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Caring for Your Dog’s Fur

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happy corgi dog being brushed on pet parent lap

Dog fur care is an essential part of any dog's grooming routine. Having a well-kept coat can help your dog look and feel their best. Plus, it reduces how much dog hair is on your clothes, furniture, and every other surface in your home. Since a dog's coat can vary quite a bit from one breed to another, it's helpful to know the best grooming techniques for your pup.

Do Dogs Have Hair or Fur?

When referring to a dog's coat, 'hair' and 'fur' are typically used interchangeably, but is there a difference? Chemically, both hair and fur are made of keratin. However, they can have different textures, lengths, and grooming needs.

Hair is usually longer than fur, which means it has a longer growth cycle and thus sheds less frequently. Hair can have many textures, such as straight, wavy, or curly, and will often feel smoother and finer than fur. Hair also typically grows uniformly—there's only one layer.

On the other hand, fur can grow in as a double coat. In this instance, the undercoat and topcoat will have different textures. Fur is typically denser, shorter, and sheds more often than hair.

Though these are the typical characteristics of hair and fur, each dog's coat can be unique in more ways than one. If your pup is a mix of multiple breeds, this can also affect their hair or fur.

It's not unusual for your dog's coat to change as they age, so you may need to alter their grooming routine over time. If you are unsure how to categorize your dog's coat and properly take care of it, don't hesitate to talk with your veterinarian or your dog's groomer.

Dogs and Lice

It's well-known that people can have lice, but can dogs carry lice? Though it may not be the answer dog parents want to hear, dogs can carry lice, though it isn't a common issue. Nevertheless, there are dog lice symptoms you should be aware of, such as excessive itching or chewing, particularly in one area. This will often lead to your dog's coat becoming matted.

If you notice these symptoms, it's crucial that you take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible. If diagnosed with lice, your pup may be treated with topical preventatives, lice shampoo, or a spray. Although you won't need to worry about your dog spreading their lice to you or your children, you will need to keep them separated from any other dogs you may have at your house.

smooth coated boxer dog on a walk

Smooth and Short-Coated Dogs

This type of hair texture for a dog can feel coarse or silky to the touch, though short coats often have a smooth or sleek appearance. Dog breeds such as Dachshunds, Italian Greyhounds, and Boxers all have this coat style.

These coats typically require minimal attention—just a quick brush a few times a week. However, these dogs are known to shed quite a bit, so giving their coat attention every day could help eliminate the amount of hair shed around your home.

Brushing your pup can help catch loose hair, clean out dirt, and spread oils throughout their coat. Typically, a short-bristled brush will work perfectly. Be sure to brush with, not against, the natural lay of the hair and to be gentle in more sensitive areas like your dog's belly or ears.

How stinky your dog gets and whether they roll in any mud puddles may determine how often you need to bathe your dog. A major plus of having a dog with a shorter coat is that bath time is usually fast, and your dog can dry quickly with just a towel.

cocker spaniel with a red collar waiting for a treat

Long-Haired Dogs

Long hair on dogs can vary from just a few inches to floor length. Dogs with long hair may not shed as much as shorter coated dogs, but they do still tend to shed all year round.

Dogs with longer hair can have coarse or silky coats. Popular coarse-coated dogs include Pomeranians and Schnauzers. Well-known long, silk-coated dogs are Cocker Spaniels and Afghan Hounds.

Due to their long hair, it's much easier for these pups to get knots and tangles, so daily brushing may be necessary. Depending on your dog's coat texture, it might work best to start brushing with a pin brush, which can help loosen up any knots. Then go back over their coat with a bristle brush.

If you choose to bathe your dog on your own, instead of taking them to a professional groomer, be sure to carefully select a dog-friendly shampoo and conditioner made for longer hair. You may even want to purchase detangling shampoo if your pup is prone to knots. Also, don't be too surprised if the drying process takes longer than washing.

wirehaired dachshund being held by pet parent

Wire-Haired Dogs

Dogs with a wiry coat fall into a different, unique category for coat textures. To the touch, this type of hair is rough and will remain so even after getting brushed and bathed. Underneath this rougher topcoat, most wire-haired pups have a soft undercoat.

One of the many beautiful things about wire-coated dogs is that they do not shed much, but they will still need to be brushed regularly. Your dog will also need to go through a process known as plucking or stripping. This helps remove old, dead hairs and allows room for new, healthier hair to grow in. This process is not painful to your dog, but it is time-consuming—you'll need to set aside an hour at least.

There are many brushes and tools that can help you speed up the process of hand-plucking, or you can turn to a professional dog groomer for this job. Be sure to find a groomer that offers this service (not all do) and communicate what you want since some groomers use the term 'stripping' for a close-cut style. Depending on your pup's unique coat, they might also need a clipping.

Though wire-coated dogs require some extra grooming steps, there are many truly wonderful wire-haired dog breeds that are excellent companions. Many terrier breeds have wired coats. Don't worry—if you want a larger wire-coated pup, Irish Wolfhounds also have this fun coat texture.

miniature goldendoodle playing at a fenced in dog park

Curly-Coated Dogs

Dogs can have curly coats that range from loose waves to tight spirals. One of the many great aspects of curly-coated breeds is that they shed minimally. Though that hair is still technically falling out, it's just being trapped in the curls. To help get these loose hairs out of the coat, you will need to brush your pup regularly. Otherwise, they could develop knots and even matting. A slicker brush often works well for this coat type.

Many dogs with this coat also need to be trimmed regularly to prevent their hair from becoming too long. Depending on the style you prefer, you can trim just a little bit off each time so that your dog's hair stays at the 'scruffy' length or give your pup a much closer cut, giving you more time between trimming appointments.

Because many curly-coated dogs require extra coat trimming, many dog parents prefer to take their dog to a professional groomer.

Curly-coated dogs are, currently, incredibly popular, all thanks to Doodle mixes. Other popular dog breeds with this coat texture are Portuguese Water Dogs, Poodles, and Bichons Frises.

silly Siberian husky biting leash while on a walk

Double-Coated Dogs

Double-coated dogs can be short or long-haired. As their name already suggests, these dogs have two coats: an undercoat that's thick, soft, and provides temperature regulation, and a top coat, which can be coarser to the touch. Popular double-coated breeds include Collies, Huskies, Corgis, and Golden Retrievers.

Double-coated dogs are prone to shedding all year round but will also go through a process known as blowing coat. This typically occurs twice a year, in the spring and fall, when your dog will shed excessively. Though you may think that your pup will be going bald with how much hair they lose, it's a completely normal process of switching from their summer coat to their winter coat, and vice versa.

To help manage the hair of double-coated breeds, brush your dog multiple times throughout the week. Depending on how your pup feels about getting brushed, you may want to do quick sessions every day or a few longer brushings—you can easily brush them close to an hour, and there will still be more hair in the brush.

If your pup has a short coat, you can use a pin brush to brush outwards from the skin—this will help with their undercoat. Brushing the topcoat in the direction it grows can help collect their courser hair.

With a long-haired, double-coated dog, it's recommended that you use a rake brush to reach their undercoat and then a slicker brush for their outer coat. Longer-coated dogs are more prone to matting, so a thorough brushing from their ears to their tail is a must. If you happen to come across a big knot, it's typically recommended that you do not cut it out. Instead, mention the issue to your dog's groomer, and they can take care of it for you.

Don't be intimidated to still bathe your dog on your own from time to time if you don't want to visit a professional groomer every time. However, it's crucial that you thoroughly dry your pup. Undercoats can hold moisture, and if they aren't fully dry, they can mat or cause skin irritations. It's additionally vital that you never shave a double-coated dog, as this can ruin their ability to regulate their body temperature.

Like a theme with double-coated dogs, they will once again need another quick brush through after their blow-drying session. When it comes to dogs with these coats, one thing is a guarantee—you can't be afraid of dog hair being a part of your everyday life.

Xoloitzcuintle on walk

Hairless Dogs

A dog's coat plays a vital role in their life. This extra layer of protection can shield them from bites, scratches, and even the sun. A dog's coat also helps regulate their body temperature, both in hot and cold weather.

However, not every dog breed has hair. Common questions concerning hairless canines include,

How Many Breeds of Hairless Dogs Are There?

There are only a handful of recognized hairless dog breeds, though not all of them are entirely hairless. Some have little tufts of hair on their tail or head. Like hairless cats, some hairless dog breeds may have an incredibly short, light layer of hair similar to peach fuzz.

Do Hairless Dogs Have Dander?

Hairless dogs can still have dander, though it is often significantly less compared to dogs with full coats. With that in mind, people usually associate dog allergies with dog hair, but it's dander that causes allergic reactions. This means that individuals can still have allergic reactions around dogs with very little to no hair.

Do Hairless Dogs Need Sunscreen?

If you are the proud parent of a hairless dog, then sunscreen will need to become your new favorite product. With just 15-20 minutes out in the sun, your pup's exposed skin could start burning. Whenever your pal will be outside for a longer time, take a moment beforehand to apply a dog-friendly, hypoallergenic sunscreen. Depending upon how long you will be outdoors, you may also need to reapply your dog's sunscreen. Each sunscreen may have different recommendations, so be sure to read your bottle's directions.

Do Hairless Dogs Get Fleas?

Hairless dogs can still get fleas, so it's crucial that you give them flea prevention medicine. One of the only differences between a hairy dog and a hairless dog getting fleas is that they are far easier to spot on a dog that doesn't have hair.

Do Hairless Dogs Sweat?

All dogs sweat, but not in the same way that people do. A dog's sweat glands are located in their paws, which may explain why you find wet paw prints on your floor during the summer. Dogs are also able to cool themselves down through panting. Some hairless breeds, like the Xoloitzcuintli, sweat through their skin, including under their arms.

Even if you have a hairless dog breed, don't assume this means they will have zero grooming requirements. Many hairless breeds will need a bath more frequently than some super hairy breeds.

Whenever bathing your pup, carefully choose their shampoo since many hairless dogs have sensitive skin.

Common Coat Questions

Since taking care of your dog's coat is an implemental part of their grooming routine and keeps them in good health, it's common for dog parents to have many questions about their dog's coat. Common questions include:

  • How Do I Keep My Dog's Fur White?

    One of the best ways to keep your dog's coat nice, bright, and white is to stay on top of their grooming. The longer you let dirt or stains sit on their coat, the harder they will be to remove. When shampooing your white dog, you can also use color-specific or whitening shampoo. Dogs with white fur are also prone to tear staining around their eyes. Using a damp cloth, gently wipe away from their eyes to clean these marks.

  • Why Do Dogs Lick Their Fur?

    There are many reasons a dog will lick their fur, such as routine grooming, having an itch, being nauseous, or just being bored. Be sure to keep an eye out for any excessive licking or unusual behaviors. This could signify that something else is wrong, and a trip to the veterinarian may be necessary.

  • Does Dog Fur Keep Them Warm in the Winter, or Does Dog Fur Keep Them Cool in Summer?

    Dog fur works as a fantastic insulator and can keep dogs warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Plus, their coat protects them from sunburn when they're outside. Dogs' ability to insulate with just their coat is incredible, and it's why your Husky can stay out in the snow for hours without being bothered one bit.

There is much to learn about your dog's unique coat type and all of the specific grooming needs that come along with it. However, establishing a healthy grooming routine and learning how to take care of their coat can keep your best pal looking and feeling their best. Not to mention, spending time taking care of your dog's coat is an excellent opportunity to bond with and build the relationship you have with your best pal.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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