Grooming a Heavy-Coated Dog for the Heat

Dogs with heavy, thick coats can benefit from certain haircuts during warm weather.

Q. I own a Golden Retriever-Poodle mix (goldendoodle) and she has beautiful golden wavy hair, but she is always hot.  I have placed cooling gel packs under her blankets and she will sleep while it is cool.  She goes from spot to spot looking for a cool place. She is inside in the air-conditioned house 90 percent of the day and I brush and bathe her weekly. 

What is the best cut for her that will not take away from her beautiful appearance? I have been told to get the lion cut and the Poodle cut. Do you have any other suggestions for heavy-coated dogs?

A. One of the fun facts about the goldendoodle is that there is no hard and fast rule as to how it should be groomed. Since this delightful dog is a hybrid of the Poodle and Golden Retriever, it is not recognized as a legitimate and established breed by the American Kennel Club, so there is no official breed standard for you or your groomer to adhere to when grooming your gorgeous girl.

We are seeing more and more of these dogs in the grooming salon and they vary widely in size, color and coat texture.  How a puppy will look depends upon its parentage; Golden Retrievers vary in coat shades from light cream to platinum blonde to rich golden to coppery red, and Poodle coats come in a rainbow of colors: white, cream, apricot, russet red, chocolate or black.

Their coat texture can range from tight curls, to soft ringlets to wavy, silky or straight. Size is another big variable, determined mainly by whether the Poodle parent is a Standard or a Miniature. We groom large goldendoodles weighing up to 75 pounds and standing around 22 inches tall at the shoulders to smaller ones that weigh in at 40 to 50 pounds and range in height from 15 to 20 inches.

When they are puppies, goldendoodles tend to have wavy or shaggy coats, not Poodle-like curls, but many become curlier when their adult coats come in, usually between eight months and one year of age.

If you wish to keep your pet’s unique goldendoodle appearance, I would not recommend either a lion cut or a Poodle styling, but a medium to short haircut instead. Some owners like them trimmed to the same length all over but in warm weather, we often use a #4f or a #2 snap-on comb attachment on the back and body and a #1 snap-on comb or an “A” comb on the legs, leaving them a bit fuller than the body.

Then we round the feet to the same width rather than shave them and expose the toes as we would on a Poodle. We scoop out hair between the foot pads with a #10 blade to keep them clean and free from irritation. Since these dogs love to romp outdoors and tend to get into everything, they often pick up dirt and debris there.

We trim the tail into a feathery plume and shape the top of the head, blending it in at the nape of the neck and trimming those adorable whiskers and also rounding off the bottoms of the ears. We leave either eyebrows or a slight visor look over the eyes, making the dog looking like it just stepped out of a Disney movie.

This is a face that is full of character, as befits the breed.  It should have a softer look than that of a Schnauzer or Scottie.  Of course, if a goldendoodle comes into the salon matted from head to tail, we would have no alternative except to clip it down to the skin but if possible, we would still style the head and tail to give it this doodle look.

Because your girl really minds the heat, I would consider this kind of cut which may be called a “comb cut,” a “teddy bear” or a “thin and trim,” depending upon the groomer. It would make her much more comfortable and be far easier for you to maintain between groomings. Keep up the good work with your frequent brushing and when you bathe her, always finish with a conditioning rinse to leave her coat lustrous and more manageable.

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