It can be hard to keep all the different types of dog's coats straight. If you've ever heard terms from your groomer or vet like "undercoat," "double coat," "wire coat," or other terms related to dog fur, you may wonder just what those mean. Knowing the type of coat your dog has can help you keep shedding under control, make grooming easier, and help you select what types of products to use.
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How does a dog's coat grow?
A dog's coat can be long or short, and the length it will grow to is genetically determined. A dog's coat grows in cycles of growth, a resting stage, and then dying and falling out. When the hair reaches its predetermined length, it will rest, and then fall out, which allows room for new hair to grow. For most dogs, the growth period is summertime, with shedding in fall. A dog doesn't develop a "patchy" look when their hair falls out because the hair follicles that are in the resting phase at any given time are located all over the body.
Short coat dogs
The American Kennel Club (AKC) currently registers 197 dog breeds and there's a wide variety among the dogs' coats. A dog with a short coat has fur that lies close to the body, is shiny and smooth, with no texture. Grooming is easy because there's less matting, but the flipside to this coat is that there are so many hairs that have such a short growth cycle that there is a lot of continuous shedding.
A good rule of thumb is that a short-haired dog has a coat length of 1 inch or less, with straight hair. A dog that has a smooth coat typically also has a short coat. While short and smooth coat dogs can get away with regular baths to keep them smelling nice, Animal Behavior College says dogs with these types of coats need regular brushing with a stiff-bristled brush with bristles close together to remove the maximum amount of loose hair and dander.
Medium and long coat dogs
A dog with a medium coat is in between a short and a long coat, as you might expect. They need a little more care than a short, smooth coat dog, but not as much as a dog with soft, long, flowing locks like a Lhaso Apso, sheep dog, or Maltese. Shepherds, collies, terriers, and spaniels are examples of medium coat dogs.
A weekly brushing and baths as needed should be sufficient to keep a medium coat looking good. A dog with a long coat requires regular trips to the groomers because they are more prone to getting dirty and developing matting. But, because they have a longer growth period, long-haired dogs shed less. Invest in a good brush, because these dogs will need brushing at least three times weekly to keep matts at bay. Consider also more brushing to maintain good airflow against the skin, which can reduce sensitivity. You can even use a detangler and a conditioner on dogs with long coats.
Dogs with a wire coat
Dogs with a wire coat are the ones that typically have eyebrows, mustaches, and beards. Wire coat hair stands out away from the body, and as the name suggests, is stiffer. A shampoo and a conditioner made specifically for a wire coat can soften the texture. These types of dogs, which include some terriers, pointers, schnauzers, and wirehaired Dachshunds, need a special type of care from groomers called hand stripping.
These dogs have a soft undercoat that does shed and a top wire coat that does not shed. Through hand stripping, the dead hair from the top wire coat is removed by hand through a process of plucking rather than trimming. Removing the hairs entirely creates room for the new coat to grow in. the timing of hand-stripping involves how frequently your dog's hair grows, and will vary by the dog. It is something that can be done at home with the proper tools and learning how to do it.
Curly coated breeds
Curly coat breeds like the curly coated retriever tend to mat easily. The AKC says curly coats do not have an undercoat, and the females will usually shed a lot approximately every six months. When shedding is happening, a rake type metal grooming tool is a good choice for removing dead hair, which can then be trimmed with scissors. Wetting the dog's hair and then allowing it to air dry can enhance the curls.
Undercoat and double coat
A dog with a double coat has two layers of fur: a soft undercoat and a stiffer, longer top coat. This, of course, means double the shedding, as these dogs basically have two sets of hair that grows at different rates. Double coated breeds are common and include golden and Labrador retrievers, shepherds, huskies, chows, and Corgis.
Double-coated dogs shed their undercoat twice a year. A well-cared for undercoat helps keep your dog warm in the winter by providing insulation and in the summer keeps them cooler by insulating their skin from the sun's heat. Daily brushing and monthly baths help to reduce the dander in the undercoat while also brushing away loose fur from the undercoat.
Matting in a dog's coat
Matting occurs when dog fur becomes dirty and tangled. Dogs with long hair are more prone to matting, but any dog with longer than a short coat can develop clumps. If your dog likes to swim, or gets particularly dirty, that may turn into a mat. Brushing can help reduce matting from forming. Even if your dog has a double coat, which is not recommended for shaving, a shave may be necessary if the mat is so tight that it can't be brushed out.
- Embark Vet: Dog Shedding Explained
- AKC: Breeds By Year Recognized
- Orvis: A Guide to Dog Coat Types
- Animal Behavior College: 5 Grooming Tips For Short Coat Dogs
- Purina: Medium-Haired Dog Breeds
- Nylabone: Grooming Medium-Coated Dogs
- Pet Guide: Grooming Basics: All About Hand Stripping
- Blooming Paws: Grooming Double-Coated Dogs
- Preventive Vet: Why Your Dog's Coat Gets Matted — and What You Can Do About It
- AKC: Curly Coated Retriever