Pantops Pet Salon
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Pantops Pet Salon & Spa
Charlottesville's Professional Dog Grooming

It's what we do -- it's all we do.

(434) 293-2424
Fax: (434) 293-8231
504 Pantops Center
Charlottesville, VA 22911

A Variety of Coats

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

It is very difficult to discuss the coat of dogs in generalities.  Not all breeds have a coat that responds to brushing, bathing, or clipping in the same manner.  The primary coat (long outer hair) of the Springer Spaniel is dense therefore is very difficult for clipper blades to cut through.  The coat of a Yorkie is soft and silky, so the clippers can cut through it much more smoothly. 

Most dogs have a dense, short, soft secondary coat (undercoat) which varies in amount and width from breed to breed and even between differently bred dogs of the same breed.  Dalmatians, Boxers, Greyhounds and the Yorkie can almost always be considered single coated dogs. 


With dogs like the Golden Retriever, it is the secondary undercoat that seems to be responsible for most of the shedding and matting which dogs experience.  There are two peak shedding times for dogs kept principally outdoors because temperature is the most common catalyst for shedding.  In the fall, the winter coat grows in to displace older hair while in spring when the weather starts to warm up, that winter coat is shed.  Dogs that are kept primarily indoors may shed all year long to some degree because the temperature is more consistent. 

Dogs that have dense secondary coats require more brushing and it is difficult to get clippers through those coats.  Many customers prefer about 1 inch of coat but on thick, matted double-coated dogs (like Shepherds and Samoyeds) the blade just can’t get through.  It must go between the dense hair and the skin, resulting in what is often referred to as “shaving a dog.”  Dogs who are clipped close no longer have the protection of that hair.  Issues like sunlight need to be considered because without that coat, a dog’s skin can burn in direct sunlight just like ours.

Hair is genetically designed not only to grow to a certain width, but length as well.  While the hair of a Dalmatian or Lab may only reach 1/2” in length, the hair of a poodle will continue to grow quite long.  Since the life cycle of poodle hair is of an extended duration, they shed much less and require clipping–just like the hair on our heads.

Under a microscope, tiny scales (cuticle cells) can be seen on hair.  These scales shift position when their pH is altered.  Neutral pH is labeled 7 and any pH number higher than that indicates a base while any pH number lower than that indicates an acid.  Treating hair with an acid results in the scales moving closer together while treating hair with a base has the opposite effect.  The scales that are closer together create a solid surface which is better able to reflect light, thus the coat looks shiny.  The loosened scales swell to produce a dull, rough finish.  Shampoos that are soaps are alkaline and therefore a base—they would produce a dull coat—and acidic shampoos (know as detergents) will produce a smooth coat.  Now you know why a lemon juice rinse can make your hair soft and shiny while washing it with a bar of soap leaves it dull and coarse.   

We use a pH balanced shampoo on our dogs.  The balanced pH matches the coat of the dog and brings out its natural shine rather than increasing or decreasing it with movement of the scales so that it can be used on a variety of coats.  This shampoo additionally contains the conditioning element of protein which coats the hair to make it thicker.  Aloe and lanolin are moisturizers for both the coat and skin.

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