One of the first breeds that comes to mind when people hear about double coated dogs are Huskies. And while that’s a fitting response, not all double-coated breeds look the same as Huskies do. Here's everything you should know about double coated dogs, which ones are and aren't, and how to groom them.
Every specified class of canines have at least one or more double coated dog breeds, meaning it isn’t just large canines – like the Husky – but also petite pups who have double coats. Some breeds with a double coat can appear quite sleek, such as Beagles, a popular pet known for its hunting skills and Snoopy-fame more so than its coat. With such a vast list of double coated dogs, it can sometimes be difficult for the untrained eye to spot a one, but it's important that you know whether the dog is or isn't double coated.
How to Tell Double Coated Dogs from Others
A dog with a double coat will have some defining, unique characteristics:
A dewlap is characterized by extra skin around the neck of a dog. This is common in working and hunting breeds, particularly if their origins are from colder regions, because it serves as added insulation. Not all double coated dogs have a dewlap, but many dogs with dewlaps also have a double coat.
Seasonal shedding differentiates from other forms of shedding in dogs by only occurring early to late spring in order to prepare the animal for the heat of summer. However, seasonally-shedding double coats do not suggest that shedding only occurs for a few months annually, but rather that during these few months it occurs in a higher frequency (especially if their grooming routine isn’t attended to).
Medium to long outer layer of hair
Length or “shagginess” of the dog's coat varies by breed, but most double coated dogs have a fluffier appearance. There are also dogs with double coats that have wiry hair, many of which we see in the Terrier breed.
Presence of a top coat
The top coats will have different appearances, varying from breed to breed among double coated dogs. Most people associate the top coat with an unruly shagginess or fluffiness; however, it can be short and sleek as well, which is seen with the American English Coonhound, for example.
Top coats also help protect against moisture, keeping a dog’s core temperature warmer during times of rain or snow. This top coat is also referred to as guard hairs and is particularly helpful to bird hunting and retrieving breeds as it allows them to work through water without getting too weighed down or cold as a result of becoming wet.
Presence of an undercoat
The undercoat is a bedding of insulating fluff that works to regulate temperature, keeping the dog warm in chilly weather and cool in warmer weather. It's common for double coated dog breeds to have undercoat, and it needs routine grooming attention in the form of brushing as well as bathing.
Common Double Coated Dog Breeds
Now that you know how to distinguish double coated dog breeds from others, here's a cheat sheet of the most common double coated dogs you've probably encountered:
- Alaskan Husky
- Siberian Husky
- Alaskan Malamute
- Chow Chow
- Finnish Lapphund
- Shiba Inu
- Australian Shepherd
- German Shepherd
- English Shepherd
- Polish Lowland Sheepdog
- Old English Sheepdog
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Great Pyrenees
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- Nova Scotia Duck Trolling Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- American English Coonhound
- Border Collie
- Rough Collie
- Smooth Collie
- Bearded Collie
- Cairn Terrier
- Parson Russel Terrier
- Scottish Terrier
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Wirehaired Fox Terrier
- Cairn Terrier
- Welsh Corgi
- Pembroke Corgi
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Shih Tzu
Significance of a Double Coat to a Dog
While all dogs have natural oils and even bacteria that reside on their skin and in their fur to help keep them healthy and clean, double coated dogs have the added advantage of extra insulation.
Single-coated canines also have the benefit of insulation, but it’s more comparable to a light fall jacket than to a heavy winter coat. Many double coated dog breeds originated from regions known for frigid temperatures whereas double coats of the hunting breed benefit from added protection should they have a close encounter with what’s being hunted. However, all these benefits for the dog mean extra work for the owner when it comes to grooming double coated dogs.
Grooming Double Coated Dogs
There’s some controversy surrounding how to groom double coated dogs as many pet-owners are not educated on the proper grooming methods.
Do NOT shave a double coated dog
For example, a family may live in Florida but own an Alaskan Malamute and believe they’re helping their furry companion to stay cool in the humid, tropical climate by shaving him. It's a mistake.
Shaving a double coated dog not only destroys the natural beauty and texture of the dog’s coat as it will never grow back the same, but it also exposes the dog to harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. The double coat is there for a reason.
While it’s true that the thick double coat insulates, trapping body heat close and keeping dogs warm in cold weather, it’s also true that the coat helps keep them cool by protecting their skin from the sun. We may retreat under an umbrella or shade to avoid sun exposure and damage, but the canine double-coated breed lives its life with built-in armor.
After shaving double coated dogs, their “armor” is now harmed, sometimes beyond repair, and their previously long, compacted coat is no longer there to shield sensitive skin from UV damage and heat. This puts double coated dogs in danger of sunburn as well as overheating, a serious condition that can be fatal if gone unacknowledged. Overheating is especially worrisome for young puppies or dogs that have a high energy drive as the more activity they endure, the hotter they become, playing sometimes to the point of complete exhaustion.
Brush double coated dogs regularly
Other than dogs shedding themselves, brushing them is an ideal way to remove dead hair from the coat. Releasing dead hair allows new, healthy growth to occur in the hair follicles and the healthier a double coat, the better it is as regulating temperature. This is even more important for double coated dog breeds due to more hair on them.
Double coated dog breeds that go without weekly (some require it daily) brushing will suffer from a compacted under coat. A thick, overgrown undercoat cannot properly protect its wearer from overheating because it blocks airflow. Airflow is the most essential quality an animal’s coat can have as it now only protects them from heat exhaustion, but also keeps their skin healthy. Thick, matted fur can trap moisture close to the skin causing dermal infections or inflammation such as eczema.
Use the right type of dog brush
There's a number of dog brushes available, but some are better for doable coated dogs than others. When brushing your double coated dog, you can use a variety of tools and methods to loosen potential dead hair, but here are groomer's recommendations:
- Wire brush
A wire dog brush typically safe for all kinds of coat textures and lengths. Much like a brush for human hair, this device features wire prongs which run through the hair, helping to detangle. Wire brushes may or may not have plastic or silicone beads at its tips giving the brush a more comfortable sensation as well as being more ideal for long coats as it won’t pull.
- Bristle brush
Bristles are best for canines with a short length as they efficiently separate hair follicles, motivating blood flow and removing dead hair.
- Silicone glove
Silicone prongs on the palm side of a grooming glove you wear may be more comforting to both you and your pet as it’ll feel like they’re enjoying a long petting session. The rubbery texture of silicone is excellent at grabbing dead hair at the top coat, but not sufficient at loosening the undercoat and thus may be best suited for single-coated breeds rather than most double coated dogs.
- Shedding blade
This oval-shaped, metal “brush” is specifically designed for breeds that boast long, fluffy coats. There's a number of deshedding tools available, but the blade might be the best option for double coated dogs. It’s not recommended as a de-tangler, however, as it could get caught in hair clumps and painfully rip them out. Tangles should be gently dissected before brushing occurs by delicately pulling them apart using your fingers.
- Undercoat rake
A long-pronged brush typically made of metal will help you get well into the undercoat and sift through its denseness in order to find dead hair. These are typically a must-have for owners of a double coated dog breeds.