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Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

Go faster haircuts?

Spirit's PhotoIf you work your Border Collie or thick-coated dog in the heat of the day like at a show, what is the best way to avoid overheating. Is wetting him down and having him lay in the shade any better than just resting and cooling off naturally. In the UK it might seem a radical idea but what about shearing his coat. Dr. Nicholas Carter of Border Collie Rescue goes through the pros and cons on this subject.

Okay. Okay. Here's the story...

It seems to make sense to get rid of your dog's fur to help it cool. Lose the coat to prevent overheating. After all, we take our jackets off on a hot spring day. The theory sounds great but doesn't survive closer scrutiny.

In the wild
First, almost all open plain mammals of sub-Saharan Africa retain their coats. There are no naked lions or naked wildebeests. Instead they have short but dense coats. Exposure of the skin to the air certainly increases heat loss but also exposes one to heat gain and damage by the direct sun. Experiments in the desert show light clothing may reduce heat loss by curtailing water evaporation but reduces heat gain by 55 percent as compared to without it. Heavier, looser clothing of the Arabs is the best.

Smooth coat v. rough coat collies
Obviously, smooth coat Border Collies have an advantage in hot weather. Ask any Border Collie owner in Texas or any lion in Zaire. Less of a coat is better but too little is a problem. If you have your choice and you want to work long hot hours, you get a smooth coat Border Collie.

If you're already stuck with a rough coat, do you shave him to resemble a smooth coat? No. The answer lies in how the coats develop in the two kinds. Smooth coats have much denser fur, like a giraffe or wildebeest. Rough coats may have more hair but it's a lot less compact than their smooth counterparts. If you shave them, you end up with a short-haired, low hair density dog. (Which is why shaved rough coat Border Collies get sunburned and smooth Border Collies don't). This isn't what you want as the heat gained will outdo any heat loss. What you want to do with a rough coat is to get rid of the undercoat, with an undercoat rake or brush. You want to make your dog out like an Arabic Border Collie. Loose fitting fur that completely covers the skin. That'll keep them protected from the heat gain of the sun and yet allow air to circulate in their undercoat to cool them off. Just because they don't sweat doesn't mean they don't lose heat through their skin. It's just not as efficient as us.

Dunkin' dogs
Allowing your dog to dunk itself in water is THE best way to get them to cool off with the exception of staying indoors in the air conditioning. Heck, even your dog knows this as it heads for the lake or water trough every chance it gets. Being submerged in water dissipates heat very rapidly and cools down their body core temperature enough for them to go out again and give it another go round. Heat loss as it remains wet (for the next five minutes) is probably negligibly better than being dry. The important point is being dunked in the water in the first place.

About the author...
Dr. Nicholas B. Carter
is the executive director of Border Collie Rescue, Inc. He founded the organization to answer what he saw as a necessity for specialized rescue efforts to help solve the unique problems facing placement of Border Collies into adoptive homes. Since 1990, the Florida-based organization has directed and coordinated rescue efforts of more than one thousand dogs throughout the United States and Canada.

Dr. Carter, a professional animal behaviorist and professor of wildlife ecology, also earned a J.D. in law and doctoral degrees in communications and television production. Carter earned his doctorates from Ohio State University and was the guest host for a national television show Ask the Veterinarian airing on America's Health Network.

Reprinted with kind permission of the author. All material copyright 2001 Border Collie Rescue, Inc. & Dr. Nicholas B. Carter.

http://www.bcrescue.org/shaving.html


Feedback

From Tracy Root
Read the article on shaving your dog. After working for a veterinarian for close to 7 years and having clients come in to have their heavy coated dogs shaved, I did some thinking and a little research. The coats are there for a reason. I really wish people would think about that before they 'think' they're doing their dog a favor by shaving them.

I was glad to see your article on this subject and that the vet does not recommend shaving these dogs. I have a rough coat BC and in the summer, I make sure she has a barrel of water to jump in to cool down. When I start to compete with her, I'll set up a kiddy pool and bring a barrel of water to fill it. I've seen many an owner at trials do this.

Thanks for the article. Hope people take it to heart. (07/03/02)