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Vital signs in healthy dogs 🎥
The Cycle of Canine Coat Growth
As you may have read in Shedding & Coat Types, a dogs coat comes in various lengths and textures which determine how the coat should be groomed and the level of time involved in maintenance.
Have you ever wondered why your dogs coat seems to grow faster and then seems to hardly grow at all between grooming appointments? Understanding the shedding life cycle of your pets hair can help you appreciate that, at times, your pets coat may need more attention to grooming!
Breeds and individuals within every breed will shed and regrow hair at varying rates. If a dog sheds more often it is more noticeable than if they shed extensively but for a period of only several weeks. Indoor dogs, because of artificial heat and more importantly light, tend to shed in a more or less continuous fashion. Dogs kept outside tend to shed for several weeks during major seasonal changes, most notably in spring and Autumn. Usually they grow more guard hairs or undercoat in the winter for warmth. In the spring they lose the undercoat and replace much of it with the longer guard hairs. The coat changes in appearance, density and texture but the numbers of hair follicles does not.
The growth process of a dogs coat is different to our own. Some dogs have more than one hair type growing at the same time in varying textures and layers from a single hair follicle. Regardless of the type of coat your dog has the hair goes through four stages of growth and renewal. Sometimes in very clearly defined shedding stages, seasonally with most double coated breeds and in other breeds continuous shedding.
Anagen Phase – This is when the new hairs are in an active state of growth
Catagen Phase – This is when the new hairs reach their maximum length and stop actively growing
Telogen Phase – This is when the hair becomes dormant, fully attached to the skin but not growing and is ready to be pushed out by new growth
Exogen Phase – When the hair reachs the end of its natural lifecycle and is shed from the follicle
Then the cycle starts all over again!
Shedding and Different Coat Types
If you are a Pug, Boxer dog, Beagle or Labrador owner you will know that your dog seems to shed their coat prolifically all year round. If you own a Miniature Schnauzer, Poodle, Boston Terrier or Smooth Haired Dachshund you will know that they barely seem to shed at all. All dogs go through a distinct cycle of growth and loss throughout the year depending of breed and coat type. Some dogs will shed at a steady rate and others shed their coat with the changing seasons. Simply put the old coat is replaced with a new coat. How easy or difficult the coat is to maintain depends of the type of coat your dog has.
In addition to the various coat types we have outlined here, your dogs coat may also be Double Coated. These coats have two distinctive layers to fulfil different roles. This is a coat type adapted to all weathers and includes the Bearded Collie, German Shepherd dog, Australian Sheppard Dog, Border Collie, Golden Retriever, Pomeranian, Yorkshire Terrier and Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
Additionally, all dog coat falls into two major categories – undetermined length (UDL) and predetermined length (PDL). Some people use the terms HAIR (UDL) and FUR (PDL) to distinguish between these two types. The length of Hair, like ours, will just grow and grow until it is cut. Fur will grow to a certain length and stop.
Each of these different coat types required very different grooming approaches, tools, and care.
In winter when its cold, wet and dirty, the longer guard hairs protect the undercoat from getting wet and from dirt penetrating the coat to the skin. When the undercoat is dry your dogs stays insulated from the cold. This same protective functionality is also designed to keep your dog comfortable in hot weather too. This coat also protects the skin from summer biting insects and from the suns damaging UVA & UVB rays. Remove the coat and we remove the skins natural protection. A dogs skin is much thinner than our own, the fur is there for that reason. Dogs with double coats will naturally shed the warm dense undercoat as the weather warms up leading to a finer coat perfectly suited to keep the skin cool, shaded and protected from the summer sun. The key to keeping your dogs coat ‘fit for function’ is to brush and comb at least three times a week, if not daily, with a brush that is suited to this coat type, preferably an ActiVet Brush and keep the coat clean. The undercoat must be kept free from matting and tangling to keep the whole coat healthy and well conditioned. Clipping down certain breeds with this coat type whether long or short could also damage the coat, resulting in patchy, fluffy regrowth which looks unsightly and will take a long time to regrow and get back into a natural growth cycle. This also applies to all natural coated dogs where the coat grows to a pre-defined length. Long Haired Chihuahua’s and Pomeranian’s for example may have permanently damaged coats if clipped down unnecessarily.
So whatever the weather this summer, FCL would not be looking at shaving off your Border Collie, Golden Retriever, Shetland Sheepdog or Samoyed. Instead always provide your double coated dog with shade on sunny days and provide fresh clean water at all times. Keeping the coat free from shedding undercoat with effective regular brushing and combing is the key to keeping the coat in perfect condition, which in return takes care of your dog. Brushing is a need of the breed. A Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Newfoundland or Bearded Collie will require effective daily brushing. Missing just days, a week or two weeks of effective brushing can result in serious matting where the tight coat caused discomfort and can lead to additional skin problems if left unattended for several weeks. Dry air in summer or winter will also mean the undercoat mats more easily. Dogs kept indoors with central heating are just as susceptible as those kept outdoors, keep brushing whatever the weather, season or environment. If you have neglected to brush the coat according to the need of your breed and it has become matted or felted (pelted) then clipping the coat very short may be the last resort for the welfare of your pet to reduce further discomfort. If your dog is brought to FCL for regular professional grooming we will work with you to ensure your dogs coat is kept in optimum condition.
Make a well-informed, educated choice before choosing any breed of dog. Embrace the beautiful coat your dog has and accept your responsibility for the animal in your care. There are between 300 and 400 breeds of domestic dogs to choose from and approximately ten different types of dog coat, thanks to years of human genetic engineering of the dog and its functions. so choose wisely.
Wool or Curly coats include the Bichon Frise, Poodles, Bedlingtons and the increasingly popular poodle mixed breeds like Labradoodles, Cavachons and Cockapoos. This coat can be very thick and curly and has a lot of volume. This coat requires the maximum amount of regular effective daily grooming. The owner who is successful in keeping this coat in good condition will brush daily. This is one of the hardest coats to maintain. It matts very easily and can grow quite quickly and these dogs have continuous growth throughout the year. The term ‘hypoallergenic’ is often confused with easy care which couldn’t be further from the truth. These coats are often refered to as the Non-Shedding Coats. Whilst the undercoat will indeed not fall out it will need to be removed manually by brushing, involving lots of time and effort to prevent matting and tangling. This is one of the most expensive coat types to be professionally groomed and the one that tends to incur additional costs due to lack of effective daily grooming.
Smooth coated dogs are the easiest to maintain and require the least amount of grooming. Their coat lays flat to the skin, is shiny and lacks texture. They do shed their coat but it is minimal and you won’t notice the hair loss so much on your clothes and in your home. This coat type includes the Whippet, Greyhound, French Bulldog, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the Boston Terrier.
Short to Medium coated dogs have two layers of short coats, making these coats very dense. They tend to arise in those breeds that spend a lot of time outdoors to protect them from the elements. The hair is short in length, between 1cm – 3cm. This coat has more texture, and you can put your fingers through it. Pugs, Boxer Dogs, Labradors, Australian Cattle Dog and Beagles for example require little grooming. The coat however will hold more water taking some time to dry and tends to hold on to smells.
Long (Silky or Course) coated dogs have a long coat which require a lot of maintenance. This coat needs effective brushing at least three times a week, preferably daily. Breeds include Old English Sheepdogs, Shih Tzu’s, Maltese, Lhasa Apso, Afghan Hounds, Tibetan Terrier and the Yorkshire Terrier. Long coats vary in texture from coarse to silky. This is also one of the most expensive coat types to be professionally groomed and another one that tends to incur additional costs due to lack of effective daily grooming.
Wire coat dogs have specialised grooming requirements. Full grooming generally needs to be done by a professional groomer, or someone who is trained to deal with this coat. This coat type includes the Border Terrier, Irish Terrier, Affenpinscher, Scottish Terrier and the West Highland Terrier.
The correct way to groom the wire coat is by a process called hand stripping. Hand stripping maintains the colours of the wire coat and maintains the coarse texture. This is a process which must be done from a puppy – once the coat is clipped, it is very difficult, if not impossible to get the texture back by hand stripping. Not to mention very uncomfortable for the dog. Hand stripping has to be taught, is very labour intensive, and some groomers may not even offer this service. Hand stripping will make grooming more expensive than clipping the coat.
Hand stripping involves pulling out the dead outer coat of wire coated and rough coated breeds by hand, rather than clippers. This allows the new harsh wire coat to grow. Wire coats pull out very easily once the coat is ready or ‘blown’, which should be a comfortable experience for your dog. The wire or rough coat has a unique structure to it which is why it is so specialised. The coat consists of a soft undercoat, semi hollow hair and a wire outer coat which, when your dogs DNA and hormones has decided is ready to shed, becomes anchored into the skin very lightly. At this time the hair can be removed by hand, retained the natural wire texture and colour as the hair regrows.
When you clip the coat with electric clippers, the hard wire hair will be removed, all that will be left is the semi hollow hair, or the soft base. This will make the coat soft and the colour will be diluted, as it only had enough pigment to do one hair growth cycle. That’s why some black dogs when they are clipped begin to turn grey or chestnut brown coats turn pale. If your dog is neutered hormones effecting the coat may result in hand stripping being less than comfortable for your dog. Neutering may result in the coat in certain breeds like spaniels to grow out fluffy rather than silky. Neutering should always be considered for reasons other than cosmetic appearance. Your veterinarian will advise you on the best time to have your pet neutered. Shampooing your wire coat dog regularly in a shampoo unsuitable for this coat type can also result in a coat too soft to be hand stripped. Our free consultation will take all this into account before determining if hand stripping is suitable for your dog.
Combination coats are another unique coat type. A breed with a combination coat has areas of longer coat and shorter coat. The two types of coat are easy to tell apart. Generally, the shorter coat is on the body and the longer coat is on the ears, legs and tail. This coat type tends to require regular grooming to brush out dead hair from the longer areas of coat around the rear, chest and ears to prevent matting. This includes the English Springer Spaniel, Border Collie and Irish Setter.
Hairless dogs usually do have some hair on the top of the head, feet and tail and do still require gently bathing to keep the skin in good condition but are essentially easy to maintain. Sunblock is recommended when outside in the sunshine.
Corded Coats Cording is a technique in which dog coats are separated patiently into dreadlocks for coat care or presentation purposes. Some dog breeds that are often corded are the Puli and the Komondor. The Havanese and Poodle are also occasionally corded for showing. The cords form naturally (if messily) in tightly curled fur, but to make them attractive for conformation showing, the cords are carefully started by separating clumps of fur in a regular pattern, and tended until they are long enough to grow on their own. A corded coat can act very much like a dust mop as the dog moves through its environment. Dust, dirt, twigs, leaves, sticky buds, and everything else quickly become tangled in the coat. To keep the coat attractive, the owner must put in considerable time and effort in cleaning it and in entertaining and exercising the dog in a way that minimizes the accumulation of litter. Such dogs often have their cords tied up or covered with assorted dog clothing when they are not in a clean environment.
Changes in Coat Growth (cowlicks or crowns)
Psychological Stages of Development (Scott & Fuller)
“Genetics and the Social Behaviour of Dogs” published in 1965 by Dr John Scott and Dr John Fuller is still regarded as one of, if not the most, important and comprehensive studies on the development and behaviour of the domestic dog. Below is a very brief outline of the stages they identify as being crucial in the development and socialisation of puppies and young dogs.
A dog has ten clear stages of psychological development which affect how it interacts with people and other animals and controls its behaviour in situations dependant on its age. Puppies develop through clearly recognisable stages, each one being characterised by certain behaviour patterns and emotional reactions. These have been called The Ten Stages and are discussed in further detail below.
1. Pre-Natal Period
Environmental factors that affect the pregnant bitch also affect the subsequent development of the puppies mind. This is why it is critical to give the bitch good all round care.
2. Neo-Natal Period (0-2 weeks)
During this period the dog spends around 90% of its time asleep. The hearing, vision and temperature regulation are under developed and the pup’s brain is barely myelinated. The way in which a dam behaves with her offspring will greatly influence its behaviour in later life.
3. Transitional Period (2-4 weeks)
During this period, the sensory abilities come on line, the eyelids open and the first set of teeth appear, the dog will wag his tail and bark for the first time, at this time the litter mates play a much more important role.
By four weeks of age, hearing, pain, touch and vision responses are similar to that of an adult, the brain is almost fully myelinated and the dog is ready for complex learning.
4. Socialisation Period (To Dogs – 4-6 weeks / To Dogs Humans 4-12 weeks)
From 3 1⁄2 weeks the pups begin to interact playfully. From this age the pup learns through play, how much pain they can inflict on each other as a result of chewing and biting.
The facial expressiveness of the puppy at five weeks contrasts to the mask like appearance of the puppy at three weeks. This is due to the development of expressive ear movements, elongation of the muzzle and the improved functions of the muscles that control the lips.
At 4-5 weeks of age, puppies frequently carry small objects in their mouths and engage in tugs of war. A defensive protective pattern emerges, in which the pup vigorously guards an object or food. Several puppies may follow one litter mate who is carrying something in its mouth. These are the first signs of co-ordinated group activity, or pack performance and dominant and submissive behaviour.
This is the optimum time for the dog to establish social relations with other dogs, humans and other species.
Scott and Fuller describe this period as a special time in life when a small amount of experience will produce a great effect on later behaviour.
5. First Fear Impact Period (8-11 weeks)
Any traumatic experience, whether it be frightening or painful will have a more lasting impact on the puppy now, than if it had occurred at any other time in its life.
6. Juvenile Period (12 weeks to maturity)
Most of what occurs in this period will be determined by what went on before. The dog will experience gradual improvement of the motor skills as he grows in strength and activity. Consistency is the key during this period, ensuring the dog knows its boundaries is key to guaranteeing that you don’t have unwelcome behaviour. If the dog hasn’t developed normally through the previous stages, then socialisation must take place during this stage.
7. Seniority Classification Period (4-8 months)
This is often referred to as the ‘Age Of Cutting Teeth’. This period is defined by the dogs test for leadership, very similar to teenage children; the dog will test all members of his pack for weaknesses and then, if allowed, exert his authority and move higher within the pack position.
8. Flight Instinct Period (4-8 months)
Turning a deaf ear is classic behaviour in this period; the dog will often disobey commands, run away, or turn a deaf ear. It can last a few days or weeks and is again, a test of the owner’s position in the pack.
9. Second Fear Impact (6-14 months)
This is a stage that most people do not understand. It could occur once, or several times, depending on the dog. It is marked by a sudden change in behaviour of the now adolescent dog who may suddenly be reluctant to approach something new, or be frightened of something, or someone familiar. The way in which an owner reacts in this stage is crucial to the dog’s normal development.
10. Maturity (1-3 years)
Maturity is a very vague stage, as some breeds do not mature until they are 3-4 years, however, whenever the maturity is reached, it is usually marked by a renewed test for leadership of the pack, especially in male dogs and again, the way in which the owner responds to this is critical.
The way in which breeders, handlers and owners respond to a dogs behaviour is crucial at all the above stages of development, one mistake and the dogs development could quite easily be set back. This would then need further work and training to ensure the dog grows into a well adjusted, social animal, comfortable in all surroundings.