Grooming different dog coat types requires a strategic, individualized approach since dogs come in all shapes, sizes and colors. When choosing a dog, many perspective dog owners often wonder whether there are some dogs breeds that are easier to groom than others and whether there are certain dog breeds that are more difficult to groom which should be avoided; however, the answers to these questions are not that easy to answer as there are many variances. Certified dog groomer Tori Tarantino shares her experience in grooming different dog coat types.
Grooming Different Dog Coat Types
By Tori Tarantino
One of the most common questions we receive daily as dog groomers is “What should I do for at-home care?” This is especially common when a person adopts their first puppy.
The typical mindset of anyone who acknowledges grooming is that some dogs are easy to keep up with and some are not. However, this is a pretty big misconception.
There are various standards that are set when it comes to determining how easy or difficult a dog coat can be to handle regardless of the breed. In this article, I will be breaking down the various types of dog coats as well as some other minor road bumps that may make maintenance more difficult.
A Matter of Health
Before diving into grooming different dog coat types, I want to reflect back on some points I made in my “The Most Difficult Dogs to Groom” article that was posted a couple of weeks back. Grooming is an essential part of your dog’s overall health and letting it do its own thing can cause mild to severe discomfort depending on the condition it’s left in.
If you’re planning on getting a “show cut” or a “breed standard” cut like you see on those dog shows, this will be especially important to you, as it’s not always possible to save the hair that’s necessary to uphold the desired look.
I also want to point out that hair that gets overly dirty, oily, or matted overtime can, not only camouflage underlying problems, but can cause them as well. Some examples include moles, tumors, scratches, wounds, or hot spots being concealed or fleas, ticks, mites, and worms being sheltered.
If the coat is matted, it can also cause tearing, redness, or bruising of the skin. Now that I’ve reiterated some of the basic reason as to why maintenance is so important, let’s go into grooming different dog coat types, examples of breeds that fall into those categories, and which tools/solutions can be used to properly care for them.
This is personally my favorite shorter coat to work with. Smooth coats are typically associated with Boxers, Boston Terriers, Great Danes, and Weimaraners to name a few and is often confused with the type of coat that Labradors have (but we’ll get to that later).
The easiest way to create a distinction between the two is through the overall appearance. Smooth coats tend to have a very smooth, silky look; almost like it’s flat on the skin itself when properly cared for. However, since these are a bit more thin than other short-haired breeds, it’s also a type of coat that is highly susceptible to dryness and flaking.
We typically brush these coats with a rubber curry brush to assist any hair that’s in the process of shedding to allow more airflow to the skin. This is even more effective when the dog is clean. It’s important that these dogs are clean, but not washed too often or it may result in the skin drying out.
Some breeds associated with having curly coats are Poodles, Bichons, and even Kerry Blue Terriers. These coats can be one of the hardest to manage due to its frizzy properties. This seems to be one of the coats that mats up the easiest especially if it’s not properly cared for after getting wet or damp.
Curly coats tend to require tools such as a soft slicker brush and a fine-toothed comb. Often I’ll have clients use a brush, but not the comb and still wonder why their dog has mats in its coat. What most people don’t realize (including myself before I became a groomer!) is that the brushing will typically get the hair that you see upon looking at the dog, but it doesn’t get the length of the hair in entirety.
Going through with the comb to lift up sections of hair or to go through and make sure there aren’t any snags or tangles is what ensures that you’re brushing thoroughly enough.
The brushing/combing should be done every two or three days at a minimum and is especially important after getting wet as condensation can actually tighten any existing knots, easily turning them into actual mats. Consistent combing can also help to maintain their fluffy appearance.
Wiry coats are typically attributed to terriers, though there are some that may fit better into other categories. Some examples may be the West Highland White Terrier, Cairn Terrier and the Australian Terrier. Wire coats can be a difficult coat to work with, not because of any matting tendencies, but because of the make up of the hair itself.
Wire coats feel wiry to the touch but the texture isn’t a consistent one. If you have a terrier that gets a pattern or show cut, have you ever pet the back of your pooch and noticed that the shorter areas are super soft compared to the longer areas (like the skirt)?
This is because it’s merely the tip of the hair that has a wiry point while the base of the hair is soft, which is preferred by a lot of terrier owners.
For the owners that love the charm of the wiry appearance, the popular choice of maintenance is hand-stripping – which is really just a fancy way of saying the groomer “plucks” out the dead softer hairs on the body, meaning the wiry hairs stand out more and have an easier time growing out in a healthy manner.
Sometimes hand-stripping on a single dog can take hours, not including the bathing and drying process or handling multiple dogs at a time, so if this is something you’re looking into there may be additional fees for the time spent; and no worries, it doesn’t hurt the dogs when done properly.
Some long-coated breeds you may be familiar with are the Shih-Tzu, Maltese, and Yorkshire Terrier to name a few. These pups have silky, soft hair that grows long when allowed and properly cared for. In fact, keeping them longer is standard for show.
Just like with curly coats, these tend to knot and mat up easily so consistent care is much-needed and with the same tools. Most owners don’t care for the floor-length locks, but there are many deviations depending on the individual owner’s preference.
A fairly common term we hear with these breeds is “puppy cut” but I want to clear the air here. This is an example of when the internet cannot always be trusted as there is no official “puppy cut.” Some groomers view a “puppy cut” as the shortest length possible everywhere including the ears and tails because it resembles what the hair looks like when a dog is a very young puppy. A lot of groomers view it as one length being used all over the body (not including head and tail) but the length they take it isn’t one that’s pre-determined.
It’s a pretty big pet peeve of groomers when we ask a client what they want to do for a haircut and they just say “puppy cut” because of how controversial of a term it is in the grooming industry so we ask that if you’re getting your fur baby a haircut, think of how much hair you’d like the to have instead so it’s easier for us to give you what you’re looking for.
Oh boy, the dreaded double-coat discussion. This is a coat type that is both common and commonly ill cared-for in my experience and may be the topic I’ll have the most to say about. Some double-coated breeds include the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Siberian Husky and Pug.
The term “double coat” refers to the two different types of hair some dogs have on their bodies. There’s a longer coat that sheds the long, thicker hairs and an undercoat that sheds the soft, fluffy hairs (this may be a common occurrence when switching from winter to spring).
Typically, the tools used for upkeep include the rubber curry brush as mentioned for the smooth coats, but for the longer double-coated breeds an undercoat rake may come in handy as well.
Because of their tendency to shed, a lot of double-coated breeds will benefit from de-shedding shampoos and conditioners. Many pet owners are under the false impression that shaving their double coat breed is the way to go, but I can’t stress enough how unnecessary it is. Following is explained why.
Shaving Dogs with Double Coats
Double coated dog breeds are protected by their coats and while a lot of people think that their coats make them too hot in the summer, it’s quite the opposite. These coats are designed for insulation, which means in the winter they keep in their natural body heat making them comfortable and tolerant of the bitter cold. However, in the scorching hot summertime it acts as a protective covering, shielding their skin from the harmful rays from the sun preventing sunburn, dryness, and in a way giving them shade and a way to cool off.
Removing this hair by shaving it, removes their protection from various weather conditions, can cause discomfort and itchiness and (wait for it) does absolutely nothing for shedding. Some may swear that it does, but what it actually does is simply make the shedding hairs shorter as well as add stress to the hair follicle.
When the hair is shaved short to the skin, the regrowth process is stunted. Two different types of hair are trying to grow in the same place at the same time. This can permanently alter the way in which a double coated dog’s coat grows back, changing the texture to a coarse, uneven, and almost strange one, or it can even stop it from growing back properly altogether.
We always insist when a client requests a service such as this for them to allow us to do what we recommend in place of it, adding in that they will not have to pay if they’re not satisfied with the outcome, and doing extensive research at home after they pick up and that if they’re still insistent on doing so for their next visit, we’ll comply.
Very rarely have we had a client unsatisfied with our recommendations and very rarely have we had a client satisfied with their dog’s double coat being altered after a shave. Shedding is healthy. We do it too! Just be sure to thoroughly brush them at home to keep it neat or the undercoat may build up and become impacted making the shedding equivalent to a winter day in the snow belt!
Grooming different dog coat types takes quite an individualized approach. There is so much more to know about the different types of hair and fur amongst our four-legged friends, especially regarding breed specifics. Every breed is at least a little bit different from the others in its own way and understanding these means of care can make a world of a difference.
For further information, I recommend reading Melissa Verplank’s "Notes from the Grooming Table." Her book can be a bit on the pricey side, but it covers nearly every breed and is full of tips and tricks to maintaining a healthy coat for your pup and offers ideas for different cuts. It’s a dog groomer’s best friend and we often recommend it to our clients who wish to gain a better understanding of our processes. Happy reading!
About the Author
Tori Tarantino is a 26-year-old animal lover and advocate who has worked as a certified dog groomer since May 2014.
In the years prior, she worked an apprentice position as a dog bather and volunteered frequently at her local Humane Society.
She currently has two dogs, a cat, and two fish. Aside from grooming, her passions include pilates, reading, learning new languages, and freelance pet photography.