Thursday, May 17, 2007

Do NOT shave your husky for the summer

You may think - gee it's getting warm out and my husky will overheat in this weather. So, maybe I should just have all that fur shaved off. DON'T DO IT! Even if your groomer / vet / friend recommends such radical action, read on first. There are a number of reasons why your northern breed needs the fur during warm weather.

A Siberian Husky, like many northern dog breeds, has two coat layers. The inner, or under, coat consists of short, fluffy, downy soft fur. The other layer is the guard hair layer, which is not shed in general. The guard hairs stay in place while the husky "blows" his coat (the term used for the sudden shedding of the undercoat) - generally in the spring. That guard hair coat has natural oils which keep the husky clean and dry (ours virtually never gets wet to the skin, and does not pick up dirt and debris from the yard in his coat).

Fluffy tufts around legs show coat blow is imminentOur husky bulks up on this undercoat during the fall so he is warm outside during our cold, snowy winters in Michigan. Now, in the late spring, he has fluffy tufts of fur working loose all over his body. This husky, as you can see from the photo, is a short-hair type. When I scratch him, his fur feels like sheep's wool because the undercoat has become bunchy and tightly packed. The undercoat is creamy colored with a touch of copper at the outer ends. His guard hairs stay in place, and remain copper or white, depending location.



It's a family effort to get the tufts of undercoat loose throughout the spring. Lobo was a rescue, but I don't know if that explains his dislike of grooming. He has sensitive skin, and only plucking at tufts (best done when he's asleep) or holding him down and using a human comb seem to work well. I limit the "holding him down" time to 15 minute sessions.



Why does the husky need his guard hairs in the warm summer? You may ask yourself... why do desert peoples such as Moroccans wear loose, cheesecloth-like clothes that cover the body (http://www.berbertours.net/faq.php#3)? It's to keep the sun off the skin and allow cool breezes to get to the skin. Same thing for your northern-bred dog. He needs the guard hairs to keep sun off of his skin, but breeze will filter through since the undercoat is mostly gone during the summer. Also, the guard hairs protect your dog against biting insects!



If you are in an extremely warm area, you may wish to keep a pool of water, like a kid's wading pool, where your dog can reach it. Of course, change the water frequently to keep it fresh and stop mosquito larvae from hatching. Shade throughout the day, and drinking water should be givens. You may wish the bring the pup inside, too, if you have air conditioning during the peak heat times. Our husky will dig holes to get to cooler dirt to lay in - not that we want him to, but this is one of those behaviors the husky is known for.Dogs playing



And as for the shepherd / husky mix of ours, she has an undercoat the sheds in the spring as well. We can use a shedding blade, or human comb, or wire brush as needed... and she loves to be groomed. Her undercoat is smoother - not as bunchy - as the husky's, and does not bunch up quite the same way. She does have a double coat, and does keep her guard hairs, though.



Further reading and references I've used for this post are at: http://www.sibrescue.com/tip-shave.asp, http://www.ccndr.org/library/shaving.htm, and http://www.siberrescue.com/Flsibes.htm.

2 comments:

M. Sanders said...

HI,
I have been concerned for my Husky with all of the extreme hot weather we have endured during this Summer here in Texas.

This information has helped me greatly! Not ot do the wrong thing!

ON e note: My Husky loves the Ice Cube filled water dish I give her twice a day (when I can before work and after I get home).

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