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Double Coats in Dogs – Definition, Benefits & Drawbacks

Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Published on
Sunday 18 April 2021
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
double coats in dogs
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Double coats in dogs serve several crucial purposes, including protection from harsh weather, and protection from injuries when working. Learning about the role of the double coat can help you to understand more about why it is important to maintain good coat health in your dog. But which breeds are double-coated? And how do you know if your dog has a double coat?

A dog double coat is a distinctive type of coat. Made up of an undercoat and guard hairs, the double coat is a defining factor of several popular dog breeds. Breeds like the Chow Chow, Pomeranian, and Siberian Husky are examples of popular double-coated dog breeds. Ready to find out how to care for your dog’s double coat? Read on with us.

What is a Double Coat?

Double coats consist of two layers; a dense undercoat and a top coat made up of guard hairs. The undercoat is usually very soft with a woolly texture. With these adaptations, the undercoat helps to keep your pooch warm. The denser the undercoat, the fluffier the dog’s coat is, and the more grooming they require to prevent mats and tangles. On top of the undercoat, the guard hairs repel moisture and help to keep dirt at bay. Both of these coats act as a barrier to protect your pup from the damaging UV rays of the sun, so shaving it is not recommended. The double coat differs from a single coat in terms of its shedding habits as well. Once or twice a year, the dog blows its undercoat to adapt to the changing seasons throughout the year.

Characteristics of Double-Coated Dogs

So, what makes a double-coated dog? Aside from having a distinctive undercoat and topcoat, dogs with double coats have unique shedding habits and different coat types. Your double-coated pooch will blow their undercoat once or twice a year to adapt to the changing weather in a process known as coat blow.

Periodical Shedding of Hair

All dogs shed, and double-coated breeds like Alaskan Malamutes and Akitas shed just as much as their single-coated counterparts. The exact amount that a dog sheds will vary from breed to breed, so it is important to research your dog breed thoroughly to understand its shedding habits. The severity of your dog’s shedding will also depend on them as an individual. No two dogs are the same, and one dog of the same breed may shed more or less than another.

The main difference in shedding habits is that double-coated dogs undergo a bi-annual process known as coat blow. When your dog blows their coat, their soft undercoat comes out in large clumps to prepare them for the warmer months of the year. This can leave your pooch’s coat looking patchy and less full until the winter. Be ready to groom your pooch more often during the coat blow process, and keep a vacuum cleaner at the ready to combat the fluff around your home.

Longer, Fluffier Hair

Dogs with a double coat usually have a longer, fluffier coat. Some breeds are well known for their fluffy coats, and many owners are drawn to them for their plush, bear-like appearance. Such breeds include the Pomeranian and the Bichon Frise, two popular companion breeds.

However, not all double-coated breeds have a long, fluffy coat. Examples of such breeds include the smooth-coated variety of the Border Collie and the Smooth Collie. Their longer-haired counterparts are known as “rough” coat types. Both coat types are popular for work as the rough coat does not have a significant impact on their herding ability.

dog double coat
Not all double-coated breeds have a long, fluffy coat.

Benefits of a Double Coat in Dogs

Double coats in dogs have several benefits, including maintaining good body temperature and protection from injuries in the field. And, for us, double coats make our dogs look much fluffier which adds to their aesthetic appeal.

Adjusts Body Temperature

Double coats in dogs have a crucial role in your dog’s thermoregulation. Your pup’s double coat is a powerful insulator. The insulating fluff of the undercoat helps to reduce temperature changes in your dog, meaning that they do not need to work as hard to keep a comfortable temperature. The top coat, which is made up of guard hairs, is often waterproof and stops water from reaching your dog’s skin. This helps to keep them warm even when working in cold weather.

While it may seem like a double coat only allows your dog to stay warm, it can also help them to stay cool as well. Many breeds will naturally shed their fluffy undercoat in spring to prepare for the warmer months, which allows cool air to circulate closer to your pup’s skin. It is best to allow this process to occur rather than shaving your dog’s coat, as the guard hairs serve a crucial protective role.

Protects From Harm

Double coats in dogs are important for protecting your pooch from harm. The double coat does this by protecting the skin, which is usually pale pink in double-coated breeds, from the sun’s harsh rays and extreme heat. This adaptation thus helps to shield the dog from sunburn. In dogs with pale skin, this protection is especially important as the lack of pigment leaves them vulnerable to painful sunburn and skin cancer.

Many working breeds have a double coat. While it may seem that having extra fur would hold a dog back in the field, it actually serves a crucial protective purpose. The topcoat protects working dogs from thorns, spurs, and insect bites. This is especially useful for dogs who need to work in woodland environments.

Drawbacks of Shaving Double-Coated Dogs

Many new pet parents of double-coated dogs find their pup’s shedding to be much more intense than expected. As a quick solution, some resort to completely shaving their pooch. However, shaving a double-coated dog only causes more problems for both you and your furry friend.

Some double-coated dogs develop post-clipping alopecia after a full shave. A dog with post-clipping alopecia has patchy coat regrowth. This new coat growth is sparse with a sticky texture, and may even be a different color. Unfortunately, this causes permanent damage to a dog’s coat. Shaving the coat also exposes your dog to sunburn, skin cancer, and hyperthermia. This is because shaving the coat removes the protective guard hairs and reduces the insulating undercoat, exposing the skin to the elements.

Shaving the double coat does not help with allergies. If your dog is shaved, more skin and dander are exposed to the environment, making it easier to pick up oil when petting them. Your dog may pant more or lick themselves more because of the discomfort of the full shave, which can further release allergens into your home.

Double Coats in Dogs – FAQ

Have any more questions or concerns about double coats in dogs? Feel free to browse our Frequently Asked Questions section for more details. If in doubt, always ask your vet for advice.

What are examples of double-coated dog breeds?

There are many double-coated dog breeds to choose from. Many of these are Spitz breeds and working breeds, which gain protection and insulation from their thick double coat. Such breeds include the Akita, Chow Chow, Finnish Lapphund, Shiba Inu, Siberian Husky, Shetland Sheepdog, Pomeranian, and the Shih Tzu. Some breeds also come in a “smooth” and “rough” variety, such as the Collie and the Border Collie. The rough variety refers to long-haired dogs, while smooth refers to shorter-coated dogs.

What is the best brush for grooming a double-coated dog?

We recommend a slicker brush for brushing a double-coated dog. Slicker brushes have tightly-packed fine bristles that effectively target tangles and knots in longer fur, leaving the coat super soft and smooth. They are also useful for removing loose hair and penetrating into the undercoat. Make sure to use your slicker brush carefully, as this type of brush can be harsh on your dog’s skin. Do not apply too much pressure when using the brush to avoid hurting your furry friend.

Is it okay to shave a double-coated dog?

It is not recommended that you shave your double-coated dog. This is because shaving does permanent damage to the dog’s coat. Shaving a double-coated dog can cause post-clipping alopecia. With this condition, the dog’s hair regrowth is patchy and does not match the original coat color or texture. As well as post-clipping alopecia, shaving your double-coated dog can expose your pooch to sunburn, hyperthermia, hypothermia, and skin cancer. This is because removing the protective guard hairs exposes the pale skin to the elements.

Do double-coated dogs shed more?

Having a double coat does not necessarily mean that your dog will shed more. However, it does mean that your dog will undergo a coat “blow out” once or twice a year. During a coat blow out, your dog will shed their undercoat in large clumps. This can leave your dog’s coat looking patchy as the undercoat is expelled. In the winter, however, a double-coated dog typically sheds less, as the dog must retain the undercoat to maintain its temperature.

How can I help my dog with growing his hair back?

First and foremost, your dog needs a high-quality diet to support fur growth. Fur is a part of your dog’s body, and it needs nourishment and care to shine. A poor diet thus leads to poor fur growth and an unhealthy coat. You may also consider adding fish oil to your dog’s diet. Fish oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are well known for their role in supporting healthy coat growth. As always, make sure to consult with your vet if your dog’s health changes. Hair loss can be a sign of several different problems, including stress, parasites, and conditions like hypothyroidism.

Double coats in dogs protect, insulate, and add volume to the dog’s coat. These adaptations are essential for some working dogs, who benefit from protection from thorns and insect bites when working in the field. Because of these benefits, it is important not to shave your double-coated dog. Doing so not only removes protection and insulation, but exposes your pooch to post-clipping alopecia, sunburn, and problems regulating their temperature.

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