We’re feeling summer and it’s the time where I start seeing the same question appear in every Great Pyrenees forum.
Is it okay to shave my Great Pyrenees?
I get it. We all want to keep our furry friends as comfortable as possible as the weather warms up, and we often see their coats as the main source of potential discomfort.
But if taken care of properly, your dog’s double coat is all he needs to keep cool and comfortable in the warmer months.
What is a double coat?
Dogs that were bred to be able to deal with chilling temperatures—like the Great Pyrenees, Husky, Bernese Mountain Dog, Newfoundland, etc.—have a double coat.
The double coat consists of two layers: a short, dense undercoat and a long, coarse, top coat (or guard hairs).
The undercoat helps protect your dog from cold and hot temperatures, while the top coat protects from the elements—like moisture and dirt.
An important thing to remember is that the under and outer coats grow on different cycles. The undercoat is on a shorter growth cycle, while the outer coat does not shed as often and can take years to regrow.
Whereas we have one hair per follicle, dogs have on average between 5 and 22 hairs per follicle. They have primary hairs and secondary hairs that lack a cortex. Their hair/fur is in a constant state of rotation between the three growth stages: anagen, catagen, telogen. That is new hairs growing in, old hairs falling out, and mature hairs resting in between.– Love Fur Dogs
This is why the coat often doesn’t grow in the same way after being shaved. Since the two coat layers are on different growth cycles, shaving can permanently change the ratio of under to outer coat. Your dog may end up with a thick coat that is difficult to maintain or a sparse, patchy coat.
Plus, instead of two, neat layers each performing their own unique functions, the fur is now growing in a tangled, disorderly way.
The winter coat
In the winter, your Great Pyrenees will grow a dense undercoat to keep him warm. The undercoat lies close to the skin to also keep your dog dry in the rain and snow.
Sometimes, the undercoat is so thick in the winter that you struggle to find your dog’s skin. I know I definitely have that issue with Mauja!
As you know, this thick undercoat is extremely important to keep your dog warm in the winter months. But it also has a very important job to do once summer comes around.
The summer coat
When spring rolls around, your dog will start shedding his undercoat, leaving the guard hairs to protect from the elements—especially the sun.
Grooming becomes even more important as your dog starts blowing his coat. You can help your Great Pyrenees stay cool by raking out the undercoat, allowing it to function appropriately.
If you think shaving your double-coated dog will help keep him cool, think again.
An important thing to remember is that dogs don’t cool themselves like we do as humans. Dogs don’t cool themselves through their skin. At most, it’s their paw pads that sweat.
But their main mode of cooling comes from panting. Shaving them exposes their skin more directly to the sun, causing them to overheat.
A few things are commonly said when it comes to shaving double-coated dog breeds. If you’re thinking about shaving your dog and hear any of these myths, proceed with caution.
“Don’t worry—it’ll grow back.”
Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. A younger dog will likely have more luck growing back a healthy, functioning coat, but that doesn’t mean they will.
If your dog has been shaved, you’ll probably notice the fur starting to come back in pretty quickly. But you’re going to see the undercoat come in first. The outer, guard hairs will then start to grow as well.
You might also notice that your dog’s fur doesn’t feel quite like it did before. Remember that the coat layers grow at different rates. A coat that has been shaved tends to grow in feeling sticky and almost like Velcro.
Burrs, grass, twigs, and leaves will be even more attracted to your dog’s coat than before—and more difficult to remove.
You can also expect your dog to be even hotter in the summer as the fur grows back in. The growing undercoat will keep air from reaching the skin, preventing your dog’s natural cooling process. The undercoat’s texture also absorbs the sun’s rays, further contributing to overheating.
The sticky undercoat is also more likely to mat, causing skin irritation and hot spots.
“My dog is so happy after being shaved. He acts like a puppy!”
Most people don’t realize what’s actually going on here.
Any time you see someone with a shaved pyr saying their dog is so much cooler and happier, take a close look at the before pictures. How does the coat look?
The vast majority of the time, the dog’s coat was a matted mess or full of dead undercoat. Of course the dog is going to be cooler shaved.
If double coated dogs aren’t brushed weekly (or even daily during heavy shedding periods), the dead undercoat will become impacted and the coat won’t function properly.
A shaved dog will initially feel cooler than a dog with a matted, dense coat. But that doesn’t mean it’s better than a properly cared for coat.
More reasons not to shave
We’ve hit on the biggest reasons not to shave, but here’s a few more.
Sunburn. Great Pyrenees have very pale, pink, freckled skin. Their skin will respond the same way to the sun as a pale person’s skin. And yes, dogs can get skin cancer.
Thin skin. Dogs have much thinner skin and more dense hair than us. Without the protection of their coat, their thin skin is at risk—regardless of the weather.
Shedding. Shaving a double coated dog does not eliminate shedding. It just makes the hair that is shed shorter. And the short hair that’s being shed is typically a lot more difficult to deal with. They become splinters that embed themselves in your furniture and skin (ouch).
Related: Grooming a Double Coated Dog
When should a dog be shaved?
There are two main times when a coat can and should be shaved: surgery and when the coat is too matted to be saved.
Older dogs with arthritis or other painful conditions might also be good candidates for having certain areas shaved. Oftentimes, these dogs can no longer tolerate grooming because it’s painful for them.
If your dog does need to be shaved for a medical reason, it’s important to take extra precautions to keep them safe. Keeping your dog out of the sun (and using sunscreen) can help protect your dogs skin.