Dog Coat Terminology

Yorkshire TerrierYorkshire Terrier

This section explains different coat types. Most dogs have a 'double coat' consisting of two layers. However, some more unusual coat types including those consisting of a single layer are explained here. For example the Yorkshire Terrier pictured has a long straight glamorous topcoat which is fine and silky somewhat like human hair.

Double Coat

Australian Cattle DogAustralian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle dog which has a top coat and undercoat which are different colours, makes the concept of a double coat easier to understand.  Here the top coat appears to be a mixture of long black or silver individual thick hairs which gives this breed its distinctive colour, called blue. The short dense undercoat is obvious because it is light brown. The undercoat on this dog is so dense, the grey skin on the dog is only revealed when pressure is applied. Please click on the picture to enlarge.

Cairn TerrierCairn Terrier

Rough Coat

The Cairn Terrier has a typical 'double coat' with a rough outer weatherproof layer of hair that thatches together a softer layer which, like fur, insulates and protects the dog from cold and all the elements. Unlike the double coat of the Australian Cattle Dog pictured above, the topcoat and undercoat of this Terrier are not only the same colour, the topcoat lies somewhat flat. Sometimes a rough coated terrier is wrongly called 'broken coated'.

Broken Coat of an AiredaleBroken Coat of an Airedale

Broken Coat

Airedale TerrierAiredale Terrier

The Airedale Terrier also should have a double coat like several of the other rough coated terriers. But when stripped, the new outer coat that comes through has a 'break' or wave mainly on the saddle area.[1] 

This wave or 'break' in the outer coat is responsible for the modern meaning of a broken coat. So this type of coat seen on today's show dogs, is typical of trimmed terriers.

Chow Chow (Smooth Coat)Chow Chow (Smooth Coat)

Smooth Coat

A Greyhound, which has a short and fine coat that lies flat and close to the skin, obviously has a smooth coat. But when undercoat is present, a double coated breed can also be called a smooth. For example the Collie (Smooth) has a double coat consisting of a short, flat top coat and a very dense undercoat. Perhaps the most extreme example is the Chow Chow (Smooth), which has a short, dense, straight and plush-like coat which looks anything but 'smooth'. Combine this with the lack of ruff, feathering behind his legs and on the tail the difference between the 'rough' and 'smooth' varieties becomes apparent.

Corded Coat

The Komondor and Puli of Hungary have a fascinating coat which is corded. The cords are due to the intertwining of the top coat with the undercoat. This shaggy coat is very dense and can tend to form matts rather than cords.  It therefore requires diligent grooming.

KomondorKomondorCorded coat Corded coat

Waterproof Curly, Oily and/or Woolly  Coats

This is a direct comparison of the different the types of coats that have been developed in different regions to protect dogs from the cold when working in water.

Curly Coated RetrieverCurly Coated Retriever

The Curly Coated Retriever, developed in England should be completely covered in small tight-knit screw Astrakhan type water-resistant curls that feel oily and crisp. Although the curls on the ears may be looser, the hair on the foreface, front of legs and feet is short, smooth and straight with a slight feathering on the back of the forelegs.

Irish Water SpanielIrish Water Spaniel

The Irish Water Spaniel, developed in Ireland should be covered with a coat consisting of dense, tight, crisp ringlets, free from woolliness, with a natural oiliness. But the tail is only covered with curls for only the first three to four inches when the curls stop abruptly, leaving the remainder bare or covered with short, straight fine hair. That is why it is usually called a 'rat tail'.

Lagotto RomagnoloLagotto Romagnolo

The Lagotto Romagnolo developed in Italy, has a unique waterproof coat of woolly texture with curls forming the topcoat and a woolly undercoat. The curls should never be twisted to form thin cords. Instead it has tight, ring shaped curls evenly distributed over all the body and tail, with visible undercoat. But the curls on the head and cheeks are not as tight forming abundant eyebrows, whiskers and beard. The coat is clipped to a maximum of 4 cms (1.5 inches), but on the head it can be longer. The coat should never be clipped short preventing it from curling or assessment of texture, nor may it be brushed up in the fashion of the Poodles and Bichon Frisé breeds. The correct clip is unpretentious and contributes to accentuate the natural, rustic appearance.

Portuguese Water DogsPortuguese Water Dogs

The Portuguese Water Dog developed in Portugal has a distinctive but profuse coat composed of these two distinctly different types described above, covering whole body except under forelegs and thigh. Both are without undercoat and the line between these two types of coat is not clearly defined. In other words some coats vary between these two. The accompanying photo shows the two types of coat:

  1. The dog on the left has a short coat with curls
  2. The other two dogs have fairly long, loosely waved hair with a slight sheen, especially on the head and ears.

Whether the coat is of the first type and fairly short, or the second type which is longer, the entire hindquarters should be clipped from the last rib. including two-thirds of the tail.

The Vent

The VentThe Vent

The area of the coat which is cross hatched is commonly called 'the vent'. Whereby technically the vent usually refers to the anus, in dog terminology when describing coat colour markings, the vent means an area encompassing the anus, the dog's genitalia plus some of the surrounding area as shown.

References and Further Reading

[1] Jane Harvey, DVD "How to Groom an Airedale" Rangeaire Vision, Victoria 1985, 2004 ISBN 978-0-9804296-0-2