Coat types originally developed as a means of protecting the dog. Terriers, with their tough, wiry coats, were better able to fit through tight places and withstand battles with rats and other vermin.
Herding dogs with medium-length coats would be protected from briars and brambles, as well as bad weather, yet would not be burdened by too heavy a coat. Sled dogs with a thick double coat could withstand the coldest of temperatures and continue to work hard, pulling sleds in the snow.
Although a coat that enables the dog to work is still important, personal preferences and style trends also play a big part in the coat a breed may have. For example, Border Collies competing in conformation dog shows have a much more elegant coat than the Border Collies usually seen herding sheep.
Short slick coats do not mat or tangle and so are easy to care for in that respect. Nevertheless, these coats still need regular combing and brushing to keep the hair and skin healthy. Short coats shed, usually in the spring and fall, and the short hairs can be bristly. Breeds with
short coats include Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, Rat Terriers, Smooth Fox Terriers, and Weimaraners.
Medium-length coats are not short and slick, but are not long and dragging on the floor either. Australian Shepherds, German Shepherds, Papillons, Japanese Chins, and Silky Terriers have a medium-length coat. These coats, if not combed and brushed regularly, can tangle, especially behind the ears, under the collar, and on the back legs. When these coats shed, the soft hairs usually form hairballs, like dust bunnies, that will float throughout the house.
Long coats require more care than other coat types because the tangles form so easily. These coats are gorgeous, though, and well worth the care. Irish, English, and Gordon setters have wonderful long, flowing coats, as do Afghan Hounds, Cocker Spaniels, Maltese, and Yorkshire Terriers.
Many breeds have coat types that don't fit into these categories; some have coats that are unique. There is nothing quite like the amazing coat of an Old English Sheepdog that has been freshly brushed. A Bichon Frise has a unique coat that needs regular trimming. Some terriers have a tougher, coarser coat, while others, such as the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, have a very soft coat. Poodles can have a soft, almost fluffy coat or a curly coat. In all types, the hair grows all the time and needs regular grooming. Puli, Kuvasz, and Komondors have hair that cords, or mats, in long, vertical cords all over the dog's body. And then there are the hairless breeds, some of which have a few scattered hairs, while others have tufts on the head and feet. The variety of coat types is really amazing, with something to suit everyone's taste.
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