Pet people are used to hair.
It’s on our clothes, on the bed, and hair balls float around anywhere in the house.
We pick it off the table and out of our food.
And we wouldn’t change a thing.
But all the hair has a purpose and a value to the pet. In this season, winter, that hair creates insulation around the dogs body to stay warm. The problem is, all that hair must be fluffy in order to work, not matted, nor dirty, nor clipped.
Two kinds of hair make up a dogs coat. The guard hairs are the longer, stiffer hair, the primary coat we see and pet. This is the hair that is shiny, protects against harsh weather, and is more waterproof than the fluff. Undercoat is made up of fluffy smaller hairs that can grow several to a hair follicle, rather than one at a time like the guard hairs, and therefore is denser and softer. These are the big white puffs shed by Shepherds in spring! Really all dogs shed, though some much less than others. Additionally, a dog can use it’s skin to make the hair fluff and stand up.
Hair must be clean and conditioned, and old excess undercoat removed or shed so the coat will work properly as insulation. Dogs bred to be outside – think Husky or Samoyed, for example – have lush fluffy coats to keep them warm in sub-freezing temperatures. But only if their coat is brushed, and old undercoat removed. Matted hair will actually make them colder.
So visit your groomer if your dog’s coat needs work, and it’s beyond your skill and / or time to get it brushed out. A word of warning – shaving off a thick double coated dog like a husky or shepherd or collie will change it’s coat forever. It will never grow back the way it started out.I do not recommend shaving down unless the coat is so matted it would be painful to the dog to try and brush it out.
Teach your dog that brushing can be fun, and a way to spend time with you. Brush on a regular basis, or keep grooming appointments every 3 months or so. Of course other breeds may need grooming and cuts every 4-8 weeks, but the average Golden Retriever, Labrador or German Shepherd just needs undercoat removed before it can mat.
Oh, and by the way, that hair acts as insulation against heat as well. Shaving in summer doesn’t keep them cooler and may even lead to sunburn or overheating. But that’s a blog for another day.