The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a toy-sized dog with a simply glorious long hair coat that is a big part of this breed’s appeal.
As the American Kennel Club (AKC) points out, while the Cavalier King Charles is a very small Spaniel breed, they are true Spaniels nonetheless, with the natural athletic talent all Spaniels possess.
Because the Cavalier King Charles is toy-sized, these dogs have been classified in the toy group by the AKC. But nearly all other Spaniel breeds are classified in the sporting group.
Size notwithstanding, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel also has the specialized double layer coat of most sporting dog breeds.
This complicates answering the question of whether or not you should shave your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, as we will explain in much more detail in this article.
Should I Shave My Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?
The general answer to whether you should shave your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is no, as Chrys-haefen Kennels and breeder explains.
The reason is simple: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have a very specialized double-layer coat. Shaving the coat destroys the protective properties of the coat.
Another key reason not to shave your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is that it may disqualify your dog from dog shows. The American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard states that the coat should not be trimmed or clipped in any way.
Watch an Experienced Owner Shave Their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
In this YouTube video, you can watch a confident and experienced Cavalier owner giving their dog a thorough shave.
The viewer’s comments make it clear just how controversial this topic is. Some people really do not believe there can be any benefit to the dog from shaving the coat, while other people truly believe there can be a benefit to the dog from shaving.
Since our dogs cannot talk to us and tell us what feels and work best for them, it is up to each owner to make their own decision about how to keep their dog clean, comfortable, and safe.
However, unless there is a true benefit that cannot be achieved through any other means (such as a persistent skin health issue that will not resolve without shaving the coat), it is best to try other options before resorting to shaving the coat.
Why Is Shaving a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s Coat So Controversial?
The main reason why shaving a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s coat causes such intense debate and disagreement revolve around the type of coat these sporting toy dogs have.
Some first-time owners get fooled by the “toy” breed classification the American Kennel Club gives the Cavalier.
As we mentioned in the introduction to this article, the “toy” categorization relates only to size. In every other way, Cavaliers are still sporting dogs at their core.
Like other Spaniel dog breeds, the Cavalier King Charles has a specialized working/sporting dog coat. This coat consists of two separate layers, each with its own important protective function.
Outer coat layer
The outer coat layer is longer, coarser, and water-resistant thanks to a coating of beneficial skin oils that helps keep the skin and inner coat layer dry.
This outer coat layer is also a form of natural pest repellant and sunscreen for the dog.
Inner coat layer
The inner coat layer is softer, shorter, thicker, and deeply insulating. It functions similarly to your own winter coat.
It is the inner coat layer that will shed out seasonally as temperatures change – not unlike how you would take off your winter coat if the day gets warm.
What happens when you shave the two layers together
Like all dog breeds, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has two different coats in their life: a puppy coat and an adult dog coat.
The puppy coat is always a single layer coat. But for most working/sporting dog breeds, the adult coat is a double layer coat.
Your Cavalier will start to shed out the puppy coat around the age of six months (on average). By their first birthday, most Spaniels will have the majority of their adult coat.
For Spaniels and other working/sporting dog breeds with double layer coats, this adult coat grows in a special way to separate into two layers, the insulating inner layer, and protective and water-resistant outer layer.
When you shave a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s double layer coat, the two coat layers will not grow back separately as two distinct layers with different functions.
Rather, the two layers will grow in at the same time and intermingle. So even if your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s coat grows to look just as thick as before, it will not be able to protect your dog the way it did prior to shaving.
But Doesn’t Shave a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Keep the Dog from Overheating?
This is a very common question that most new Cavalier King Charles Spaniel owners will eventually have.
After all, in many parts of the world, summer can get quite hot and a double-coated dog might well get uncomfortable.
But here again, it is important to think like a dog rather than like a person to understand why shaving is not the best option to guard against overheating.
Dogs do not sweat like people sweat
Dogs sweat through panting and through their paw pads. They don’t sweat through their body skin.
As Fetch by WebMD explains, the coat actually helps to protect your dog against the heat and the threat of sunburn.
A dog’s skin is thinner than people skin
As Love Fur Dogs groomer explains, a dog’s skin is actually thinner and more vulnerable than your own skin. This is another reason why having some hair covering is necessary for dogs.
Interestingly, dogs also produce more than one hair per hair follicle, which again is not like what happens with people’s skin and hair.
And one follicle can produce hair in three different stages of growth, which means shaving the hair interrupts the growth process for all three types.
Shaving can even lead to hair loss (alopecia) due to follicular damage as the growth cycle is interrupted.
The bottom line here is that shaving a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel may not be the best option to achieve your goals and is also likely not the only option to achieve your goals.
Many other options exist to guard against overheating
Shaving is not the sole option to keep a dog from overheating – and also isn’t the most effective option.
A shaved dog can still overheat nearly as easily as a coated dog, plus there is the added risk of sun over-exposure, pests, and skin abrasion to deal with.
What Works to Keep a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel from Overheating?
As Embee Cavaliers breeder points out, experienced breeders and Spaniel groomers know that the best option for summer coat care is actually thinning, not shaving.
Summer coat maintenance can include thinning (sometimes called hand stripping), feathering, trimming, and even clipping.
Still, even a close puppy clip (one to two inches of hair trimmed away all around) should never be taken all the way down to the skin.
With such a close shave/clip, there is the risk of the guard hairs becoming ingrown as they start to grow back. This in turn can cause sores, abrasion, and infection that will then need veterinary treatment to deal with.
Breeders point out that a good professional summer clip is unlikely to make your dog’s coat look all that different to the casual observer (although a professional dog show judge could see the difference with ease).
But it is an effective way to thin out the coat without destroying the great protective properties of each coating layer, giving your dog a more lightweight summer clip and your peace of mind that your Spaniel will still be protected against sunburn and pests.
You can also learn to use a de-shedding rake or rubber thumbs or do manual hand-stripping at home to keep shedding under control and thin out your dog’s coat.
Help! I Already Shaved My Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s Coat
If you made a decision to shave your dog’s coat and are now reading this article and feeling anxiety, this is understandable.
However, what is done is done and all you can do is go forward. Opinions vary about whether shaving a double-coated breed just once will cause irreparable damage.
Too many owners have also arrived at the professional groomers to pick up their dog only to discover the “trim” they ordered turned into a full-out shave. This, too, can be very stressful, but there is no going back.
What you can do is be careful to guard against sunburn and overheating in the future, using canine-safe sunblock, and keeping your dog inside when temperatures start to climb outside in summer.