Do puppies shed—well, yes they do. Shedding can turn into a big hairy deal but is a normal part of living with a puppy when you understand why dogs shed. All puppies shed, even the “non-shedding breeds.” It’s a dog rule that they leave dark fur on white clothes and furniture—and white fur on contrasting surfaces.
You don’t have to live with drifts of fur and can keep your home and clothing relatively hair-free with simple tips. Here’s why the fur flies, 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 is 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, called catagen, during which time the hair root loosens. The end period, called telogen, is the stage when 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. 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 with the most fur flying in late spring for the several weeks during which daylight increases. But house pets under constant exposure to artificial light may shed all year long.
What About Low-Shedding Puppies?
Some breeds like Poodles and some terriers are referred to as “non-shedding” actually do shed. But instead of the anagen hair-growing phase lasting a short time, their hair grows for years before it’s shed. It 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 being shed all at once 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, he may shed his puppy coat before the regular seasonal shed in the spring or fall. Most puppies lose their baby coat between six and twelve months of age as the new adult fur replaces it. This varies a bit from breed to breed.
Breeds that have heavy double coats that shed in clumps are more prone to developing painful mats. Mats 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 him regularly. Thickly furred puppies need daily attention, but short-haired pets also benefit. Pay particular attention to combing the mat-prone areas behind the pet’s ears, beneath his tail, and in the creases of his legs.
My favorite de-shedding tools work extremely well. The EZ-Groomer is lightweight, claw-shaped tool that works well to break up established mats and to pull off 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 fur. Try grooming your pet with a standard comb or brush, and you’ll take off a bunch—then follow up with the Furminator, and you’ll be shocked at the mountains of fuzz. 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 area easy to clean, or you’ll deal with a furry tornado inside the house.
You don’t have to groom the whole puppy in one setting. Spread out grooming sessions over several hours or days to keep him happy. Follow each session with a favorite treat or game so your puppy identifies grooming with good things. Be sure to comb your puppy thoroughly before you bathe him, which will loosen even more shed fur.
If you aren’t able to manage grooming yourself, have it professionally done. Fur removed by grooming won’t cause mats, or end up on your clothes or furniture.