Many people think that keeping a dog’s coat long through the winter keeps it warm. Unfortunately, this is not always true, and many poor animals suffer because of it. And usually it is in springtime that we see the unfortunate results of these decisions.
Those long coats that we are cleaning up in spring reveal problems that have festered over the winter. Matts, hot spots, fungal infections, even open wounds are often hidden by pelted coats that have been left too long between grooming. These problems can lead to hundreds of dollars in vet bills, and worse, pain for the dog. And those matts prevent us from doing a nice grooming job, and can necessitate a shave off.
Add to this the problems that occur when a long coated dog rolls around in the snow. Now the matts get worse and tighten up, and the melted snow collects under them, making a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus.
Worst of all, the intent of keeping the dog warm by leaving his coat long actually does the opposite. Long, matted hair traps moisture in against the skin. Think of it like wearing a winter coat over a wet wool sweater underneath. Even the best down coat will not keep you warm with that wet sweater against your skin. That’s how the dog feels.
A short, well groomed hairstyle lets the skin breath, keeps it dry and warm. The air gap in the fur that provides the insulation protects the dogs from the cold. Should you want to put a sweater or jacket on the dog, even better, because short hair is less likely to matt from the rubbing of the sweater. And because the fur is well maintained and the skin is dry, the dog will stay warm and play outside longer.
Another benefit of winter grooming is proper nail care. In the summer, dog's nails wear down as they walk on pavement or cement. This natural nail trim keeps ahead of nail growth, and keeps the dog pain free in walking. But in the winter, there is no abrasion to wear the nails down. The ice and snow do not act the same way as pavement or cement. When you bring a dog in for winter grooming, we trim and file the nails, keeping them from getting long and causing pain. Trimmed nails also make putting on boots an easier task, and protects the boots from wearing from the inside out.
When you pick up your dog from grooming, make sure it is dry, especially double coated dogs, like Huskies, Shepards and Goldens (yes, these breeds can be groomed, and you'll love not having to vacuum every day!). It takes a lot longer to do properly, but a good grooming shop will send your dog home fully dried. This also means that any "carding out" of the coat was done dry, which yields the best, longest lasting results. When you card out dry, you get most of the dead undercoat, leaving the live undercoat that actually keeps the dog warm, and allows the dog to dry between outdoor escapades.
It is not difficult to keep your pet warm and healthy through the winter, it just takes a little new knowledge to make it all make sense.