Grooming 101: Double Coated Dogs

Two questions we are commonly asked is how do I manage shedding, and should I shave my dog?

Some examples of double-coated breeds include Golden Retrievers, Corgis, German Shepherds, Huskies, Australian Shepherds, Pomeranians, and Labradors. There are of course many more.

As the name implies, a double-coated dog has two coat layers, a dense undercoat and a longer, protective topcoat. We often find this type of coat in working and sport breeds as it provides essential protection against the elements. The top coat usually repels dirt and moisture while the undercoat helps to protect your dog from both hot and cold weather.

Double-coated dogs shed a lot and proper grooming is important. When grooming is not properly done, hairs from the undercoat get caught in the top coat. This leads to matts and knots which are very uncomfortable for your furry friend.

Care of the Double coat:

  • Brushing removes loose hair, as well as dry and dead skin. The brushing helps to distribute the dog’s natural oils and stimulates the skin’s surface. Most dogs love being brushed and it is great one-on-one time to spend with them.
  • By removing dead hair, new, non-matted, healthy hair helps regulate the airflow for heating and cooling. Matted fur traps moisture and this is often a reason that skin infections or inflammatory skin conditions such as hotspots occur.
  • The correct brush is essential. We recommend a slicker brush for the soft undercoat, to remove the loose hairs and then an undercoat rake to remove the hairs in the undercoat that are ready to be shed. A comb should be run carefully through the coat, to catch any stray hairs and identify any knots that may have been missed.. Please be gentle when brushing and pulling on knots should be avoided, make the experience enjoyable and you will spend many happy grooming hours with your dog over the years.
  • Where knots/matts are identified focus on freeing the end of the matted section first to reduce discomfort and pulling on the skin. As the hair frees, more hair can be brushed and you move closer to the skin. A wide toothcomb is often best for this. You could also consider using some conditioning spray to help with the de-matting process.
  • A bristle type brush will smooth the hair at the end so it lies in the growth direction and spreads the natural oils, helping to improve coat condition.


Why shouldn’t you shave a double-coated dog’s coat?:

  • A double coat provides protection from the heat and is a very important part of your dog’s natural cooling system. In the summer months the undercoat is generally thinner, this allows a layer of cool air to insulate the dog against overheating. Your dog will have a higher risk of overheating if they are shaved.
  • In the cooler months the undercoat is thicker trapping a layer of warm air to protect the dog from the cold.
  • Their coats also protect them from sun damage. The skin is not used to being exposed to the elements as it is usually protected by two layers of coat. This makes the dog particularly sensitive to sunburn etc, when the coat is shaved. The top coat are sometimes referred to as “guard hairs” and for very good reason!
  • Cutting/shaving the top coat or undercoat can damage the hair, particularly the texture of the coat. In some older dogs the top coat may never grow back and the dog’s coat will look patchy forever. Sometimes there are good clinical reasons to shave a double coated dogs
  • Shaving the coat and shedding. A double-coated dog will continue to shed, for a short time this will be less than usual but the problem will not disappear with shaving


Washing your Double coated dog:

  • A thorough brush before the bath will help to remove loose hair
  • Shampoo, rinse, shampoo and then condition. Then a thorough towel dry.
  • Rinsing the shampoo and conditioner out of the coat is really important
  • If you blow dry the coat, use your fingers to run through the hair as you dry, this ensures that the heat from the dryer is not too much for the dog


Please contact Otaki Vets on 06 364 6941 if you need help choosing shampoos or brushes etc. We are hear to help you and your furry family member.