Shedding can turn into a big, hairy deal, but it's a normal part of living with a puppy. All puppies shed, even the breeds considered to be non-shedding. Anyone who's had to lint-roll their black pants recently knows that this is true of all dogs.
You don’t have to live with drifts of fur and can keep your home and clothing relatively hair-free with a few simple precautions. Here’s why dogs shed and what you can do to keep your puppy’s coat and skin healthy.
Hair Growth Cycle
Hair and fur do not grow all the time but are continuously renewed in a cycle of growth, rest, and loss. New hair pushes out the old, resting ones, and this fur loss is called shedding.
All hair follicles in the skin go through a cycle of active growth, called anagen. That’s followed by a brief period of shrinkage, catagen, during which the hair root loosens. The ending phase, called telogen, is the stage in which hairs are shed as they’re pushed out and replaced by new, emerging hairs.
The length of the hair growth period varies from breed to breed. Most dogs have a seasonal shed in the spring and/or during the fall. It’s not the temperature that prompts shedding; instead, light exposure, either to the sun or artificial light, determines the amount and timing. More hair is shed during the greatest exposure to light.
Outdoor dogs living in the northeastern United States shed every year, most heavily in late spring for the several weeks during which daylight increases. However, house pets under constant exposure to artificial light may shed all year long.
What About Low-Shedding Puppies?
Breeds like poodles and some terriers that are referred to as non-shedding do shed. Instead of the anagen hair-growing phase lasting a short time, their hair grows for years before it’s shed and may grow quite long unless clipped.
These types of coats don’t tend to shed all at once. You won’t notice clumps of fur coming out because they only lose a few hairs at a time. Because these breeds also tend to have curly coats, lost hairs tangle alongside the growing hairs and don’t always end up on the furniture. The fur may turn into long cords, as with the Puli and Komondor breeds, unless kept trimmed.
Depending on when your puppy was born, it may shed its puppy coat before the regular seasonal shed in the spring or fall. Most puppies lose their baby coat between 6 and 12 months of age as the new adult fur replaces it. This can vary from breed to breed.
Breeds with heavy double coats that shed in clumps are more prone to developing painful mats. These happen when fur is trapped next to the skin, especially in the groin and armpit regions. Mats can create bruises and can lead to hot spots.
You can’t stop shedding, but you can reduce the aggravation to yourself and your pet. Comb and brush it regularly. Thickly furred puppies need daily attention, but short-haired pets also benefit from consistent grooming. Pay particular attention to combing the mat-prone areas behind the dog’s ears, beneath its tail, and in the creases of its legs.
One tool you can use to prevent these issues is the EZ-Groomer, a lightweight, claw-shaped comb that breaks up established mats and removes shed fur. Unlike most other combs or brushes, you can use the EZ-Groomer to comb backward on the pet, for a beneficial effect. This product also is quite economical, in the $10 to $15 range, and comes in two sizes for small to large pets.
The FURminator won’t work on mats but does an extraordinary job removing shed fur. Tiny, shallow, close-fitting teeth pull off 80 to 90 percent of loose hairs. Try grooming your pet with a standard comb or brush, then follow up with the FURminator–you’ll be shocked at the mountains of lint. This product also comes in different sizes to match your pet but is quite pricey. Make sure you groom your pet outside or in an easy-to-clean area so that you don't create a furry tornado inside the house.
You don’t have to groom your whole puppy in one setting. If you don't have the time or your pet gets impatient, you can spread grooming sessions out over several hours or days to keep it happy. Follow each session with a favorite treat or game to train your puppy to identify grooming with good things. Be sure to comb your puppy thoroughly before you bathe it, which will loosen even more shed fur. Fur removed by grooming won’t cause mats or end up on your clothes and furniture. If you aren’t able to manage grooming yourself, have it professionally done.