Are hair and fur the same thing? Most of us use the terms interchangeably anyhow. Yet, it turns out there is a distinction, although you can’t always see it. Most dogs have fur. Poodles are unusual, though not totally alone, in that they have hair instead. So what’s the big difference, and why does it matter? We love our fuzzy pets, whatever their coats are called. However, I learned long ago that there is one key difference between hair and fur. I’ll share what makes a hair coat so different, along with some grooming tips and fun facts.
Do poodles have hair or fur? Poodles have hair. They lack the dual-layered fur coat of other breeds. Plus, they do not lose their hair as do dogs that shred hair. Fur will only grow to a certain length and then it will fall out. A poodle needs to have its hair trimmed since the hair will continue to lengthen.
Poodle Hair 101
Poodle hair is very different from the double coat of most dogs. While, poodles can have several different fur textures, from soft to a much more wiry feel, it doesn’t affect what we call the coat. Moreover, a puppy can have a very different coat from that of an adult dog who tends to be curlier. Adults are often less soft than puppies.
To understand the distinction between ‘hair’ and ‘fur,’ I have to explain the difference between anagen, catagen, and telogen hair follicles. The short explanation is that anagen follicles are growing. Meanwhile, catagen follicles are in a holding pattern, and telogen follicles are shedding hair. This happens to every animal and human that has hair, and every follicle goes through the three phases.
For poodles, who lack the double dense coat, most of their follicles are in the anagen phase most of the time. That means they grow very long before they stop and eventually fall out to be replaced with new hair.
Technically, hair and fur are the same things. However, when we call it hair, this is because the anagen phase lasts longer. Most dogs tend to shed a lot because their hair grows relatively short. This means they replace it more often.
Hair Vs. Fur
The other big reason hair and fur are the same is chemical. Realistically, both hair and fur are composed of the same thing. In this case, I mean keratin. There is no difference, and they’re literally made in the same way, by the same process.
Distinctions like texture are arbitrary. In other words, they are made up. A dog with ‘fur’ can grow longer hair or shorter. Similarly, a pooch with ‘hair’ might be soft, rough, or wiry in texture. Curly or straight, it doesn’t affect the chemical composition of the hair-fur.
So why did I say poodles have ‘hair,’ and that there’s a difference? Simply put, we’ve assigned a linguistic difference. The correct term for poodle coats is ‘hair.’
Many poodle owners claim their dogs are hypoallergenic because they have hair and not fur. There is a link, but that’s not the whole picture. First, poodles aren’t perfectly allergy-free. Though it’s rare, some people are allergic to poodle dander.
However, the difference between fast cycling fur and slower shedding hair affects the quantity of dander and the number of loose hairs that end up in the immediate environment. That’s why poodles are easier on the sinuses. Whether you have scalp, coat, or dermatological allergic reactions, a dog like a poodle is less likely to cause you issues.
If you have a poodle because of their hypoallergenic qualities, it’s especially important to take good care of their coat. I love Lillian Ruff Professional Dog Shampoo for my pups because it’s got aloe and lavender, so they come out smelling and feeling so soft. Plus, the gentile ingredients are easy on my dog’s skin. You can find it on Amazon when you click here.
Taking Care of Poodle Hair
The myth that poodles never shed isn’t right and can lead to problems for your dog. While it is true that poodle dogs don’t hed the same way other breeds do, they still lose hair over time. Most often, this gets caught up in the rest of their hair. Unfortunately, that means poodles tend to get nasty snarls in their hair.
If you want your poodle to have lovely, long hair, you should comb them out daily, or at least three to four times a week. If your dog is outside or playful, then you may need to groom their hair more often to keep the tangles to a minimum.
Show dog owners spend large amounts of time, around ten hours a week or more, grooming their presentation-ready dogs. It takes a great deal of effort to keep those fantastic curly coats looking like prize winners should. For casual owners, it’s often best to keep them shorn. Naturally, shorter hair is much easier to take care of.
You should use a pin comb for long-haired poodles, or keep their hair shaved to avoid the issue. I suggest the Chris Christensen 004 Poodle Buttercomb for those problem snarls. I like the straight spine, and Chris Christensen’s high-quality combs have always been my go-to comb for grooming. To check prices and availability, click here.
You may want to visit a professional groomer to shave your poodle every eight weeks. However, for all of you DIY doggy enthusiasts home, shaving isn’t tricky if you’re patient and own the right equipment.
Always shave your dog with extreme caution. If you cut a pup, they’re far more likely to fight you in the future to get away from the device that hurt them. Take your time and be patient with your pet. Some dogs are sensitive to the sound or vibrations, and it can be more comfortable for you both to take them to see a professional groomer.
Unlike most breeds, poodles grow hair inside their ears. Hence, it’s important to shave carefully. You’ll also want to clean the insides of their ears regularly to avoid problematic ear wax buildup.
The best at-home dog shaving kit, in my opinion, is the Wahl Home Pet Pro-Series from Amazon. It comes with everything you need to handle your poodle shaving needs at home. Click here to get one for your favorite pooch.
Poodle Hair Loss
Beyond simple snarls, poodle hair is delicate. Their uniquely beautiful coats are a large part of why many breed enthusiasts adore poodles. However, having such a gorgeous mane is not without its issues. Poodles can encounter hair loss, though it’s not extremely common. There are three main concerns for balding poodles.
First, the breed is prone to Cushing’s disease, which is an adrenal gland dysfunction. Symptoms can include hair loss and even seborrheic dermatitis, which causes an extremely greasy coat, and bad odor. If you notice hair loss on your poodle for any reason, make an appointment with your vet to have them checked out. Losing their coat is not ever healthy.
Secondly, poodles can also have trouble with Alopecia-X. Also known as an adrenal hyperplasia-like syndrome, this disorder is a genetic, late-onset growth hormone issue. Most commonly, you’ll see this in the smaller poodles. Alopecia-X can cause hair loss that starts at the base of the tail and progresses up both sides of the body.
Third and finally, allergy issues are a frequent contributor to poodle hair loss. From worrying at itchy skin, to more direct hair loss as a result of a dermatological (skin) condition that’s related to the allergies, ask your vet to test for allergen issues if you suspect your pet might be feeling ill.
There are other reasons why a poodle might lose its hair. For example, bacterial infections can cause patchy, local baldness in spots. Having fleas, ticks, or other biting pests bother your dog can lead to biting and licking. Over time that may cause your pet to lose their beautiful coat, but it’s easily treated with medicated shampoo and preventative collars.
Breeds That Have Hair
There are at least thirty-six breeds of dog, including poodles, who are said to have hair instead of fur. Intriguingly, this includes hairless breeds. Since the distinction is in the language and not the hair itself, you might argue that all animals have hair or fur. Regardless, the dogs which are known for their ‘hair’ come in all different types and textures.
Some famous wiry ‘haired’ dogs include Schnauzers, Brussels Griffon, and both the Fox and Airedale Terriers. Straight haired dog breeds include Shih Tzu, Maltese, and Yorkshire Terrier. The hairless breeds who are part of the ‘hair’ family include the beloved Chinese Crested and Xoloitzcuintli, among others.
No matter what their coats are, hair, or fur, we love our dogs. They give us their loyalty, unconditional love, and might even help us live longer lives. Show your pet how much you appreciate them. Take great care of your poodle’s hairy coat. A poodle’s bouffant is a big part of their distinctive style.
As dogs go, the breed is also very smart, and there are even places in the world where they’re used as police dogs. They make outstanding companions and beautiful pets. Whether you have a papered, pedigreed show dog, or just an adopted poodle from the pound, it’s well worth the time and effort to take care of their unique hair.
Hair is the accepted term for your dog’s coat, but be patient with people who call it fur. After all, they’re technically correct as well.