Grooming Tips To Care For Your Young Dog’s Coat

Know what to expect as your young dog transitions from puppy coat to adult coat, and keep up the daily brushing for proper coat care.

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Extra brushing will help as your young dog sheds his puppy coat. Polafernandez/iStock/Thinkstock
Teri DiMarino

Oh my! Your puppy is growing up. He’s not a puppy anymore and is starting to look like a mini version of the handsome adult he will soon be. He is not only growing in size, but you may notice his coat changing, and he appears to be shedding a bit, too. You will notice this because you are still brushing him every day and you are noticing a bit more hair gathering in the brush, right?

Depending on his breed or background, your young dog may appear to be changing coat texture, length and color. Some breeds, such as Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, are born nearly black and start changing into their traditional wheat color when they are several months old. And just when you thought your job of teaching him to behave for brushing was coming to an end, Mother Nature jumps in and mixes things up as the puppy reaches adolescence. It is now that all of your good training will come in handy, because you will be using that brush a bit more at this time in your dog’s life.

Changing Of The Coat
In many breeds, adolescence takes place between 9 and 18 months of age. This is the time when they are maturing into young adults. Their coats may be genetically patterned to turn into something different as they begin to change hormonally. This can have a direct effect on their coat and condition. Short-haired dogs, like Dalmatians and Pugs, may shed a bit more. Dogs with medium-length coats, like Golden Retrievers and Corgis, will definitely be shedding more, and you may notice a change in their coat texture and appearance. And the Nordic-type breeds, like Siberian Huskies or Chow Chows, will be dropping hair all over your home like a dog exploded.

Some people claim that certain breeds of dogs don’t shed. While this is true to a certain extent, these “non-shedding” breeds are still going through a coat change at this time. That cute, fluffy Shih Tzu puppy is starting to look less fluffy. His new, adult coat is straighter and stronger than his fine baby coat. Your baby Great Dane may not look like a baby anymore, but his coat may look a bit moth-eaten. And your young Pomeranian may also be looking a bit straggly. Poodles and any of the Doodle crosses will also experience change. Some may shed a bit while others may actually show a visible texture change at the base of the hair. These changes in coat are all perfectly normal.

On most dogs, this old puppy coat has to be shed out. If it is not brushed out, it will tangle and mat, causing discomfort to the dog. Depending on the dog and environment, these puppy-to-adolescent coat changes can last from two weeks to two months, sometimes longer. Many times this is the age that we choose to spay or neuter our pets. Anesthesia is a factor that can accelerate the change of coat and these dogs may appear to mat up overnight. This can, and does, happen.

Preparing For Grooming
I used to show Tibetan Terriers, a long-coated breed, and I would normally brush my babies once a day. When they reached 6 to 8 months of age, I brushed them twice daily to ensure their puppy coat would not tangle. If it is your desire to keep the coat on your pet long, this is the commitment you must make. A Maltese or Yorkshire Terrier cannot brush himself. Getting that long, flowing coat can be a chore, but it is a rewarding one.

At this time I see many owners conceding to having the dog’s hair trimmed. For the average house pet, this may be a good decision. But I would encourage the owner to take their puppy to a grooming salon several times to acquaint him with professional grooming procedures before making any drastic change in the dog’s appearance. As a professional groomer, I want to do my best to make sure the dog is comfortable with me and the grooming process before I ask him to stand and behave for a “big kid” haircut. You might compare it to having a toddler sit in the barber chair for the first time. They don’t know what is going on and they are totally busy watching everything around them. This is where good grooming training comes in handy.

Breed And Coat Type Make A Difference
Grooming of the adolescent puppy can differ by breed and/or coat type. “Non-shedding” breeds, such as Poodles, Portuguese Water Dogs or some “Doodles,” will need haircuts, as their hair grows continually, like ours. If their hair is not trimmed, it will grow long and can get totally out of hand for the average pet owner.

Other “non-shedding” or “low-shedding” breeds like the Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Shih Tzu or Yorkie will shed, but minimally. You still get a brush full of hair after a good grooming, especially during their coat change, but when they hit adulthood, a lot of that “coat drop” should stop. There are many cute styles that these dogs can be trimmed into. Many people refer to a simple cut as a “puppy cut.” As a groomer, I really like a bit more information than that. Do you want it long or short? If so, just how long or how short? Please understand that there is no such thing as a “regular Maltese haircut,” as this breed was never intended to be trimmed down, so please communicate your wishes to your groomer.

Some dogs never seem to stop shedding! Siberian Huskies, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Shetland Sheepdogs and Pomeranians are just a few of these breeds. The coat type sported by many of these breeds seems to drop constantly. Many of these breeds are “seasonal” shedders, meaning that they will change out their heavy winter coat to a bit lighter warm-weather coat. If a female is not spayed, she will also drop coat after her heat cycles. (FYI, all of the dogs used in the productions of Lassie were males, as they retained a full, good-looking coat nearly year round). Almost all of these breeds are what we call “double-coated,” meaning they have a mixture of harsh outer hairs and soft, downy undercoat close to the skin. When they are changing their coat, their hair will grace every horizontal area of your home. Your lamps will look like they have a fine gossamer draped on them and it will look like a smaller version of your dog is sleeping under the couch.

Short-haired dogs change coat, too. I had previously mentioned Great Danes. They actually have a very thick mixture of short guard hairs and soft undercoat. Some of them can really look moth-eaten when going through the adolescent stage. Talk about a gangly teenager! Brushing with a short, bristle brush helps remove a good amount of this coat, but like all the other dogs you must brush these short-haired dogs every day!

Bear with this coat change. These are your dog’s “teenager times.” Enjoy their silly antics and their gangly appearances. Soon they will blossom into wonderful adults. Just remember the ugly duckling grew into the beautiful swan — and with the help of a groomer your young dog can do the same.

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Dogs · Grooming · Health and Care