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Dogs & Shedding: Everything You Need To Know

 by michelle on 12 Aug 2014 |
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When choosing the right dog for you and your family, it’s important to consider the “shed factor.” Although all breeds shed, there are some that shed a lot less than others. If you have allergies, a dog on the lighter end of the shedding spectrum is probably best for your health. Even if you don’t suffer from allergies, you should make sure you can commit to regular grooming and the potential clean up required for a dog who sheds a decent amount. Continue reading below to understand more about shedding and the factors that influence it. 

Why do dogs shed?

Shedding by definition is a process of losing old or damaged hair. All animals shed, though the amount depends on several factors:


1. Coat Type
  • Dog’s with undercoats tend to shed more than those without. The undercoat is the hair underneath what is known as the guard coat. Unlike the guard coat which sheds all year round, the undercoat sheds with the seasons. When winter is on it’s way, dogs shed their lighter undercoat and grow in a much thicker one for the cold, and vice versa for the summertime. As you can imagine, a dog with two coats is going to shed more hair than a dog with one.
  • It’s also true that dogs with long fine hair, wiry or curly hair shed less. The reason for this lies in the natural life cycle of hair follicles. Follicles have two phases: a growing phase and a shedding phase. A dog who has hair that is continuously in the growing phase, such as a Yorkshire Terrier, will shed less. On the other hand, short haired breeds like a Dalmation will shed more because their hair follicles do not live as long.  

2. Health & Nutrition
  • A dog whose diet is lacking protein will also shed more often. Absorbable proteins in food keep a dog’s skin oiled and healthy. Without these proteins the skin suffers and in turn, so do the hair follicles. A dog’s coat will become dry and brittle, with hair that breaks off easily especially around the back and hips.
  • A dog that scratches himself frequently or a dog that is very stressed out, will also show signs of increased shedding.

3. Environmental Factors

Shedding is associated with the change in seasons so it makes sense that temperature and sunlight - specifically the length of the day - influence the process. However, most dogs live indoors where the temperature is consistent and the light is artificial. Because of this, dogs tend to shed continuously throughout the year as opposed to an annual or biannual shed.


4. Other Factors
  • Hormones
  • Pregnancy
  • Overbathing

Best & Worst Breeds For Shedding 

There is no such thing as a non-shedding dog, but there are breeds that shed very little. These breeds have less undercoat, continually growing hair, and are sometimes referred to as hypoallergenic. Though the term “hypoallergenic” is considered a myth by many, it is true that a dog that sheds less will spread less of it’s dander. Less dander around the home means less of an opportunity to cause symptoms for allergy sufferers.

Some of the most common light shedders: 
  • Poodle
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Bichon Frise
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Miniature Schnauzer

The majority of dog breeds shed a decent amount, but as I’m sure you’ve noticed, this hasn’t stopped people from adopting them and bringing them into their homes.

To give you an idea, here’s a sample list of dogs that shed a good amount:
  • Corgi
  • American Eskimo
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Pug
  • Newfoundland

Tips

For a dog with a healthy coat, shedding is a normal process that can’t be stopped. What you can do instead is prevent the dead hair from spreading all over your home. The only way to do so is with frequent grooming. Brush your dog regularly with a brush or comb that’s right for your dog’s coat type. There are many different kinds of brushes each with their own function, so it’s not uncommon to need more than one type.


Before you bring home a dog, make sure you’re willing to commit to the grooming and cleaning that may be required, especially if there’s someone in your home with allergies. For a complete list of breeds that can be sorted by amount of shedding, check out Purina’s dog breed library here.

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