Spring is here and with the spring flowers and nesting birds also comes canine shedding.
It’s a springtime ritual for many dogs and their owners. Although some breeds don’t shed, most breeds do. Some, like Alaskan Malamutes and German Shepherds, are known for the amazing amount of coat that is shed every spring and fall. Although the significant shedding seasons are spring and fall, some shedding does occur all year.
Shedding is a normal function that helps keep the coat healthy; dead hair is discarded so new, healthy coat can grow in. While shedding is normal and most dog owners are prepared for it, there are some things you can do to help keep the hair from taking over your house. It’s also important to pay attention to your dog’s shedding as an abnormal shed can be a symptom of a health problem.
Your dog’s breed (or mixture of breeds) and the type of coat he has will affect much of his shedding. A German Shepherd with a normal, thick undercoat will shed garbage bags full of hair each spring whereas a Beagle will shed lots of those short hairs, but nowhere near as much as that German Shepherd. Then some hypoallergenic breeds like Schnauzers and Poodles don’t shed much at all—it happens slowly every day, all year round, just like your own head hair.
The dog’s geographical location and the climate will also affect the coat’s growth and the resulting shedding. I live in Southern California and my dogs have sufficient undercoat to keep them warm in the winter but not nearly as much as their littermates who live in snow country.
Spaying and neutering also tends to affect the amount of coat a dog has and how much is shed. Typically, with some individual and breed variances, spayed and neutered dogs have more coat than intact dogs.
Normal shedding occurs all over the dog’s body where he has undercoat (as most of the shed hair is undercoat). You’ll see some of the outer hairs, called guard hairs, but most of the shed is the thick, soft undercoat. For the breeds without undercoat, the spring shed will be significantly less. For example, with my Australian Shepherd, he sheds tremendously on his body, especially his hips, but significantly less on his belly. He doesn’t shed at all on his face or his lower legs.
Brush, Brush, and Brush Some More
Regular brushing won’t rid your home of the coating of hair that occurs during shedding season, but every hair that you catch on your dog’s brush is one less hair floating around your house. Contrary to many advertisements, there is no one grooming tool that will catch all the hair. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t try a variety of brushes to find the one (or ones) that work best on your dog’s coat.
When my husband and I had German Shepherds, I used slicker brushes (a brush with many fine teeth), pin brushes (a brush with fewer teeth more widely spaced), and even a horse’s curry comb. Those dogs shed so much I was willing to try anything and finally developed a routine with those three tools. Today, with an Australian Shepherd with lots of coat and an English Shepherd with significantly less coat, I use pin brushes on both dogs.
If you don’t have any idea what to use, talk to a professional groomer and ask what they recommend. Then try a few different tools and see what works best.
Throughout most of the year, I brush my dogs two to three times a week unless they get dirty or pick up some burrs or foxtails (grass seeds). When shedding season arrives, though, I brush daily. By doing it daily, I can keep the grooming sessions shorter so that my dogs don’t get upset and their skin doesn’t get sore from over brushing. Too much brushing can scratch the skin so pay attention; if your dog cries or gets antsy, take a closer look at his skin.