Ten years ago, my wife and I saw a listing on Craigslist for an 18-month-old Siberian husky. Within a few seconds of meeting Dio, I knew he was our dog. In the years since, we’ve cared for him in little ways (a grain-free diet that agrees with his sensitive stomach!) and big ways (removing a tennis ball-sized tumor from his liver, as well as an actual tennis ball from his intestines that he somehow managed to swallow). But when you have a husky in the Texas summer, no matter how well you care for him, and no matter where he came from, strangers will say: “I bet he’s hot, huh?”
He is, in fact, hot. It’s Texas. The heat index this past week has been well over 100 degrees in Austin. We’re all hot. The thing is, he lives in a house with air-conditioning and plenty of water, with the added bonus of having no errands to run during the middle of the day. He goes for walks late at night or early in the morning, when the temperatures have dropped from “sweltering” to “just a little bit unpleasant.” And despite the heat, our answer to the frequent follow-up question—”Do you shave him in the summer?—is always no.
Generally speaking, shaving a dog in the summer ranges from unnecessary to an outright bad idea. The ASPCA advises against it for most breeds—and that’s especially true of huskies. They have a double coat that serves to insulate them from the heat, and helps to regulate their body temperature. Shaving double-coat dogs means robbing them of the insulation that keeps heat on the outside, and it’s unlikely to grow back evenly, which means that—at best—it’s an attempt to address a short-term problem that comes with long-term consequences. And it’s not just huskies like Dio with double coats; golden retrievers, labradors, German shepherds, and a whole lot of other breedshave them, too. And as the ASPCA also notes, dogs with thick coats naturally shed, and they tend to have lighter coats in the summer as a result.
Shaving a dog with a single coat, meanwhile, isn’t harmful. Poodles are frequently shorn, for instance, and those owners aren’t doing their dog a disservice—but it’s mostly for aesthetic value, as it still doesn’t completely keep them cool in the summer. (Though if the dog spends a lot of time lying on a tile floor in an air-conditioned environment, it might feel nice to have the cool ground directly on their skin.) That’s because dogs don’t sweat through their pores. When people see me and Dio walking around in the summer, they’ll often say things like, “I’d be miserable if I had to wear a big fur coat in this heat!” And that’s true of people. But the reason a big fur coat makes a human miserable in the summer is that it prevents heat from escaping their body, since humans release heat by sweating out of their skin. Instead, dogs release heat by sweating out of their tongue and their paws. If someone sees your dog on a hot day with his tongue lolling to the side, panting away, they needn’t assume that he or she’s miserable — that’s how they cool off.