Of all the reasons people love dogs, shedding isn't one of them.
They make good companions, they can be valiant protectors, they are incredible listeners, but one of the drawbacks of owning a dog is that they shed. No matter how fastidious you are about keeping your house clean, it's nearly impossible to keep up with all the fur.
All Dogs Shed
Due to the nature of the way a dog's hair grows, all dogs shed to some extent. New hair comes in, the outer root sheath attaches, the hair goes through a resting phase, and then it falls out. But the average life span of the hair varies from dog to dog.
Many Factors Impact Shedding
Poodles have a reputation as a breed that doesn't shed. That's not really true; they do shed. But since their fur grows continuously and each individual hair has a longer life than most other breeds, they don't lose fur as frequently, so it goes largely unnoticed.
The change of seasons can also prompt shedding. Most dogs have not only the top coat that you see and feel, but also an undercoat of shorter, softer hair. This undercoat changes with the seasons. In the spring, the heavy winter undercoat falls out to make way for the lighter summer undercoat. In fall, the summer undercoat comes out to allow for the heavy winder undercoat.
Seasonal shedding is prompted by both temperature changes and the natural shortening and lengthening of days throughout the seasons. Dogs that typically spend a lot of time outside are more likely to be susceptible to seasonal shedding, especially if they are a breed with a naturally thick undercoat.
Regular Grooming is the Best Defense
Grooming your dog regularly will help collect loose hair before it has the chance to fall on the floor or come off on the furniture. Grooming will also help evenly distribute the oils your dog's skin naturally releases. Make sure you use a brush or comb that's appropriate for the type fur your dog has.
You may be tempted to get a dog with fur that grows more continuously to cut down on shedding. There's nothing wrong with that, but remember that you will need to spend more time grooming a Poodle than you do a Labrador. You may find you spend as much time grooming a low-shedding dog as you do cleaning up after a heavy shedder.
Even if you decide to get extreme and go with a "hairless" dog, like a Chinese Crested or a Xoloitzcuintle (Mexican Hairless), you still have a lot of upkeep time to put in. It's important that you keep the skin of these dogs clean and protected from the sun and other health hazards.
Get to Know Your Dog
You will learn how much your dog sheds. However, if your dog suddenly starts to shed more than usual for him, take him to the vet. Excessive shedding can be signs of skin conditions, metabolic disorders, nutritional deficiencies or other problems that require medical treatment.
Keeping up with grooming and cleaning up dog hair can get old sometimes. But the next time you find yourself starting to grumble about having to pull out the vacuum cleaner—again!—stop and remember the last fun walk, romp, or talk you had with your furry companion. Cleaning house a little more often is a small price to pay for the love and devotion you get from your dog.
Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.