The Shaved Australian Shepherd & Why it’s okay
I’ve written a lot about grooming lately. There was the follow-up post to when Sydney was shaved too short and then more recently, our in-depth photo post about using an undercoat rake to manage Australian Shepherd shedding. In my own angst about the shaved Australian Shepherd and undercoat chaos management, I have been doing a lot of reading and I just had to write about it again.
In case you haven’t heard –
The shaved Australian Shepherd is a dog that is said to have a coat that is ‘destroyed for life’. Not only will the hair grow back in horribly (if at all), but the dog will suffer from immediate and disastrous sunburn. And don’t forget the severe embarrassment the dog will feel at having been made to look like a mongrel. Their double coat should be more properly maintained with an undercoat rake and regular grooming visits. As an owner, if you refuse to take these measures, then you should never have gotten the dog in the first place.
Some time after I published the post and Youtube video showing our shaved Australian Shepherds, I started to accumulate some pretty nasty comments. I eventually disabled the comments so that viewers could learn something without such loaded vitriol. I have since turned them back on and written a follow-up post supporting our original stance on shaving a double coated dog.
Maybe all those claims are true. And if you have read the extensive Q&A by an unnamed groomer, you will see that for some very narrow circumstances, the shaved Australian Shepherd may have coat regrowth problems. And maybe if you immediately throw them outside in downtown Phoenix, they will get a sunburn.
I have two and while I love the look of their beautiful long coats, I honestly prefer the utility and lower maintenance of a shaved Australian Shepherd. And considering that their coats have always grown back in without issue, I’m leaning toward it is not a problem to shave them. I have done a really good job for the past year or so brushing out their coats. And they are definitely more comfortable with the undercoat worked loose. But after a recent hiking (mis)adventure, we will definitely be shaving them again.
Sydney’s Grooming Session
Trooper has been brushed out three times on one side and once on the other (see recent undercoat rake post). In the spirit of maintaining their long hair with gold star Australian Shepherd ownership status, I should keep working on it. Sydney was up next for a rake and brush out session.
This is the (undercoat) hair pile achieved from raking out everything except her pants.
Long haired Sydney all gussied up. Maybe I have a vision problem, but it looks to me like all her hair grew back in.
Why we will have Shaved Australian Shepherds once again
Our (mis)adventure took place at the same hiking location as A Romp in the River. It was high 70s outside and we were looking forward to trekking near water. Not only does it give the dogs a place to cool off but it means we do not have to pack in as much water and the dog bowl.
The first mishap was when we started going through brush in an attempt to get around some difficult terrain. While nothing pricked me, apparently the dogs were accumulating goat heads ‘like whoa’. I knew something was wrong when Sydney slowed down and Trooper just stopped moving altogether. I looked back at him, called for him but he would not advance.
This is a goat head thorn. Google it and look at the various sizes and pokiness. They puncture tires, get caught in dog hair and poke through your flipflops.
Poor Trooper – he had 3-4 goat heads per foot pad area. They were next to his nails, between his pads, in his pads…it was bad. And then they were all up in his feathers, pants and belly. Each time he pulled one out himself, it would get stuck in his tongue and then he would frantically shake his head to get rid of it.
I could not crouch down where he was because there were more goat heads. So I cleared him of goat heads where my arms were to go and then scooped him up. I carried him until we hit a cleared path and took care of him on the river rocks.
Sydney never stops and it is a serious problem for goat head thorns. She will endure the pain in order to keep up with the pack. This tends to lodge the thorns deep into her feet and feathery hair. When I started to work on her, I realized I was not going to be successful without a knife or scissors. Thankfully, Brian has a knife-like blade on his key-chain so I sawed away for 20 minutes, removing tons of hair and goat head thorns.
A Shaved Australian Shepherd Swims Better
This is a theory and something I plan to soon check out. After the goat head episode, Sydney had a very bad experience in the river. She enjoys swimming, she always gets in the water and she has never had trouble before. We will save the scary part of the story for a later date but in summary, I think her thick coat was a major contributor to her struggle.
A quick search on the internet brought up this discussion about which breeds do well in water. Can you guess one of the body types to keep out of the water? Thick double coated breeds! Additionally, this reddit thread has a distraught Australian Shepherd owner asking for how to manage the mats that often result from swimming. All of the responses involve an increased brush maintenance routine. Groom groom groom!
So my theory is that a shaved Australian Shepherd has an easier time swimming, accumulates less junk in their hair and is easier to keep groomed.
The state of Sydney’s hair after the major swimming afternoon.
Trooper does not fully submerge himself so his coat stays a lot more organized.
To Shave or Not to Shave
As I mentioned at the beginning, if you are on the fence, I strongly recommend reading “DeBunking the ‘Don’t Shave Your Dog’ Myth“. It is a little disorganized but it will answer every question you have. After reserving 20-30 minutes each night for grooming the dogs, I am looking forward to having shaved dogs again.
I will continue to brush and rake them when necessary but it should be much faster. They have good diets and are healthy, so I have full confidence that their hair will grow back. And despite what the other camp says about “long coats keeping them cool”, my dogs act much more comfortable with their shaved haircuts. Our adventurous life will be so much easier and fun – for all four of us. Bring on the shaver!