How to Control and Live with a Shedding Dog

Dog Shedding

Unless you have a dog with hair that must be trimmed periodically, or you have a hairless breed, you deal with shedding. All dogs with fur shed, some more than others. Each breed’s coat is unique, but when it comes to shedding, there are essentially three types of coat, and ways of preventing shedding.

Short Single Coats

Short single coats continuously shed stiff hairs that have a tendency to interweave with fabric and carpet and seem almost impossible to remove. Breeds with such coats include boxers, dachshunds, Dalmatians, and Dobermans. There is no way to completely prevent shedding but giving your dog a brisk brush down (outside!) with a stiff boar bristle brush every day will help release shed hair outside where you want it instead of inside. Brush in quick light strokes from the head down to the tail, down each leg, and gently under the belly. Brush especially well around the ruff and down the back, where hair tends to grow thicker. Some coats respond well to being brushed against the grain of the hair as well, but if this irritates your dog just go with the coat. To keep shedding to a minimum, wash weekly and rub the coat in small circles with a rubber brush with blunt nubs to release as much hair as possible. Towel dry vigorously to release even more hair. If your dog is still prone to shedding inside and when being pet, try wrapping small dogs in a towel or blanket instead of letting them rest on your clothes or couch. Encourage large dogs to lie on a blanket that can be washed, instead of on the couch fabric or carpet. Most dogs prefer to have their own blanket anyways and will respond well to training. To get out the hairs that remain, use a vacuum with a fabric fixture in short strokes, rubbing in every direction. A lint roller applied in short strokes will remove what stubborn hair remain interwoven.

Short to Medium Double Coats

Short to medium double coats shed both stiff guard hairs and softer undercoat. Examples of this coat type are Rottweilers, Shiba Inus and Labradors. These dogs will more or less shed twice as much as dogs with single coats, and their shedding tends to be seasonal as well as continuous, as they release their winter coat for a thinner summer coat. Dogs with short and medium double coats benefit from daily or several times a day brushing with a short slicker brush. The brush should be able to be applied with some pressure, and your dog should enjoy and lean into the pressure. If your dog is made uncomfortable by the slicker brush, try a shorter wire length. The self-cleaning slickers with which you can push the hair up and remove it easily are worth the extra cost. If you want to experiment with brushes that advertise they “thin” coats, be careful that they will not strip your dog of the invaluable double layer that protects her from UV damage, as well as bad weather. Soft undercoat hair can be loosened from carpet or furniture with a clean slicker brush or bristle brush, brushed in quick upward strokes. Follow with a vacuum to lift hair once it has been loosened, moving in all directions to free and remove the stiff guard hairs. Double coated dogs seem to shed more undercoat than guard hairs, so you will have less cleanup to do with the lint roller than with single coated dogs.

Long Double Coats

Long double coated dogs include dogs with feathering, like spaniels, golden retrievers, and afghans. Spitz type dogs like Huskies, Pomeranians, and Chow Chows also fall into this category. All long double coated dogs are prone to matting, which is very uncomfortable for your dog and renders useless the weather resistant attributes of the coat. To remove loose hair and prevent matting, double coated dogs should be brushed daily with a pin brush to remove all matts and to detangle the hair. Follow with a long wire slicker brush, adjusting the length until your dog enjoys leaning into the brush. Pay special attention to feathering at the back of the legs, and don’t neglect the belly and tail. Many dogs dislike having their tails brushed. You can trim the tail short or acclimate your dog to having her tail brushed with treats and patience. To keep that thick lush undercoat off your carpet, keep brushing until the brush is coming up almost empty. During some parts of the year, this can be an hour long ritual. Luckily most dogs love being brushed, and it is not unusual to find that your dog will bring you her slicker brush when the loose hairs in her undercoat begin to itch and irritate her. Long haired dogs tend to catch much of their shedding hair in their own coat, and with regular brushing you may not see too much on your carpet. Get long hairs out of carpet and furniture by loosening with a brush first, then vacuuming. The long undercoat tends to turn into fur balls that float around the house and are relatively easy to contain with frequent vacuuming.

Wire Haired

Dogs with wiry coats like the Wire Fox Terrier, Schnauzer, and Wolfhound benefit from being stripped. Stripping can be done twice yearly, or it can be done continuously throughout the year. A stripping knife can be used, or you can do it by hand. The process involves pulling old, dying guard hair follicles to allow for new growth. Dogs accustomed to being stripped enjoy the process, and often fall asleep during long sessions. It can take some practice to master which hairs should be pulled and at what angle, so you may want to ask a professional groomer to allow you to observe at first. If kept well stripped, wire haired dogs shed very little if at all. Stripping is better than clipping for wiry dogs, as it allows for new growth and retains the hard-guarded tips that clipping removes. When kept well stripped, wiry dogs will only need a bristle brushing daily to brush off dirt and the stray loose hair.

Grooming Tips

It is best to acclimate your puppy early to the kind of grooming she will be receiving throughout her life. If you obtained your dog at an older age and she has not been kept well-groomed, it may take time to adjust her to the tools and handling you will need to use. Go slowly and reward enthusiastically and she will adjust in time. Grooming should be a pleasant, relaxing experience for you and your dog. It is a good idea to break long grooming sessions into several periods, with play and rest in between, so that your dog does not become exhausted and you do not become frustrated. Grooming is a wonderful way to build trust with you dog, as long as it is done gently and carefully.