For many years, Eric Taylor refused to perform crew cuts on many popular dog breeds. Taylor, owner of the Dog Father Groomery in Riverton, Utah, says the "old-school" training he received 25 years ago discouraged close crops.
"You just did not shave any double-coated dogs," he said, referring to breeds with two layers of fur, such as German shepherds, huskies and chows.
A golden retriever named Gator brought a change in Taylor's professional code. Gator belonged to Taylor's sister, and the dog clearly suffered in the heat.
"The older he got, the harder it got for him to move around and even breathe during the summer," Taylor said.
When his sister started having Gator's coat shaved, Taylor noticed an improvement. So, in recent years, Taylor has been willing to shave dogs for his customers. But like other groomers and veterinarians, he warns customers that shaving brings certain risks. A shaved dog can be susceptible to sunburn and bug bites, and the animal's coat will likely appear fuzzy as it grows back.
Some groomers still eschew shaving. There are deep differences of opinion on whether it helps or hinders a hound in the summer heat.
"It's a common question this time of year, and it's somewhat controversial," said Susan Jenkins, a former full-time groomer who now provides her services as a volunteer at the Humane Society of Utah. "Some people swear by it, but I actually know some groomers who refuse to do it."
Detractors say shaving robs a dog of an insulating layer designed to protect it from both cold and hot weather, and it can take two years for a coat to grow back to its original state.
Jenkins says shaving is a good option for single-coated breeds such as poodles and schnauzers, but she generally opposes shaving for double-coated dogs.
"There are certain circumstances when a shave-down is necessary," she wrote in a treatise on the subject. "If the coat is matted to the skin, if the animal is elderly or ill or otherwise will not tolerate a traditional grooming, or if there is an underlying medical issue, such as hot spots or other skin condition, shaving may be the best option."
But in most cases, she recommends other grooming techniques: washing, brushing, trimming of the fur on the belly and the "feather" fur on the legs and tail, and the use of a high-velocity dryer to blow out the dead undercoat.
"Many pet owners believe they are doing their cats and dogs a favor when they have them shaved down for the summer when, in fact, they may be making their pet more miserable," Jenkins wrote.
Shaving proponents might say she is barking up the wrong tree.
Gregg Latimore, a veterinarian at Sugar House Animal Hospital, has his Australian shepherd shaved each year at the beginning of the summer.
"If I don't cut him, he suffers," Latimore said.
He advocates shaving, as long as the groomer leaves enough fur for protection from sunburn.
"I don't think there's any question that they're cooler," Latimore said. "I used to work in Phoenix, and everybody shaved them there."
Taylor, of the Dog Father, believes that these days more people allow their dogs inside their houses, so shaving might be increasing in popularity as pet owners try to reduce shedding.
Taylor says customers have told him, "If I don't do something, my wife's going to make me get rid of the dog."
"Some of the trims are not only for the comfort and health of the dog, but also for the health of the marriage," he said with a chuckle.
Darlene Malin, a Salt Lake City dog walker, says she has noticed that long-haired dogs appear to liven up after getting a shave.
"They seem to have a little more spunk to them," she says. "But who knows?"
Should owners have their dogs shaved for the summer? This is a polarizing topic among groomers and veterinarians.
Shaving exposes a dog to sunburn, bug bites and skin disease.
A dog's fur serves as insulation against heat.
The fur will grow back fuzzy and may take two years to return to its natural state -- if it ever does.
Shaving helps a dog keep cool during the summer.
Shaving reduces the amount of dog hair in the home.
Shaving reduces the need for other grooming services.
(Contact John Davis at email@example.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com.)