Do Blue Heelers need haircuts
No, you should never shave or clip a double-coated breed like the Australian Cattle Dog. The double-coated is designed by nature to provide protection and regulate their body temperature. Shaving a Blue Heeler does not make them cooler and does not reduce shedding. It also damages the coat which may never grow back to the way it was.
The best solution to reduce a Blue Heeler shedding and to keep them cooler is to deshed the coat. See here to learn more about deshedding a Blue Heeler.
How a Blue Heelers coat functions
An Australian Cattle Dogs coat is an extension of the skin and is an integral part of its mechanism of protection. The fur provides a natural wind and sun barrier and is essential in the movement of oils across the skin. Each hair follicle is attached to a muscle called the Erector Pili. This raises and lowers the hair in a complex ventilation system to keep them cool in summer and warm in winter.
Dogs are far more absorbent of toxins and pollutants than humans. If you shave your Blue Heeler there is a greater chance of toxins, chemicals, and other environmental pollutants being absorbed into the body because there is no barrier to prevent it.
Why would someone want to shave a Blue Heeler?
As a dog groomer, I am regularly asked if you should shave a double-coated dog like an Australian Cattle Dog. There are generally a couple of different reasons people may want to do this.
To make the dog cooler in hot weather.
Clipping a double coat actually has the opposite effect. The double coat consists of two layers. A top or guard coat that protects your dog’s skin when rubbing up against things such as trees and also provides protection against sunburn.
Secondly is a softer undercoat. The function of the undercoat is to provide warmth in cooler weather which is then shedded when the weather gets warmer. This allows better airflow through the coat and removes that extra layer. Like taking off a layer of clothing.
Regular brushing ensures the dead unwanted undercoat is removed to allow airflow. The best solution to help make your dog cooler is to brush and deshed the undercoat, not shave.
For tips on reducing Blue Heeler shedding see here.
For more hot weather tips for Blue Heelers see here.
This picture shows a thermal image of a double-coated dog that has had the rear end shaved and the front end brushed out. As you can see, the brushed section of the dog is cooler.
To reduce the amount of fur they are shedding.
Again, shaving the coat can have the opposite effect. The dog will still shed but it will be shorter hairs. As the coat grows back it tends to be thicker and results in more shedding. As clipping changes the quality of the coat it often hinders the proper shedding function. The undercoat may become more prone to matting which is uncomfortable for them and probably makes them hotter.
Double coated dogs usually have periods where they shed large amounts of coat at the same time. This is known as the coat being blown. This can vary from dog to dog. Usually, it occurs twice a year around the change of seasons. Some dogs may only blow coat once a year. Once a coat has been shaved, this natural function tends not to work.
The downside of shaving a Blue Heeler
The biggest downside to shaving a double-coated dog like a Blue Heeler is that it can and usually does serious damage to the coat. The fur grows back thicker, coarser, and even patchy. In most cases, their coat looks dreadful.
The amount of damage that is done to the coat can vary. I have seen dogs where the damage is barely noticeable but the coat is never as nice as it once was. In other examples, the coat is completely destroyed and lays in random directions, is patchy, and horrible to the touch. The coat may also be so damaged that it doesn’t grow back at all or only in patches.
Another serious downside to shaving a double coat is that it increases the risk of sunburn as the skin does not have the protection offered by the guard coat.
In humans, Melanin (the pigment in human skin that gets darker as we tan), protects us from UV rays. This does not function the same way in dogs. In dogs, Melanin resides in the cortex of the hair shaft so the skin has no UV protection when the hair is removed. This makes them at serious risk of sunburn.
Once you have decided to shave your Blue Heeler you will have to continue to shave them.
Conclusion – Should you shave a Blue Heeler
I do Not recommend shaving an Australian Cattle Dog. Clipping their coat does not make them cooler and it will not reduce shedding. Unfortunately, it can do irreparable damage to the coat and it may never grow back properly. Shaving can also increase the risk of sunburn.