Dog Manual

Clipping & Plucking

Should a shaggy-haired dog's coat be clipped or plucked during the warmer seasons of the year? This is a very common question. The fact that it is answered in the affirmative as often as the negative has tended to confuse the average dog owner. Let us face the issue squarely with plain, down-to-earth common sense and resolve the question once and for all.

Plucking refers to the removal of the hair coat by means of a special hand-manipulated plucking instrument. Clipping refers to the removal of the hair coat by means of a clipping machine. Most long-haired animals presented at dog shows are plucked. Plucking is most often a painful and relatively expensive procedure, and is commonly performed only on fancy animals that are owned by people of comfortable economic means. Dogs are plucked to emphasize the finer points of their appearance. But since most people cannot afford to have their dogs plucked, it would be more practical to confine the discussion here to clipping.

Dogs are clipped to improve their appearance; to make them more comfortable; to assist in the treatment of certain skin diseases; or for the benefit of the owner by cutting down the shedding of hair so that household cleanliness can be more readily maintained.
Now and then self-styled humane agencies will raise quite a fuss by advocating that dogs should not be clipped. They usually maintain that dogs will not be made more comfortable by this process, that the hair coat serves as a protective and insulating mechanism, and that by removing the coat the animal will be rendered more prone to disease. While the people who make these statements certainly do not have improper motives, the plain fact is that they simply do not know what they are talking about.

While it is true that the dog's coat does serve as a protective and insulatory mechanism, with the ordinary pet this is only true if the hair is properly and meticulously combed. If the dog's coat was thoroughly combed out at all times, clipping would rarely be necessary. But any veterinarian will tell you that animals presented for clipping are practically never properly combed. The result is that the long hair becomes snarled and matted, and serves as a receptacle for every conceivable variety of filth. Thus, rather than serving as a protective and insulatory mechanism, the matted hair becomes a source of distress to the animal. The animal is clipped to relieve this condition.

In regard to the charge that animals are rendered prone to disease by clipping, this, too, is based on a misconception. It is commonly stated that irritations of the skin may result from clipping. The fact is that clipping is done with a machine. The machine is run by a motor. In the process of clipping, the motor gets hot. If the excessively hot machine is applied to the animal's skin, naturally the skin will get burned. If the clipping machine is dull, the skin will become scratched. It is therefore clear that if careful, competent, professional work is done on the animal, these difficulties will not be encountered. They are the result of unprofessional carelessness, negligence, and incompetence.

If clipping is advisable, how often should an animal be clipped? Well, I would suggest, as often as you think your pet needs it or as often as you can afford it. Be guided by the same reasoning that you would use when you consider going to a barber or a hairdresser. Dogs may be clipped throughout the year without endangering their health. Ordinarily, dogs are clipped when they get too shaggy. Clipping not only improves the animal's appearance, but it makes the hair easier to manage, is comforting to the animal and the lack of shedding will be a godsend to the housewife.