Q. Yesterday, I had my neighbor’s dog sheared, super close to his skin, for the first time in his life. He gets so hot in the summer that I thought it would a good idea. He is approximately 11 years old. His fur was long, thick, and in some areas under his stomach, matted. He possibly has some Border Collie in him. He is a very sensitive dog, and I’m afraid I made a huge mistake.
Today he is pretty much staying out of sight and is just one puzzled, unhappy dog. He weighs about 54 pounds. He lives pretty much with me and my dog, but the neighbor owns him. Can you give any advice on what to expect, or let me know if there will be psychological long-term effects on him?
A. First, let me assure you that there should be no long-term effects on your neighbor’s dog. Sometimes, when dogs have been shaved down very closely, they react the way a person would if they were suddenly and unexpectedly found themselves naked in public. Believe it or not, these poor naked dogs are just plain embarrassed, so they will hide because they are so ashamed and upset to be suddenly without their coats. It will take lots of TLC, understanding and reassurance on your part to coax such a dog out of his hiding place, which is often under the bed. Try to lure him out with a favorite treat and calm but upbeat verbal coaxing.
I have heard of instances where such a shaved-down dog will stay out of sight for a few days so it is important to offer him food and water until he gets used to that new haircut. When we need to clip a dog down this closely due to severe matting that cannot be brushed out, we inform the owner of the possibility of such a reaction. Silly as it may sound, we tell these folks to tell the dog how beautiful or handsome they look the minute they pick him up from the salon, offering lots of loving pats and affectionate behavior to counteract such canine humiliation. Laughing at the dog or otherwise making fun of him will only make him feel worse.
Despite such drastic reactions, I have never heard of any dogs who had permanent personality changes because they were clipped close. Eventually, they will become accustomed to their new “do” and return to their old selves. It is hair, after all, and it will grow back. Your neighbor’s dog probably reacted so strongly because as a canine senior citizen, he has lived a long life without experiencing such a shockingly stripped-down feeling. If his ancestry has its roots in the Border Collie breed, he is also probably very bright and sensitive, a hallmark of that particular breed’s lineage, dogs so intelligent that they are able to work at their herding duties without even being given a command.
I know you were well-intentioned in having your dog buddy shaved down to keep him cool in the hot summer, but it’s really not necessary to remove the coat to keep a dog cool. If kept properly brushed – a thorough head-to-tail all the way to the skin brushout at least once a week followed by a final check with a stainless steel comb to make sure you have dealt with all the mats and tangles, the dog’s coat will have “loft,” allowing the air to circulate and offering natural protection from the elements. Without their protective coats, dogs that have been too closely shorn are also at risk for sunburn and skin irritation.
In the case of the Northern breeds such as the Husky, Samoyed, Norwegian Elkhound or Keeshond, shaving too close to the skin can do permanent harm because if the hair follicles on these double-coated breeds are damaged, sometimes only the fuzzy undercoat will grow back, destroying their appearance and permanently removing their protective topcoat layer.
Groomers do lots of less invasive trims on most purebreds and mixed-breed dogs, usually consisting of a “thin and trim,” removing bulky undercoat through brushing, bathing and conditioning, and shaping the coat with scissors to resemble the breed profile. Such styles lighten the pet’s hairy haberdashery but still keep him looking great.
It is equally important for both pet owner and groomer to physically go over the dog when he is dropped off for his grooming appointment so both parties will be on the same page when it comes to how the owner would like the pet to be groomed and what the groomer can realistically achieve.