The Coat


The following are 2 separate items written by different people and offer information with regard to the care of the curly’s coat, and also health problems relating specifically to the coat.



By Audrey Nicholls; Darelyn Curly Coated Retrievers

Trimming and Coat Preparation
Equipment: – Sharp scissors, thinning scissors, sponge, wide toothed comb.

The correct coated dog requires very little preparation, a light trim about once a month is sufficient to keep him in perfect shape, but many curlies need weekly preparation for show purposes. Before moving onto descriptions of the necessary tasks in preparing your dog for the show ring it may be interesting to read a couple of quotations from almost ninety years ago.

One from the early twentieth century about the preparation of the curly coated retriever’s coat states “The use of curling irons continues…… the exuberance of superfluous curly showing off the offending ringlets. It is therefore very advisable for intending purchasers unless they know a vendor to be above such practices to examine a dog of this description thoroughly before they conclude a purchase or possible disappointment may be in store for them”.

Then, L.P.C.Astley, writing in 1907 likened the curly’s coat to the close fitting tightly curled beautiful head of hair on the African people opining that this was the only “true and proper one” …. Of which every knot is solid and inseparable. A coat of this quality is not capable of improvement by any methods of grooming for the simple reason that its natural condition is itself perfect. The little locks should be so close together as to be impervious to water and all parts of the body should be evenly covered with them, including the tail and legs. A bad class of coat and one that readily yields to the faker’s art is the thin open coat, which by careful manipulation can be greatly improved!”

Trim along the edge of the leather to give a neat outline. Cut the curls on the ears to make them short, especially the ones on the top of the ears, but not so short as to lose the curl.

Trim the hair from underneath the ear towards the throat. This must be done at least a fortnight before a show so that the cut edge does not cause the dog to “Fly his ears”. Some dogs do not have the desired flat hair on the top of the skull – a tendency for a top knot. If there are waves or curls here, trim them back with thinning scissors. Trim the curls to give a smooth line to the top of the head

Throat and Neck
Curlies do have a tendency to grow very long hair in this area. Just cut back to give a neat outline down to the brisket.

Trim hair round elbow. Trim curls on the back of the legs to give a neat outline. Don’t cut too close unless you have a heavy boned dog.

Cut hair close to the skin to make a neat foot

Trim curls to give a neat outline but do not cut too short

Trim any long hair on legs. Cut hair on hocks very short. Some dogs do not grow surplus hair here.

Cut hair on underside of the tail fairly short. Trim curls on the rest of the tail but not too short – starting with the root and working toward the tip. Trim round the tip but not too close as this is the place that is often caught by wagging against sharp objects. The tail should be wide at the root and certainly not a “rat-tail”.

Some curlies may grow hair between the toes – if they do, pull the hair upwards and cut downwards towards the nails. Push remaining hair back between the toes.

Show Preparation
I have heard of many different “secret” preparations that have been used on the coat – glycerin and Jeyes fluid, to name just two, but plain water, preferable rain water, is quite adequate.

If you are in a position that the dog can swim then this is the ideal way of wetting the coat. To keep in perfect show condition the coat needs to be thoroughly wet once a day. If the facilities for swimming are not available really soak the coat with water, with the aid of a sponge. After the dog has shaken the surplus water away, use the fingers to massage the coat in small circular movements – getting right down to the skin. All of the body, including the tail and the backs of the legs need this treatment. This will get rid of any dead hair. Pat the coat down with the flat of the hand. Any coat that is shaggy needs to be trimmed off. For a pet dog the above treatment can be done fortnightly.

A male often casts his coat once a year – a bitch after each season or false season. The easiest way to get rid of dead hair is to comb the coat out. Use a wide toothed comb (Not steel). Comb in small sections back towards the head. This is an ideal time to wash the coat with a good medicated shampoo. You can also comb out any dead coat while the shampoo is in the coat. Rinse the coat well. The Curly’s coat should be dull, but if you have a dog with a very dry coat, it will benefit from being soaked in coconut oil periodically. This treatment is particularly useful for the liver colored variety.

Some of my personal grooming tips:
For a show coat dressing, I use the old stand by. A bottle of beer dumped in a bucket of water. Sponge, dump or spray over the coat. Let dry before ring time. This is not only a good show dressing, but if you loose in the ring, you have 5 more beers to fall back on and console yourself! (actually, this is a coat dressing that was passed down by my mentor). It may not help me out in the showring, but is sure gets interesting comments in the grooming area!

For every day or every week care, I use Avon Skin So Soft mixed half and half with water, put in a spray bottle and spritz on the coat. This conditions, moisturizes, deodorizes. It also repels fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.


Not much is published about the Curly’s coat.

examples of pattern baldness

Coat Patterning

The “Curly Coat Problem” can be frustrating — it is often misdiagnosed for other diseases such as thyroid deficiency, and it is detrimental to a breeding program trying to establish the proper coat. It is difficult to say how many Curlies are affected with this, as many are not shown, are not noticeably affected, or the problem is thought to be something else, such as wear from the collar. In mild cases, the patterning may appear once and then never again when the coat grows back in.

The Curly Coated Retriever Club together with the Royal Veterinary College are conducting research into follocular dysplasia and the research is now at stage 2. For up to date information concerning this condition please read the following article: R. Bond , K. Varjonen, A. Hendricks, Y. M. Chang and H. Brooks Brownlie.  “Clinical and pathological features of hair coat abnormalities in curly coated retrievers from UK and Sweden”.  Journal of Small Animal Practice (2016) 57, 659–667   Please click on the following link to read the article.

Very often dogs with patterned baldness will have good coats as a puppy, with the bald spots appearing at sexual maturity. Bald patterning appears on the backs and/or insides of the hind legs, and/or on the flanks, and/or on the front and/or sides of neck, and/or the deepest part of the chest and/or as an overall thin or brittle coat. A minor indication of the problem is dogs that are fully coated but only have real curls on their necks and backs. The hair loss is very distinctly bilateral — that is, on both sides of the dog. There are varying manifestations of this syndrome, from appearing nearly normal to being almost completely bald. In some cases, hair grows back after shedding, but within months rather than weeks.

Diets and supplements do not take care of patterned baldness. You should inform your dog’s breeder (send clear, close-up photos of all the spots) of any symmetrical bald spots appearing on your puppy so that they can take this information into account in their breeding program. Unaffected dogs seem to produce affected puppies, implying a recessive gene or genes, but the exact mode of inheritance is unclear. Very few veterinarians know about this problem in Curly Coats.

The following bits of information are extracts taken from an article on “Curly Coat Care” which was originally printed in the American Kennel Club Gazette CCR Column, written by Ann Shinkle.

Curly Coat Care

First-time puppy owners often ask, Where are the curls? When will they come in? Will they be big or small, soft or crisp, open or tight? Each Curly becomes curly at its own pace and in its own way. Many factors, including genetics and allergies, can affect coat type and maturity. You can even see variations in the same litter.

A puppy may have a short, fluffy and straight coat with no wave), a wavy coat, curls mixed with waves or a straight coat, and a puppy’s coat does not indicate what its coat will be like as an adult. Only time and maturity will tell what types of curls your Curly has. When the curls come in, they may be of any one of the different types.

When a Curly “blows its coat” you shouldn’t show it until its coat grows back. Some breeders say good coats grow back more quickly than problem coats. Bitches will often lose coat two to three months after their season. Some lose only a little coat, with sparser areas over the shoulders and back. Others go completely bald after having a litter of pups.  You can usually rely on a bitch to lose at least some coat about twice a year. Males usually shed once a year, after the winter, and usually less than females.

Unless it is shedding, I very rarely need to bathe a Curly. I can hose a dog down, wash it and then dry it, all year round. I don’t use a towel except in cool weather, and then only to dab off the excess moisture. On the whole, a healthy Curly has a “wash and wear” coat!

The Curly-Coated Retriever’s coat is an important attribute of the breed. Curlies may have many different types of coats in either black or liver. Some have loose curls, others have tight curls; some have little curls, some have big curls; some have open curls that are not close together, and some have coats that are more wavy than curly; some have harsh, brittle coats, and some have coats that are very soft. To add to this, the coat often changes as the dog matures.

The coat of a 10-month old may change quite a bit as the months go by. I have seen them all.

Which is correct? The UK standard indicates that the coat “is a distinguishing characteristic of the breed. It is a thick mass of small, tight, crisp curls.”

Since the Curly-Coated Retriever does not have an undercoat, when they “drop coat” they may not look very presentable. Some Curlies lose more coat than others. Owners of the breed have



different methods of dealing with the coat at this time. Some use a rake-type comb that removes the dead hair, others scissor the coat down to avoid the uneven look, while others may use an electric clipping tool to even off and neaten the coat. Some owners simply leave the coat alone and wait for it to come back without any help at all.

Owners must have patience with the Curly’s coat. The majority of Curlies have their adult coat by 2 years of age, with some in full coat even earlier. It depends on the individual dog. I know one curly bitch who started acquiring curls at about 3, and she improved every year there-after. I last saw this bitch when she was about 11 and at that time she had a lovely black coat full f curls.

So if your Curly is young and seems to not yet have his curls, just wait a while and the situation will probably improve. Curlies are a slow-maturing breed, and this seems to also pertain to the coat.

The only two recognized colors in curlies are black and liver. Either color is correct. A prominent white patch is undesirable but a few white hairs are allowable in an otherwise good dog.

Do Curlies Shed?

Bitches will often “blow coat” after they come shed out their winter coats in the spring. Some curlies only lose a little coat. Some go almost bald in places!
People who have curlies often joke about the curly black hairs they find in the butter….. you have to keep a sense of humour about it!

The dog in the picture is an intact female, who is blowing her coat. The pile of hair didn’t just fall off her! Her owner has been brushing her with a shedding tool.

You probably have heard you don’t brush a curly, since it will frizz the coat…. when shedding, you may want to brush or comb the coat out, so you can control the amount of hair that would just fall out.