A Guide to Dog Coat Types

Not all dog coats are the same.

From the neat, flat coat of the Labrador Retriever to the abundant shaggy mop of the Old English Sheepdog, a dog’s coat type is one of his most distinguishing features. Dog coat type refers to the differences in texture and length of the fur, and whether it’s a double or single coat. Varied coat types require different methods of grooming and present different challenges, and also influence your best friend’s need for a dog jacket in crisp weather. Here’s the long and the short—and the rough and the smooth—of it:

Long, Medium, and Short Coated Dogs

Golden retriever.

Long coated dogs usually showcase the most dramatic coifs. Afghan Hounds, Old English Sheepdogs, and Bearded Collies have long coats that require regular grooming to keep them neat and free of mats. Owners of dogs with long coats, but who don’t show their dogs, often opt to crop the fur short into a puppy cut for ease of care.

Short coated dog breeds are generally smooth coated. Their fur is naturally short, lays close to the body, and is often glossy. Good examples include Pointers, Doberman Pinschers, and Boxers. If your dog has a combo single/short coat, he’ll definitely need a dog jacket when it’s cold outside.

The fur of medium coated dogs falls in between. If they have an undercoat, the top coat may stand away from the body, giving them a slightly puffed appearance. A dog with a medium coat requires regular brushing because the feathering on his legs and tail can become matted when ignored. Dogs with medium-length coats include German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Belgian Tervurens.

Double and Single Coated Dogs

Bernese Mountain Dog.

When a dog has a double coat, it means he has an undercoat that is typically shorter than the his outer coat, and his hair has a dense, woolly texture. And as the name suggests, single coated dogs have only one coat, without this under coat. Dogs of any coat length and texture may have single or double coats. Many long-haired dogs have double coats, including the Bernese Mountain Dog and all varieties of Collie. You won’t be surprised to learn that double coated dog breeds usually leave more fur around the household. Most double-coated breeds ‘blow’ their undercoats twice a year, which means they shed their entire undercoat in response to seasonal changes. Double coated dogs also require extra time and attention during grooming so the dense undercoat is fully brushed and doesn’t develop mats.

The fur on single coated dogs can be any length, from the short, single coat of the Whippet to the long, silky single coat of the Afghan Hound. No matter the length of their fur, single coated breeds often need to wear a dog jacket in winter because they don’t have the added insulation offered by an undercoat. Single coated dogs usually leave less fur on your clothes and furniture, which can make them easier on allergy sufferers. But a single coat doesn’t make a dog hypoallergenic, and some double coated breeds, such as the Airedale Terrier, are considered hypoallergenic.

Curly Coated Dogs

Portuguese Water Dog.

The swirls, curlicues, and twists on curly coated dog breeds can range from tight ringlets to pronounced. Long-haired dogs with slight waves in their fur (think Golden Retrievers) wouldn’t be considered curly coated. But when the waves become more pronounced, you’ve entered curly dog coat territory. The best known curly coated breeds are Portuguese Water Dogs, Airedale Terriers, and Poodles of any size. A somewhat rarer curly coated breed is the Lagotto Romagnolo.

Silky Coated Dogs

Irish Setter.

You know (and envy) these dogs when you see them. Their coats flow and cascade with the glossy sheen of a model in a shampoo commercial. The Silky Terrier is a clear example, with his long, shiny blue and tan coat. Other silky coated dogs include the Yorkshire Terrier, the Afghan Hound, and the Irish Setter. Silky coats need frequent brushing to prevent knots and to sustain their shine. But you don’t need to bathe your silky coated dog more often than any other dog, unless he relishes rolling in the mud.

Rough Coated Dogs

Rough Collie.
Photo by Sannse, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

What most distinguishes a rough coat from other dog coat types is texture. Rough coats can be either medium length or long, but they are always coarse to the touch. A Rough Collie’s outer coat appears soft and woolly (think Lassie), but actually feels harsh. This outer coat is weather resistant, keeping wind and rain at bay. The coats of wire or broken coated dogs are also harsh to the touch and often classified as rough.

Wire Coated Dogs

German Wirehaired Pointer.

This is another coat type where texture is the most important quality. Wire coated (also called broken coated) dogs have fur with a wire-like texture. It is harsh and stiff and stands away from the body, especially on the tail, the back of the legs, and on the face. Wire coated dog breeds often have a dapper, gentlemanly appearance because of their pronounced moustaches, beards, and eyebrows. Examples of dogs with wire coats, or wire coated varieties, are the German Wirehaired Pointer, the Airedale Terrier, and the Wire Fox Terrier. Maintaining the wire coat’s distinct texture requires hand stripping, a time-consuming process of removing old hair so new hair can grow in its place. Clipping wire hair softens its texture over time.

Smooth Coated Dogs


Dogs with smooth coats often have short, silky hair that lays close to the body. The athleticism of smooth coated dogs is apparent, with every muscle plainly visible when the dog is in motion. Bloodhounds, Dalmatians, Great Danes, and French Bulldogs are all smooth coated breeds. Sometimes, however, smooth coated refers to a type of shorter fur in breeds with multiple coat types. A good example of this is the Smooth and Rough Coated Collie. Here, the smooth coat is not shiny or very close to the body. Instead, the coat is a shorter version of the rough coat, and still coarse to the touch.

Hairless Dogs


No discussion of dog coat types can exclude hairless dogs, such as the Chinese Crested, the Xoloitzcuintli, and the American Hairless Terrier. Because of their lack of fur and less pet dander, these dogs are popular among allergy sufferers. Hairless dog breeds are more exposed to the elements and the harsh rays of the sun than breeds with fur, and they require special skin care routines as a result. When taking a hairless dog outside, it’s important to slather on dog-safe sun protection. These breeds require frequent bathing with mild dog shampoo, and moisturizing with dog-safe lotion to prevent dry skin. Hairless breeds must also wear a dog jacket when going outside in winter, even for short walks.

People with allergies are attentive to dog coat types out of necessity. They require dog breeds with hypoallergenic coats so they can welcome a dog into their family without also bringing on constant sneezing, watery eyes, and other pet allergy symptoms. But everyone should hit pause and consider a dog’s coat type before selecting a breed to bring home. A dog’s coat influences the time and money you’ll spend on grooming, how much fur you’ll be cleaning around the house, whether your dog is prone to overheating in summer, and whether you’ll have to bundle up yourself and your best friend before leaving the house in winter. Make a happy transition to dog ownership by knowing what you’re getting into on all fronts—including the furry ones.

4 thoughts on “A Guide to Dog Coat Types”

  1. It was interesting when you said that dogs with double coats need extra grooming in order to prevent mats from developing. My husband and I were finally able to find a pet-friendly apartment and are excited about getting a dog within the next few weeks. Reading your article was helpful because now I understand why using professional grooming and bathing services for the dog would be worth the cost! http://www.azpetstylist.com/p/bat.html

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