How to Shave a Dog: More Than a Fashion Statement

dog's hair
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Responsible dog owners are very conscious of their pet’s grooming. Part of that involves shaving—a key requirement for health and comfort. Professional dog grooming can be costly, depending on the breed and your budget. With the right know-how, though, you can shave your dog’s hair right at home, and even give him a fashion-worthy look. That said, do you know how to shave a dog?

If you don’t, we’ve got you covered; we have everything that you need to know. If you do, this is a great opportunity to compare notes. A DIY shave will give your dog a personalized look. Cutting your dog’s hair will benefit both of you hygiene-wise. It will also be cost-effective and a good measure to free up money for your pup’s other needs. With well-kept hair, his coat will collect less dirt, making it much easier to wash and dry him.

So how do you go about this? We have prepared a detailed guide about cutting your dog’s hair, including the benefits, shaving trends that you can try, and the risks that come with excessive shaving. Let’s dive in!

Does Your Dog Need to Be Shaved?

Each dog is unique and reacts differently to shaving. Some breeds are not even meant to be shaved. Below are points that can guide in determining if your pooch should be shaved.

#1: The Type of Coat


Dogs with a double coat, i.e. those breeds with two layers of hair shouldn’t be shaved. Such breeds include the likes of Huskies and Chow Chows.

Their top layer is made to be a guard for their undercoat (down hairs or ground hairs) which helps them to stay warm in the winter and keep cool during the hot summer. In fact, they manage their coat by shedding hairs in the spring in preparation for the summer.

Unlike double-coated dogs, those with a single coat can be shaved. Breeds such as Poodles and Maltese fall in this category and can be shaved down to the skin because their hair grows back without any problem.

Lastly, dogs with water-resistant coats might need to keep their hair. These are breeds whose coat repels water, are fond of swimming, and are outdoorsy. If shaved, the new coat may not grow with the oils that help in repelling water.

#2: Your Dog’s Personality

sgaving a dog

Some dogs react badly to being shaved—they feel as they’ve been stripped something that should remain. If yours is such a dog, even if the reason was genuine like treating a bad skin condition, you should leave the shaving to a professional.

On the other hand, some dogs embrace shaving quite readily and will not cause any fuss.

#3: Time Spent Outdoors

dog playing outdoors

If most of the time your dog is indoors with proper air conditioning, shaving him won’t be bad for him. But if he spends most of his time outdoors, where he can get sunburns or overheat, shaving might not be such a good idea. That is unless his coat is overgrown and matted.

#4: Health Condition

shaved dog

Some dogs must be shaved because of their dermatologic conditions. Shorter hair allows the conditions to be managed and treated easily. Some topical medications may need to be administered, which would be ineffective with long hair getting in the way.

Benefits of Shaving Your Dog

The advantages of a well-groomed dog go beyond good looks. Here is more on what a shave means for you and your dog;

#1: It is a Way to Bond With Your Pooch

shaving a puppy

Shaving your dog allows you to spend more time with him. This activity helps to build confidence, love, and trust, as well as make your pooch feel that he belongs to your family.

It’s a process that allows him to enjoy being handled by you. The activity also helps in improving his veterinarian visits since it makes him associate handling with a good experience.

#2: It Helps in Showing Early Warning Signs and Parasites

Shaving your dog will help you notice any abnormalities in his coat like rashes, lumps, skin lesions, skin discolorations, and bald patches. This will enable early detection of any underlying diseases or conditions.

#3: Saves You Money

saving money

Shaving your dog will save from incurring professional dog grooming costs, which can be as much as $100 for one session. By saving on this, you can invest in other needs like canine gear, microchips, treats, and toys.

#4: It Improves Your Dog’s Emotional Health

Shaving can have a positive and uplifting effect on your dog. It allows him to feel free and smell better—especially in the rear area where poop can get stuck. Some dogs also love shorter hair because it gives them the freedom to move and play easily.

Equipment and Materials Needed to Shave Your Dog

Clipper oil

There are tools you need in order to shave your dog well. Make sure that you purchase veterinary certified and quality tools. The equipment is supposed to be sharp, and materials such as clipper oil should be non-toxic to both you and your dog.

  • Slicker brush: This is a grooming brush with fine wire bristles that are packed together tightly. It is used for the removal of any loose hair, debris, or knots in your dog’s hair.
  • Dog clippers: This is an electronic tool that is specialized for cutting dog hair. Unlike human clippers, it has a stronger motor and a stronger blade to allow easy cutting of the coat. For a dog, get a clipper that isn’t loud to avoid scaring him.
  • Scissors: These can be used as an alternative to dog clippers. To use scissors, though, you need to have patience and steady hands, or you will end up nicking his skin.
  • Clipper oil: This is used to lubricate the clippers to enhance performance and also keep them from rusting, especially the moving parts.
  • Dematter: This is a tool that can be used to detangle the hair of a matted dog. Its design resembles that of a rake, with teeth specialized to work on mat and tangles, and also to brush the hair.

See Also: DIY Dog Grooming Table

How to Shave Your Dog

Now that we have covered the basics, let’s get to the exercise. Shaving a dog isn’t as straightforward as you might think; you need to take extra care and follow some crucial steps to do it successfully.

Below is a step by step guide on how to shave your friend properly.

Step #1: Assemble Your Tools and Calm Down Your Dog

calming down a dog

You need to purchase and assemble all the tools mentioned above. You can get them from a pet store. Each serves a purpose and is essential for success. Next, take your dog to the shaving area, preferably a table, and calm him down

You can offer your dog a treat and make him comfortable. Let him sniff the tools to familiarize himself. For example, you can turn on the clipper as he enjoys his treat so that he finds it normal. If it’s your first time, you also need to calm down if you’re nervous; a dog can sense your emotions which can make him uncomfortable too.

Step #2: Wash and Brush Your Dog

Bathe and brush your dog to remove any tangles and clumps that may be hard to run the dog clippers through. Tangles and clumps can also lead to a painful experience for your dog.

Brushing will also get rid of hanging hairs that can make you misjudge your dog’s hair length—something very vital in preventing excessive shaving. After this, you can restrict your dog using a collar to prevent any unnecessary movements. If your dog is squirmy, you can request help from a friend or family member to hold him down.

Step #3: Start Shaving

shaving a dog

Pick your clippers and start shaving the dog from the head to the rear. Ensure that you aren’t shaving against the direction of the coat. Remember, the direction of the coat will change in specific areas, and you should also change the shaving direction accordingly. Use gentle and slow strokes. When shaving the face, stay one inch away from his eyes and ears.

You should also check to ensure the clippers don’t get too hot. You can manage the temperatures by:

  • Alternating with another clipper if you have multiple clippers
  • Changing blades if you’ve got spare ones
  • Applying the lubricant (oil) or spraying some clipper coolant
  • Turning off and leaving the blade to cool for a few minutes

From the head, you can move your way down to his neck, the chest, and then his shoulders. When you reach his legs, hold one of his front limbs high to lift it so that you can trim it. The coat is very thin around this area, so you should avoid overdoing it.

Remember to clip the hair on his paws too. You can finish the front section by clipping the underarms hair.

Now you can move and start clipping your dog’s back from his neck to his tail. Once done, start dealing with his sides then move to his back limbs (both inside and the outside).

After you are done, you can start clipping the belly area. This is a sensitive area and you need to be careful not to burn your dog as some parts have little to no hair.

See Also: Best Dog Grooming Clippers

Step #4: Shaving Your Dog’s Rear

This is one of the most unpleasant areas and also difficult to shave. Dog’s don’t like any disturbance on their rear end, as it’s very sensitive.

That said, the area needs to be shaved since if there is long hair on the rump, it can easily get matted or have poop stuck there. This can be unpleasant, unhygienic, smelly, or he can even get parasites. So how do you go about shaving his backside?

  • First, lift up his tail and move it to one side
  • Brush his backside hair from top to bottom using a slicker brush
  • If there are tangles, feces, or any form of debris, remove them gently
  • Due to the sensitivity of the area, don’t use a clipper; cut the hair on the area with scissors that have safety tips
  • Cut from top to bottom, with the scissors parallel but not touching your dog’s skin

Expert Tip: You can cut the hair around this area more than the rest of his body to ensure he stays clean long after the shave.

Step #5: Cleaning the Eyes

cleaning dog eyes

After shaving your pooch, it is important to clean his eyes as well as his ears thoroughly but carefully to prevent irritation by any cut hair.

Use a small towel by laying it over the top of his muzzle and eyes. Use your thumb plus your forefinger to gently dry that area. This will prevent any irritation that may make your dog dread the next shaving session.

Step #6: Give Your Dog a Cool Bath

After all the shaving is done, it’s time to give your canine friend a cool bath. This will rinse off his hair and also calm his skin. When washing his skin, keep your dog from rubbing or scratching because it could end up creating hotspots.

How to Shave a Matted Dog

Matted Dog

Mats are common in dogs with soft and downy hair. Matted dog hair is the worst—it makes your dog look ugly as well as dirty, and the smell is sometimes unpleasant. Beyond that, it is very difficult to shave it because it can hurt. While the process is similar to that of unmatted hair, here are some important pointers on how to shave a matted dog:

  • Dematting takes a long time, and your friend needs to get used to standing through the whole process. You can train him to stay standing for long when he is young using treats during brushing and bathing times.
  • Never bathe your matted dog before brushing his hair. You can use corn starch to loosen his mats then brush out the mats. Remember, mats start at the base of his hair; use your fingers to locate the mats first.
  • The most common areas of mat formation are behind the ears, behind the legs, the armpits, and the area where the collar rubs. Don’t try to cut matted hair before brushing as some mats can be tight and have skin caught up in them.
  • After shaving, bathe your pooch and apply a detangler cream or spray. It helps to helps keep the hair from matting again.
  • Feed your dog with healthy food (omega-3 or fish oil) to help him get a healthy coat with less matted hair. You can also regularly groom and brush him to control the mats.

How to Treat and Deal with Clipper Burn

As earlier noted, dog clippers get hot during use, which can lead to clipper burns. A Clipper burn (razor rash) is characterized by red rashes, that may or may not have bumps.

Clipper burns mostly result from clipping your dog very close to his skin. Clipper burns are also more likely to affect dogs with sensitive skin. As a result, his skin becomes irritated, and he may scratch or lick the area affected. To treat the burn:

#1: Soothe the Rash

This is important as it prevents any infections that target the raw and exposed skin. Soothing also prevents licking, scratching, and rubbing of the affected area because of irritation. Use an antibiotic ointment, with a prescription, for this.

#2: Use an Elizabeth Collar

Elizabeth Collar for a dog

This is a cone-shaped plastic used to prevent dogs from licking a wound or removing surgery stitches.

#3: Visit the Vet

After soothing the clipper burn, you should take your dog to the vet for inspection. The vet will examine the extent of the rash and may recommend oral or topical medication, or both.

Possible Risks of Excessive Shaving

Shaving is good, but if you overdo it, you might make your canine friend prone to the risks that come with short hair. Each breed has a required length of hair, and if you exceed it with the shaving, your dog may be prone to:

#1: Sunburns

dog on the beach

Sunburns happen when your dog’s skin is exposed to damaging UV rays. Sunburns are characterized by pinkish skin which is sensitive to touch.

If you’ve already over-shaved without knowing, you can prevent sunburns by using child-safe SPF 30 sunscreen on your dog and helping him avoid the hot sun. For example, you can limit his outdoor activities until the burns subside.

#2: Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is actually the most common type of cancer found in the dog family. It mostly results from damage to skin cells from excessive sun exposure. With the skin being the largest organ, shaving him excessively might be a huge mistake.

#3: Overheating

dog is hot

Reduction of dog coats actually reduces the dog’s ability to cool down in the summer months. His coat’s ability to trap air that acts as insulation is greatly impaired with short hair. With high temperatures, and especially if he is naturally long-haired, he is likely to overheat and suffer from dehydration or heat strokes.

#4: Increased Dandruff

Excessive shaving will mostly result in dry skin due to loss of moisture and exposure to the sun. This leads to flakiness and excessive shedding of old dead skin cells—a condition referred to as dog dandruff.

It makes your dog itch and have irritated skin, which can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, not to mention skin flakes all over your furniture.

See Also: How to Get Rid of Dog Dandruff

#5: Permanent Hair Damage

Excessive clipping can also lead to permanent changes in a dog’s coat. The outer layer may not be able to grow back again to its original length. His undercoat may become sticky and easy to mat as well as have debris attracted to it more easily.

Dog Shaving Myths

Dog shaving is rather controversial; some believe it should be done while others are strongly against it. This has led to many myths which we have debunked below.

#1: Shaving Your Dog Will Stop Shedding

dog's hair

This is a common misconception around shaving. As mentioned earlier, dogs with double coats are meant to naturally undergo shedding in the spring—a natural cycle that is not affected by shaving.

#2: Shaving Your Dog Will Keep Him Cool in the Summer

This is a myth; it has the opposite effect. Dogs don’t cool down the same way we do, especially when it is hot. Dogs with short and crimped hairs use their hair to efficiently trap air for insulation. This helps your dog to feel cool when it is hot and warm when it’s cold.

#3: Dog Hair Always Grows Back

shaved dog

Dog hair growing back isn’t a guarantee for some breeds. Hair growth is influenced by many factors such as age and type of coat. In fact, if you cut the hair of your double coated dog, the hair may not grow back to the way it was even after 10 years.

In some breeds, the new hair remains frizzy, patchy, and dull in appearance. The undercoat may regrow but the upper guard hairs may not. Your dog’s hair even becomes more likely to mat, especially in the winter.

#4: Shaving Will Help Reduce Allergies

Maybe you or members of your family are getting allergies from the hair of your pooch; as unfortunate as that is, shaving won’t help. It is the dander on your dog’s hair and skin that is bringing about the allergies; not the hair.

And because the dander is a collection of dry, dead skin cells which reside on the undercoat, shaving him will expose you to more of it. That’s not all—it may also make him suffer from dandruff because his skin will be more exposed, dry, and flaky.

Wrap Up

shaving dogs

If your dog needed some hair clipping, knowing a thing or two about shaving him will do both you and your dog some good.

Shaving your dog comes with its pros and cons, plus the fact that there are factors that determine if he actually needs a shave. Since every dog is unique, weigh your options and make a decision that leaves both of you happy.

As noted above, clipping burns are common; make sure you give your pooch the best care if it happens, and lastly, always make sure you use clean and well-maintained tools for this process.

If your four-legged friend is a fashion dog, or you are a dog show enthusiast, you may want to go with winning shaving styles. Apart from paw prints and lion manes

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.