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A Samoyed’s long, gleaming coat is its hallmark. But taking care of all that hair can be challenging, and many owners worry about how their dogs will cope with hot weather. But shaving Samoyed dogs is a highly controversial practice. While some groomers and owners say there’s no harm in shaving Samoyeds, many breeders and veterinarians differ.
Before taking the clippers to your dog, here’s what you should know about shaving a Samoyed’s coat.
About Samoyed Coats
The first thing people notice about Samoyed dogs is their coats. The Samoyed Club of America said Samoyed coats have two layers: a dense undercoat, and a coarser outer coat made up of long guard hairs.1
If you’ve ever pet a Samoyed, you know how thick and dense that coat can be. And if you’ve ever brushed one, you know dealing with all that hair can be overwhelming. Samoyeds shed a tremendous amount, particularly during their “coat blows.” It’s not uncommon to fill up whole trash bags with hair.
The Samoyed’s coat is similar to that of the wild wolf. According to D. Thad Whitaker and Elaine A. Ostrander, researchers with the National Institutes of Health, the double-coat performs several functions:
- Injury prevention: The thick coat helps protect the dog from superficial injuries, such as cuts from branches or vegetation.
- Repels moisture: The coat keeps most moisture from reaching the skin; the guard hairs keep out dew and light rainfall.
- Temperature protection: Of course, the dense hair also provides protection against extreme temperatures, making the Samoyed able to tolerate the coldest weather.2
Can You Shave a Samoyed? Pros and Cons
If you’re considering shaving your Samoyed, there are some advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind:
Pro: It May Make Your Pet More Comfortable
It’s important to remember that Samoyeds — like all dogs — only sweat through their feet and nose; the rest of the body doesn’t sweat at all. Purdue’s Center for Animal Welfare Science reported that the only way dogs can cool themselves is through panting. Panting allows them to lose heat through evaporation, but panting isn’t always effective. If they aren’t able to cool themselves, they could develop heatstroke.3
In an article published in Veterinary Medicine, an international journal of veterinary science, researchers said that canine heatstroke is a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition that occurs when the dog’s core body temperature rises above 41°C (105.8°F).4
A Samoyed’s thick coat makes it harder for them to cool down, so shaving has the potential to make your pet more comfortable in warm months, particularly if you don’t have an air-conditioned home.
Con: Your Samoyed Is Vulnerable to Sunburns
If you part a Samoyed’s coat, you may be surprised how pale the skin is. Samoyeds have very pale pink or white skin. Their skin is susceptible to sunburns, but their coat provides excellent protection against the sun’s harmful rays.
When a Samoyed is shaved, you remove that protection, increasing your dog’s chances of developing a painful sunburn.
Just like in people, sunburns in dogs can have long-lasting effects. Your dog can even develop skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma.
According to The National Canine Cancer Foundation, this condition accounts for 5% of all cutaneous tumors found in dogs, and the prognosis for dogs that develop it is poor.5
[Tip: If your pet is outside for a prolonged period of time or has recently been shaved, use a canine sunscreen to protect them from the sun.]
Pro: The Hair Is Easier to Manage
Shaving a Samoyed removes the outer guard hairs, leaving just the thick undercoat. If your dog is matted, shaving the dog may be the only option you have, removing the mats and allowing you to brush the remaining hair.
However, a Samoyed will still shed their undercoats, so it doesn’t eliminate the need to brush regularly (or the need to vacuum!).
Con: Your Samoyed’s Coat May Take Years to Recover
Anecdotally, many owners and breeders report that Samoyed coats are severely damaged by shaving. The hair that grows back is often a different texture, or it may grow back patchy or wispy in places. It can take years — if at all — for the coat to return to its original glory.
Pro: It Can Help Keep Your Dog Clean After a Medical Procedure
If your dog has a medical procedure, the veterinarian will often shave around the impacted areas, all the way down to the skin. This helps keep any incisions clean, preventing infection and making it easier to apply any ointments or medications afterward.
Con: Your Pet May Have a Higher Risk of Overheating
Although your pet may feel more comfortable without all that hair at first, shaving can cause them to overheat.
It may sound completely counterintuitive, but a Samoyed’s thick coat can actually help it stay cool. In his paper “Temperature Adaptation in Northern Breeds,” scientist Ted Greenlee discussed how Samoyeds had to adapt to temperatures quickly since — surprisingly— Arctic temperatures can rise into the 70s or 80s F.
Greenlee said the coat helps insulate Samoyeds from the heat, likening it to how it’s easier to cool a well-insulated room than a non-insulated room. In fact, Greenlee said they might be more able to adapt to higher temperatures than short-haired dogs.6
By shaving your pet, you remove that vital protection, causing them to have a higher risk of overheating.
The Verdict: Avoid Shaving Samoyed Dogs (If You Can)
Although there are some limited advantages to shaving Samoyed dogs, the downsides are significant. From leaving your pet susceptible to sunburns to increasing the likelihood of heatstroke, shaving can cause more harm than good, so skip the Samoyed summer haircut.
Under limited circumstances, shaving may be acceptable and even beneficial. For example, a dog that has a medical condition that needs surgery. Or a dog is severely matted and needs to be shaved. But for the majority of Samoyeds, shaving should be avoided.
Instead, regular brushing can remove the excess undercoat and improve circulation, helping to keep your dog cool. And in hot summer months, keep your dog in an air-conditioned room and limit exercise to the coolest parts of the day.
- The Samoyed Club of America. “The Samoyed.” https://www.samoyedclubofamerica.org/the-samoyed/
- Whitaker, D. Thad and Ostrander, Elaine A. Genes. “Hair of the Dog: Identification of a Cis-Regulatory Module Predicted to Influence Canine Coat Composition.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6562840/
- Jordan, Mary, Bauer, Amy E., and Stella, Judith L. Purdue University Center for Animal Welfare. “Temperature Requirements for Dogs.” https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/va/va-16-w.pdf
- Romanici, Mariarita and Della Salda, Leonardo. Veterinary Medicine. “Pathophysiology and Pathological Findings of Heatstroke in Dogs.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7337213/
- The National Canine Cancer Foundation. “Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) In Dogs Explained.” https://wearethecure.org/learn-more-about-canine-cancer/canine-cancer-library/squamous-cell-carcinoma/
- Greenlee, Ted. Samoyed.org. Originally published in the Samoyed Club of Colorado’s newsletter. “Temperature Adaptation in Northern Breeds.” http://www.samoyed.org/temperature-adaptation/