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The Difference Between Single- & Double- Layer Dog Coats

Regardless of hair type, proper and regular grooming is essential to your dog's health and wellbeing. Regular grooming doesn't just keep his hair looking and smelling great, it also prevents tangles, skin irritation and more. Whether you’re a show parent or a loving dog owner, it is important to know how to maintain your dog's coat. Proper care of your dog's fur can affect everything from appearance to overall health.

Fur & Hair Types

There are five main types of coats. Once you identify which type of coat your dog has, it’s as simple as using the right supplies and committing to a care plan. Dog coats can be long, short, soft, wiry, thick, fine or a combination of these. But no matter the coat's look and feel, it'll fall into one of these two broad categories: single- or double-coat.
Coat layering can be confusing, and It may not be entirely clear to you which category your dog falls int. If that’s the case, read on to learn how you can identify the two coat types, to help you choose the right type of grooming care for your dog.

Single Layer Coats

A single coat consists of only one coat length, as the name implies. Single-coat dogs lack an undercoat and experience a longer hair growth cycle, which makes them less prone to shedding. However, that doesn't preclude them from experiencing mats and tangles. On the contrary, because of their extended hair growing cycle, single-coat dogs - particularly those with curly hair - really need to be washed frequently and treated for tangles proactively.
You should avoid shaving dogs with single layer coats, as this makes them much more susceptible to sunburns. Their top coat is all they have to protect themselves from the elements, and even just ten minutes of unprotected sun exposure can result in burns for a single-coated dog that's been shaved.

Is It Hair or Fur?

In most instances, these terms tend to be used interchangeably, and that's because hair and fur are essentially the same thing. Well, almost. The difference lies in the growing cycle of the coat. Some dogs make and replace hair quickly, causing noticeable shedding, while other dogs have much longer cycles that replace hair at a less noticeable rate. Because they shed less, it's commonly accepted that dogs with long, single-layer coat cycles have "hair", while dogs with undercoats that have short cycles are referred to as having "fur".

Is Dog Hair Automatically Hypoallergenic?

Not really, but we can think of "hair" as having more hypoallergenic qualities than “fur”. While all dogs shed, people with pet allergies tend to just fare better with animals who shed at a slower rate. That's because the things they're allergic to - saliva and dander from the pet – simply aren't as abundant with a low-shedding animal.

One thing to note is that while the term “hypoallergenic” does describe the rate at which hair sheds, it does not describe one type of hair look or feel. Breeds including poodles, Maltese and schnauzers all qualify as long-cycle hypoallergenic breeds, even though their hair types are very different.

Although a hypoallergenic pet takes some of the work out of owning a pet, with regular grooming and cleaning, you can significantly reduce allergens no matter what breed you own, whether you have a yorkie or a dachshund. Check out this complete list of low-shedding dog breeds here.

Double Layer Coats

Double coats consist of a top layer and bottom layer referred to as the "undercoat". The undercoat consists of a denser set of hairs that are designed to provide insulation for both winter and summer months. Many dogs sport an undercoat, including Labradors, Pomeranians, Huskies, Schnauzers, Collies and Corgis.

Although the undercoat can become too thick and is prone to tangling, it should only be managed with brushing. Dogs with double-layer coats should never be shaved for a couple of reasons:
1. The undercoat assists in cooling, just as it does in insulating. Shaving it robs your dog of his ability to control his body temperature.
2. Shaving a dog with an undercoat compromises UV protection. This can easily expose him to sunburns and even put him at risk for skin cancer.
3. Once shaved, a double-layer coat might grow back improperly.

If you have a dog with a double coat, a slicker brush and a pin brush will help you keep your pet's fur maintained. A slicker brush helps lift away the undercoat when the dog sheds. A pin brush will help untangle longer hair, and it will help distribute oil for a healthier shine. If your dog's hair is extremely tangled, invest in an undercoat rake and a wide-toothed comb. Since it takes time to properly brush a dog with a double coat, be sure to work through it patiently in small sections.

To keep your dog's coat healthy, be sure to use a detanging spray, shampoo and conditioner. This detangling spray will help loosen knots and is infused with vitamin B5, botanical extracts and other healthy ingredients to give your dog's fur more bounce and shine. To soften your dog's hair, use this silky shampoo for a healthy dose of amino acids and moisturizers. After washing, be sure to add a clarifying conditioner for extra protection from dryness and frizz.

Ready to learn more? Check out this article breaking down single- and double-layer coats down even further by their other hair characteristics.