The following are three 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 Hannie Warendorf
The dog in the photographs is Multi Champion Caballus Inferno (Sam) owned by the late Ineke van Beekum and co-owned by Hannie.
What They Should Look Like
For a Curly Coated Retriever the coat is of extreme importance, a functional coat is important for a functional working dog, and as the coat is even mentioned in the name of the breed it is the main characteristic of the breed. A Curly Coated Retriever without a curly coat isn’t living up to its name.
The breed standard tells us about the coat:
Body coat with a thick mass of small tight crisp curls lying close to the skin, extending from the occiput to tip of tail, without undercoat or bare patches. Elsewhere hair smooth.
It doesn’t tell us the coat should be trimmed from time to time, but if we look further in the standard we can see that the ears should be covered with small curls. Is an untrimmed ear covered with small curls or long dreadlocks? And an untrimmed tail looks very shaggy, and does not have small tight curls, but again long dreadlocks. So we learn from this that we need to trim the Curly to make him look even smarter and closer to the breed standard.
Daily coat care and trimming are not the same, but they go hand in hand. I will first explain the daily coat care.
Normally a Curly shed its coat twice a year. The old coat dies, and if the hairs were straight they would just drop out of the coat, like we see in smooth coated breeds like Labradors. But as the Curly’s hairs are curled the old dead hair will be ‘captured’ in the curl. The natural oil which is in the coat will hold the curl including the dead hair together. (see photo) If the adult dog has a good thick coat and the owner doesn’t do any coat care it will look like the dog is not losing any hair. BUT if you feel the coat, you can feel the curls are full of dead hair. I have even had Curlies on my trimming table with a coat so full of dead hair that I had to untangle the whole coat, it was completely matted.
To prevent reaching this state regular coat care should be done, especially with neutered Curlies.
Wet the dog so that his coat is completely wet to the skin. Then massage with fingertips the whole coat, any dead hair and dirt will come out and you can rinse it from your hands.
If the dog is not shedding, only a few hairs will come out, but this treatment is still a must to keep the coat in good condition, it will help to form the curls.
A curl should start right from the skin, and the massage helps to separate the curls and to keep the skin in good condition. NO BRUSHES or comb should be used just water and fingers!
If the dog sheds its coat you will notice this as your hands will be full of hairs when you give the dog it’s normal coat care treatment. Dogs and bitches shed different, normally the males will keep some coat, and still look good, the coat just feels a bit thin. While bitches sometimes shed the coat completely and can go very naked. Especially bitches who just raised a litter. Those coats will drop without much help, but with the males and bitches who do not shed so heavily (bitches who are spayed) we must put some more work on the coat to help it to come out.
As mentioned above the oil and dirt in the coat will hold the old hairs together. If you notice the dog is shedding it helps to shampoo the coat, the oil will disappear, and the curl will release the dead hair.
• Make the coat completely wet, work the shampoo through the coat with fingertips, and then rinse the coat. While rinsing keep massaging the coat, and you can feel and see that loads of hairs will come out! With very heavy coats you might have to shampoo twice.
• Now you can use a comb to comb the dead coat out (only on the peak of the shedding). After you combed out the coat rinse the coat again and massage so the remaining coat will curl again.
• Then give the coat a final rinse with 1 liter water with a tablespoon seasalt, and massage this in the coat. Then dab the coat, and let the dog shake all water out. Massage once more to get the last hairs out and take the dog out for a walk (if the weather is nice). Do not blow dry a Curly, you will destroy the curls!
The first few days more hairs will come out with your daily treatment, but soon this will stop and the dog will grow his full coat back.
We must keep in mind that it can take 2 to 4 years before some Curlies really have their adult coats.
How To Trim
To trim a Curly Coated Retriever one doesn’t have to be an expert or a qualified dog groomer, it is easy to learn. The purpose of trimming is to take away hair in places where it can bother the dog, and to give the dog his noble and elegant appearance.
All you need is a normal straight pair of scissors of very good quality. Look at your dog first before you begin, and you can see what you have to do, in general you can say that all hair that sticks out should be removed to create that thick mass of small tight, crisp curls lying close to the skin.
Get your puppy used to the scissors at a very young age. Get them used to the sound of scissors near the ears, even when you are not cutting any hairs yet, just pretend, and the pup will accept this soon. You will have a lifelong profit from this earning training! The same counts ofcourse for the tail and the rest of the body.
The Curly’s coat should be fairly wet when trimmed. I always start trimming on one end and work to the other end. So i’ll start with the ears.
The ears should be covered with small curls, the hair on the ears will grow long if we leave them, and will form dreadlocks. Do not trim the ears too short, there should be small curls left. Puppies and youngsters do not have curls on their ears yet, just shorten the hairs which stick out too much.
The hair underneath the ears should be trimmed very short to prevent it from tangling, and keep the ears clean and fresh.
After finishing the ears you can work down the neck and fore chest. All hairs that stick out should be cut, if you practise this you will see that it isn’t difficult at all, and the whole coat looks tidy and nice after this trim. Just follow the lines of the body of your dog, and remember that you should not cut it too short there should be curls left.
Front legs should be trimmed as showed on the photos, all long hair should be removed. If the dog has good bone this can be done rather short, if the dog is a bit fine in bone I always leave the hairs a bit longer.
Check the front feet for dead hair between the toes, you best pull that out gently with your fingers.
Body & Flanks
Just top off all hairs that stick out. You will find out that as soon as you wet the coat again (you can use a water spray for this) and when you worked your fingers through the coat, more hairs will stick out again. So it is recommended while trimming to spray the coat a little and work your fingers through the coat several times, and then cut again. The result should be a thick mass of small tight, crisp curls lying close to the skin, extending from occiput to tip of tail.
The hairs on the backside of the back legs also tend to grow long, so should be cut short to give the Curly his natural shape. Check the back feet for dead hair between the toes, you best pull that out gently with your fingers. Check the hocks for any hair that sticks out, they should be flat and not curly.
Unfortunately, the English standard doesn’t mention anymore that the tail should be tapering towards point or tip. That has been in the standard since 1890, so we can assume that the tail should still be tapering towards the point. The bone of the tail is like that and we want the appearance of the tail to look like that too, and an untrimmed tail looks different.
Start trimming the bottom of the tail, trim the hairs there very short, start on the base and work to the point. The hairs underneath the tail do not curl in as strong as they do on the side and on top of the tail. Now start cutting the side and top of the tail, and remember it should be covered with short curls. Start on the base of the tail, make sure it runs smoothly from the top line. Always hold the tail horizontal when you trim it, and always work from base to tip.
After trimming have another look at your dog, if you don’t see any disturbing hairs sticking out your job is finished!
It is also important to check if the ears and teeth are clean and check to see if any nails should be trimmed.
Final note, if your Curly will tell you cutting his hairs is painful, don’t believe it! He/She will get used to it, but start early with your next Curly!
Text, Photographs & Grooming – Hannie Warendorf
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.
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.
Further Information On The Curly’s Coat
Not much is published about the Curly’s coat.
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. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/
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.