The very first time the owner of a double coated dog goes through the seasonal shed and coat change they may be feeling ready to pull their own hair out. Even those owners with single coated dogs or dogs that are considered to be non-shedding breeds may find that they have a few hairs deposited on the carpet and furniture over the autumn season as well as again in the spring. In reality there are no breeds, other than the true hairless dog breeds, that don't shed to some extent. What are considered to be non-shedding dogs such as the Poodles are dogs that lose their hair like humans, a gradual hair loss that is minimal rather than a huge amount of hair over a short period of time.
One major myth is that dogs with shorter coats shed less hair than dogs with longer coats. In reality the length of a dog's hair has nothing to do with how he or she sheds and some short coated dogs shed much more than long coated dogs. In reality most breeds shed fairly uniformly throughout the year, just with the double coated breeds having the spring and summer heavy shed times. Another common myth is that white dogs shed more than darker dogs. Again, this is simply not true, however it is true that white and light colored hair is typically going to be much more visible on furniture and carpets, especially if they are dark in color. The reverse would be true if you had all light colored furnishing and a dark coated dog.
Can Shedding Be Prevented?
Sadly the answer to this question is simply no. There are some ways to minimize shedding, however since it is part of the dog's natural function to prepare for changes in weather it is impossible to completely stop or prevent. In addition the females of some breeds will shed based on their estrus cycle, which again is part of the natural body functions. Spaying females of these breeds will help minimize the shed due to the reproductive system hormones, but the dogs will still seasonally shed.
Can Shedding Be Minimized?
There are many products on the market that can help speed up the shedding process that may actually make the timeframe of the shed shorter. These products can be sprays which are applied directly to the coat, shampoos, conditioners and even food supplements. While most of these products do have some effect on speeding up the shedding, it is really the grooming that is required with the use of all the products that actually helps remove the hair and facilitates the hair loss.
Dogs that have heavy coats can be clipped or trimmed to minimize the length of the hair that will be shed as well as minimize the chance of mats and tangles occurring as the hair falls out. In some breeds, particularly the coarse coated terriers, stripping is often used as a way to minimize shedding and shape the coat. Stripping involves plucking the old and long hairs out of the coat, leaving a universally short coat that will easily shed hair.
Inner Versus Outer Coasts
Double coated dogs do actually have two distinct layers of hair across their body. The outer layer is the visible coat and it is typically silky to coarse, relatively thick in diameter and universally distributed across the entire body surface with the exception of the head and tail. The inner coat is the soft, almost wooly or downy and dense hair that provides insulation for the body of the dog. The inner coat is not typically seen unless you push the outer coat backwards, against the direction of hair growth. The inner coat is the coat that tends to mat and cause problems since the hairs that are being shed get caught in the massive amounts of inner coat still attached, leading to tangles and then finally to huge mats of hair.
The inner coat is also different from the outer coat in that the outer is typically water resistant. Natural oils produced in glands in the skin very lightly coat the outer hairs, giving the natural shine but also preventing water from penetrating the outer coat. This outer protection keeps the inner coat and skin dry, allowing double coated dogs a fairly high tolerance to cold conditions, even when the weather is relatively damp.
A dog that sheds their inner coat is said to "blow their coat", which is an apt description if you have even seen a Newfoundland, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd or other double coated breed shed. The inner coat may come out in clumps and it is so fine it literally sticks to everything. Regular, routine grooming is essential during this time, especially around the neck, legs, hind quarters and the belly to prevent excessive mats that will need to be cut out to be removed.
There are several tools that can speed up this seasonal grooming routine and a shedding rake is a great tool for any sized double coated dog. These are very sturdy aluminum toothed or heavy plastic brushes that have wide, well spaced pins or teeth that are capable of gently removing the clumps of inner hair. If you are using a grooming or shedding rake you will need to follow with a metal pin brush and then a slicker brush to get all the fine hairs out of the coat.
Grooming every day or every other day will dramatically decrease both the amount of hair you find in your house or yard as well as the total amount of time your dog will be shedding. Avoid bathing your dog during this time as the washing action can actually promote mats and tangles and lead to horrible lumpy mats that have to be cut out of the coat.
If you can't commit to regular daily or every other day grooming consider visiting a professional groomer at least once a week during this time. You may also want to consider a clip to speed up the grooming process. This will help cut down on the time you have to commit plus it will also limit mats and tangles from forming.