When choosing your forever dog, lots of information is provided on daily exercise, temperament, and family suitability but less on skin and coat care. Often, pictures show the best examples of a breed type – perfectly groomed, in an idyllic setting and you fall in love. Bringing your dog home, to your family, your lifestyle, or environment be it town or country can present a very different reality. We’re here to help you keep your dog’s skin and coat in tip-top condition.
Interesting things to know about dog’s coats
They are either fur-bearing, which means that their coat grows to a certain length and then stops – think Labradors and Pomeranians, or hair-bearing, which means that the coat grows continuously – think Poodles and Lhasa Apso. Both types of coat need regular grooming just in different ways.
Fur-bearing, also known as double-coated dogs shed more than hair-bearing dogs, so regular brushing to remove the dead hair is needed, or your dog and home will suffer. Dogs shed 365 days of the year with two heavier shedding periods in Spring and Autumn when the need to brush and vacuum more frequently will become apparent.
How to groom these fur monsters?
A dog’s undercoat sheds more frequently than its topcoat. The undercoat hair is shorter and gets stuck between the skin and the longer topcoat resulting in a trapped layer of fur. To effectively remove this hair, we have to go looking for it. Just brushing the top of a dog’s coat will not get down to the trapped layer underneath making your grooming ineffective. The secret is to part the hair and head for your dog’s skin where you will find this trapped hair. By making sure your grooming tool starts deep in the coat you can bring the dead hair to the surface and remove it. Once you have got the knack of reaching the dead hair you can work methodically around your dog and will be amazed at how skilled you become at creating fur clouds, realising quickly that grooming outside in the garden maybe the best option! Grooming for this type of coat should be completed on average once a week.
When you buy a brush and comb for your dog, think about the pin length in relation to the length of your dog’s fur. There is no point buying short pins for a Husky that will not get close to the skin’s surface where lots of dead hair sits waiting to be removed and knots start to form.
Another essential tool is a ‘rake’ or ‘de-shedder’ which will effortlessly remove the loose, dead fur. You will be amazed at how much can be removed. There are lots of different brands and models available. Pick one to suit the size of your dog. Yep, you’ve guessed it, the larger the dog, the larger the rake!
Some de-shedding tools have combined functions – rake on one side and a comb with rotating pins on the other. These are good for longer fur. After you have raked the undercoat, flip and use the comb to also remove the longer, loose topcoat.
So, if you are happy to put in the work and brush regularly then that’s a big tick in the box for fur-bearing, double-coated breeds. These breeds should not be clipped as it can ruin the delicate cycle of coat growth, potentially producing unsightly bald patches. A qualified groomer can help you with de-shedding if you prefer, it’s one of the services they will offer. It will be beneficial for the dog if visits are regular, so they can get used to being brushed and there is less hair to remove each time making visits shorter and more pleasurable.
More Fur-Bearing dog breeds: Labrador, Golden Retriever, Pomeranian, Alaskan Malamute, Chow, Siberian Huskies.
Hair-bearing dogs require regular ‘shortening’ of their hair for want of a better word and this can be done in a variety of ways depending on the breed, coat type and texture. Hair-bearing dogs have a wider range of coat types and textures and each variation requires specific care so there is lots to think about regarding looking after and maintaining their coat.
Groomers traditionally are taught to trim a dog following breed standard guidelines, issued by the Kennel Club many years ago. These are based on Form, Fitness and Function – the anatomy of the dog and the job that it was originally bred for. If you watch the largest dog show in the world – Crufts, then you will see dogs being presented at the top of their form and groomed accordingly. However, this approach is not always practical for daily, family life. For a dog that enjoys being outside and having messy walks, the restricted time that modern life brings steers many owners to ask for a more practical style solution.
Dogs can be clipped short in what groomers call a ‘utility’ trim. Exactly as the name suggests it is a practical solution and easy to maintain. Ask your groomer to show you examples of hair clipped at different lengths to help you decide what works for you and your dog.
Some breeds, like Poodles have styles that are designed to be clipped short and look fantastic this way. Although these breeds don’t shed in the same prolific way that fur-bearing dogs do, they still require regular brushing with a slicker brush and combing twice a week between professional grooms to ensure the coat remains knot free and comfortable.
Some breeds have trimming that requires length left in specific areas to create balance, flair and elegance or sometimes just protection of a vulnerable area. This styling requires skill with the use of clippers and scissors to make the coat look even. Your groomer will be able to style your dog following these guidelines. Regular brushing and combing every few days between professional grooms will keep your dog matt free and comfortable.
How to groom our hair growing dogs
Keeping hair-bearing coats knot free can be a challenge, whatever the length. You have a dog that enjoys walks in all weathers on all terrains and happily take their coats with them on any journey they wish to embark upon, so a trim to suit your dogs and lifestyle is a must as regular grooming will need to be part of a daily routine.
Hair-bearing dogs also matt differently to fur-bearing dogs. They have less trapped hair to remove but their topcoat mixes with their undercoat and tangles together causing uncomfortable matts that pull on the dog’s skin. If you are walking in the park or countryside the hair will collect around debris and become knotted. Brushing and then combing to check all that tangled hair is unravelled is needed.
The method is exactly the same, part the hair to reach the skin then work the brush through the whole length of the hair working methodically around the dog, remembering to check with a comb that all tangles are out.
Finally stripping. This is ’hair plucking’. The removal of soft, undercoat hair on a silky coat or the top coarse hair on a wire-haired coat is done either with fingers and thumbs or a special tool. By doing this the topcoat can lie flatter and give a better, more natural shape to the dog’s coat. Regular brushing with a slicker brush and combing will keep your dog’s coat matt free and comfortable between professional grooms.
Keep your brush by the kettle to remember to do it every time you make a cup of tea. And when it’s dinner time, leave the brush by the bowl so your dog associates brushing with the positive benefit of mealtime!
More hair-bearing dog breeds: Cockapoo, Schnauzer, West Highland White, Shih Tzu, Spaniels
With any dog a visit to your local, qualified groomer every 6-8 weeks will provide a bath, nail clip, and help look after the coat in whatever way is necessary.
Think about how much brushing (and vacuuming) time you have and consider that as part of the decision-making process for choosing your 4-legged buddy.
For more grooming tips this winter check out:
Julie Harris Dog Grooming Education was founded to share Julie’s knowledge with groomers and owners alike with the goal of creating harmonious relationships that benefit dogs and the care of their skin and coat.
If you want to check a breed type, the Kennel Club website has a full list www.akc.org.