Anyone with a pup with a huge fluffy coat knows the trial that every spring becomes. The seasons change, and the dense, fluffy, insulative winter coat starts to let go and shed while the lighter, breezier summer coat comes in.
This change of coat has an important role in keeping your fur baby happy and healthy. The winter coat helps keep them warm against the cold weather outside, while the lighter summer coat is perfect for keeping cool under the hot sun of summer.
That doesn't mean we have to like it, though.
As anyone who has had to brush a dog's worth of hair out of their dog about once a day for a month knows, it's incredible how much fur these little puppers shed every year! Where do they even keep it all?
Well, that's beside the point.
The main point is, if you want to avoid getting shed fur on everything you own, piled up thicker than the snow of the past winter, you should try to give your pooch a helping hand to clean out that hair. Here are my top tips for making shedding season easier.
Though it doesn't really help you with the shedding itself, this is a prime time to keep an eye out and examine your fur baby's skin. Their winter coat will be shedding away, and their summer coat will be thinner, especially before it fully grows. This gives you a chance to look for patchy fur, blotches or sores on the skin, bald patches, or other signs of problems.
This is also a time when you might notice if your fur baby has any lumps or lesions that are normally hidden by fur, and that means it's a good time for a vet check-up.
"If the spring shedding is much greater or much less than previous years, you notice bald patches in your dog's coat, you see open sores or skin irritation, or you notice licking or scratching, there may be some medical issues to address.
The excess or lack of shedding could be caused by poor diet, parasites, infections, allergies, reaction to medication, sunburn, contact with dangerous substances, immune disease, cancer, or problems with the liver, kidneys, thyroid, or adrenal gland, among other things." - DogTime.
Most of the time, shedding is just shedding, and while it can be a bit unnerving to see such a huge amount of fur falling out all at once, it's perfectly natural and isn't a cause for concern. But, if you spot anything concerning under all that fur, then you might consider that trip to the vet after all.
Hold Off on the Groomer
Groomers play an important role in keeping our fur babies happy and healthy, but you're probably going to want to hold off on giving them a visit while the winter coat is still in the process of falling out. If they're groomed now, some of what gets groomed is just going to fall out, and some of what would need to be groomed later isn't done growing yet.
In other words, it's just bad timing.
Hold off until a little ways into spring or early summer, when the tidal wave of fur is tapered off, and you're down to a normal amount of shedding. That way, you can bring them to the groomer with a lot more confidence that you'll get a long-lasting grooming out of the deal.
Brush Brush Brush
The key – the single biggest piece of advice I can give you, and the one you've probably been given a thousand times before and also already knew – is to brush your fur baby out. Brush them long, brush them carefully, brush them every single day as long as they still have massive amounts of fur coming out of that coat of theirs. Trust me, there'll be more fur where that came from, pretty much always.
Note that it's even more important to regularly brush dogs with double coats.
This is because the lighter outer coat can trap shedding fur from the denser inner coat, and that trapped fur makes it even harder for more fur to shed, and it all gets tangled up into huge terrible mats that are awful to deal with, are hugely unpleasant to your fur baby, and can even lead to skin infections, irritation, and other problems.
Remember, brushing isn't going to prevent your dog from shedding. They're going to shed one way or another. Brushing helps with two things: removing the shed fur from their coat so they're more comfortable, healthier, and more able to shed more fur, and containing the shed fur in one place so you can more easily dispose of it.
So, what kind of brushes should you use? A lot of it depends on the kind of coat your pooch has.
A simple grooming brush is going to be one of the better brushes for denser or longer-haired dogs, and it'll be fine for dogs with shorter coats and as a finishing brush after the other brushing is complete for the day. If you only get one brush, get this one.
A pin brush is better for longer and denser coats, but it may not be strong enough to get out all the fur you want to remove at a time. While it's fine, it's slow, and you're going to feel like you're brushing for hours. Use it, again, after the main brushing or as a secondary brushing throughout the day to catch anything that has built up in the past few hours.
A shedding rake is more like a comb and will be good for long-haired dogs with an undercoat that needs to be brushed out. More multi-layered brushes will get more tangled up in their coats, so a comb-like rake is better.
A slicker brush can be useful for a finishing run. Once you've used a stiffer bristle brush on your fur baby, you can use this one to smooth out their coat, minimize mats, and make them feel more comfortable.
Pretty much no matter how you go about it, you're going to need an arsenal of brushes for various purposes, so get a handful of options and see what works best for different situations.
If you want some tips on bathing and grooming your dog at home like a professional, this blog post has got you covered!
Watch Out for Mats
Matting fur is one of the worst parts of shedding for a dog. Mats are tangled and don't fall out on their own, and they can be painful to try to get rid of, especially when the only tools your pooch has are their paws and their teeth.
Some dogs are also much more prone to matting than others, particularly breeds like Goldendoodles.
"One of the best things to do to keep matting at bay is frequent bathing and brushing. Some breeds, like Doodles, Cocker Spaniels, and Poodles, will need more attention while others can go up to a month between thorough brushes. Keeping your dog clean and dry also majorly assists in mat prevention. Ensure complete dryness after every bath and swim–your dog and your future self will thank you." – Hound Therapy.
There are a few things you can do to make matting less likely and to deal with them if it happens.
Firstly, treat mats with care during the grooming process. Using an anti-mat brush and starting from an edge while working inwards can help extract them bit by bit. Be prepared for this process to be time-consuming and meticulous.
Another option to consider is using an anti-matting conditioner or lubricant. These products can make the fur slippery, facilitating the untangling of knots. Ideally, applying these conditioners before the fur becomes matted will prevent tangles from forming altogether. However, if mats do occur, saturating them with such products may aid in their removal.
Most mats can be removed through careful work, but in extreme cases, there's nothing much you can do. In those cases, your vet, a groomer, or a pair of clippers may be the way to go. You want to take care of it before it becomes a problem, to the skin beneath, after all.
And, of course, brushing regularly will reduce the amount of shed fur that can get matted up, so don't forget the daily brushies.
Consider the Blow Dryer Method
You may have seen videos like this one of a groomer using a blow dryer or other air source to blast away shed hair, usually from a dog with a thick winter coat like a husky. Is this a good idea?
Actually, it's not bad.
The biggest risks of a blow dryer are heat and noise, and since this is for shedding and not drying, you aren't using heat. That's why people use things like leaf blowers or lightly compressed air sources, and not just hair dryers, to perform the task. You aren't going to hurt your dog doing this.
However, some dogs aren't fond of the noise or the feeling of air blowing on them. Make sure to know whether or not your dog will tolerate it first, and if they don't, consider seeing whether or not you can train them to be more accepting of it or if it's something they absolutely refuse to handle.
One tip is to use a couple of cotton balls to lightly pack in their ears as a sort of earmuff/earplug to prevent the noise from irritating your fur baby.
When blowing out their fur, make sure to also use a brush to smooth their coat back down. You're not getting out of brushing entirely, you know. You're just blasting out a lot of the fur that would otherwise need to be brushed out and then brushing their coat back into place to prevent mats and tangles.
You should also probably wear a mask to avoid inhaling hair, dander, skin particles, dirt, and all the other stuff that gets caught in a dog's coat. Even if they just had a bath, you still want to protect yourself.
Similarly, consider doing this outside if at all possible. If your goal with helping your dog with their winter coat is shedding control, the last thing you want to do is blast it into the air so it settles on every surface of your house. There's a reason why groomers do it in a room they can easily sweep up later.
"Shedding makes a mess, no doubt about it. As a dog owner, you have probably come to terms with the fact that regular house cleaning is the norm, especially during shedding season. The key is to remove hair before it has a chance to embed itself into your carpet and upholstery. Keeping a pet hair tape roller around for touch-ups throughout the day is an excellent idea. For deeper cleaning of upholstery and small areas, consider using a handheld vacuum designed to pick up pet hair." – The Spruce Pets.
Should You Shave a Winter Coat?
Almost always, the answer is no. Shaving a coat is best reserved for medically necessary reasons, like surgery or skin problems. Shaving a winter coat can be quite a thermal shock, so your fur baby will probably need to wear a sweater for a while until the summer coat grows in. It can also make them self-conscious and embarrassed, and you don't want to do that to your poor pooch, right?
This is not to say a trim is out of place. A trim and a shave are very different things, after all. Again, though, a trim might be best left for when the winter coat is fully gone and the summer coat is fully in place.
Shedding season is a fact of life for our fur babies, but think of it this way: if they didn't have us, how would they handle it at all? We're here to make it a lot easier on our fuzzy children, and all it takes is a daily routine of brushing and careful consideration. And really, who doesn't want to spend time enjoying the presence of their fur baby? It's bonding time!
Do you have any questions about these tips I've shared or just about shedding season in general? If so, please feel free to leave me a comment down below, and I'll gladly help you out however I can!
K Marie Alto
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer (https://www.amazon.com/author/kmariealto), and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 45K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).