Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz... Homesteading Basics: Shave Your Long-Haired Dogs?

Marjory with Farm Dog

I have 2 livestock guardian dogs, and they are both Great Pyrenees-mixes.  My dogs love their lifestyle.  They don’t come in the house, ever, and quite frankly they don’t want to.  They love being outside where they can watch for trouble and keep an eye on their flock.  But still, they are very loving and when I go outside they follow me around, lean on me, and lay down at my feet.

Great Pyrenees are well-known as one of the best livestock guardian breeds available.  They have an amazing temperament, and they’re some of the sweetest, most loving animals that you’ll ever find.  But when trouble comes to their doorstep, they protect their territory fiercely.

Read more: Working Your Homestead Farm Dogs

Should You Shave Your Long-Haired Dogs?

When I got my two dogs, Farm Dog and Five-Spot, the breeder who sold them to me told me not to shave their hair.  I have also heard conventional wisdom to the same effect.  But where we live in Texas the summers can be excruciatingly hot.  Sometimes when I have seen my dogs panting heavily on a hot day, I have wondered if they might benefit from a little haircut.

Then, just a few weeks ago, I bumped into a gentleman in a local Home Depot who had with him a big, beautiful Great Pyrenees.  His dog was shaved closely, and its hair was only about 1/4″ long.  I was curious about his experience, so I asked him if his dog liked to be shaved.

He told me what happens during the summer when his dog hasn’t had a haircut for a while.  His dog will go find the box that contains his electric clippers, and drag the whole box out into the middle of the room so that everyone knows he’s ready for a shave.  That convinced me to give it a try.  Check it out…

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Marjory Wildcraft


Contributor

Marjory Wildcraft is an Expedition Leader and Bioneer Blogger with The [Grow] Network, which is an online community that recognizes the wisdom of "homegrown food on every table." Marjory has been featured as an expert on sustainable living by National Geographic, she is a speaker at Mother Earth News fairs, and is a returning guest on Coast to Coast AM. She is an author of several books, but is best known for her "Grow Your Own Groceries" video series, which is used by more than 300,000 homesteaders, survivalists, universities, and missionary organizations around the world.


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17 Comments
  • Carolyn

    I have a small Pomeranian/Cockapoo mix with long legs and since I live in AZ where it is continually hot, I shave my dog and he loves it. I always bathe him first so the dirt doesn’t dull the clippers. He puts his paws on my shoulder and lets me shave away. I do have to give him some breaks since he has a short attention span and it takes quite a bit of time to shave, but afterward he rips around the yard or house since he is so happy to have the hair gone.

  • Marjory, I too have 2 Great Pyrenees Anatolian shepherd mix dogs. One resembles the great pyrNees and the other resembles the Anatolian shepherd. I alway heard that shaving the dogs wasn’t a good idea because of the way the science of the hair actually works. Having the hair cools down and keeps warm the dog. I actull never fact checked this to see how true it holds in different climates. I do know that where the days he come from, great pyraNees mountains and Anatolia turkey mountains, thAt it gets both hot and cold there. So I assumed they were able to maNage in those conditions. Curios to know what others think. And if this info holds true. Thanks for this study!

  • Barbara Cairns

    I had a Husky mix dog with hair that was so thick that is was impossible to bathe her. The water would not get to the skin. Tennessee summers are hot and humid and this precious dog would just lie around and pant all day. So, I shaved her. The difference in her attitude was amazing. She ran around and played and was so active and happy. She was a different dog. So, since then, I have no problem recommending a summer buzz for these animals.

  • Linda

    Marjory I am a groomer and I also worked as a vet tech for a short time prior to becoming a groomer. Yes, there are many dogs who are much more comfortable in the summer with shorter hair. Show dogs should never have their hair shaved. Just like humans they can sunburn so a haircut too short is not a good thing especially with white dogs with pink skin. Some people accidentally cut their dog to the point they have to take him/her in to the vet for suturing. When working with a dog such as yours with a heavy coat it is best to use professional clippers, the cheap clippers just don’t have the power to go through heavy coat. The “danger” areas are the ears, behind the front legs, and the tuck up (the thin area right in front of the hind legs where it is just skin and hair). The best advice I can give for those areas for a beginner at grooming is to go with the direction of the fur. Never dig in with the clipper, like behind the ears or armpits. Like many other hands on jobs sometimes it is best to watch a professional groom dogs to see how it is done. I am always happy to show people how to groom their dogs as I no longer groom for a living. I personally have a cat that I shave as she is no longer able to take care of herself and becomes quite matted if I don’t, she has a medium length coat. I never advise owners to groom their own cat as their skin is thinner than dogs and I have seen chunks of skin missing from cats who were accidentally cut by their owner.

  • Linda

    Yes, hair is designed to keep the animal cool…. that is true if the owners keep the undercoat brushed completely out. Wolves, foxes, coyotes, and domestic dogs shed in the spring and in the fall. In the spring they lose their undercoat and in the fall they are putting in a winter coat. I had a chow golden retriever mix that had a ton of hair, I never shaved him. I did however have to brush him continually. Brushing completely means you can take a long toothed metal comb and get all the way down to the skin without hitting any matts.

  • Janet

    I live in Central FL with extreme hot temps as well as Tx. I have a Westie that I shave when I know the ‘winter’ temps are behind us and that short cut takes him through to the next fall or winter..My little dog is a digger and without the long hair, I am able to keep the sand he carries in from outside down to a minimum. He actually falls asleep while being clipped until you get close to his feet..It takes a second person to hold him upright while the clippers are going !! He’s never said if he’s more comfortable or not, but I’m cooler just looking at him without his winter coat on. 🙂

  • 70sflowergirl

    I have a long haired border collie that by spring is a matted mess. She hates to be brushed but when it gets hot she stands still for the clippers and doesn’t seem to mind them at all. When the hair is all clipped off to 1/4 inch she runs around like she is so happy to have it off. It doesn’t look professionally done but the dog doesn’t care:)

  • Robert Smith

    I have 2 full blooded Great Pyres on a working ranch (cattle and chickens) in South Central Texas. We do shave/trim them some in the summer, but never less than an inch short as the fur acts as insulation from the sun. In addition, I like to keep the fur a little longer on their chest and rear end. When they fight a pack of coyotes, these two areas on the Pyres are most vulnerable to attack. (Pyres will often turn their rear ends because that is where they are protected by their thick coats)
    Just my observations having had Pyres for over 6 years.

  • Coleen

    We here in the foothills of Northern California have blistering summer days too. We shave llamas, not exactly on point I know. But we find skin lesions from fox tails and other issues that we would not otherwise know about. For that reason alone we like to take their coats down.

  • Jayjay

    I have a shitzu that I clip once in the summer then let her hair grow in for winter. I live in Southern California and she seems to feel cooler and better with shorter hair during hot weather. Before she didn’t want to come in the house at night because she wanted to stay in the yard where it was cooler. I do not have A/C. I leave her hair about an inch long so she doesn’t get sunburned.

  • Pam

    I too am a dog groomer. I am not opposed to shaving down any dog, but would advise against shaving a lab, pug etc. The coat is there to protect them. With double coated breeds, such as yours it is best to keep the undercoat combed out, which will greatly reduce the amount of hair they pack around, depending on the season. If you are not brushing/combing then that is not good, no matter what kind of lifestyle they are being used for. The one good thing about your decision is that (aside from your cuts)(more than likely pelted) you can check the skin for parasites and anything else that might be of concern. My advice to you, Marjorie… don’t shave your dog, bath, comb and brush them out at the least four times a year with the proper equipment (brush out more). As a groomer I would encourage the owner to come in every 8 weeks for the works: ears, nails, bath and brush out. If you won’t do that than watch some videos on ‘wet shaving’

  • Boo

    I have Pyr/Leo cross. I shave her in the spring, not too short as she stays outside. When I had a Rottweiler/Catahoula cross I kept her shaved all the time, however she was only outside for short periods of time. Both are happier shaved. The Pyr/Leo loves being brushed.

  • I live in AZ and have had positive experiences with shaving our Golden Retrievers and a Wolf/Shepherd mix, all with very thick coats. We never shaved before, as we heard all the same science and advice on why “not”. Like mentioned above, leave enough hair so their skin doesn’t burn. Our groomer showed us step by step (twice) how to do this. And the right clippers and blade lengths are key. Each breed is different, but the clippers that worked the best for us has been the Andis ModelAG2. We had a high grade Oster, but it just wasn’t the right one for us. End results, our dogs have greater endurance and cool down quicker. As one of them was aging, he was too warm even indoors with our AC. After we shaved him, he was much more comfortable. We do a summer cut and a winter cut.

  • Dawn Dolan

    I live in Northern CA and have an Anatolian mix. He is so miserable in the summer heat! But it gets to be 50*at night and 100* in the daytime, so what to do? I have been shaving his tummy in the spring/summer, and he is able to take the cool night weather and still dig a spot lay in the dirt (on his tummy!) to cool off during the hot days. In the Fall he has grown out again, and has no problem keeping warm for Fall & Winter weather here.

  • Jillouise

    Oh yes, I shave my dogs when the weather is hot! I have 25+ years working with animals. I’ve shaved my many long haired canine companions for decades, plus all my long haired or elder rescues/foster dogs. Also, I know many people who shave their longhair (indoor) cats in the hot Southern summers–especially the elder ones, who have trouble grooming themselves. Of course, if your companion animal is headed to the veterinarian for any reason, especially anything which might require sedation, asking the vet to shave the pet down then is much easier 😄 I currently also have a smaller, older, scruffy terrier/mixed breed (rescued) dog, and he dislikes the electric clippers, but he feels soooo much better with a nice short cut– he lets me do it. I like to leave a nice, groomed Mohawk, for fun & I think he likes the attention that it brings him! 😃Also: Remember, in summer heat, dogs feel the heat of paved roads, and their paw pads can easily get burned!!

  • Sarah

    When I had a husky Shepherd mix I noticed she never shed her undercoat until late summer or early fall in Central Texas. It would loosen but not drop off if not brushed. I think it protected her from mosquitoes, because the only places they could get to her skin easily were her nose and ears. She could not tolerate heartworm preventative and did not develop heartworm until she was 12. Another subject: food grade diatomaceous earth eliminated all symptoms of the heartworm and she live to be 17.

  • Patty

    To help him tolerate hot summer weather, I take our black german shepherd to a groomer late spring and again mid-summer for an all-around cleanup, trim and shave. His head is NOT shaved, certainly not around the ears, but the thick neck hair is shaved. It makes all the difference for our 9-year old puppy. He still cannot handle hanging out in the sunlight, but under shade trees or on the porch he is much happier not wearing a winter coat. His double coat still prevents sunburn and stops water from reaching his skin. We take him swimming hot afternoons to cool down and for walks early mornings and evenings to keep in shape and have some wild doggie fun.

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