To Shave or Not to Shave… Your English Setter

Guest Author: Liz Nolan of The Barker Shop

When the sun begins to sneak out after winter, people start to shed their layers in favour of dresses and shorts. Often, when we switch our winter wardrobe for our summer wardrobe, we think “Hmm! I should probably do the same for my Setter”, and off you go to the groomers.

Before you decide to shave your dog this summer please read this article first.

The English Setters attractive coat is one of his charms.The coat lies flat without any curl or woolliness. It’s embellished with feathering — a longer fringe of hair — on the ears, chest, belly, underside of the thighs, backs of the legs, and on the tail: just enough to be pretty but not so much that it would impede the Setter’s progress in the field.

Dogs with a double coat have a top, tougher coat often referred to as “guard hairs”, and a soft, downy undercoat beneath the top of this. The undercoat consists of finer hairs that act as insulation for your dog and are the ones that thicken up in the winter and shed in the summer, while the guard hairs act as a shield from the sun and other environmental elements and typically do not shed. Your dog’s coat serves as a natural insulation from both hot and cold weather. The hot sun will warm your dog up more if they don’t have that layer of insulation protecting them.

Shaving a double coated dog can permanently damage their fur, and contrary to popular belief it does not help keep them cool in the summer. Shaving a double coated dog should only be done in extreme cases of matting or with certain skin conditions. 

Here’s 4 reasons why double coated dogs should not be shaved.

1. Shaving Increases Sunburn and Skin Cancer Risks

The top layer of your dog’s fur helps protect them against bug bites and the sun’s harmful rays. By shaving your dog you’re leaving them more exposed to the sun, increasing their risk of developing sunburn or skin cancer.

2. Their Fur Can Become Permanently Damaged by Shaving

When a double coated dog is shaved there’s no guarantee the top guard coat will grow back. And the older a dog is the less likely it is to grow back normally. The undercoat continues to grow, but for some dogs the guard hairs never do. These dogs are left with a coat that has a patchy, frizzy, dull appearance. Shaving your dog can alter their coat permanently.

3. Shaving Your Dog Will Not Help with Allergies

Will shaving your dog help with allergies? Not at all. The dander on your pets’ skin and fur is what causes pet allergies, not the fur itself. And that dander is a collection of dead skin cells that sits in the undercoat of double coated dogs. So, when you shave your dog, you’re actually going to be exposing yourself to more irritants.

4. Shaving Your Dog Will Not Decrease Shedding

Your dog will still shed, and after shaving it will just be shorter hair that they’re shedding. Because their top guard layer has been removed (the part that doesn’t shed), the undercoat is allowed to grow uninhibited which can lead to more shedding.

There Are Better Ways to Manage Your Dogs Coat

Regular brushing does more than just remove extra fur. It helps keep your dog’s hair in good condition by removing dirt, preventing tangles, and keeping their skin clean and irritant free. Get into a regular grooming schedule at a good groomer, where they will bath, blow-dry and tidy your dog’s feathers and feet.

Please Don’t Shave Your English Setter

Shaving a double coated dog does not help cool them down, it will not decrease shedding, it will not prevent allergies, and it permanently damages their coat.Lots of us make this assumption about a nice summer shave for our pets. It’s so easy to do, and it’s hard to imagine that it could do any harm. 

Remember that the English Setters outer layer of fur is there for a purpose. It serves as his heating and cooling system, developed and designed by mother nature herself. Please think twice before shaving your dog – in this case nature knows best.

When the coat does grow back it produces a thicker undercoat  with a mix of short guard hairs. This new coat is thicker and softer then the old coat. Why is this bad? A dog’s shaved down false coat acts as a sweatshirt. Its softness soaks up the water and attracts burrs and hitchhikers. The thickness of the coat is extremely hot in summer.

Blue Cross Animal Hospital


Your English Setter is a magnificent looking dog, graceful with a beautiful silky coat. In order to keep these wonderful dogs looking their best, brushing their coat at least once a week is recommended, otherwise their silky coats may look untidy. If you leave them unattended, matts and tangles will start to form, causing problems as time goes on. As well as regular brushing, a trip to the groomer every 6 to 8 weeks is also recommended.


A bath will keep your Setters skin and coat healthy and clean, and the high velocity dryer will help with any shedding. Ask the groomer to trim around the feet and in between the pads (often mud can get impacted in the hair between the pads making it uncomfortable for your dog), and trim the hair on the hocks (the part of the back leg from the back of the knee to the heel). I personally like my dogs’ curls under her chin and down her neck, however some people like a smoother finish, so the groomer can use the thinning scissors to thin out the hair on the neck.

Toes and Ears

The groomer will also check the nails and ears. Sometimes dogs with ears that lay close to the head can be prone to ear infections due to the warmth and moisture causing bacteria to form within the ears. Always keep an eye on your dogs’ ears and if they start to look inflamed and feel warm to the touch, smell or your dog is constantly scratching at his ear, he may have an infection, which will require a visit to your vet for some antibiotic drops. A good home recipe for a natural ear cleaner is 3 parts Apple Cider Vinegar with Mother (it has to have the Mother ingredient in it because this is the good bacteria that helps) to 1 part purified water. Using some cotton wool, clean the ear once or twice a week. Never use a cotton bud or similar.

Below is a trimming guide for a Setter. Note there are no clippers used!

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