Buried in Fur: Tips to Deal With Dog Undercoat Shedding
Single Coat vs. Double Coat Dogs
There are dogs, like our Siberian Husky, who have a double coat. A double coat is just as it sounds, two coats. The top coat is usually a more wiry-type hair. This layer protects the dog's second coat, known as the undercoat. The undercoat is characterized by a very soft, downy-type of fur. The undercoat acts almost like thermal underwear, keeping the dog warm. Dogs with double coats tend to shed their undercoats twice a year with changing seasons.
Single coat dogs generally shed considerably less than dogs with double coats. These dogs have only a top coat of fur. If you part their fur, you can easily see their skin beneath.
Removing the Undercoat
Every year during Spring and Fall, Anakin will inevitably wake up one morning looking like he has the mange. His normally smooth-looking coat will have tufts of fur sticking out. We know then that the time has come to commence the de-shedding process.
Use an Undercoat Rake
One thing to understand right away—an ordinary dog brush will not remove your dog's undercoat. An undercoat rake is made especially for removing the tufts of undercoat your dog's body is trying to rid him of.
It takes a smooth, steady stroke with the rake to begin removing the undercoat. As the majority of dog's that have shedding undercoats are large, it takes quite a while to get through all of the fur. After all, there's a lot of body there! Resist the urge to exert more pressure to pull more fur with each stroke. Not only does it irritate your dog's skin (and mood), it also makes your wrist hurt after a bit.
I have a friend who brushes her dog once a day for a couple of days, and the undercoat is gone. I have not been so lucky. Anakin and I battle it out a couple times a day, sometimes for a week or more before his undercoat is completely gone. Now, remember folks, he's a stinker. When I brush his back legs, he likes to give me a swift kick every now and then. He has a tickle spot right around his haunches and likes to try to bite the rake. Most often, he just makes his annoyance known by any sound he can make. To know him is to love him!
Minimizing Fur Around the House
For certain, clumps of fur can be found throughout the house during that week or two during the shedding season. It's inevitable. Here are some tips we've learned along the way that I hope will help you as well.
- A little confinement goes a long way. During this shedding period, it is helpful if you can limit the areas of the house your dog can go. For example, we put a baby gate up so Anakin can't get up to our bedrooms during this time.
- Daily vacuuming. You'll find fur everywhere, literally. My husband is militant with the vacuum; twice a day, every day. This is a must during the shedding season. There's nothing worse than feeling like you got a ton of the big guy and then looking around to see clumps everywhere.
- Squeegee—more than just for windows. In our home, we have hardwood floors throughout. In each room, however, there is at least one area rug. I try to keep Anakin laying on the larger rug in the living room - easier said than done sometimes, but regardless it helps keep the hair I'm brushing confined to one spot. When I'm finished with him and he goes out back to "run it out" as I tell him, I have found that I can use the rubber end of the Squeegee against the carpet and the extra fur comes right up. I was so excited when this worked, and it was so easy.
- Lint brush, lint brush, lint brush. You can never have too many during shedding season. There's no getting out of the house without some fur, somewhere. We use our lint brushes on the furniture at least once a day to keep the fur at bay. I suggest keeping a lint brush in the glove box of your vehicle. We have one in our truck, and it's nice to be able to use it outside of the hot zone.
Owning a Dog With an Undercoat
My Siberian Husky, Anakin, has a strong personality... and not one that everyone is able to appreciate. Take his former groomer. Yes, former. He's been asked not to come back there for grooming. Whenever the groomer would bathe him, he would let out a bellowing Husky howl/scream that could wake the dead. Stop the water stream, stop the screaming. Start again, he starts again. You get the picture. Apparently, he was getting the other dogs all riled up. I wasn't mad about it, he gives me a run for my money quite often.
So I started doing the majority of his grooming at home. Our local vet's office clips his nails. My husband has to pick him up and hold him so that his feet hang down. He moans and groans the whole time, and then runs to the receptionist at the front desk who, without fail, has a liver snack ready and waiting for him. Like I said, personality.
While all of those traits really endear him to me, the shedding is another story. I'm not exaggerating when I say I brush enough fur from his body in one sitting equal to a small Shih Tzu. Wow. Prior to him, I've never owned a dog with an undercoat. Twice a year we go through the major shedding with him.
Show Some Love
Remember, as irritating as it can get trying to get rid of all that undercoat, it's just as irritating for your furry friend. Talk nicely to your dog and encourage him during the process. A treat at the end is a nice touch, and your dog may be more accepting of the next raking session. Depending how much "fun" Anakin and I have had, I'm likely to treat myself to a little Ben & Jerry's afterwards.
Removing your dog's undercoat is a repetitive, sometimes unpleasant task. It's worth taking the time for both you and your dog. If you let the fur fall out on its own, you're looking at double or triple the fall-out time; to me, that means a grumpy dog and a fur-filled house. I'll take the raking, thank you!
Top Ten Breeds That Shed the Most
- German Shepherd
- Siberian Husky
- Alaskan Malamute
- Norwegian Elkhound
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
Would you base your dog-adopting decision based solely on the shedding factor?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.