dirty.

  2. Non-shedding, curly coats such as Poodles and Bedlington Terriers need clipping and bathing about every two months. Excess ear hair should be pulled out, not cut, at that time.

  3. Longer, silky coats such as the Afghan Hound, Maltese, Lhasa Apso, Spaniels and Setters should be brushed with a pin brush after a weekly bath. These breeds should be trimmed every couple of months. Spaniels’ ears and paws will need excess hair trimmed. The dead hair on these breeds should be removed or “stripped”.

  4. The wiry coats of some Dachshunds, Schnauzers and most terriers, like the West Highland White Terrier, need brushing and combing at least three times a week. Strip and hand pluck the dead hair in the coat and bathe these breeds every three months. Hand stripping a large dog can take several hours. Clipping is an option if the dog isn’t being used as a show dog.  It’s a good idea to carefully cut excess hair around the eyes and ears too.
  5. The smooth coats, such as the Boxer, Whippet and Labrador are easy to groom using a hound glove. Other short hair smooth-coated breeds just need a weekly combing and brushing. These breeds shouldn’t be bathed more than two or three times per year because it removes the protective oils from their coats. Note that there are dry bathing products available as an alternative to soap and water. Breeders keep short haired dogs looking good by running a stripping knife over their coats on a daily basis.

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