Help! My Dog Won't Stop Shedding

We all love our dogs, but most of us could live without all of the shedding. Most dogs shed at least a little bit most of the time; however, if you live with a dog who has a thick undercoat, you know that some dogs shed enough fur to insulate your entire house in the spring and fall. The undercoat gets totally blown out in preparation for the upcoming winter or summer.

Dog hair
Brushing your dog frequently won't reduce the amount of hair your dog drops, but it will control where it drops.

Start at the groomer's

If your dog has long hair, you may want to start your fight against shedding at the groomer's station. Cutting your dog's hair short won't totally stop the shedding, but it will reduce the mess because there will simply be less hair that can fall out on your furniture and clothes.

Never shave a dog entirely. Fur does serve a couple of important functions besides making the dog look good. Your dog's skin is not made to be exposed to the sun, and fur provides a natural sunblock to prevent burns. Fur also traps air, which aids your dog in maintaining body temperature. The fur cools the dog in the summer and warms him or her in the winter. So, leave at least a little fur when you cut the dog's hair to help control shedding.

Bathe frequently

Using a shampoo designed for dogs, washing your dog frequently will help to loosen the fur that would otherwise fall out on your floor. Drs. Foster and Smith sell a product called Shed Reducing Shampoo that contains Vitamins A, D, and E, plus omega fatty acids, Panthenol, aloe, and oat protein to nourish your dog's skin and coat. Petco's 8 in 1 Perfect Coat Shed Control Shampoo is fortified with antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids and rich moisturizers.

Never use your own shampoo or, even worse, dish soap to bathe your dog. These sudsers will not protect your dog's coat and may even damage the fur, causing more shedding.

After the bath, there are several sprays you can use to help reduce tangling, allowing you to comb out your dog's coat without pulling out fur that's not quite ready to fall out yet. These sprays are usually sold as companion products for the shampoos. For Drs. Foster and Smith, the detangler is marketed as Shed Reducing Spray, while Petco's product is called 8 in 1 Perfect Coat Clear Choice Grooming Spray.

Dog being groomed
Cutting your dog's hair short won't totally stop the shedding, but it will reduce the mess.

Frequent Brushing

Brushing your dog frequently - as much as twice daily during peak shedding seasons - won't reduce the amount of hair your dog drops, but it will control where it drops. When you brush your dog, you are pulling out the loose hair that would otherwise be deposited on your furniture. The positive aspect is that you can grab the fur out of the brush and confine it to the one area of your home where you're doing the grooming. Or, you may choose to groom outside and let the birds use that fur to line their nests.

The best product to use as a de-shedding brush is, hands down, the Furminator, if you have a dog with an undercoat. Dogs who have just one coat or who have very short hair will not appreciate the experience. However, dogs who are blowing their undercoat will LOVE the assistance in getting the loose hair off. You can buy a Furminator at any pet store, but they are typically much cheaper on eBay. (FYI...Furminator has now come out with a line of shampoos and grooming sprays. I haven't tried them yet, but if they're anything like the de-shedding tool, I would imagine they're wonderful.)

Another product you might try for uber-shedders is the Love Glove. This is a one-size-fits-all neoprene glove that you put on your hand and simply pet your dog to loosen shedding fur. The "original" has flexible rubber tips on the palm which can be used to lift dog hair off of your furniture and carpets. The Deluxe version incorporates a pin brush on the palm of the glove that will help you remove mats and tangles from your dog's fur. It is also billed as an exfoliator and skin stimulator.

The Kong Company markets the Zoom Groom, a small rubber brush that fits in the palm of your hand. Running this grooming tool over your dog's fur draws the loose fur out. I have actually tested this one, and my one complaint was that it didn't gather the loose hair together on the face of the brush, so I couldn't just grab it and throw it away. It knocked the loose fur out, but the hair just landed wherever the prevailing winds took it. The Zoom Groom's best use is to brush out a dog after a bath while the fur is still damp.

Consider the food you are using

Lower quality foods can result in shedding - usually because the fur becomes brittle and breaks off. A good quality food, either home made or commercially produced, will have a very high protein content to strengthen the hair, as well as adequate fatty acids to nourish the coat.

Look for a food that has a protein source as at least the first ingredient, if not the first two or three. You can supplement your dog's food with fish oil to help provide fatty acids.

Cleaning up after the fact

In spite of your best feeding and grooming efforts, you will no doubt find at least a little shed fur around your home. Cleaning it up quickly prevents it from getting worked into the fibers of your carpets, furniture, and clothes.

For both hard floors and carpets, a good pet-focused vacuum might be all you need. Bissell makes a Lift-Off Multi Cyclonic Pet Vacuum as well as the Pet Hair Eraser. (Incidentally, Bissell also donates a portion of their profits to help homeless pets.) Dyson's DC41 is billed as an Animal Cyclone. Eureka markets the Pet Lover (available as either a Deluxe model or a Plus model). Hoover has a WindTunnel billed as a Pet Plus Multi-Cyclonic. The possibilities are endless. Mostly what you are looking for is strong suction and an attachment that pulls pet hair off of your furniture.

Another way to remove pet hair from your furniture, as well as from your clothing, is a tape roller. These tools, sold near the more traditional lint removers, are simply large sheets of masking tape wrapped around a central roller. You run the tape over the furry surface, the hair sticks to it, then you peel off the outer layer to reveal another piece of clean tape.

The good people at 3M have come up with a Scotch-brand Fur Fighter Pet Hair Remover, which has Microtap Grippers designed to remove pet hair that has become embedded in your upholstered furniture. The disposable, refillable sheets also trap dander which can help if you or members of your family are allergic to your favorite four-legged family member.

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