Shavedowns of double coated dogs, those with undercoat, should be a last resort. A shavedown is typically necessary when a dog’s coat has grown too long and matted to brush, or too full of undercoat to shed out, even with extensive work. A young or old dog, or one with physical or temperamental limitations, may require a shavedown sooner, as may dogs with soft, cottony or damaged coats. An important thing to realize about shavedowns is that they come as the result of too much time between grooming sessions. This doesn’t usually mean lack of care or attention by the owner, mostly it’s lack of information about how to assess their dog’s coat condition so they can make common-sense decisions about when, at least, maintenance grooming should be scheduled.
Sheddy dogs like Goldens, Aussies, Border Collies, German Shepherds, Shelties, Pomeranians, Calvaliers and their mixes, notably some “-oodles,” need regular deshedding every couple of months from March or April to September or October. Deshedding prevents tightly packed hair, natural body oils and dirt from creating an environment where bacteria and yeast can grow. Depending on the softness and density of your dog’s coat, you may need to schedule deshedding more or less frequently to meet the health needs of you and your dog.
When to Deshed Your Dog
Typically, beginning in June and through July, many dogs need to be deshedded or they will begin to mat, the first step toward a shavedown. By August, soft coated sheddy dogs have begun to get tight mats in their legs, chests and behind the ears; some of these mats retain water and irritate the skin, giving a home to bacteria and yeast. September is when I see sheddy dogs most in need of a shavedown. They have heavy, thick mats in their long hair or have a continuous layer of interlocking mats in the softest hair, i.e., underchest and armpits, and may have multiple skin irritations, especially if the dog is older. As dogs age, many of them grow more and denser undercoat as well as thicker toenails. At the same time, their immune function begins to naturally decline so they are less able to fend off skin infections.
Deshedding Geriatric Dogs
It’s particularly important for geriatric dogs to be deshedded regularly. The process is a relatively quick, predictable experience for the dog as opposed to the ordeal that even a partial shavedown can be. Shavedowns of old dogs are best undertaken by experienced groomers with no time pressures. You should expect an additional charge for the time it takes to do a careful shavedown. It takes significantly more time and experience to keep a matted dog safe from nicks, cuts and clipper burn than it does to groom a dog in better condition.
Shavedowns predispose the dog’s coat to mat again, sooner, by softening the coat texture. The harder, longer guard hairs or “topcoat” separate the undercoat and delay it matting but guard hairs grow slower than the undercoat so once they are shaved, the undercoat overgrows the topcoat and mats quickly. It can take a year or more for a sheddy dog’s coat to return to normal after a shavedown if its grooming is maintained on a schedule. Without a schedule, the coat may never recover and will come to require regular care to prevent discomfort and infection.
Alternatives To Deshedding and Shavedowns
Some dogs need an alternative between purely deshedding and close shavedown, especially our old friends. Trimming the coat’s length with clipper attachments is an option. However, this groom requires a completely deshedded and dematted coat, so that dog will need to be professionally groomed every four to six or eight weeks to maintain the style, depending on the length and coat density. Another way to achieve this option is with a two-groom package, one to completely deshed the dog and the other to execute the styling. This form of clippering minimizes the damage to the coat and can most easily be grown out again as healthy coat in the winter.
Maintaining a Sheddy Coat
Unfortunately, sheddy coats can be high maintenance. The best thing is to keep your dog on some kind of schedule, the bare minimum being once per season and twice in spring and summer is better. You can do some of this work at home. Consider the professional grooming sessions like having your car detailed; the more maintenance you can do yourself, the longer you can afford to wait, but extra work costs extra. Standing appointments are well worth the extra planning to arrange when keeping your dog’s coat as comfortable, clean and manageable as possible.