Dogs have some of the most amazing dog coats, ranging from curly to straight, puffy to wiry, bald to long. Their fur comes in short coats, long coats, and every variation in between. Some dog coats even come equipped with dreadlocks!
It’s truly hard to believe that the wolf produced descendants with such wide varieties of dog coats, but it did, and that means you’re going to have to evaluate the type of coat your dog has and what that means in terms of the grooming equipment and supplies you’re going to need. The easiest way to tell what kind of dog coats your dog has is to read the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard for your breed and look under the coat listing.
Different Types of Dog Coats
Below, I am going to share with you the characteristics of each and every type of dog coats you find and how they affect your grooming efforts. The information is extracted from our Advanced Dog Grooming Training Techniques eBooks.
Characteristics of Hairless Breeds
Hairless breeds are unique in that they have very little (if any) body hair. Hair is sometimes found on the head and feet in these breeds (e.g. Chinese Crested Dog). Because much of the skin is exposed, the skin requires special attention, and care when grooming. The areas that are covered with hair require grooming to keep them free of knots and tangles, and the dog well presented.
Photo: Chinese Crested Dog, Courtesy of Abrahami (Wikimedia Commons)
Characteristics of Short-coated Breeds
Short-coated dogs have short, sleek dog coats that are easy to maintain. These breeds fall into two categories: smooth-coated breeds, which have a single layer of short hair that lies close to the body (boxer, whippet, great dane, dalmatian); and short-coated breeds that have a double layer of short hair, which is quite thick, offering protection against the elements. The latter tend to shed quite a lot of hair when they moult, so don’t be fooled into thinking that these dogs don’t need to be brushed.
While these breeds do not have a thick undercoat, and their hair will not tangle or mat, regular brushing is necessary to remove dead hair, in order to minimize shedding. Brushing also aid in spreading the natural oils throughout the dog’s coat, keeping the dog’s coat shiny and in tip-top condition.
Photo: Boxer, Image Courtesy of Bowi the Boxer (Wikimedia Commons)
Characteristics of Medium-coated Breeds
Medium-coated breeds generally have a combination coat consisting on one layer of short coat and one layer of long coat, often with feathering on the legs (e.g. Border Collie, Golden Retriever, Irish Setter). Because they have a layer of long coat, medium-coated dogs generally require regular brushing to avoid tangles and mats from forming in their dog coats.
Photo: Border Collie, Image Courtesy Lenkahol (Wikimedia Commons)
Characteristics of Long Coated Breeds
Long coated breeds look stunning after they have been brushed and groomed, however if they are not brushed regularly, their lovely long dog coats are prone to matting. The long hair of these breeds can also pick up grass seeds and burrs easily, which if not brushed out can cause discomfort, and eventually work their way into the dog’s skin. If these go unnoticed and do not receive immediate attention, they can result in painful sores, or even abscesses.
Long-coated breeds come in all sizes – from the tiny long-haired Chihauhau; to the slightly larger long-haired Dashund, Maltese, Papillon and Pekinese; medium Bearded Collie; and larger Setters, Afghan Hound, and Old English Sheepdog. While the texture of the coat can vary, long-coated dogs generally have a soft silky coat.
Photo: A well groomed Maltese, by Sannse via Wikimedia Commons
Characteristics of Double-coated Breeds
Double-coated breeds are characterized by having a resilient coat that repels water, keeping the dog warm and dry. These dog coats have a coarse outer layer of guard hairs covering a thick, soft, insulating undercoat. The outer guard hairs protect the dog from heat, water, dirt, and grass seeds, while the thick insulating undercoat protects the dog from the cold.
Many of the working breeds, including those used for herding and hunting, fall into this category. These include the English Collie, Border Collie, Australian shepherd, Chow, Alaskan malamute, Shetland Sheepdog and Siberian Husky, to name a few. These dogs have evolved a thick insulating coat that easily sheds water, making them specially adapted to fulfill their roles as working dogs under extremely harsh environmental conditions.
Double-coated breeds tend to shed hair a lot, especially in summer when they shed much of the undercoat, which can be quite a problem for the average pet owner. This is particularly bothersome if your dog is an indoor pet, as hairs constantly fall onto carpets and furniture, requiring constant vacuuming and never-ending housework. However, regular grooming and a good brushing will remove the loose hairs from the undercoat, leaving your dog in tip-top condition, and reduce the amount of shedding in your home environment.
Photo: Newfoundland after having the undercoat combed out, from Wikimedia Commons
Characteristics of Corded Breeds
Corded breeds have unique dog coats, and require a somewhat different approach to grooming. The coat of these breeds is very curly, and naturally forms spiraling cords as they mature, resembling dreadlocks, or a mop with four paws. These breeds do not shed, and therefore require very little, if any, brushing, however, their cords need to be hand separated regularly to encourage the natural cording formation.
Corded breeds are very rare, and include the Puli, Komondor, Bergamasco and Spanish Water Dog. While Poodles may also be corded, cords do not form naturally in their dog coats – they have to be corded by hand during the grooming process. The dense corded dog coats of these breeds provide them with protection from the elements.
Photo: Fully corded adult Puli, Sannse at the English language Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons
Characteristics of Clipped Breeds
Clipped breeds are generally characterized by single dog coats that lack an undercoat. Consequently they are not great hair shedders, but to keep them looking respectable, they do require quite high maintenance when it comes to grooming. This includes regular brushing to remove knots and tangles that may form in their dog coats, as well as grass seeds and burrs that can cause mats to form in the coat, and sores to develop on the skin. In addition, the clipped breeds need to be clipped regularly – ideally every 4-8 weeks in most clipped breeds.
Clipped breeds come in all sizes, and in various coat types, including terrier coats (Bouvier de Flandres, Bedlington Terrier, Black Russian Terrier), spaniel coats (Cocker Spaniel, Springer Spaniel, Field Spaniel), and curly poodle coats (Kerry Blue Terrier, Bishon Frise, and various types of poodles).
If you have a wired-haired terrier – we classify them as wire-haired breeds (see next section). These breeds are usually stripped for show purposes, but pet terriers are more often clipped as it is far easier and less time consuming to do. Therefore, these breeds can fall under both clipped and wire-haired breeds. Whether it’s clipped or stripped will depend on your personal preferences and whether or not it is a show dog.
Photo: Bedlington Terrier, by tanakawho, Creative Commons Attributions 2.0
Characteristics of Wire-haired Breeds
Wired-haired breeds are characterized by a coarse outer wiry dog coats. In order to retain the coarse texture of the wire-haired coat, the hair needs to be hand-stripped rather than clipped. This usually needs to be done every six months, when the dog sheds dead hairs, which are removed by hand-stripping. This allows the regrowth of new wire-coat to emerge, and retains look of the wire-haired dog.
While owners of pet dogs may opt to clip these breeds rather than hand-strip them, clipping cuts the coarse outer coat down to the soft undercoat, and changes the outward appearance and texture of the dog’s coat from coarse and wiry, to soft and wooly. For show purposes, wire-haired breeds must be hand-stripped, rather than clipped.
Hand-stripping must only be done when the hairs are loose and ready to pull out easily, otherwise it may be painful for the dog. When the hairs are being shed, they pull out readily, causing the dog little discomfort. The hairs on the dog usually look fuzzy and stand out when they are ready to be hand-stripped; if they come out easily when pulled then the dog is ready to be hand-stripped.
Photo: Irish-terrier, by Anne Sollerud, via Wikimedia Commons
Characteristics of Poodles
Poodles are generally characterized by having a wooly, curly single coat that lacks an undercoat. Consequently they are not great hair shedders, but they do require quite high maintenance when it comes to grooming, as they are prone to matting, and therefore need regular brushing to remove tangles that may form in the coat. Brushing also removes grass seeds and burrs that can cause mats to develop in the coat, and can irritate the skin. In addition, poodles need to be clipped every 4-8 weeks to keep them looking well presented.
Poodles come in three sizes – toy, miniature, and standard – but the same steps are followed in the grooming process for all three varieties. There are a number of different styles of hairdo that your poodle can sport; show dogs can only be presented in one of the following variations of a lion clip: English saddle clip, or Continental clip. However, we will focus on the basic styles used for pet poodles: the lamb cut (kennel or sport clip) and bikini cut, which are much simpler for the beginner to learn, and much more practical for pet pooches.
Photo: Well-groomed poodle with ball by nickton, Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
Although some other websites or experts may classify the dog coat a little different from the way we had presented it, the types of coat we covered are quite comprehensive and should cover all, if not most types of dog coats. Some experts may classify them slightly differently, from the appearance, texture and coat length points of views, while we sought to categorize the dog coats from a dog grooming perspective – a more practical approach for dog grooming purposes. Others may have chosen slightly different terms such as stripped breeds to mean wire-coated breeds.
If you want to learn more about grooming with the specific type of coat your dog has, we have that information compiled for you all in one place in our Dog Grooming Training Course. Check it out!