Sporting dogs work in extreme conditions and need a healthy, well-maintained coat to regulate their body temperature and provide protection from the sun and abrasions. That means the hairiest member of your hunting party may need a trim every now and then.
But don’t get carried away—shorn and coiffed hairstyles are for show dogs, not field champs. Here’s how to keep your dog cool, tangle-free and looking good.
SKIP THE SHAVE
Unlike humans, who sweat to cool down, dogs regulate their body heat mainly through panting. Some heat also dissipates through their feet, nose and ears. Their fur acts as insulation, so shaving them can do more harm than good. Double-coated breeds have a dense undercoat protecting the dog from both hot and cold temperatures, while the longer guard hairs repel moisture and dirt. Dogs shed their undercoat in the spring, replacing it with a shorter, lighter coat. Some breeds only have a single coat. A good combing or gentle plucking can expedite the shedding process for both coat types.
TRIM AS NEEDED
If left untrimmed on some dogs, the long hair around the nose, eyes, mouth, paws and legs can get all snarled up with burrs and other debris. A little judicious trimming in the right places goes a long way to prevent that. In some breeds—depending on the type of coat and length of hair—a good brushing is all that’s needed, if at all.
WASH WITH CARE
It’s a good idea to bathe your dog every few months or when it gets too stinky. Before you pour on the shampoo, however, make sure it’s formulated especially for dogs. And be wary that washing too often removes natural oils from your dog’s skin, leaving it dry and flaky. Those natural oils also help the coat repel water, so lather up less often during hunting season.