To Shave or Not to Shave




Many times in my dog grooming I have had to shave a sheltie. Sometimes the owner just wants it done to lesson the hair loss in the house and sometimes it has to be done because a sheltie is kept mainly outdoors and they come in once a year for a yearly shave down due to a coat full of mats and burrs.


Nothing is more beautiful than a sheltie in full show coat that has been properly taken care of and groomed. It does involve a lot of care done quite inexpensively by the owner or sometimes expensively if done by a professional groomer.


For many years the people of Scotland carefully bred shelties to carry a double coat to deal with the harsh weather of the Shetland Islands. Cold winds blow all the time and since the islands are nearly treeless, outdoor shelter is hard to come by once a sheltie is out and about doing their daily chores on the farm.


Herding sheep all day is a very hard job and the sheltie coat has to be thick and weather resistant. It has to repel water as the islands and even the mainland of Scotland receives a lot of rain nearly every day.


In late June and early July of 2003 I was there in north Scotland on the moors of Inverness and we wore jeans and jackets. The high winds were strong enough to blow you off the paths and the beating rain was freezing. Imagine this year around with it being worse 9 months of the year and you will see why our shelties have such thick coats.  We were not even as far north even as the Shetland Islands either.  You can imagine how much colder it is there.


Now we come to Indiana where our heat index this past week alone has reached 110 degrees. Most days register 96-98 degrees.  So, now put on that coat yourself our dogs carry around with them all the time.


You say you can't put those coats on. Well I know of several people that collect their sheltie's brushed out undercoat and spin the wool to make sweaters. Picture wearing this sweater in the heat we have had for the past month.....All day, out in the sun, herding sheep no less. Tell me their coat insulates you from the heat. NO, you say? Are you hot? I would guess so!!!


REMEMBER Scotland does not get this heat. It gets to maybe 60 degrees at their hottest weeks of the year. The sheltie coat was made for COLD weather, not hot weather and it does not insulate from the heat, only the cold and wet.  It will, however, insulate from direct sun rays which can burn your dogs skin. 


I do not think a sheltie should be shaved unless absolutely necessary but, if the dog is going to herd sheep in 100 degree weather or be doing agility then yes, there is a great possibility your dog could benefit from a haircut.


I have a cut I put on one of my dogs in the past. He was a very heavy (not fat) big boned sheltie. He also carried a show coat and was never outdoors in summer longer than to go potty. The rest of the summer he camped out on our air conditioning registers in the house. He hated the heat so I did about a 3/4 in puppy cut with a number three blade on him.


People always thought he was a young puppy although he sported this cut well into his 10th year of life. He was able to do agility in comfort as well. He was not stripped to the skin mind you as no dog should be absolutely hairless due to sunburning, but he was short. (See Picture.)


Short Cut



Full Coat


I did his cut every two months and stopped in the winter.


Here are the pros of a shorter cut:


  1. Cooler dog (Proof of this was Smoke being able to function longer outdoors.).

  2. Less hair loss on furniture and in the house.

  3. Less combing time on the owner's part.

  4. Skin problems and parasites are easier to spot. (You better be using Frontline or Advantix though.)

  5. Shelties can be dried much faster with shorter coat and less undercoat.


Here are some cons:


  1. If your dog has a thyroid problem his coat will not grow back much at all or it will grow out in spots.

  2. If he is shaved short, he will sunburn.

  3. Bad grooming with hot blades will result in clipper burn, making hot spots.

  4. He will not look much like a sheltie until he starts to grow out.

  5. You cannot show a dog in conformation that has been shaved.


No matter what you have heard, the long hair and fluffy undercoat does not insulate from heat, only from cold and wet. IF, however you brush out the undercoat as it comes loose and sheds out weekly, you could help your sheltie with the shedding process and keep the dog cooler. This takes more time and involves more grooming and dealing with MOST people over the years, combing their sheltie every week throughly just won't happen.  Therefore most people are better off taking their fur kids to a groomer.


So whether you keep your sheltie in full coat or not is entirely up to each individual dog owner. I keep my kids in full coat with bi monthly comb outs, but my dogs are never out more than enough to go potty and it's then back into an air conditioned house.


Having been to Scotland taught me a lot. Our dogs are suited for cold weather not for our Indiana heat. But there are a few alternatives to helping our fur kids adjust to our heat if not cutting down the coat.


If having to be outside is unavoidable, make sure a lot of water is provided for your dog. Shade is necessary as well, as nobody can survive out in the sun without going into heatstroke.  Everybody also knows or should know NEVER to keep their dog waiting in a hot car with windows up as well.


If at an outdoor show or agility trial take empty plastic soda liters and freeze water in them. Put them in the crate or expens with your dogs to lay close to. You can keep cold, wet towels to lay on the dog while resting in their crates.


I am not saying shaving is the way to go. I have taken the personality and health of each of my shelties into consideration to see if cutting my dogs coat down was a plus or a minus. I do not cut my present dogs down now but am not against starting if I feel they need it.

Again it should be up to each individual owner as to whether or not the short cut is for their own dog.


Here's to keeping your sheltie cool! Good luck!