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Brushing helps reduce the nuisance of shedding dogs

Original Publication Date: February 23, 2015
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

All dogs, with the exception of a few hairless breeds, shed. Unwanted hair in the home is a nuisance faced by dog owners, but shedding is a natural process that rids the dog of old or damaged hair and allows a new coat to grow and flourish.

When a pup is born, it has simple hair follicles like ours. Each hair follicle produces a single hair that exits through an opening in the skin. By the time a pup is 12 weeks old, they have developed the compound hair follicles of an adult dog. These contain bundles of as many as 15 hairs that share a common opening in the skin. In single coated breeds like the poodle and greyhound, all the hairs in a bundle are of the same length. However, the bundles of many breeds contain a long coarse cover or guard hair surrounded by several thinner hairs that form an undercoat. These are double coated breeds.

The number of bundles varies with breeds. One study found smooth-haired dachshunds, smooth-haired terriers and toy poodles have 400 to 600 bundles of hairs per square centimeter of skin. German shepherds, Airedales and rottweilers have only 100 to 300 bundles per square centimeter of skin. Dogs with more hair bundles per square centimeter generally have finer hair than breeds with fewer bundles. The number of hairs per bundle also varies. Dachshunds, for example, average two to five hairs per bundle while the rottweilers typically have 9 to 15 hairs per bundle.

These differences impact how much a dog sheds. Single coated breeds tend to shed less than double coated breeds.

Among the double coated breeds, those with fewer hairs per bundle like the dachshund tend to leave less hair on your furniture than breeds with heavier undercoats like rottweilers and Irish wolfhounds. All dogs go through a shedding cycle that is influenced by genetics, temperature, environment and day length. Shedding in the spring cycle usually lasts longer and is heavier as the winter coat is lost and replaced by a lighter summer coat. Fall shedding is generally more moderate. Double coated dogs with a heavy undercoat tend to shed most. Some dogs, especially indoor dogs, tend to shed fairly evenly all year.

The best defense against a house full of dog hair is a well-used brush, since shedding is most noticeable in dogs that are not brushed regularly to remove dead hair. You can't avoid excess pet hair on your clothes, couch, bed and car, but you can keep the amount to a minimum by using throws to cover furniture and car seats. They are easy to wash frequently and reduce the amount of vacuuming required, but do vacuum often.

The unconditional love of my dogs far outweighs the inconvenience of having my clothes and furniture decorated with a little shed dog hair.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at