It's that time of year again...
Updated: Apr 15, 2021
...the time of year when the dangerous myth starts circulating. This myth circulates to well-meaning and loving pet owners. Pet owners who want to do what is best for their furry family members. Pet owners that are being lied to and innocently misled by other well-meaning pet owners.
Poodles and Poodle Hybrids (doodles) do not have true double coats.
Let me repeat this, a little bit louder for those in the back... POODLES AND POODLE HYBRIDS DO NOT HAVE DOUBLE COATS.
Let's dig in to this "heated" (pun intended) issue a little deeper with some science.
Double coated breeds were bred to withstand extreme cold temperatures for most of the year, without supplemental heat or shelter.
Here are some examples of dog breeds with true double coats:
Bernese Mountain Dog
So, what is a "double coat?"
A double coat is a coat designed for protection against extreme cold and wet weather. The coat consists of two (double) parts. The "undercoat" is dense and soft, and is what provides insulating properties. The "top coat" consists of long and coarse "guard hairs," which act as a water shed and protection against the environment (dirt, debris, etc.).
Many dogs with true double coats were bred to be partially feral or exclusively living outside--working dogs and farm dogs. A true double coat will keep these dogs dog warm through the most extreme temperature and weather conditions without much shelter. That is the purpose of these double coats. To keep dogs warm.
During warm months, these dogs naturally shed their undercoat. The shedding of their undercoats is marked by a change in the amount of daylight per 24 hour cycle. The shedding cycle is NOT marked by a change in temperature. Remember, these dogs spend their lives exclusively outside. So their bodies have adapted to respond to daylight (not temperature). Shorter days in the cold months, and longer days in the warm months. Their coats shed accordingly so that they do not overheat in the warmer months.
Your double coated dogs most likely spend most of their lives indoors, meaning their bodies do not respond properly to these daylight signals. This means that their coats are not shedding properly to protect them from overheating in the warmer months.
Contrary to popular belief, a double coated dog's undercoat does not insulate against the heat. An undercoat traps heat against the skin. That is the purpose of a double coat.
A double coated dog's undercoat insulates against the cold. It traps heat against the skin. This is why they shed these coats naturally when the days being to lengthen.
Your double coated house-dog does not shed his undercoat properly, and therefore, will overheat if left outside for extended periods of time during warmer months.
Compare these two photos of purebred Great Pyrenees dogs in a winter coat vs. a naturally shed summer coat:
Remember, these dogs will only naturally shed their undercoats if they live outside all of the time.
Let's look at the most dangerously misleading photo circulating the internet right now:
Here is why this image is lying to you.
Thermal imaging shows the surface temperature of the object it is imaging. This photo is showing you the surface temperature of the dog's skin (30.8 °C), and the surface temperature of the dog's coat (24 °C). We are not able to view the dog's skin temperature underneath his coat, and we are not able to view his internal body temperature. This is important. Because whether or not the dog is overheating depends on his skin temperature underneath his coat, as well as his internal body temperature.
This photo is dangerous. It provides well-meaning pet owners with useless information regarding whether or not to clip their long haired and double coated dogs.
This photo is disgustingly misleading.
Now let's talk about your poodles and doodles.
Poodles do not have true double coats. Poodles have a dense coat that consists primarily of wooly undercoat. They have guard hairs, too, but not very many. Their coats were developed to withstand the freezing waters of Germany for their original purpose, retrieving downed ducks in cold lakes and ponds.
Your poodle does not shed because of a special gene called the "furnishing" gene. Your poodle will never shed his coat because of this special gene. Not seasonally, and not even if he is an outside dog.
Your poodle's coat keeps it warm. The longer the coat, the warmer it keeps the dog.
For the love of your dog, please shave (or drastically shorten the hair of) your poodle in the summertime if it spends any amount of time outdoors.
Your poodle hybrid (doodle), is likely a cross between a poodle and a double-coated breed, such as one of the following:
Labrador Retriever (Newfoundland, water dog)
Golden Retriever (Scotland, gundog for harsh environments)
Old English Sheepdog (British Isles, droving cattle)
Bernese Mountain Dog (Switzerland, droving cattle, guarding farms, and pulling wagons)
Great Pyrenees (Pyrenees Mountains, protect flocks from wolves and bears)
Can you guess what all of these breeds have in common? They were bred to withstand ultimate cold climates, cold water, and/or extreme outdoor living conditions. Don't believe me? Click on the breed names above to read about the history of each breed.
So, your poodle hybrid (doodle) likely has a mixed coat. This mixed coat contains the hair of the poodle, and some of the undercoat properties of a double coated breed.
Do not be mistaken here; your doodle does not have a true double coat.
Please don't twist my words. Your doodle has a mixed coat, not a double coat. Remember, a double coat is a well thought out coat bred into a dog over many generations, containing a smooth but harsh top coat of guard hairs for protection, and a wooly, dense undercoat for insulation.
Your doodle has whatever coat genetics Mother Nature decided to throw at it when it was conceived. Most likely your doodle has primarily curly, coarse guard hairs from the poodle, and a very small amount of wooly undercoat from it's double-coated parent. Whether they shed or not is aside from the point. They are absolutely not shedding enough to be able to naturally thin their coats for a hot summer climate.
Remember, only true double coated breeds that live outside exclusively and are exposed to the sun's natural light cycles will naturally shed their undercoats for the summer in order to keep them cool.
I cannot repeat this enough: Poodles and doodles do not have double coats. They do not shed undercoats enough to properly prepare themselves for prolonged exposure to hot temperatures.
Your double coated dog (not doodle) needs your help, too.
Double coats do not, let me repeat, do not insulate against heat. Double coats trap heat against the skin. Your double coated dogs need to have their undercoats stripped several times a year by a professional groomer if they spend a lot of time outdoors.
If you're a science nerd, like me, here is some further reading.
When someone is stating something as fact, I like to see controlled studies that support these "facts." A controlled study is an experiment that contains a control group, and that measures data.
I challenge you to find controlled studies (not an article written by a random vet or individual, a controlled study with data) that support the statement that "double coats keep dogs cooler in the summertime." You won't find any studies that prove this. They don't exist, because the statement is ludicrous.
I want to see articles that are discussing data from controlled studies, or that are able to cite their sources for the facts presented.
This article from Purdue University discusses in detail the science behind thermoregulation in dogs. Heat loss through sweating (paw pads and nose) is very minimal. Once a dog's body temperature reaches an upper critical temperature zone, panting is it's only method of cooling. When your dog is panting, he is now expending energy and burning calories in order to try and cool itself.
This article proves that surface temperature of the coat is completely unrelated to internal temperature of the dog.
This article discusses hyperthermia (overheating) in dogs. One of the "factors that inhibit[s] heat dissipation" is a "thick, dense coat."
These articles were written by a very educated groomer and nerd out on a whole new level:
"So, do I need to shave my poodle or doodle down to the skin in order for him to be cooler in the summertime?"
No. An inch of hair or less is acceptable for a dog that spends time outside in the heat. If your dog spends more than an hour at a time outside in the heat, then yes, I would consider shaving them down to about an 1/8 inch of hair.
We love our poodles and doodles for their personalities, temperaments, and their low to non-shedding qualities.
I am challenging you to love your dog for YOUR DOG, and not his hair. Rejoice in the fact that you adopted a poodle or doodle because of it's wit, intelligence, and loyalty. And not because you "like the way they look."
We want our dogs to be comfortable.
Remember, your poodle or poodle hybrid is born of sporting breeds. You are doing a great disservice to your dog by not allowing them to be able to enjoy the great outdoors year-round because you refuse to clip their coats short during the summertime.