Shaving a Double Coated Dog
Today’s topic is about shaving a double coated dog, Australian Shepherds in particular. Aside from advice for working with a barking dog, I think I get more comments/feedback on my dog shaving video than on any other. People either thank me for saving them oodles of money by sparing them from summer grooming bills or they scold me for encouraging people to shave their double coated dog. Doing a google search will not clarify matters much – those who say ‘don’t shave’ will reference the sources and reasons why; and those who say it isn’t a problem will do the same. This is only my experience with my dogs.
Double Coated Dogs
“Closed, double coated breeds have noticeably longer guard hairs, which lay down over the undercoat, sort of like a blanket. While the outer, or guard, hairs get wet, the undercoat works to keep the dog’s skin dry. Examples include golden retrievers, Australian shepherds and Newfoundlands (Poppy’s).” This groomer believes in NOT shaving double coated dogs and she gives a great explanation why one shouldn’t. However, I had been shaving Trooper for 6+ years before the first groomer told me I shouldn’t. His hair always grew back and he never suffered while it was absent.
Here’s a photo of the two types of hair in a dog’s coat (from dyson):
So pre-Sydney, my experience with Trooper had always been that shaving an Aussie is a fine idea. We then adopted Sydney and I discovered the variation that can exist in two dogs of the same breed. They are both double coated, yet their hair behaves very differently. Trooper’s hair sheds all the time and floats in the air, landing on my clothes and counter-tops. If I try to brush him, either with a regular brush or undercoat rake, very little comes off (relative to Sydney). Sydney’s hair sheds, clumps together and then blows behind whatever is on the floor (i.e. dresser, kitchen table, etc). When I brush her, huge amounts of hair come off. Another difference, which may or may not be related to their hair type, is that Trooper hates being brushed (the brush seems to yank his hair and doesn’t look comfortable) and Sydney lovesssssss it.
When we added Sydney to the clan, I decided to start shaving them at home to save money. (Side note – boy am I glad I did that! I have suffered some sticker shock since moving to Silver City, NM. Whereas in CT, grooming would cost me $35 (bath) or $50 (shave down); here it costs $55 (bath) or $100 (shave). For my two 40 lb-ish dogs!
The shaver we originally purchased is no longer available, but this one is similar.
Since shaving the dogs myself, I have NEVER had a situation where their hair did not grow back in properly. Therefore, my experience tells me that shaving a double coated dog is a-okay. At least these particular two, double coated dogs. And while they do look a tad ridiculous when they’re “naked”, it works for our purposes – playing, hiking, traveling; NOT showing.
That Summer & The Sydney Mistake
I shaved the dogs a few weeks prior to making the video where I gave instructions on how to shave your Australian Shepherd at home. Trooper’s hair grows fast so his coat was semi-ready for the video shoot a few weeks later. Sydney’s had not grown in when I decided to shoot the video (you can see/read it here). If you compare the dogs’ coats in the video, you’ll see that Sydney’s is much shorter. I didn’t realize how close to her skin I was shaving in the few spots I used to demonstrate and this ‘over-shaving’ is likely the source of “The Sydney Mistake.”
Trooper’s coat came in and was shaved probably 2 more times that summer. Sydney’s did not. (cue scary music) I got really really worried, did lots of research online, considered having her shaved down to reduce the awful unevenness, and spoke to several groomers. I watched our shaving video and saw how close to her skin I took the coat and realized this was probably the mistake. Maybe I burned her? Maybe I damaged the equilibrium that exists in growth between the two hair types. I don’t know.
What Groomers Told Me
I received completely contradictory pieces of advice. My favorite groomer told me that Sydney was doomed to ugly hair. The bald spots would “never” grow back. They see it all the time and those dogs just get shaved all year long to prevent the fuzzy, non-guard-hair-coat from growing in. She said my only options were let it be (and Sydney would be ugly) or keep her shaved so nobody could tell I had butchered her hair.
Several other groomers said the same thing. On the day before our move, I decided to get Sydney bathed by a groomer (our stuff was already packed) and get their opinion on her while she was there. This groomer also had an Aussie and he said that he keeps her shaved all year long. Her coat grows in (and looks fine) and he shaves her again. He told me that Sydney’s hair is going to be fine – it’ll grow in at different rates, the spots that are near-bald may take up to 6 months and it may help her overall appearance if I give her gentle trims along the way (i.e. keep the long parts short so her naked parts aren’t so pronounced.). He also said to brush her A LOT (I’ve read it helps stimulate hair growth).
Very relieved with this news, we took our leave of CT. It was early November, so I wasn’t worried about trimming her hair again soon. I figured I’d let the growth process take whatever time it needed and eventually she’d be whole again.
Sydney’s Hair Status After a Year
Sydney’s near-bald spots stayed near-bald for about 7 months. Despite her rather shaggy/fuzzy appearance, she received compliments during the entire transition. I trimmed her once along the way, but only because the hair around her neck was so long it was interfering with her collar. She also kind of looked like a lion because everything else was so short.
About a year after her super-close-shave, and now living in Silver City, I decided to get them cleaned up. I had Sydney shaved but kept long and Trooper was shaved close. Prior to dropping the dogs off, I asked her if their coats showed signs of damage. She pointed out that Trooper’s pants where a tad dry but otherwise, they looked fine. She also has an Aussie and never shaves him. But she does get the request to shave double coated dogs all the time.
I recently had them groomed again – bath and brush-out, no shaving. They came home looking absolutely marvelous and show-worthy. Their coats are healthy and intact and I do a much better job these days of raking and brushing them out. But honestly, I often think about shaving them again – this time with more skill and knowledge. We’re in and out of the forest, water, cacti and brush every single day. We hike through mud and raging rivers. The dogs’ coats get messed up immediately after grooming. So why bother with all the brushing when they could just be short haired and less maintenance?
[Brushing and raking is still important – but it’s a lot less time consuming when the hair isn’t as long and tangled.]
With regards to whether or not to shave a double-coated dog? It’s up to you. Read about potential downsides and understand if you go too short that you can slow the hair growth. Observe your dog and do what works best for both of you.
For more information, I highly recommend reading through the comments on this reddit post. Groomers, owners and haters all chime in. Also, this article lists every possible question/answer/myth about shaving double coated dogs and is definitely worth a read.
Thank you. Excellent article and links, which has really helped me make an informed decision about clipping my dog.
I have 3 dogs. 1 Texas Healer, 1 Aussie (I adopted from my neighbor when she passed away), and a lab. The Aussie and Texas healer’s hair is wearing me down. LOL. We have a pet door and EVERYTHING under the sun sticks in their hair. We live in the country so they are out running around most the time. Their hair drags in sticks, leaves, burrs, grass, mud you name it and I’m cleaning it up. So I have decided after reading your article that this year they are getting shaved. I will keep it a long shave. I can’t wait!! Thank you for your article.
So glad you found it helpful! Best of luck!
We have, Dixie, our Aussie with the typical hair. We’ve had her 4 years. After all those DAYS of hair flying everywhere, my husband grabbed his clippers and went to work. We got our darling from PAWS, so we know nothing about her 1st 4 years. But, we realized tonight shaving was not unusual for her. She was thrilled to get closer and closer to “Daddy” to get her hair fixed. 1st shot. I did scissor cutting, as well. But we are with ya! Louisiana gets hot. A house covered with long, black hair is disgusting. We will work on more of the “beautifying” tomorrow. Thanks for info supporting what we started 3 hours ago!
Thank you for the great comment! It is amazing how much some dogs like being shaved and don’t worry, you’ll become a better DIY groomer in time. (I think my dogs look kind of foolish every time I do it, but we always get compliments. Aussies are just too cute to resist, regardless of hair style.)
Thank you for your post! We have a 7yr old Aussie Chow Chow Mix with the most high maintenance hair! He is a working farm dog and is oftentimes disgusting and covered in dreadlocks. No matter how many times we cut out the dreads and brush and wash him it seems to make little to no difference. My partner and I have gotten in many quarrels over whether to shave him or not, I am a huge proponent of shaving his coat because I can see that the unruly hair creates hot spots over his body which the dog incessantly licks. My partner thinks it will ruin his coat to shave him and the local groomer says we just have to get him groomed every 2 weeks at $75 a pop! So reading this gave me a lot of assurance to do a long shave before the Fall. Thank you again!!!
Thank you for the comment and I’m glad you found the article helpful. If your partner has not read the linked article at the bottom of this post, I recommend passing it along. It is written by a groomer and is very insightful. Also, I’d recommend you have a groomer shave your dog the first time. It will likely look much better than you doing it yourself, will be more even and will grow in evenly. Then, for future shaves, you can develop your own routine.
I shave the dogs several times every year and their hair just keeps growing back in. During our recent trip to Mexico, I opted to have them bathed and brushed out (and not shaved). They looked like show dogs. The only thing I have to be careful with is not shaving Sydney every time I shave Trooper. Her hair grows back in much slower and if I shave her prematurely, it tends to cause a giant delay in her coat growing back in.
Best of luck!