The Ins and Outs of Doodle Grooming
Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, Bernedoodles, Aussiedoodles – oh my! The list of quirky names for these dogs goes on and on. Simply put, a Doodle is a cross between a Poodle and another dog breed. Doodles vary in size, shape, color, and coat texture, all depending on their mix.
Because Doodles are a relatively new breed of dog (developed in the 1980s), there has not been enough time to develop predictable characteristics from the parents to pass down to their offspring. Most Doodles end up with one of two types of coats: wiry shedding coats that may have tight curls or a high maintenance soft curly type of coat that can be found in Poodles. It’s important to know what combination of hair types your Doodle has to properly maintain it’s coat and avoid matting!
Commonly Combined Hair Types
Poodle Hair Type: Harsh and curly
Similar to a Brillo pad texture, this is the classic Poodle coat type seen at dog shows. It’s easy to shape and style.
Poodle Hair Type: Soft and curly
Most often kept in cords (cultivated and well-maintained dreading done on purpose) for dog shows. This type of coat is relatively “non-shedding” in that their shed coat does not drop out of their coarse outer coat and end up on the floor. The shed hair is contained in the coat and requires constant brushing to keep it tangle and mat free.
Golden Retriever Hair Type: Double coated
Known as a double coat, they have a slightly coarser outer coat and soft undercoat used for insulation from cold and heat. This type of coat sheds moderately and constantly, typically with two heavy shedding times a year.
We’re using Golden Retrievers as the third most common hair type example, but Cocker Spaniels, Old English Sheepdogs, Black Russian Terriers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and others are also used to make a wide variety of Doodle mixes.
Matting is something we see regularly with Doodles no matter what type of coat the dog has. A tangle will form and new hair growth rises up to meet the existing tangle, tangling the hair even further and causing the hair to become matted. Mats can be very painful for your dog because they pull on the underlying skin and can lead to sores and skin infections.
Here’s an example of a very matted Doodle that the groomer had to shave. The photo above was taken mid-way through the matted shave. You can see in the lower right hand corner the hair was shaved to 1/2″ comfortably and carefully. The top portion of this Doodle’s coat had appeared to be brushed out, but you can see the main matting line just below the groomer’s thumb. This matting was so complete and even that it gave the impression of being the skin itself! Beneath the matting is the untangled new growth that is growing up into the existing mat. Below that you can see the blueish line of the dog’s actual skin.
The groomer carefully shaved the dog and removed the matted pelt. The top layer is entirely brushed out but under it is a layer of tight matting, so severe that this whole area came off in one piece! The hair is so tightly tangled that it created an illusion of skin and the owner was unaware that they were not actually brushing out completely.
Regular Grooming is Key
Matting can be avoided with proper and regular grooming maintenance. To help figure out your dog’s grooming needs, we recommend bringing in your dog to have its coat type evaluated by a groomer. The groomer can help guide you on what to expect and how often you should be getting a professional groom or brushing at home.
- For coats longer than 1-inch: professional grooming should be done every 2-4 weeks with daily brushing and checking with a comb at home.
- For coats shorter than 1-inch: professional grooming should be done every 6-8 weeks with 2-3 brushings at home per week.
- Line brushing is a relatively simple method of grooming that leaves a dog’s coat looking and feeling soft and full. It can be a time-consuming process, but consistently line-brushing your dog’s coat will help it remain healthy and free of debris, knots, and mats.
- Starting at a leg is the best way to understand line brushing. Put one hand on the wrist joint of your dog’s front leg and slide up until there is a clear line created of hair you are holding up and hair that has fallen down (this should just be the hair on the paw and below the your hand). Using a slicker brush, brush everything below your hand. When that area is brushed out, check your work for matting with a comb, if you find a tangle, switch back to your slicker and work the tangle out. Slide your hand up slightly to release more hair and repeat until the leg is finish. Repeat on all legs, then move to the body.
- Check and brush areas of high friction between grooms. These are often the ears, tail, throat latch, arm pits, collar line (where the collar sits), and where a harness would sit if your dog wears one. Use a slicker brush and greyhound comb for best results.
- If you’re having trouble keeping up with at home maintenance, our groomers would be be happy to get you on a schedule for a brush out at Furr every week to two weeks to keep a longer style.
Common Doodle Cuts
The Puppy Cut
Outside of show rings, “puppy cut” means one uniform length on the body, but does not specify the length itself. Most groomers will recommend somewhere between 1/2″ to 3/4″ to keep the dog slightly fuzzy, but eliminate a lot of the work at home for owners. This can be a relatively low maintenance groom, depending on length chosen.
Bladed Body, Fuller Leg
This is often times used to give the illusion of length, hide imperfections, or create a more sculpted appearance. A short length is used on the body itself and the legs are left longer.
Teddy Bear Head
This is an umbrella term for a commonly used type of head trim. It’s left slightly longer than the body to create some distinction and then rounded in. Ears can be left long or guard combed for less maintenance and a fluffier, more kept look. A round teddy bear head with shorter ears leaves a younger, puppy-like finish. A full teddy bear head with slightly neatened ears leaves a shaggier finish.
Tails can be one of the most highly matted areas. A squirrel tail is trimmed to one length leaving a fuzzy, bottle brush tail that requires much less at home maintenance. Nicknamed the squirrel tail, it’s usually left about 2-inches long and helps prevent matting.
- Doodles Do Not Shed
Doodles are mixes of two breeds that shed in different ways. Lots of Doodles only lose their undercoat into their top coat so you will not see hair all over your house, however this coat type is the type that will mat easily without brushing.
- Grooming Will Mess Up My Doodles Coat
Some Doodle owners think that the change in color or texture of their dog’s coat is somehow caused by the first groom, when actually it is just the adult coat that has been under the fluffy, different colored puppy coat the whole time. For many breeds and species, hair color and texture change throughout the creature’s entire life, even humans. Coat changes can be more difficult to predict with Doodles because they are a variety of mixes and don’t have decades of breeding in the past to observe and make predictions on. Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are a great example of coats changing over time – They are born with a very dark coat and fade to the classic light wheaten color as they age.
- Doodles do not Need to be Groomed Until They are a Year Old
1. It’s best if dogs are introduced to grooming at an early age and we accept puppies after they’ve had their first few rounds of puppy booster vaccines. When it comes to grooming, Doodles have a highly demanding coat and will need more practice and introduction than most dogs.
2. Puppies go through a coat change somewhere between 6-12 months where they will shed their puppy coat entirely and grow in an adult coat. If there are not proper grooming practices already established, dogs can mat seemingly overnight. We don’t want your dog’s introduction to grooming to be a necessary shave down because they’re matted.
3. Grooming practices that start at a young age become a part of life, not something stressful or traumatic. It’s never too early to start a good grooming regimen at home. If you have questions on where to start, give us a call and we’ll be happy to share some tips!
- Doodles are Low Maintenance
Doodles have one of the most labor intensive coats when it comes to grooming. Other long established breeds, like Poodles, Golden Retrievers, and Old English Sheepdogs have coats that were bred into them over tens to hundreds of years, to serve a specific function. Doodles are bred as large companion animals. Popularity of soft coat texture Doodles has caused this coat type to be in higher demand and the most common texture found. This coat is hard to maintain at longer lengths and can mat easily. Matting is painful and cruel to brush out in most cases, so day-to-day maintenance is essential.
- Doodles are Hypoallergenic
No dog is truly hypoallergenic. Poodles, Bichon Frise, Maltese, Portuguese Water Dogs, Xoloitzcuintlis, Chinese Crested Dogs, and a few others are sometimes considered more hypoallergenic than other dogs. Dog allergies stem from dander (dead skin cells shed from the dog) and the amount of dander varies from dog to dog, even if they’re the same breed. On average, dogs found in these breeds shed less dander than other breeds. However, when you take a Poodle and breed it with a Golden Retriever, for example, there is now a higher chance that the offspring will shed more dander than the average Poodle. If the Poodle parent was a high dander shedder to begin with there is an even higher chance.