Shed Happens: How to Manage Dog Shedding

My little dog Nora is superbly cute and only weighs about 10 pounds or so. As a result, she is often invited to sit on people’s laps. She knows all about how best to maintain this prime seating position; Look sweetly into the person’s eyes, offer a little neck nuzzle, and then sit very still. She has a bit of a stoic look to her so, people are sometimes surprised at just how affectionate and snuggle prone she is. They are also a bit surprised when she is removed from their lap but leaves behind a few cream colored hairs. OK, truth be told, she used to leave her mark with a plethora of hair.

While I think the minor inconvenience of using a lint roller to remove said hair is well worth it, I know there are those who are understandably a bit disconcerted. Shedding is a form of natural hair loss that allows the animal to get rid of old hair so new hair can grow in. But, some shedding may occur if the dog is going through hormonal changes, suffering from a medical issues such as a skin infection, fleas or allergy, or if they are experiencing high stress. So, it is always wise to chat with your vet if the shedding seems excessive or more than normal.

Many people assume that dogs with long fur will shed more, but this isn’t necessarily true. It could just be that looks are deceiving, That is, because the hair is longer it seems like more is coming off, when in fact it is simply longer hair, not more individual strands. My Doberman Pinscher, Moka, has the smoothest, shortest coat. But, those little hairs seem to want to jump right off her and onto every fabric surface they see. My friends with Labrador Retrievers say their dogs fur is similarly oriented to migrate on a regular basis from the dog to any other available surface.

Some dogs shed an enormous amount a couple of times a year, this is often referred to as ‘blowing their coat.’ People who live with dogs with a double coat such as a Siberian Husky, Malamute, Pomeranian, Keeshond, Shetland Sheepdog, Bernese Mountain Dog, or Newfoundland know all about this. Let’s just say it is usually enough that you could knit a lovely size XL dog hair sweater a couple of times a year with what comes off of dogs like this. With a Pomeranian or Shetland Sheepdog you might only be able to make a medium-sized sweater, but you get the idea.

I do have seat covers in my car, since transporting dogs to and fro every day means it proudly wears the badge of ‘dog car.’ But, while I am willing to use protective covers in my car, covering my furniture or myself with plastic is not on my list of options for best controlling shedding. So, what is a dog-loving trainer to do in order to control the shed factor?

Regular brushing certainly helps as it can increase oil production in the coat and therefore decrease damaged hairs. Basically, I figure the hair is going to come off anyway so I might as well choose where it goes. I prefer the garbage bin to my clothes and furniture. Brushing also results in a softer, cleaner and healthier coat overall. Plus, my dog’s seem to enjoy it almost as much as I do a day at the spa.

Just as the equipment used at spas varies according to your skin type, be sure to choose grooming tools that are most suitable for your dog. My friend Ali McLennan, the groomer on Animal Planet’s Underdog to Wonderdog, helped me choose tools for my dogs which include the Furminator for Nora and a soft-bristled brush for Moka. When I bathe my dogs I use a shampoo that is as soothing and moisturizing as possible so as to soothe the skin and help maintain healthy hair follicles.

There is no doubt that feeding your dog a high quality diet may reduce shedding by helping to keep the dog in optimal health. Some suggest that a vitamin supplement can help. This could be true, but odds are if you are feeding a nutritionally complete diet that has appropriate amounts of fatty acids, Omega 3’s and other essential oils, vitamins and nutrients, an added supplement isn’t necessary.

I have also invested in a super-duper vacuum, the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Dual-Cyclonic Upright. The name says it all and it is most skilled at picking up pet hair.

Managing and dealing with shedding is a part of almost every pet parents life, but some more so than others. It is advisable to learn about the shedding tendencies of a certain breed or type of dog you are interested prior to bringing them into your family. If you can’t handle the shed factor, it is probably best to choose an American Hairless Terrier, a Chinese Crested, a Peruvian Incha Orchid, or a Xoloitzcuintli. But, then you’ll need to set aside time for frequent baths, and invest in loads of pet-safe sunscreen and sweaters to keep them warm when it’s cold.