The dog's coat and the 9 hair types

According to the International Cynological Federation, there are currently 353 distinct breeds* of dogs. Unique in their size, morphology, temperament, and fur, dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) exhibit astonishing diversity, stemming from their domestication by humans over 30,000 years ago**. One of their main characteristics is their fur. From short to long and silky, a well-maintained coat brings pride to the owner. Let's take a closer look at what makes up a dog's fur, the different types, and precautions to take based on the breed.

Dog fur and the 9 hair types - dog breeds

I. Dog Fur

A dog's fur is distinguished by two components: the longer and thicker hair on the top of the coat, and the short, woolly undercoat beneath.

1. Topcoat

The first component is called "topcoat" or "guard hairs." It is generally smooth, of varying length, with moderate density and relative water resistance. Its color is vivid and vibrant; it shines when healthy.

Dog fur and the 9 types of hair - guard hairs topcoat

2. Undercoat

The second, called "undercoat," "wool," "down," or "downy," is shorter, fine, and woolly. Its color is much lighter than that of the guard hairs, with very high density. It is permeable, but its compactness makes it an excellent barrier against water, dust, and various impurities.

Dog fur and the 9 types of hair - undercoat

3. Specifics and Precautions

Generally, if the topcoat doesn't mat much or at all (unless the hairs are very long), the undercoat, on the other hand, can form, especially in specific areas (behind the ears, cheeks, under the neck, armpits, buttocks, tail, belly, inside the legs, feet...), inextricable knots called "mats," "cords," or "tangles."

Dog fur and the 9 types of hair - mats knots

If not untangled in time, with the help of a brush or a grooming comb, these can become extremely difficult to undo, and, in severe cases, as untangling takes too long and is painful, shaving remains the only solution.

 Dog fur and the 9 types of hair - shaving

II. Types of Fur

There are many specific types of fur based on dog breeds. What are they, and how can they be distinguished?

1. Short Hair

Has short undercoat, moderately abundant, and very short guard hairs, smooth, numerous, tight, and uniform, of equal length throughout the body. This is the coat of Boxers, Pinschers, Dobermans, some Pointers, and certain Pointers... Of course, there is no need for detangling with this type of coat, but, falling out, dead hairs "stick" to fabrics, carpets, and are very difficult to remove as they resist brushing and are partly resistant to vacuuming.

Dog fur and the 9 types of short hair - boxer short hair

2. Short and Double Coat

Consists of woolly undercoat, abundant, very dense, and short guard hairs, smooth and soft. This is the case for German Shepherds, Labradors, Beaucerons, Huskies... No risk of knots, even if the hairs on the neck, hind thighs (breeches), and tail are noticeably longer. Sheds twice a year.

Dog fur and the 9 types of hair - labrador short and double coat

3. Long and Double Coat

The undercoat is very dense and longer behind the ears, in the armpits, breeches, and tail... with guard hairs of varying lengths, smooth and shiny. This is the coat of Collies, Belgian Shepherds, Samoyeds, and other Spitz, Newfoundlands... Real risks of matting of the undercoat in the specified areas. The guard hairs themselves are not very prone to knots except in cases of obvious neglect... Sheds twice a year.

Dog fur and the 9 types of hair - samoyed long and double coat

4. Medium to Long, Dry Coat

Known as "goat-like," it has relatively little undercoat. It is a dry coat whose guard hairs do not have the smooth and shiny appearance of the previous one. This is the coat of Lhasa Apsos, Pyrenean Shepherds... The undercoat, longer and fuller in the usual places, is obviously prone to tangling, but the topcoat itself tangles relatively little compared to its length and untangles relatively well, if of good quality, meaning genuinely dry (the less woolly the hair, the less it tangles).

Dog fur and the 9 types of hair - pyrenean shepherd medium to long and dry coat

5. Medium, Silky, and Flat Hair

A specific category for Spaniels and their derivatives, this is a coat with a moderately tight undercoat, with fine medium to long topcoat, smooth, abundant, shiny, and very soft. This is the fur of the majority of Spaniels, including English and American Cocker Spaniels, Springers, as well as small King Charles Spaniels, Papillons, and Phalenes. Guard hairs and undercoat tangle especially in strategic areas! The maintenance of the American Cocker Spaniel is, along with that of the Afghan Hound, the most demanding of all.

Dog fur and the 9 types of hair - American cocker spaniel medium, silky, and flat hair

6. Long and Silky Hair

This type is similar to human hair, so practically devoid of undercoat. The guard hairs are extremely abundant, fine, and silky. Without grooming and daily maintenance, knots are guaranteed. This is the fur of Afghans, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers... It is also a fragile fur, brittle, which needs regular greasing.

Dog fur and the 9 types of hair - Afghan hound long and silky hair

7. Harsh Hair

There is little undercoat, rough guard hairs, dry to the touch, flat, or wavy depending on the breed. This hair has the great peculiarity of not falling out once dead. It must be removed by plucking to allow the next one to grow. The coat of Terriers such as the Westie, Scottish Terrier, Airedale, Welsh Terrier, Fox Terrier, etc. When of good quality, the hair is vividly colored. On the other hand, the hues are duller if the hair is soft or woolly (shaved, for example).

Dog fur and the 9 types of hair - Irish terrier harsh hair

8. Curly Hair

Has little or no undercoat and continuously growing curly guard hairs. No shedding, it needs to be trimmed or given a scissor cut. The most well-known are Poodles and Bichon Frises, not to mention the Barbet (ancestor of the Poodle), the Irish Water Spaniel, or the Curly-Coated Retriever...

Dog fur and the 9 types of hair - Poodle curly hair

9. Corded Hair

This is a rather rare and unique case, where the fine hairs of the undercoat wrap around a straight and smooth guard hair, forming a cord-like structure similar to dreadlocks of "rastas." This is observed in several Eastern Shepherds, especially Hungarian, as well as in a variety of Poodles.

Dog fur and the 9 types of hair - Eastern shepherd corded hair

Practical Tips for Maintaining Your Dog's Fur Beauty

With diverse and varied appearances, our furry companions are notably distinguished by their specific fur, requiring more or less regular maintenance depending on their breed. To keep the fur silky and shiny, in good health, it will be necessary to take care of it, respecting each one's specific needs, and good monthly grooming, or even daily brushing is essential for their personal well-being, appearance, and also to save you from the hassle of detangling, considering that regular brushing reduces shedding by 90% in your home or vehicle! "Cleaning is good. Not getting it everywhere is even better!"

Dog fur and the 9 hair types - brushing grooming




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