Get your dog ready for the catwalk
Grooming won’t decrease the amount of hair that actually comes loose from your dog’s body — and strictly defined, that’s what shedding is — but it will give you a better handle on reducing the amount of it that ends up in your environment.
Whether you do your own grooming or you take your dog to a professional, regular bathing and brushing removes loose hairs from your dog’s coat and keeps them in the dog brush or the sink drain (note to self: clean sink drain after bathing hairy dog). Remember to always rinse for at least 10 minutes in order to completely remove any trace of shampoo, which can leave your dog’s skin dry and itchy. And don’t bathe more than once a month unless your dog winds up on the wrong end of a mud puddle since it can strip his skin of the oils that keep it shiny and healthy.
Make sure your dog is healthy
Nearly every dog sheds some, but when your dog sheds so much that the extra hair starts to resemble a second, less interactive dog, it’s time to see the veterinarian.
What types of diseases cause excessive shedding? Hormonal diseases like hypothyroidism (subnormally active thyroid gland, and thus, metabolism) and Cushing’s disease (overactive adrenal gland) can cause loss of hair or a coat that looks dull and dry. These diseases usually produce hair loss that occurs in a symmetrical pattern on the trunk of the body.
External parasite infestations can cause hair loss too. Mite infestations, also known as mange, attack the hair follicles underneath the surface of the skin, causing hair loss and often itchiness and infection. Severe flea infestations, the fungus ringworm and environmental allergies can also cause hair loss.
Especially if your dog’s hair loss is patchy and there’s itching and scabbing to go along with it, see your veterinarian to figure out if a medical problem is the underlying cause.
Feed the best diet available
There’s good medical evidence that omega-3 fatty acids help to repair the skin barrier that is often damaged in allergic individuals. Many researchers believe that even “normal” dogs benefit greatly from routine supplementation with omega-3 fats in the form of fish oil capsules or liquid.
The type of food you feed your dog also has an impact on the quality of his coat. Low-quality foods can contribute to a dry, brittle coat, which increases breaking of hair and thus, shedding. Make sure you purchase a high-quality diet that’s formulated for your dog’s specific stage of life — puppy, adult or senior.
Encourage slurping noises
Scientists tell us that our bodies are 80 percent water, and our canine companions are no different. Proper hydration is essential for healthy everything, including skin and hair or fur.
Some dogs seem to love to lap water, while others are reluctant and occasional sippers. Adding canned food to your dog’s diet can dramatically increase the amount of water he gets since most of them are around 70 percent water. You can also add a bit of low-sodium chicken broth to the water bowl and change it daily to keep it fresh to encourage drinking.
Choose a breed or mix that is low-shedding
Some dog breeds are naturally low-shedding. Poodles are perhaps the most well-known for this desirable trait, but many terrier breeds also don’t shed much. And even mixes of these breeds often retain this trait. The “doodle” hybrids — including labradoodles and goldendoodles — combine heavy shedders like the Labrador and the golden retriever with poodles, and the resulting dogs either don’t shed or shed very little. And it seems with each generation that is removed from the original purebred mating pair, the shedding continues to become less and less.
If you really want to be assured of having a dog that doesn’t shed, look into the Mexican hairless (also called the nearly unspellable and unpronounceable “Xoloitzcuintli”) or the Chinese crested breeds.