It’s a serious concern to people who are predisposed to allergies caused by the dander and saliva that attaches to pet fur, as well as those who view cleanup of that and fur hair as a major problem. If this sounds like you, you might want to read up on dog breeds that don’t shed or which shed the least. If you aren’t frightened by the idea of a fluffy fido, or have already fallen in love with a hairy hound, read on to learn more about dog shedding and see if your favorite breed or mix falls on the list of dogs that shed the most.
Why Dogs Shed
To understand dog shedding, it is important to understand the purpose of dog fur. The coat can be vital for a dog’s survival, utilized as the body’s climate control system, sensory perception and skin protection. While human hair follicles grow only one strand of hair at a time, dogs have several hairs growing from each follicle. These have high oil content, designed to keep the dog’s skin and hair smooth, strong and flexible. This is nature’s way of protecting the animal so that water runs off the guard hairs of their coat and does not penetrate the skin.
When the old hair of the dog stops growing, it is shed to make room for the new hair that grows in. How and when this occurs depends on several things: the breed of dog, its overall health and its genetic makeup. Of the three, genetics is probably the most important because it affects how and when the dog will shed and how often the new hair will begin to grow.
There are three types of dog fur:
- Undercoat — the soft, thick and downy hair used as insulation; usually grown on the Northern breeds or dogs that live in extremely cold or wet climates of northern areas.It is also grown on dogs that are used to temperate climates but are adapting to colder winter climates and is also shed in the spring to prepare for summer.
- Guard hairs — this type of hair is glossy, stiff and longer hair to protect the undercoat of double-coated dogs and their skin from the elements and also to protect against water soakage. Coarse-coated terriers can shed water thanks to this tough outer coat.
- Whiskers — the stiff hairs grown around the dog’s face, used as a sensory stimulation.
Dogs That Shed The Most
Double-coated breeds are among the most profuse shedders. They typically “blow coat,” shedding out their undercoat most profusely during the spring and fall. Dog owners need to understand that dog shedding is normal and necessary for the new coats to grow in, with all such dogs going through this process to some extent for about 30 days. Some breeds, like the Dalmatian, shed year round. The following dog breeds are heavy shedders:
- Alaskan Malamute
- American Eskimo
- Australian Shepherd
- Belgian Sheepdogs — four different breeds, the Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Tervuren and the rarest of the four, the Belgian Laekenois.
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Border Collie
- Chow Chow
- Collie — the double-coated rough coat and to a lesser extent, the smooth coat varieties.
- German Shepherd
- German Shorthair Pointer
- Golden Retriever
- Great Pyrenees
- Labrador Retriever
- Norwegian Elkhound
- Old English Sheepdog
- Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie)
- Shiba Inu
- Siberian Husky
- St. Bernard
- Welsh Corgi — Cardigan Welsh Corgi and Pemboke Welsh Corgi
Can Shedding Be Stopped?
Preventing shedding is impossible, but regular brushing is necessary. Most people think that when a dog scratches, it may have fleas but they also scratch to facilitate the loosening and removal of dead hair. It helps to brush severe shedders daily, before that hair lands in the couch, the carpet or your clothing. A rubber curry brush or a dog glove brush will do the trick for short-coated breeds like Bulldogs, Beagles, Dachshunds and Dobermans.
Dogs shed more when they are stressed; following surgery, when they are ill or if females have recently whelped a litter of puppies. Shedding may also pick up the pace when dogs go to the kennel, the groomer, move to a new home or have other major changes in their current environment.
A good wholesome diet, high in protein and low on grains and fillers, will combat the shedding problem and supplements will also help with coat condition. Omega 3 and 6 and Zinc are considered important building blocks for healthy coats and cell structure.
Many owners ask the groomer to shave their dog down for the summer, thinking this will solve the shedding problem and it make the dog much cooler. Although it will cut down on the amount of hair shed, it may also harm the dog. Here’s why:
- Dogs that have their coats shaved off may actually become more hot than cool, as they have no insulation to protect them anymore. Well maintained coats “loft” as the dog moves, cooling them off in the process.
- Dogs shaved right down to the skin are susceptible to sunburn.
- They can become chilled in air-conditioned homes.
- Their fur might not grow back in time to keep them warm in winter.
- Without their coat to protect them, they are more likely to get bitten by insects.
- The dog’s coat also protects him from injuries during rough play or worse, fighting with another dog.
Even for non- or low-shedding breeds, hair control can be a big maintenance issue. Some dogs, particularly terriers, hang on to their dead hair because it falls into the coat and gets stuck there, requiring regular brushing and combing to prevent mats and tangles. In addition, you can use deshedding tools to remove dead hair and fuzz. A warm bath followed by conditioning helps loosen hair and speeds up the shedding process.
Owners need to be aware of shedding and grooming issues before adopting or purchasing a dog, whether it’s a purebred or a mixed breed. If you do not have the time or inclination to provide such care, you can have it done professionally by a groomer, but like veterinary care, obedience training and pet sitting or kenneling, this is a cost item, another factor to consider before making a pet part of your family.
By: Kathy Salzberg
Featured Image: Joerg Huettenhoelscher/Shutterstock