Breed Identification By Coat

Dog fur brings back grooming memories
By Karen B. London PhD, April 2015, Updated July 2016

Having dog fur on the brain is common for me. In fact, it’s my normal state, like dog fur on my clothes, and highly preferable to dog fur on my tongue. (I love dogs, but I hate it when they shed and it ends up in my mouth. Ugh! Not only does it feel weird, but it interferes with my ability to enjoy chocolate and that is simply not okay.)

Because I worked as a dog groomer for a year, I feel nearly as familiar with dog coats as I do with dog behavior, which is my real specialty. So, when I saw an online quiz titled “Can You Tell The Dog By Its Fur,” I had to take it. There are countless quizzes out there and I usually avoid them because of the time sink that they are, but this one was irresistible. There was self-imposed pressure not to miss any, and I’m happy to report that my grooming time was not in vain—I knew all 12 coats well enough to answer correctly.  I suspect many dog people will have similar success.

Of course, not everyone will think of the coats the same way I do, but I hope my fellow groomers will.

  • Where others may see a smooth coat, I see an easy-to-groom coat that does not need to be bathed often and will easily air dry in a reasonable amount of time. Low maintenance coats have their advantages!
  • What’s a wire coat to many people is a please-don’t-make-me-strip-it coat to me. I know that stripping can prevent mats, but so can regular grooming and the use of conditioner if you get behind. I know this is controversial—many people prefer the look and feel of these coats when they are stripped—but I worry about how hard it is on dogs.
  • Whenever a curly-coated dog came into the shop where I worked, my response was honestly, “I hope another groomer has time for this dog today!” Clipping these dogs is for the highly skilled, and the other women in the shop were better artists than I was with more practice. I could do a passable job, but I would have needed more experience to guarantee that I could make them look their very best every time. With curly fur, I see a beautiful coat as much as the next person, but I also see a serious challenge.
  • It’s impossible for me to see a long-haired coat and not think of all the tools needed to prevent or work out mats. A pin brush and a smooth bristle brush along with a lot of conditioner, a good detangler and a dryer with several different settings are usually involved in grooming these dogs. Long-haired dog who are brushed daily often have gorgeous coats in beautiful shape. However, many people who brought their dogs to us only brushed infrequently or brushed just the top layer, leaving many hidden mats.
  • What looks like a lush double coat to most people looks like an oh-boy-that-will-take-a-lot-of-time-with-the-dryer coat to me. Double coats can be long or short, and both can stay damp a long time without a lot of time with a high-quality dryer—though of course this is usually a far bigger issue with the longer double coats. As a groomer, one of my first lessons was to allow plenty of time to dry these dogs.

When I see dogs, I am often impressed with the beauty of their coats. That may simply reflect my personal experience with how much work it can take to keep them looking that way. Or, it may just be that I know fur and I love it.

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She has authored five books on canine training and behavior.

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