Shaving your dog’s coat – should you or shouldn’t you?

by: Jennifer Oldfield

After the following photo post on our Facebook page was so popular, we thought a blog post on the topic of shaving would be a good follow-up.

Structure of the coat on a double coated dog

Structure of the coat on a double coated dog (Image created by Brook Wilkins)

There are several different types of textures on dog’s fur, but in a general breakdown there are two coat types; single coated and double coated.  A single coat means that there is only a top (or over) coat that grows all over the body with no different undercoat.  Breeds such as Shih Tzus, Poodles, Bichons, for example, are ones with a single coat.  These breeds can be shaven generally with the only thing potentially occurring to the coat is over time it may become softer or it may have a slight colour change.  Even with only a single coat you want to be careful on when you shave them, especially if you shave them right down, as this, although may appear to feel cooler, leaves the dog exposed to the possibility of sunburn.  A dog with a coat shaved right down in the height of summer should not spend any length of time in direct sunlight.  With the simple fact that there is only one coat the hair grows back normally and even after a shaving.

A double coat means there is both a top (or over) coat made of tougher guard hairs and a bottom or (under) coat that is thick and soft.  Breeds such as Pomeranians, Shetland Sheepdogs, Siberian Huskies, Samoyeds, are examples of double coated dogs.  With a double coated dog they need to be groomed by brushing throughout the year but most heavily done  in the spring when a major shedding period occurs.  As the weather warms up the thick undercoat starts to do a complete shed, it detaches from the body and is often described as molting.  When you look at a dog in shed, they have “tufts” of fur that is soft and dense peaking through the longer guard hairs of the topcoat, this is called molting.

A double coated dog in a full blown shed

A double coated dog in a full blown shed

All this dense undercoat needs to be brushed out of the dog or Stage 3  from the top image above occurs.  The coat becomes impacted and matted, preventing air from being able to move between the dog’s topcoat and their skin.   Once all this undercoat is removed the air can circulate between and through the hairs of the topcoat keeping the dog cool, while the topcoat keeps the skin protected from the sun.  This topcoat can also protect the dog’s skin from fly and mosquito bites.

The question still remains then, why not shave them and just keep them out of the sun?  For one, they may not actually be cool even if they are out of the sun, the topcoat can help to keep the heat off the skin itself  and unlike people, dogs do not sweat through their skin.  Dogs sweat by panting and in all but northern breeds, through the pads of the feet.  Shaving them actually removes some of their natural ability to stay cool.  Another reason is that when the hair does begin to grow back it tends to do strange things.  For some, it may mean having patches that don’t grow at all, or that don’t grow both types of coat layers (top and under), older dogs often have issues with proper regrowth and then for others (which happens most often) the undercoat grows in faster than the topcoat (since the topcoat isn’t meant to shed extensively it grows extremely slowly) so now that protective topcoat is matted into the undercoat.  Dogs like this generally appear as though they have thyroid issues.  The hair looks fuzzy and varies in length all over the body.  This doesn’t mean the coat will forever stay this way.   Most of the time with regular brushing and the next shed cycle the topcoat will get longer while the undercoat sheds away, eventually leaving the coat the way it once was with long topcoat guard hairs and a thick shorter undercoat.  One other thing to note about those topcoat guard hairs – they actually prevent the dog from getting wet.  Due to the coarseness of the guard hairs water rolls off of this topcoat keeping the undercoat dry, which in the winter is important to keeping the dog warm and dry.

All of this being said there may be times where it is necessary to shave a double coated dog.  In surgical/medical situations the coat must be shaved or if the undercoat has become so matted it can not be combed out, shaving is the only solution.  Once the coat begins to grow in, keeping them brushed and free of matting will prevent the need to shave them in the future.

Bottom line?

The ideal situation: Keep the hair brushed, remove all the undercoat and allow the dog to remain with their natural ability to keep themselves cool and protected from the sun and some bug bites in the summer and warm and dry in the winter.

Additional sources of information:


Meet Playdoh – Biggest Loser Contestant


Day One

Meet Playdoh a 6-year-old domestic medium-hair cat.  His starting weight is 5.7 kg (12.5 lbs) and should ideally be 4.6 kg (10 lbs).

His owner describes Playdoh as a “bad” cat, in the good way.  He is very mischevious, loves to get into things and bug the other pets in the household, but at the same time he is very loving and tolerant and takes anyone new under his wing.  He helped foster 3 kittens whose mom had been killed and now loves nothing more than cuddling with the 4-year-old human boy in the house.

The challenge with Playdoh, his owner says, will be preventing him from eating other food… ALL other food.  He likes to eat, everything from salad to spaghetti to the dog’s t/d large breed dog treats!

Day One

Day One

Day One

Day One

Good luck Playdoh!

Watch for updates on how all the contestants are doing over the course of the Challenge.

Feel free to post comments and words of encouragement to each of them. We will be certain to pass it along!

Enroll YOUR pet!

Vaccines: Fact vs Myth

by Dr. Barb Eatock, DVM, BSc.


There has been a lot of controversy recently about the use of vaccines in humans and animals.  Currently, several countries in Europe are experiencing outbreaks of measles because vacination rates in children have decreased too low to protect the population as a whole.  Some of these cases of measles can result in severe consequences such as pneumonia or meningitis or even be fatal.  Research purporting to link the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine with the onset of autism have now been thoroughly debunked.

Similarly, vaccinating our pets has become more controversial recently.  We use vaccines in pets to prevent several serious illnesses:

  • Parvo is a virus that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, which can be fatal or potentially result in a large veterinary bill for appropriate treatement.
  • Distemper is a virus that affects dogs and causes vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory signs and neurological signs such as seizures.  This disease is often fatal, even with treatment.
  • Panleukopenia (“feline distemper”) causes severe vomiting and diarrhea in cats and is often fatal.
  • Feline upper respiratory viruses cause sneezing and conjunctivitis and can occasionally be fatal in young kittens or immunosuppresed cats.
  • Feline leukemia causes signs such as frequent infections, anemia and certain types of cancer; clinical signs can sometimes be managed for a time but the virus is ultimately not treatable.
  • Rabies is a virus that causes neurological signs and is always fatal.  If your pet has been exposed to a rabid animal and your pet’s rabies vaccinations are not current, you may be required to quarantine  your pet for six months or potentially even euthanize him/her.

Vaccines occasionally cause side effects, ranging from lethargy, inappetance, a lump or pain at the vaccination site, to more severe side effects such as one in ten thousand chance of cancer in the case of the feline leukemia vaccine, or triggering the onset of autoimmune disease in genetically predisposed animals.  Allergic reactions such as facial swelling can also occur occasionally after a vaccination.

Here at the clinic we follow the AAHA guidelines and recommend three sets of puppy or kitten vaccinations, ideally at 8, 12 and 16 weeks, followed by a full set of vaccinations a year later.  After that point, we recommend rotating the vaccines on a 3-year cycle.  For example, one year a dog would get vaccinated for distemper, the next year parvo, then rabies the following year.  In this way, the animal is exposed to fewer antigens, helping to minimize adverse reactions to vaccinations.  Lifestyle factors are also considered when making vaccine recommendations; for example, the feline leukemia vaccine is only recommended in kittens, multicat households and cats with an outdoor lifestyle.  Bordetella (kennel cough) is recommended if a dog is around a lot of other dogs, such as at a boarding kennel, grooming facility, doggy day care, or puppy classes.  Blood tests (titres) can also be taken to determine whether an animal has a protective level of antibodies to certain viruses in order to determine whether boosters are necessary.

Avoiding vaccines altogether is very likely to result in severe illness or even the death of your pet.  Vaccinations for pets that are only indoors may be even more important than in outdoor pets, because outdoor pets are constantly being challenged by small doses of antigen in the environment, which helps boost their immunity; this does not happen with indoor pets, so if exposed, they are more likely to become severely ill.  However, this does not mean that an outdoor pet would be fully protected with these small exposures and could still become very ill.

Overvaccinating can cause problems too, so here at the clinic we strive to balance your pet’s vaccination needs with his health status and lifestyle.  If you have questions about your pet’s vaccinations, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Meet Gunner – Biggest Loser Contestant

Day One

Day One

This is Gunner a 5-year-old Pug Cross.  Gunner is currently 20.2 kg (44.4 lbs) and should ideally be 11.4 kg (25 lbs).

Gunner’s owner describes him as laid back.  He loves to snuggle and loves to play.  He loves to play with his toy squirrel, he plays catch with himself and loves to play with their cat Bosco.  His owner says Gunner can be a bit sneaky too…

Gunner’s plans to also increase Gunner’s activity level along with the diet change.  The weight loss, his owner says, will mean he will be able to run around and play for long amounts of time and live a long healthy life.

Good luck Gunner!

Day One side

Day One side


Day One

Watch for updates on how all the contestants are doing over the course of the Challenge.

Feel free to post comments and words of encouragement to each of them.  We will be certain to pass it along!

Enroll YOUR pet!

Teaching Puppy not to Bite

We are coming to the end of Dog Bite Prevention week and so far our posts have been on teaching children how to behave around dogs, what to do if a dog is too rambunctious or a strange dog comes running up, how to understand dog body language – when it is ok to pet and when we should stay away.

Today’s post is going to be from the opposite perspective.  It is just as important to teach our dogs how to behave and have good bite inhibition as it is to teach our children how to behave and what to do.  Teaching bite inhibition should really be done as young puppies.  Think about how puppies play with each other… they play rough and tumble, using their mouths and sometimes there teeth.  Think about the last time you saw puppies play, what happened when one puppy got a bit over zealous and used his teeth?  The second puppy screamed and stopped the game of play.  After a “time-out” moment, usually the game is on again.  It normally takes very few of these interactions for a puppy to realize using his teeth hurts and the game ends.  It is important to do the same teaching when puppy is playing with humans.

We want to not only teach puppy what is not ok to put his teeth on, but what is.  Having a selection of toys and chewies available is a really good idea, so when one behaviour is discouraged an appropriate one can be encouraged.  The poster below from Pet Health Network outlines these basics:

puppy bites

If “yepling” doesn’t end puppies bad biting behaviour, leave the room if puppy won’t be able to follow (over the baby gate for example) or put puppy away in his crate for a settle down period.  After a short time – a few minutes really – you can go back into the room or let puppy back out and re-initiate play using a toy that they can chase and “attack”.  It may also be a good opportunity to teach your dog to have some quiet time.  Give him a chewie or stuffed kong and let him have quiet time either on the dog bed or in their crate.  ****Be absolutely certain that the children do NOT bother puppy during this time****

 There are definitely ways to teach puppy to not resource guard and let others have what they have, but this should be done first with an adult through exchange – I will give you this toy/chewie and now I will take this toy/chewie – before ever allowing a child to do so and certainly never unsupervised.  Resource guarding is not uncommon in dogs, but through patience and trading for something better you can teach your dog that they can give up what they have because something better is coming.

If you are having any trouble with puppy biting or resource guarding, please give us a call so that we can help you and your dog successfully make it through this stage of life.

Interacting with Dogs

The following posters, taken from Dr. Shopia Yin’s (DVM, MS) site are great cartoon pictorials of how children should AND shouldn’t interact with dogs.  Her comparison of how you wouldn’t act this way with a person, so don’t act this way with a dog is a great visual and relatable way for children to understand.

Kids interact dogs

One very important piece to take note of is that ALL interactions must be supervised.  In looking up the statistics on fatal dog attacks in Canada the last 4 that have occurred (1 in 2010, 1 in 2011, 2 in 2012) were of unsupervised children.  Two in the home and two out in the yard.  There are several others that aren’t listed as being unsupervised, but seem almost certain that they were, based on what is listed.

A few things to take note of with games that kids can play with dogs:

  • Be sure that the child is not taking the ball (or other fetch toy) away from the dog, unless the dog is offering it.  (Dropping and backing off and trying to give it to the child are definite signs the dog wishes to continue the game with the child).
  • Only allow a child to run with a dog if the dog is not trying to jump on the child while they are running.  Same goes with walking, if the dog can’t walk beside the child with all four on the floor, then the child should not be walking the dog.  (a great way to work on a dog learning not to jump up is by playing the “Be a Tree” game from the video in yesterday’s post and rewarding the dog when they are not jumping up)
  • When playing hide-n-seek, have your child give the dog a treat (if the dog will take it nicely, or have the child drop it on the floor for the dog) when the dog finds them.
  • As above, when training tricks, only have the child give the dog a treat from hand if the dog knows how to take it nicely, otherwise the child can drop the treat on the floor instead.

It is important to teach a child that if they have something in their hand the dog wants to investigate or have (like a cookie), the child shouldn’t pull their hand away and up – inevitably the dog will jump up trying to get it and may knock the child over as they attempt to get it or as they attempt to get their balance.

An addition to the poster below is also to not allow your child to tease a dog.  If they have a toy, teasing the dog only encourages the dog to try and take it, possibly ending in an unintentional (or intentional due to frustration) bite as they grab for the toy.   Teasing dogs behind fences or in crates is only aggravating and frustrating to the dog.  A build in these emotions can most certainly lead to undesirable outcome for both the dog and the child.

Kids not interact dogs

The more tools we can give children on how to interact and not interact with dogs, how to understand a dog’s body language so they know when to stay away, how to be a tree, etc.  the better equipped children will be to prevent injuries/bites from occurring.  Of course there is no guarantee, but the more tools we can give them, the better.  Doing our part as parents and dog owners is vital.  Socialize your dog, train them on how to behave around children, ALWAYS supervise any child dog interactions and if you know your dog does not like children (they are wary, fearful, whatever) do NOT put them in the situation where they will feel the need to protect their self.

Dog Bite Prevention – Being a Tree Works!

be a tree

Dogs love to chase.  Really it is one of their favourite games.  They chase squirrels, rabbits, gophers, thrown balls, AND people that run.  Dogs never chase trees.  Trees are boring, they don’t move, they are no fun.

Teaching your child to “Be-a-Tree” is an excellent tool to help them be safe around loose dogs.  They can do this when a strange dog comes running towards them or when a dog they were playing with gets too rambunctious.  To be a tree the child must stop – plant their feet – fold their branches in (not up across the chest, but just hanging together in front) – watch their roots grow – and count or think of something else until help comes or the dog goes away.

The following video (provided by Doggone Safe) shows how running causes a dog to chase and how being a tree causes the dog to lose interest in the now boring children.  It is a great video and it shows at the end how moving causes the dog to re-engage.

It is part of a dog’s nature to sniff and “check out” the tree.  Be sure to teach your child to expect this, so they are not frightened by it.  Talk to your child about how dog’s greet each other, that they use their nose to recognize people or other animals and to learn about new people and animals.  As long as your child stays in this position the dog will lose interest and go away.  Before moving, your child should use their eyes, without moving their branches or unplanting their roots, to be sure the dog is gone or someone has come to take control of the dog.

A few of our team are becoming “Be A Tree” presenters.  If you wish to arrange a presentation for your child’s school or classroom or for a Beaver or Brownie/Girl Guide group, please contact us.

Being Dog Smart Starts at Home

Doggone Safe is a group that has committed themselves to educate the public and reduce the numbers of dog bites that occur.  Their site has lots of great information that we will be sharing with you. (all images included in this post are from Doggone Safe)

It is important for parents to teach their children how to be dog smart and as parents and dog owners it is important to be familiar with reading dog body language, knowing when it is safe for interaction and when it is not.  It is always in the best interest of everyone to be fair to the dog.  Never put your dog in a situation you know could be hazardous to all involved.

Jennifer, our Marketing Director is an instructor with KAOS Dogsports and has encountered many dog owners who say they feel like a bad owner and the owner of a bad dog if they tell people “No, you can’t pet my dog”.

Her advice to them; “It is your dog and if you know the situation makes them uncomfortable it is your responsibility to not put them in that position.  Better to have a stranger mad at you or thinking you have a bad dog, then having a person needing to go to the hospital and a dog whose life could be in peril”.

Her advice to those wanting to pet someone’s dog; “Always ask first and never be offended or think the worst if the owner says no.  There may be more going on in the situation that the dog is uncertain about (loud noises from traffic, too many people around, other dogs they are unsure of…) than you are aware of.”

Below are images of dogs that are unsafe to approach.  Do you know why?  See below in this blog post for the answers.

Doggone Safe

The information below is taken from the Doggone Safe site.

Starting dog safety at home…

Family Gathering

Family gatherings at a relative’s house are the source of fond memories for many. The relative’s dog may not enjoy these events as
much as the rest of the family. Noise, confusion and changes in routine are stressful for dogs.  Even a normally calm and docile pet may
become agitated enough to bite under the extreme circumstances of a boisterous family celebration. Supervision may be lax if each
adult thinks that another is watching the children. Children are the most likely victims of dog bites in this situation.

  • Put the dog in his crate with a bone or favorite chew toy, at least during the most hectic times – guests arriving and leaving as well as dinner preparation and serving.
  • Assign one adult to be in charge of the dog, to watch for signs of stress and protect from unwanted attention from children.
  • Assign one adult to supervise each baby or toddler with no other tasks expected.
  • If you have multiple dogs, consider kenneling them, crating them or keeping them in another room during large gatherings.
  • Supervise at all times.

Babysitter Awareness

Now that your baby is settled into a routine, you might want an adult night out. Once you have chosen a qualified babysitter, you will
want to make sure that she knows the dog rules. Ideally the dog can just stay in the crate while the babysitter is there, but if this is not
possible then house rules concerning the dog should be established and posted on the fridge.

  • The children are never left alone with the dog even for a second.
  • In order to gain compliance from the dog the babysitter should use treats rather than force.
  • The dog should not be bothered when eating, sleeping, chewing on something or in her special place.
  • Children may not interact with the dog when the parents are not home.
  • The babysitter should prepare by visiting the Doggone Safe website to learn how to read dog body language.

Our Family is Growing!

                Before the Baby Arrives

A playful pounce, an errant paw, a gentle tug… dog actions that seem cute now can be of concern with a baby in the picture. Before
the baby arrives is the best time to acquaint the dog with appropriate behavior and routines so the dog won’t be punished,
isolated and confused later.

  • Create a cozy den – get a crate and teach the dog to love it.
  • Brush up on obedience skills – use lots of food rewards so that the dog enjoys the sessions.
  • Vary feeding and walking schedules and accustom the dog to increased periods of alone time.
  • Carry a doll and practice commands while your hands are full. Reward for sit, down and calmness around the doll.
  • Accustom the dog to walking beside the stroller and behaving calmly around other baby equipment, such as swings and seats.
  • Introduce your dog to baby sounds, scents and equipment before baby arrives

                The Homecoming

The big day is finally here! The dog will sense something is afoot and will probably be anxious.

  • Have Dad bring home a blanket with the baby’s scent and put it on the doll; allow the dog to investigate and reward calm behaviour.
  • Have Dad or a friend tire the dog out with a strenuous exercise session earlier in the homecoming day.
  • Mom should come in first and greet the dog while Dad stays outside with the baby.
  • When the dog is calm bring in baby and drop treats on the floor around Dad’s feet for the dog to take.
  • If the dog is too excited – do not punish – move away and work on obedience with a food reward or put him in the crate with a fabulous stuffed bone or stuffed kong.
  • Ensure all experiences the dog has around the baby are positive – punishment could result in aggression toward the baby.
  • The dog may have to observe the baby from the crate for a few days – be patient.
  • Supervise at all times

                Toddler On-the-Go

A crawling or walking baby may become of interest to a previously disinterested dog.  The baby will also discover the dog, and may
hurt or frighten the dog by mistake. Neither  dog nor toddler can be expected to know how to behave around the other.

  • Do not allow a baby or toddler to hug, kiss, follow or chase the dog, or pull fur, ears or tail, or enter the dog’s crate or sleeping area.
  • Reward the dog with food treats for calm behaviour around the toddler.
  • Give the dog a safe place to retreat from the baby.
  • If a toddler or crawling baby is interacting with the dog, an adult must also have their hands on the dog.
  • Adults should use food rewards to desensitize the dog to the things a toddler may do.
  • Recognize warning signs from the dog, such as moving away, half moon eye, licking chops when not eating, yawning when not tired, sudden scratching.
  • Put the dog in his safe spot before he gets to the point of growling or snapping.
  • Supervise at all times.

                School Age Children
Older children can become involved with the care and training of the dog. A child, who is old enough to follow instructions reliably, can help with the dog under supervision.

  • Children can give the dog food and water, once the parents have taught the dog to sit and wait.
  • Children can let the dog out of the crate.
  • Create separate dog and kid zones in  the home so that each can be safe from the other.
  • Children should learn to stand still (Be a Tree) if the family dog is too frisky or any dog scares them.
  • Children should avoid strange dogs and strangers with dogs.
  • Parents should learn to read dog body language and teach the children how to tell if a dog does not want to be bothered.
  • Avoid games that pit the strength and speed of the dog against the child.
  • Even a child as young as three, can learn to help with clicker training.
  • Supervise at all times.

The answers as to why the above dogs were unsafe to approach:


How many did you know?

Here are more images on dog safety and body language:

Unhappy dog1

Unhappy dog2

Continue watching for more posts this week on dog bite prevention.

A little knowledge can go a long way.


International Dog Bite Prevention Challenge


Doggone Safe

By Joan Orr M.Sc.


Did you know that half of all kids are bitten by a dog and most often by their own dog? This information is easily verified. Just ask around and you will find that half the people you talk to will have b

een bitten as a child. Dog bites can leave children frightened of for life, or worse. The dog may lose his home, his family or even his life.  Dog bites are preventable through education.

Non-profit Doggone Safe has announced the International Dog Bite Prevention Challenge with a goal of educating 50,000 children during the months of Mar-May about safety around dogs.

What Do Kids and Dog Owners Need to Know?

Children must learn to recognize the difference between a happy dog and an anxious dog that might bite. A happy dog wags his tail loosely and pants. An anxious dog may lick his lips, yawn, turn his head away or show a half moon of white in his eye.

Children must know what to do if a strange dog approaches. Doggone Safe teaches children to stand still, fold your branches (hands folded in front), watch your roots grow (look at your feet) and count in your head until help comes or the dog goes away. This is the skill that is going to save a life or prevent a serious mauling if a child ever meets that rare and truly aggressive or predatory dog. One mother told us, “[My 3-year old daughter] was standing in a tree pose as well as she could, shivering while being surrounded by two of the dogs barking and growling at her. We would like to thank you for your campaign and online information. We are convinced that it saved our daughter’s life.”

How Can You Help?

Follow our clinic’s posts to learn about dog body language and teach your children. Watch your own dog for signs of anxiety. Supervise and intervene before the dog gets to the point of growling or biting because all of his other stress signals have been ignored.  Go to for more information.

 Teach a child – save a dog.   

Meet Piper – Biggest Loser Contestant

Day One

Day One

Piper is an 8-year-old Shih  Tzu who has been on Hill’s w/d weight reduction diet for several years now without results.  His owners have been cautious with what “extras” he gets and still the weight has not come off.  In March of 2011 Piper weighed 8 kg (17.6 lbs) now in May of 2013 he weighs 8.5 kg (18.7 lbs).  His owner wants him to have better health for the rest of his lifetime so was happy to hear about the new metabolic diet, she also plans to go for long walks, give low calorie treats and stick to the diet plan to help Piper reach his ideal weight of 4.4 kg (9.7 lbs).

When asked to describe Piper she says he is an easy-going, lovable little guy who lives with 3 other pets.  He is calm and friendly and is a great demo dog with obedience training.  He has a few favourite toys; a softie ball and a sock tied in a knot… really he likes anything soft.  His owner tells us he also enjoys going for his walks.

Good luck Piper!

Day One top view

Day One top view

Day One Side view

Day One Side view

Watch for updates on how the contestants are doing over the course of the Challenge.

Feel free to post comments and words of encouragement to each of them.  We will be certain to pass it along!

Enroll your pet!