Don't Shave That Sheltie!! Here's Why ...
Shelties (Shetland Sheepdogs) are double-coated dogs, and they have two layers of fur. The first, called the undercoat, is made of fine, fluffy hairs that are short, crimped, and lie closest to the skin. This fur is light and soft and sheds the most. It is excellent at trapping air and insulating the dog, essentially keeping it warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The topcoat is made of tougher guard hairs that shed very little. These protect your Sheltie from the sun’s harmful rays and bug bites. The topcoat actually helps insulate the dog from the heat.
What this means is: do not shave your Sheltie! It’s a mistake to think you’re helping your dog stay cool, particularly in summer, when evolution has provided them exactly what they need to survive. By stripping them of their natural ability to heat and cool themselves, you could be doing them harm. Unlike humans, dogs do not cool themselves through their skin. Only the pads of their paws sweat. Their main mode of cooling is panting.
Another common reason folks shave their Sheltie is that they mistakenly think the dog will stop shedding. Dogs with undercoats will always shed! Even after a shave, while the fur is shorter, it will still shed.
Another reason often heard is, "It will grow back." Sometimes it will, but maybe it won't, or it may grow back looking a lot different. The older the dog is, the less likely the topcoat of guard hairs will grow back effectively. This leaves them with the undercoat and a patchy, scruffy look. It can alter the coat for the rest of the dog's life. Not only does it look bad, but you might have to shave the fur frequently from then on. And you have taken away their natural ability to protect themselves.
In conclusion, when you shave a double-coated dog like a Sheltie, you may irreparably impair their ability to properly heat and cool themselves and protect their skin. The best way to keep your Sheltie cool and comfortable is to bathe and brush them regularly. The only reason to shave is if the fur is so matted that it is the only option. And if you take good care of your Sheltie, this won't happen.
An additional word about general grooming ... Many Sheltie owners take their dogs to groomers rather than doing the grooming themselves. Unless the groomer is knowledgeable about how Shelties should look, you will find that he or she cannot resist clipping and "evening out" those feathers on the dog’s legs, trimming the ruff and tail, or even shaving the fur to one length all over (see above). Ask your groomer to bathe your dog, surely, but then insist that they not "even up" the fur. Look at photos of nicely groomed Shelties, for example on the ASSA.org website, to get an idea what they should look like. And it's not hard to do it yourself! Shelties are supposed to look like working dogs with a protective coat, not prissy lap dogs.
Written by: Martha Heisel Northern Virginia Sheltie Rescue
National Sheltie Rescue Association
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