Sorry, but it’s true. There’s nothing you can do to keep your dog from shedding. Nor should you want to.
Shedding is a natural, ongoing process for dogs, just as it is for humans. As anyone who’s ever worn a black sweater or jacket can attest, regular brushing and combing won’t prevent some divestment of hair. But some dogs, like some people (say, males of a certain age), shed more than others. The double-coated breeds are the worst offenders; many send forth so much hair that they practically create an alternative dog, giving rise to the expression “blowing coat” (which has always sounded vaguely druggie to me).
Which brings to mind — I’m not even going to try to explain the chain of associations — the fact that some people spin dog hair and weave or knit it into clothing. I find this intensely creepy –- not the least because, should I be complimented on them, I wouldn’t want to admit that I was wearing a scarf or sweater made from Frankie.
A coat for some seasons
The only consolation about the mass exodus of hair is that it’s seasonal, and therefore predictable. Increases in daylight and warmth in spring signal certain canine brains to release hormones that spur the dogs’ undercoat to grow and push off their topcoats. A similar though somewhat less dramatic version of this process occurs in fall, when the pups know they need to grow a new winter coat (unlike kids who always require back-to-school wear, at least dogs do it themselves and never demand designer labels).
A few things can interfere with regular shedding.
- Seasonal confusion: If you keep a dog who’s genetically programmed to shed seasonally indoors most of the time, he may not register natural changes in temperature and light and therefore shed year round. Copiously. Which proves it’s a bad idea to mess with Mother Nature.
- Bad shampooing practices: Using human shampoo can dry your dog’s skin, as can shampooing too often. Even dog shampoos with perfumes that are not from natural sources may result in hypersensitivity –- all additional causes of shedding.
- Overstimulation: Excitement and stress can trigger hair-loss hormones, too. If you can’t get your dog to meditate, consider Doga.
- Health problems: In rare cases, excessive shedding may be a symptom of a health problem, from a food allergy to a thyroid imbalance. If your dog isn’t the shedding sort or if the off-season hair loss seems excessive, check with your vet.
Still, if shedding can’t be prevented through grooming, it can be managed by it; see my recent do-it-yourself grooming post. It’s far better to have hairs concentrated on a brush or on a newspaper than randomly faux-carpeting your floor or creating furry throws for your couch. You can entrap large swathes of your dog’s coat with a rake or de-shedding tool*, even –- or especially – during her molting season.
There’s always the vacuuming fallback. But that’s for another post.
*Exciting news: The response in the comments section of the aforementioned grooming post was so enthusiastic about the FURminator, one of the included products, that the company noticed and offered to send me one for review. I can’t use a FURminator on Frankie, who would be completely denuded, but I plan to give one away in a contest.