Every summer, dog owners rush to find ways of making their dogs more comfortable during the summer days. This is understandable, as golden retrievers owners can look at all this fur and this that this just can’t be comfortable in the summer.
However, your dog’s fur is not like your hair. They work completely differently, and their fur is much more important than you think.
So, what does this mean? Can I shave my golden retriever? No, you can’t shave your golden retriever’s coat unless for medical reasons and under the doctor’s instructions. Shaving their coat exposes them to the sun and elements, making them vulnerable to sore spots, fleas, ticks, and other parasites, and increases their risk of skin cancer.
This sums up pretty much why you should never shave their coats. But there is actually a lot to your dog’s coat that you need to learn about. So, let us take a minute to go in-depth and see the right ways to keep your dog cool in the summer.
The Golden Retriever Coat
Golden Retrievers are what is called a “double-coated” dog. A double coat means that the dog’s coat consists of two layers;
- A Dense but short undercoat with a wooly texture
- A softer and fluffier top coat.
Both layers of their coats have different functions:
- The undercoat will:
- Insulate their skin from water and keep the skin dry
- Protect their skin from extreme temperatures (both hot and cold)
- The topcoat will:
- Repel moisture and dirt
- Protect against snow or ice
- Protect against the sun and insulate them from the heat
- Circulate the air through the guard hairs to cool the skin in the summer
Unlike humans, the coats of our dogs play some very important roles, so we can’t just shave them like we shave our hair when we get hot. Shaving your Golden Retriever will only make things worse.
While shaving a single coated dog will be fine, shaving a double-coated dog is a problem.
To understand why we need to take a good look at their shedding cycles.
Why Your Dog sheds with the changing seasons
Shedding is a completely natural process in all dogs, but it differs from one breed to another significantly. While some breeds like Poodles shed very little, double-coated breeds like the Golden Retriever are heavy shedders.
Golden Retrievers do not only shed heavily, they shed all-year-long, but their shedding gets really intense twice a year with the changing of the seasons.
This is often referred to as “coat blowing” because your dog will shed so much hair that it seems like they have blown out their coats entirely and grown a new one, and this is actually kind of true.
Before Winter Months:
During the fall and before winter months hit, your dog will shed their light summer coat to grow their heavy winter coat with long hairs and a thick undercoat. This heavy coat will help them deal with the low temperatures of the winter and keep their skin dry by protecting them from snow or rain.
Before Summer Months:
During the spring and before the summer months hit, your dog will do the opposite. This time they will blow out their heavy winter coat to grow a light summer coat. The light summer coat has a light undercoat that is shorter and has less hair than their winter coat. This allows them to circulate the temperature through their guard hair and reach the skin to cool it.
It’s important to note that this is how dogs circulate their temperature during the summer months (along with panting) to prevent overheating, but this is different for humans because we can simply sweat and get rid of the excess temperature and prevent overheating.
Why is Shaving a Golden Retriever a Terrible Mistake?
When shaving a Golden Retriever, you put them in many risks:
- Exposure to red/sore spots
- Vulnerability to fleas, ticks, and other parasites
- Increased risk of skin cancer
- Permanent damage to the coat
When you shave your Golden Retriever – or any double-coated dog for this matter – you will notice that their new hair will start to grow in and it will start to do so pretty quickly. This may seem like a good thing, but it really isn’t.
Why? Because what happens is that the undercoat will grow in first. The undercoat will grow soft, fuzzy hairs which are great for keeping your dog warm in winter months, but not so great for keeping them cool in the summer.
The guard hairs which belong to the topcoat are much slower to grow, so they will take more time to reach their full length.
During this long time through which the guard coats grow, it will be crowded on top of their skin as hair from both coats will be short and dense.
At this stage, the texture of the double coat will feel somewhat “sticky” and feels somehow like Velcro. Things like twigs and grass will constantly get stuck to the coat.
During the summer, however, the soft undercoat growing with the guard coat will stop the air from getting through the hair and to the skin as it normally does, so your dog’s skin won’t be able to cool down. Even worse, this new texture of the undercoat will absorb the sun’s rays and heat up, causing the dog’s body temperature to quickly rise and overheat.
2. Red/Sore Spots
In the winter, the risk of overheating will not be a problem, but the sticky texture of his regrown coat means that their new undercoats will be much more likely to mat, causing skin irritations and hot spots.
Of course, the shorter coat also leaves the skin much more exposed to the sun because the long guard hairs usually do a very good job of blocking the sun rays from reaching the skin. Unfortunately, these take a long time to go back to their usual length – if they do at all.
This makes the dog way more vulnerable to red and sore spots.
3. Ticks, fleas, and other parasites
Leaving your dog’s skin exposed in this way means fleas, ticks, and all other parasites have free access to their skin and they can go in for bites instantly. This alone is very dangerous. When fleas and ticks get this chance, they will take it – believe me.
However, fleas and ticks will be much easier to spots with a short coat indeed. This is one of the main reasons why people shave their dog’s coats, but it really isn’t worth shaving your dog completely. The harm that’s done by shaving your Golden Retriever’s coat far outweighs this single benefit, even though it’s not really a huge advantage.
4. Increased risk of skin cancer
Your dog’s coat is their first line of defense against the sun’s harmful UV rays. All of this hair does a great job preventing the sun from reaching the skin, and their golden-colored hair will reflect the sun’s skin even better than other dogs.
Remember that Cancer is the no.1 cause of death in Golden Retrievers, so you shouldn’t increase their risk of getting cancer by exposing them to the harmful UV rays.
5. Permanent Damage to the coat
When a double-coated dog is shaved all the way to the skin, there is a good chance that their hair never grows back the same. Shaving your Golden Retriever can cause permanent damage to the hair follicles which can lead to their coat being permanently damaged and never being able to regrow the same again.
This is more likely to happen to the guard coat than it is for the undercoat and the risk increases with the dog’s age. Meaning, your senior dog is more likely to suffer from permanent damage to their coat than your younger pups.
When Can You Shave a Golden Retriever?
You can only shave your dog’s coat when you get the approval or the recommendation from the vet. You should never make the decision to shave your dog’s coat without a clear order from the vet.
Your vet can indeed recommend you shave your dog’s coat if they are overheating, but they will almost always recommend leaving at least an inch of hair to protect them from the sun’s rays.
You should also never shave your Golden Retriever yourself, but instead, get a professional dog groomer to do it and you will tell them exactly what the vet told you as some groomers tend to improvise to get the job done more quickly.
Vets will only really recommend a shave-to-the-skin in extreme cases where it’s a must to do it to treat the dog. For example, if the dog has maggots or a terrible skin condition that they need to be shaved to treat. They will also shave certain parts if the dog needs an operation.
As you can see, you should never make the decision to shave down the dog on your own or do it yourself. Shaving your dog is serious and can only be done through professionals (like the vet and the professional groomers).
7 Tips to Keep Your Dog Cool In The summer (instead of shaving them)
- Never leave your dog in the car
- Always carry water for them
- Provide shelter
- Let them inside
- Get them a cooling pad
- Take them swimming
- Plan your walks
There is actually a lot more to protecting your pup from the hot weather. To learn more, check out how can golden retrievers live in the hot weather article here. I highly recommend checking it out as the 13 tips mentioned there are very useful and are explained in much more depth than here.
Never leave your dog in the car ❌
Cars can get very hot in the summer even when parked in the shade with the windows left often. The temperature in cars can get incredibly hot in minutes, and can even be 15-30 degrees hotter than the outside in a matter of 10-15 minutes.
This can happen even with the windows open. Some people would recommend leaving the air conditioning on, but this will only happen if you leave the keys on or if you have certain cars (like Teslas) and is not practical for most people – not to mention safe.
Dogs can still get distressed when left in the car alone for long times even if the air conditioner is on, so I really recommend against leaving your dog in the car alone for any reason.
Carry water for them
Just like you wouldn’t go on a walk without water for yourself, you shouldn’t go outside without carrying water for them. Bring along a bottle of water just for your dog.
I personally found this water bottle from Amazon to be the perfect size for my 30-minute walks with my dog.
Dogs also appreciate and love cold water as much as we do, so add some ice to their water if you can or leave it in the fridge for an hour or two before the walk.
If your dog lives outside most of the time, you should give them shelter from the scorching heat and sun. A good dog house can help, but keep in mind that the inside of a dog house can get hot as well, so they may not be the best idea.
A better idea is to find a way to create a shaded area in your yard that’s sheltered from the sun all day.
One of my friends had a dog that loved staying outside in the summer, so she just used a beach umbrella in her yard and the dog would simply lay in the shade and move with it just like we would do on the beach. A simple and effective idea.
You can check my recommended dog houses here.
Let them inside
Nothing beats coming inside for protection from the scorching sun. Inside will always be cooler and if you have a fan or an air conditioner on, your dog should have access to this area.
Just remember to move their food and water bowls inside when they do so they don’t have to go outside every time they need to drink. And, of course, keep the water bowl full of freshwater all-day-long, and preferably add some ice, too.
Get them a cooling mat
A cooling pad can help your dog cool down quickly after a walk. Consider this cooling mat for large dogs from Amazon.
Take them swimming
Golden Retrievers love swimming and it’s a great way to cool down on a hot summer day. If you have access to a body of water like a lake or a beach, then great, if you don’t, a doggy pool or even a kid pool will do the same trick.
Consider this great doggy pool from Amazon that’s the perfect size for large Golden Retrievers.
Plan Your Walks
Your walks should be in the very early morning, late afternoons, or even at nights. You should also plan your path to make sure to avoid asphalt and pavements as much as possible as they can be very hot and can harm your dog’s paws.
You should also check the ground with your own bare feet. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for them. If you can tolerate them with your shoes, then they should walk with boots.
Consider these great dog boots from Amazon for Golden Retrievers.
Is it cruel to shave a dog?
It is not cruel to shave a dog unless you are doing it with malicious intentions to harm the dog. It is not a good idea to shave a dog as the coat is important for regulating the dog’s body temperature and protecting them from the sun and its ultraviolet rays. Shaving your dog exposes them to all these risks.
What dog breeds should not be shaved?
You should never shave a double-coated dog. Dogs with double coats needs their coats to protect them from the weather, the sun, and insulate their skin from water, dirt, snow, and so on.
Shaving a double-coated dog can cause them great harm and they should not be shaved unless for a serious medical reason.