Dog getting fur clipped

Q. Our dog has a thick, medium-length coat. As the weather gets warmer, is it OK to have it clipped short? Or is there a good reason to leave it longer?

A. I'm actually a pretty big fan of keeping long-haired dogs clipped short. I know that shedding is one of the top "pet peeves" of pet lovers, and I also know that a small, long-haired dog whose coat is kept short is the least likely to be a problem shedder. That's because long hair is "programmed" to stay in place longer, so that's less shedding off the top. A small dog has less hair than a large one, and if you keep that hair clipped short, the volume of hair that falls out — and onto your clothes and furniture — will be minimal. Add regular baths and brushing, and you'll see very little shedding at all. Also, you'll be less likely to deal with allergies for you or your dog.

Fashion vs. Function

The fact is, a lot of the more extreme features we see on dogs today are more about fashion than function. The profuse coats and feathering of some breeds and mixes are prime examples of this impracticality. In spaniels (such as American Cockers), breeders have gone for more and more "furnishings" — longer, more luxurious coats that look stunning in the show ring but are magnets for muck. The overabundance of coat may show up in spaniel mixes as well.

While those who show dogs work to keep every inch of coat, for the purposes of everyday life it's usually better to keep things cut short.  Unless you're willing to put in the effort to maintain a stylish look for your dog, then go ahead and keep him clipped.  A good groomer can keep everything trimmed short, and you can maintain the bathing and brushing in between to keep mats and mess from staying with your dog.

If you want a longer look and less mess, talk to your groomer. Many dogs are left with just enough fur to be fancy but with problem areas shaved for cleanliness, typically in the "potty path" under the tail.