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Everything you need to know about dog shedding

If you have dogs living in your home, chances are you’re pretty familiar with the concept of shedding. Shedding occurs when a dog loses dead or damaged fur to make room for new, healthy fur to grow. The degree to which a dog sheds will vary greatly depending on its breed, pregnancy status and general health. Some dogs shed constantly all year, some shed seasonally in summer, and some appear not to shed much at all; but it’s important to understand all dogs undergo a normal shedding cycle that can’t be prevented.

Excessive shedding or shedding that leaves the skin appearing irritated or abnormal in any way suggests an underlying medical condition that requires veterinary attention.

If you’re a stickler for cleanliness and a spotless home, it would be wise for you to choose a dog with low levels of shedding. However, if your heart is set on a dog that sheds more, or you’re not too fussed about having a bit of hair on your furniture, this article shares tips for how to keep your home as clean as possible.

Choosing the right dog

There are many factors to take into account when it comes to choosing the right dog for you and your family. These include the size of dog that would suit your home, the temperament you’d like your dog to have, any pets or children that live in your home, how much time and effort you can put into taking care of the dog, exercise levels and grooming requirements, as well as whether you’re willing to accommodate a dog that sheds more.

When thinking about whether you’re happy to take care of a dog that sheds a lot, it all comes down to personal preference as well as the type of furniture you have. If you have leather furniture and wooden floorboards, any shedding may be easier to handle. However, if you have fabric furniture and carpet in your home, regular vacuuming and carpet cleaning may be necessary to get rid of any fur and lingering smells.

Generally, dogs with longer or silky coats shed more than dogs with short or coarse coats. Some breeds are known as ‘low shedders’ (e.g. Australian Terrier, Maltese, Miniature Poodle, Irish Terrier, Tibetan Terrier and Airedale Terrier), and others are known as ‘high shedders’ (e.g. Saint Bernard, Great Pyrenees, Chow Chow, Akita, Siberian Husky, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Labrador and Alaskan Malamute).

Choosing a dog breed based on one feature such as the level of shedding; however, overlooks an important problem – many purebred dogs have inherited disorders that reduce their quality of life and lead to high veterinary bills for owners. For this reason, if you choose a dog of a particular breed, it’s crucial you know what kind of health problems it may be prone to and that you source your dog from a good breeder and not from a puppy farm. This means you need to visit the place where your new puppy was born, meet the breeders and the pup’s parents.

Be aware although certain ‘designer’ breeds (those resulting from crossing two purebred dogs such as the Cavoodle and the Spoodle ) are promoted as being ‘non-shedding’ and ‘hypo-allergenic’, this can’t be guaranteed. There is also less scrutiny over the breeding practices involved with designer breeds.

Adopting from an RSPCA or other reputable shelter will provide you with the option of choosing from a large number of dogs who have all been assessed as suitable companion animals based on their health and behaviour. Shelter staff can advise you on the grooming requirements of each dog. It may be possible to foster the dog for a period to be sure they are a good match for you and your family.

How to limit shedding

Before you start cleaning up your pet’s hair, there are a number of preventative measures you can take to limit and control your pet’s shedding in the first place.

Regular brushing (daily or every three days depending on your breed of dog) with a quality brush suited to your dog’s coat will get rid of any loose hair in a controlled way, meaning you can be quick to clean it up before it spreads all over the house. Regular brushing also stimulates your dog’s hair follicles to keep their coat looking smooth, vibrant and shiny.

Controlling allergies and fleas will stop your pet from scratching at their skin. Scratching can increase the amount of hair they shed, so make sure they’re being treated regularly with a quality tick and flea treatment. If you notice your pet’s skin looks irritated or they’re scratching at it a lot, take them to your vet for a checkup.

Bathing your dog with an oatmeal shampoo once a week (or once a fortnight depending on the breed) will also keep your dog’s coat healthy, strong and shiny; which can contribute to reducing the amount they shed. Keeping their coat healthy should lessen their shedding, because dogs shed to get rid of dry, damaged and dead hair. Here’s a guide to grooming and bathing your dog.

Tips for cleaning up shedding

The best way to keep your home dog hair-free is to have a regular cleaning routine in place. Daily vacuuming of the carpets and furniture will gather up any hair trapped in fabrics. Vacuuming is also recommended even if you have tiles or hardwood floors, as sweeping can sometimes cause the hair to rise into the air and settle into an area you’ve already cleaned. As for your clothes, an old-fashioned lint roller does the job.

For preventative measures, covering your furniture and car seats with some nice throws can be a good investment for keeping your home smelling and looking fresh. Keep in mind hair that’s been ‘freshly shed’ is much easier to clean up than hair that’s been trodden into the carpet or pushed into furniture, so make sure your cleaning efforts are regular to save time in the long run. You can also train your dog to sit on a designated pet blanket.

Managing dog allergies

If you or someone in your family has an allergy to dogs, the best way to control their symptoms and still be able to have a dog in your home is to make sure the dog sheds as little as possible. Allergies are a triggered immune response in the body, with symptoms including swollen or puffy eyes, sneezing, coughing and a runny nose.

As well as choosing a dog that is less likely to shed, minimising dog to human contact, discouraging your dog from licking you, keeping your dog off the couch, having your dog spend time outside, and dusting and cleaning often are great ways to control allergies for sufferers.

Keeping your dog’s shedding under control

Your dog’s shedding doesn’t have to take over your life. Implementing a few simple ways to look after your dog’s coat, as well as putting a regular cleaning routine in place, will leave your home looking and smelling fresh.

Pet Insurance is one way to protect yourself from your cat or dog’s health expenses. Get a free quote for insurance with RSPCA Pet Insurance now.

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Dr Rosemary Elliot 

Dr Rosemary studied veterinary science at the University of Sydney after having established her career as a clinical psychologist, and has qualifications of BVSc (Hons), MANZCVS (Animal Welfare), MPsych (Clin), BA (Hons) as well as previously establishing her career as a clinical psychologist. Her experiences during veterinary training fostered an ambition to focus directly on animal welfare and ethics, with a particular interest in animal sentience and the human-animal bond. Currently working in small animal practice, Dr Rosemary combines her psychology background and veterinary skills to contribute to and promote animal welfare, and regularly contributes quality content to RSPCA Pet Insurance's Pet Care blog.