All dogs shed. Some dogs shed tons, leaving behind evidence all over the house. However, even “hypoallergenic” and “non-shedding” dogs such as Bichons, Poodles, and some terriers, shed hair—it just doesn’t necessarily hit the floor. The hair texture of these dogs allow the shedding hair to cling to live coat, and the dead hairs must be brushed out or matting will occur quickly.
Yet, no matter the breed, pet owners should be armed with the information and tools they need to minimize excessive shedding and keep dogs’ coats healthy. Retailers can supply both the products and the know-how to help customers do that, and understanding the factors that affect shedding and what can be done to manage it is step one.
Dogs with short, straight hair, as well as thick- and double-coated dogs are most likely to present shedding challenges. Short-haired dogs can shed more than expected—once the hair is dead, it tends to fall right out. But thick-coated breeds such as Huskies, Malamutes, and most of the sporting group, are the most likely to suffer an excess of shed hair. German Shepherds are sometimes referred to as German Shedder Dogs, only somewhat kiddingly. These and similarly coated breeds can eventually mat solidly, but may just continue to shed in clumps.
What causes dogs to shed? Heredity, seasonal change, hormones, environment and nutrition. If a dog is born to have a thick coat, we can’t magically create a thinner coat that sheds less, nor can we change the amount of sunlight each day that tells dogs to get ready for warmer weather by shedding. Hormones regulate the change from fuzzy puppy coats to the adult version, and they have an affect again as the animal ages, often causing hair to become thinner with a dryer texture.
Heredity, seasons and hormones are not factors we can change. We can, however, make changes to the environment to some extent. For example, a dog housed outside will respond to temperatures, as well as seasons, and will grow more coat in order to stay warm. A dog provided with a coat will grow less hair—but then he’ll need the coat all winter to stay warm or will run the same risks of being chilled as humans.
There are other ways pet owners can curtail shedding problems. Keeping a pet’s stress levels to a minimum can help, as it’s a trigger for excess shedding in many dogs and most cats. However, nutrition is the area in which pet owners can probably make the most impact. A dog that is lacking vital nutrients in its diet will first show that deficiency in its coat and skin. Feeding a high-quality diet is a key element, but supplements containing omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, and various minerals and micronutrients can help ensure that the coat is as healthy and glossy as possible, keeping shedding to a minimum. Many supplements specify that they aid in shed reduction. Fish oils are a popular choice as well—NaturVet even has an unscented version of salmon oil. Kelp, enzymes and vitamin blends are all ingredients used to target this issue.
On the Shelves
Retail products that address shedding are an easy sell, as shedding is a very real problem for many pet owners, and one that a few simple products can alleviate to a great extent.
Brushes, combs and dematting/deshedding tools are among the best ways to remove shedding hair from the coat before it hits the floor. As always, if your store is connected to grooming, selling products that the groomers use is a great confidence builder for your customers. Most of these tools are designed to work best on certain kinds of hair. Some manufacturers will put breed- or coat-specific suggestions on the packaging, which is convenient. A couple of ideal de-shedding tools that are often overlooked are flea combs for short-haired dogs and shedding blades for large, thick-coated animals.
Various grooming sprays can be invaluable for reducing shedding and making brushing more effective. Many are made to work synergistically with shampoos and conditioners, and some customers prefer staying within a single brand, even if only to prevent differing scents from combating each other on the dog. Reducing static electricity, which most sprays do, will reduce matting and help coat shed while being brushed. Sprays also provide a pleasant scent and glossy finish—if the spray contains silicone or vitamin E, so much the better.
Shampoos and conditioners are a huge weapon in the deshedding arsenal. Ingredients to help loosen and remove hair while moisturizing skin to reduce further shedding are tried and true. Ingredients like proteins including silk, oils such as jojoba, and silicone and vitamin E truly work, helping pet owners to get rid of hair while bathing and drying.
Best Shot’s UltraWash shampoo, UltraPlenish conditioner and peppermint-scented UltraVitalizing Mist line works well. Also popular is Espree’s line of Simple Shed products. Furminator has brought deshedding to an art form with tools, bathing products, sprays and even a vacuum attachment for use with the tools for the pets that will tolerate it. Check with your distributor to see what they carry and recommend.
Any and all of these shedding answers may help your customers keep those extra dust “puppies” under the couch to a minimum, but a wise groomer once told me that the best thing to use on a badly shedding Malamute was elbow grease; frequent brushing and combing with the right tools may be the best recommendation you can make.
Carol Visser is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer and Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Formerly a pet product expert for PetEdge, she and her husband Glenn now own Two Canines Pet Services in Montville, Maine, which provides grooming, boarding, training and day care services to Waldo County.