The two main ways dogs handle the heat are by panting and by sweating from their paws. This means that in many cases, having a long coat does not significantly affect the dog’s body temperature. Dogs are susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer, just like people. Closely shaved dogs absolutely need sunscreen protection.
Your dogs’ coat has several layers, and these layers are essential to your dog’s comfort in the heat. Abruptly changing their coat structure by shaving can actually do more harm than good, in some cases. This is especially true of double coated dogs. Double coated dogs have a thick undercoat which is made up of very fine, fluffy hairs close to the skin. The hairs are short and crimped, which makes them highly efficient at trapping air and insulating. This keeps them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. In addition, particularly with double coated dogs, there is a real risk of the hair not growing back well, or at all!
However, shaving might be an appropriate option if your dog is too matted to untangle or is too old or sick to tolerate a good comb-out. Either way, it’s important to weigh all the relevant factors before making that cut. If there’s any doubt, consult with your veterinarian to discuss whether shaving is a good or safe option for your dog.
The best and safest way to keep your dog cool in the summer is by allowing them access to air conditioned spaces, providing shade when outdoors, and make sure they always have access to cool, clean water. Save walks and exercise for the early morning or late evening, and always check the temperature of the pavement to prevent burns on the pads of their feet. Even Astroturf can get blisteringly hot. And of course, never, ever leave your dog in a parked car, for any amount of time. In Las Vegas, it is considered a Cruelty to Animals crime (NRS 574.195) to leave your pet in a parked car in a manner that endangers their health.
Have a happy, safe and cool summer!