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Dog Hair vs Dog Fur – Differences and Similarities

Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Published on
Friday 25 March 2022
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
dog hair vs dog fur
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With both “dog hair” and “dog fur” being common terms for pet parents, many find themselves wondering if there is any difference between the two. Not only this, but the fact that the terms are interchangeable can also cause more confusion. So, in a discussion of dog hair vs dog fur, what’s the answer? Do they mean the same thing? If not, what are the differences?

When it comes to dog fur vs dog hair, the answer is simple. There is little difference if any at all. The terms, however, may refer to the two different types of dog coat; single, and double. But you may still have questions about how dog hair is made, and the differences between a single and a double coat in dogs. Ready to find out more about dog hair vs dog fur? Read on with us for more information!

What is Dog Hair?

Like people, dogs are born with simple hair follicles that develop into compound follicles. But what is a compound follicle, exactly? In short, it means that each follicle contains one central hair surrounded by three to 15 smaller hairs which all come from the same pore. This structure is unlike most herbivores, which usually only have simple follicles. Most carnivores like dogs and cats, but also rabbits, also have compound follicles. In dogs, a compound follicle might have a large diameter to produce guard hairs, or a small diameter to produce undercoat hairs.

Dog hair growth is affected by several factors. These include nutrition, change of season, disease, drugs, and hormones. You’ll probably find that your dog sheds their hair more in the early spring and early fall. They may also lose more hair in response to temperature changes and the amount of sunlight that they get. Your dog’s coat protects the skin from light damage, both physical and ultraviolet, and also helps to regulate body temperature. This is because trapping air between the secondary hairs of the coat conserves heat. As such, you’ll find that the cold-weather coat of many breeds is longer and finer to keep heat trapped more easily. In contrast, a warm-weather coat tends to be shorter and thicker with fewer secondary hairs.

When it comes to your dog’s coat, it can be a “single” or “double” coat. A single coat is exactly what it sounds like – a single layer of coarse hairs. So, conversely, a double coat consists of two layers that look and feel different. While one layer is coarse and harsh, the layer below is very soft and fluffy. Many dog lovers are drawn to single-coated breeds because of how easy their coat is to maintain. Others, though, are drawn to double-coated breeds for their fluffier appearance.

factors of hair growth in dogs
When it comes to your dog’s coat, it can be a “single” or “double” coat

Similarities and Differences

The terms “hair” and “fur” are often used interchangeably when talking about a dog’s coat. However, in general, a double coat like that of Chow Chows or Newfoundlands is better known as a “fur coat”, while a single coat like that of Poodles or Boston Terriers is better known as a “hair coat.” So what’s the difference between a fur coat and a hair coat? Structurally, there are very few, if any, differences between the two. If you were to analyze them chemically or observe them under a microscope, you would find no difference. When people use the terms “fur coat” and “hair coat”, they’re usually referring to the differences between a double coat and a single coat.

The Growth Cycle

In the anagen phase of hair growth, the cells in the root of the hair divide rapidly. A new hair forms and pushes the previous hair up and out of the follicle. This is where the hair grows to its genetically determined length. The catagen phase is also known as the transitional stage. In this stage, the hair growth stops and the outer root shrinks, attaching to the root of the new hair. In the telogen phase, there is a period of rest. During this stage, the hair follicle is at rest and the hair’s formation is complete. Another hair cycle stage that has come into use in research is “kenogen.” This term applies to hairs that pass the telogen stage, lose their hair fiber, and remain empty for some time before a new anagen phase begins.

The length of each phase determines the length of the hair and its replacement rate during shedding. The duration of the cycle overall depends on the dog’s genetic background, age, body region, hormonal influence, nutrition, and a lot of environmental factors. These include day length, grooming, ambient temperature, and friction. According to a study, in humans, 80% of our scalp hairs are in their anagen phase – in Poodles, up to 98% of their follicles are in anagen. This means that Poodles grow new hairs at a greater rate than people do!

Breeds that Have Hair Not Fur

Many people who want a lower-shedding breed will look to single-coated breeds. This is one of the main advantages of having a single coat – your dog does not need to blow their coat twice a year, instead of shedding smaller amounts year-round. As well as this, single-coated dogs are often easier to groom and easier to trim with dog clippers. However, these coats are not without their disadvantages. Single-coated dog breeds may struggle to keep warm in a colder climate. As well as this, long-haired single-coated dogs are prone to matting when dead hairs get caught in the coat. Some examples of single-coated dog breeds include the Jack Russell Terrier, Boston Terrier, Greyhound, Poodle, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Dachshund, Chihuahua, and the Maltese.

In contrast to the hair coat, the fur coat is another name for a double coat. A dog with a double coat sheds their undercoat seasonally to regulate their body temperature. Unfortunately, many misinformed owners of double-coated breeds will shave their dog’s coat in the summer to stop the shedding. This is a mistake. With a shaven coat, these breeds will struggle to regulate their temperatures and face exposure to the UV rays from the sun. The coat will also fail to grow back the same as it was, often reappearing in patchy clumps with mismatched colors. Some examples of double-coated dog breeds include the Chow Chow, Pomeranian, Siberian Husky, Swedish Lapphund, Bearded Collie, Leonberger, and Tibetan Mastiff.

facts about dog hair follicles
In the anagen phase of dog hair growth, the cells in the root of the hair divide rapidly.

Dog Hair vs Dog Fur: FAQ

Have any more questions or concerns about dog hair vs dog fur? Feel free to check out our Frequently Asked Questions for more details. If in doubt, always talk to your dog groomer or your vet for advice!

Is there a difference between dog hair and dog fur?

There is no difference between dog hair and fur, and the terms can be used interchangeably. However, you might hear the two terms being used to distinguish between single-coat and double-coat breeds. In contrast to a single-coat breed, a double-coated breed’s coat consists of two layers. These are the dense, fluffy undercoat and the harsher, coarser topcoat. The two layers work together to repel moisture, manage your dog’s body temperature, and protect your pup’s skin from damaging UV rays. To manage their temperature, a double-coated dog breed will “blow” their coat seasonally.

Do dogs with fur shed?

All dogs shed! Even breeds without hair will shed dander. Generally, though, a dog with a hair coat (single coat) will shed less dramatically than a double-coated breed. They tend to shed all year-round and require some brushing to remove dead hairs. In contrast, a dog breed with a fur coat (double coat) will blow their coat seasonally. When this happens, massive clumps of your dog’s undercoat fall out so that they’re ready for the warmer months. Because all dogs shed, it’s important to brush your dog at least once a week if they have a short coat, and more often if they have a long coat. This removes dead hairs and prevents matting.

How often do dogs need haircuts?

The recommended amount of time between professional groomings varies from breed to breed. For example, high-maintenance dogs like Goldendoodles should be seen by a groomer every 4 to 6 weeks, with 8 weeks generally being the maximum quoted by professionals. Unfortunately, many owners are misinformed by unethical breeders about just how often these dogs need grooming, so many become extremely matted and require shaving or more extensive cuts than asked for for the dog’s welfare. If in doubt about how often to get your pup professionally groomed, speak to your local dog groomer! A professional can advise you on what’s best for your furry friend’s coat condition.

Does dog hair keep growing?

Your dog will grow and shed hair throughout their life, no matter their age or breed. However, your dog’s individual hairs do not grow forever. Once they reach their genetically predetermined length, hairs will stop growing until new hairs eventually push them up and out of the follicle. This is when shedding occurs. A long-hair breed like the Afghan Hound will have its hair in the growth stage for a longer period of time than other breeds, but the growth will eventually stop.

What can I give my dog to grow hair?

There are plenty of supplements that can help to support your pup’s coat! One of the most well-known supplements is Omega-3 fatty acids. Countless studies show that Omega-3 fatty acids have wide-ranging effects on a dog’s health, including benefits for the skin and coat. The other benefits of Omega-3s include supporting brain development, reducing arthritis inflammation, and boosting heart and kidney health. Some other beneficial supplements include evening primrose oil, grapeseed extract, saw palmetto, and yucca. As well as this, vitamin A helps to lubricate the roots of your dog’s hairs to promote hair growth. The vitamin B complex also proves useful when it comes to coat health – especially niacin, which promotes healthy skin, and pantothenic acid, which maintains healthy hair.

To conclude, there are few differences between dog hair and dog fur. The two terms are interchangeable for the most part. However, some people will use the term “hair coat” to describe a dog with a single coat, and a “fur coat” to describe a dog with a double coat. This is because of the fluffy undercoat of the double-coated breeds.

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