Your dog is unique, and so is his coat.
Some coats require a good chunk of time and money to maintain and shed quite a bit, while others require little more than a quick brush over your morning coffee, and shed almost zero hair.
Understanding the key differences among dog coat types can make a huge impact on your decisions when it comes to grooming and choosing the right pup for you, but finding the right information is no easy task either!
We decided to break it down for you, and show you exactly what you need to know about canine coats when it comes to shedding and grooming.
Different Types of Dog Coats
There are 100's of dog breeds in existence, and no two dogs are exactly the same. Thankfully, there are some common traits among their coats which is why the following points are useful to understand.
The primary difference between coats can be broken down into 3 main categories:
- Single or double coat
Note: Different breeds will fit into multiple categories. For example, a double coated, short haired dog fits into 2 categories (double coated + short hair). While a single coated long and curly haired dog fits into 3 categories (single coat + long hair + curly texture). This is normal.
1. Single vs Double Coat
One of the most important elements of a dogs coat you need to understand, is whether or not it is a single or double coat type. This will make a difference in both grooming and the amount of hair your dog sheds.
Quite simply, these dogs have ONE single coat of fur which can be short, long or otherwise.
The general consensus is that these dogs shed less, however, this isn't always the case. While they're not subject to seasonal shedding like their double coated counterparts, they do shed year round. The shedding is more of a gradual and steady process and is often less noticeable, which may be why many think they shed less.
Example Single Coat Breeds
On the plus side, these coats are often easier to groom since there's only one coat to contend with, and it's generally ok to have them clipped. One disadvantage trait is how they are more prone to temperature changes, particularly cold weather, which makes them more vulnerable to some outdoor activities and less popular as a working dog.
This refers to dogs that have a relatively soft, short and dense undercoat, in addition to a top coat which acts as a 'guard' to the undercoat. The top coat is generally longer and more harsh than the undercoat since it's job is to protect the undercoat.
The easiest way to tell if you've got one of these, is to gently pull your pups hair back and look to see if the one coat follows right through to the skin or not. If you see a variation at the base, you've got a double coated dog. Sometimes you will really need to look closely, as they can be very dense on some breeds.
Example Double Coat Breeds
These dogs undergo seasonal shedding throughout the year and generally "blow coat" twice per year between seasons. This is just another way of saying they are shedding the old coat they no longer need. Sometimes, this can be very pronounced, to the point where you can't even pat your dog without copping a handful of fur! In most cases though, this is normal and no cause for concern. How much depends on the breed and how much fur was grown in the lead up to the previous season.
While they do offer the dog a good amount of protection, these coats can also be more prone to tangles and matts which means more care and attention may be required in the grooming department. That said, this is not always the case, it depends on the breed itself so it always pays to check.
Note: Many well meaning owners of double coated dogs have their coat shaved (mostly thinking they are helping it keep or trying to reduce hair loss), but don't realize that this is a very bad idea. In fact, trimming this type of coat is one of the worst things you could possibly do, and can even lead to irreparable damage! The undercoat is there for a reason, to protect and insulate your dog from hot and cold weather. By shaving the coat you are destroying his natural protection against weather extremes, the sun and insect bits among other things. It is simply not a good idea to do this, despite what some will tell you.
2. Coat Length
There are 4 main lengths of a dogs coat which will have an effect on how difficult grooming will be, and depending on who you speak to, may also be an indicator as to how much shedding you're in for.
Short Hair Breed
Long Hair Breed
Short Hair: If you thought having a short haired dog would save you from your shedding woes... think again. They shed just as much as the longer haired dogs, and some short haired breeds shed even more! Many believe they shed even more than long haired dogs due to having a shorter hair growth cycle. As in, it takes less time for the hair to reach it's full length, and thus the natural cycle of growing to shedding completes sooner. However, others claim this makes absolutely zero difference at all to shedding.
What should you believe? It really comes down to the individual breed, there is no hard and fast rule that one length sheds more than another. In any case, it's probably not wise to choose one of these guys based on the length of fur itself thinking you're home free. They are generally easier to groom though, which means time and money saved!
Long Hair: Anything over 2 inches is generally considered long haired. Again, depending on who you ask, some experts suggest that dogs with long, fine hair with little or no undercoat will shed less. No doubt in some cases this does prove true. In any case, the length itself doesn't make them harder to groom or make them shed more, but they may get tangled and knotted fur easier which adds work to your grooming routine.
Hairless: As the name suggests, these guys have no hair at all! If you have a serious concern about having hair dropped throughout your home, this coat type is for you.
Combination: Mixture of short, long and different textured coats with or without an undercoat. It's a mixed bag.
3. Coat Texture
This is all about the look and feel of the coat. As in... how curly, thick, wavy, wooly, dense, fluffy or wirey is it? There are quite a few variations with this, but we've narrowed it down to 5 of the most common types.
Smooth Coats: These coats are short, almost skin like, and relatively shiny in appearance. Despite their short length, these can be single or double coat and do shed like any other short haired dog. As you would expect though, they're quite easy to maintain and don't require much effort to maintain at all.
Heavy Coats: These are characterized by thick, bushy coats (long, short or combination) that are prone to knots and matting. They are often lush and silky and while they do look beautiful, they do require regular brushing to maintain.
Broken/ Wire Coats: Generally found in colder climates, these have a soft undercoat, along with a tough, wirey top coat that protect them from harsh weather conditions. A perfectly healthy coat for these guys will actually appear rough and bristly. They require less grooming and shed less although some go all out and 'pluck' the coat in order to keep it in tip top shape.
Corded Coats: If you've ever seen those dogs that look like they have dreadlocks, these are the guys! These guys naturally shed less because most of their loose hair becomes trapped within the cords before getting a chance to fill your home. That said, they can require a significant amount of work to maintain and ensure they don't matt or tangle.
Wavy/ Curly/ Fleecy Coats: When it comes to dogs that shed the least amount of fur, these guys are right at the top of the list. A well known example of these breeds is a Poodle, or Labradoodle, which are characterized by curls and shed very little in comparison to many other breeds. However, they do require a lot of attention when it comes to clipping and grooming though so it is a trade off.
Another important concept to understand when it comes to Poodles, and breeds with similar coats, is the hair growth cycle. The fur on a Poodle is almost always in the growing phase, thus it reaches the 'shedding' phase significantly less than other breeds. Also, given the 'curly/ wavy' nature of the fur itself, and the typically low amount of undercoat, these guys are pretty much the perfect storm when it comes to being a low shedding dog breed. Short of getting a hairless breed, this is about as good as it gets.
Fun Fact: Some claim Poodles (and similar breeds) have 'hair' as oppose to 'fur' because it grows continuously, unlike typical dog fur that reaches a certain length. However, this is not the most accurate definition as an article published by DogPlay.com points out. The hair on our arms, legs and 'other' places stops growing... does that make it fur? No. Categorizing fur vs hair on the length it grows alone is simply not accurate. So, next time your neighbour is proudly telling everyone how much better his or her pooch is simply because it has 'hair' instead of 'just fur'... well, you now know better!
As you can see, there are quite a few variables when it comes to dog coats and each variation has it's own set of pros and cons to consider. On one hand, dogs like German Shepherd's have thick, double coats and will shed quite a bit throughout the year. They will also blow their coat seasonally. On the other extreme, you've got curly coated Poodles and the like, which do have hairy coats, but won't shed anywhere near the same. Although they will require more effort when it comes to grooming!
You don't need to be some kind of 'coat expert', but knowing the basics really can help you. Whether you're looking to invite a new fur baby into your home and want to know what you're up against, or you just want to get your dog's coat in tip top shape. The more you know, the more you can give your dog the TLC he needs to thrive, and the cleaner your home will be!
Another important aspect of properly caring for your dog's coat, is choosing the right type of brush. You don't need to go all out on some kind of professional grooming kit, but it does pay to get a handle on the basics as this can make all the difference.