Curly-haired dogs are some of the most distinctive breeds out there. And despite a proliferation of poodles and Labradoodles in the world, true curly coats in dogs are not that common. To have curly hair, a puppy must inherit two mutations of the KRT71 gene—inheriting just one will result in wavy, not curly hair. So your curly-haired pup is a rare dog breed, indeed! Many curly-haired breeds were developed either as water dogs, for helping fishermen or aiding in aquatic rescue, or as herders in cold, wet climates, such as that of the British Isles, according to the American Kennel Club. Those working dogs might not have spent much time at the groomers but today, most curly-haired dog breeds require a fair amount of maintenance in order for their coats to remain clean and healthy. Many curly-haired breeds are either non-shedders, hypoallergenic, or both for households where someone suffers from allergies. Lets take a look at some popular, quirky, and unusual breeds with lovely, curly locks. And remember, you dont need to find a purebred pooch—there are plenty of curly-haired pups at local shelters. But if you have a specific breed in mind, be sure to check for breed-specific rescue groups in your area.
Big and bold coifs often need their fair share of maintenance
Curly-haired dog breeds are popular for their low-shedding coats and distinctive appearance. Curly-coiffed pups like poodles and Portuguese water dogs were developed for sporting since their tight curls serve as good insulation for water activities. A herding breed like the Pumi and a companion breed like the bichon also feature abundant coils. Each dog has different grooming requirements: Some require frequent brushing, washing, or grooming appointments, while others require hand stripping or a stripping comb.
Here are 13 curly-haired dog breeds, including their grooming needs.
Many—but not all—curly-haired breeds are hypoallergenic, meaning theyre a better choice for allergy sufferers because they cause fewer allergic reactions. However, there are no dogs that are 100 percent hypoallergenic.
The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova When it comes to curly-haired dogs, perhaps the first breed that people think of is the poodle. The fluffy poodle is a classic curly-haired dog in large, miniature, and toy sizes. These dogs are known to be highly intelligent and make excellent companions. The standard poodle was originally bred as a keen retriever of game. Historically, owners clipped the tight curls to keep the vital organs and joints of the dog warm as it plunged into the chilly water. Today, the classic poodle cut is more about fashion than function. Whether your dog is a water retriever or a homebody, be prepared to learn to trim your dog’s coat yourself or find a capable groomer in your area since these coats need frequent trimming to stave off tangles.
Group: Non-Sporting (AKC)Height: Standard: 15 inches; miniature: 10 to 15 inches; toy: 10 inches and underWeight: Standard: 45 to 70 pounds; miniature: 15 to 18 pounds; toy: 5 to 9 poundsCoat and Color: Curly, dense single-layer coats that may be one of many solid colors, including white, black, gray, brown, and apricotLife Expectancy: 12 to 15 years
Portuguese Water Dog
Suefeldberg / Getty s The Portuguese water dog, or PWD, is another of the sporty curly-haired dog breeds. Originally bred to assist fishermen in retrieving lost tackle or even rescuing drowning sailors, these dogs needed to be strong and agile swimmers. Today, the breed is popular as both a companion pet or a canine competitor in sports like dock diving, agility, or obedience. The Portuguese water dogs coat is hypoallergenic. This breed is considered to be a very minimal shedder but requires regular grooming. You can opt for a standard clipping overall to maintain a coat length of about one inch or go for the “lion clip,” which means shaving the hair on the hindquarters and the muzzle down to the skin. This cut gave these working dogs enhanced mobility in the water while keeping their vital organs warm.
Group: Working (AKC)Height: 17 to 23 inchesWeight: 35 to 60 poundsPhysical Characteristics: Wavy or tightly curled coat; black, black and white, and brown, though color may also be white or silver-tippedLife Expectancy: 11 to 13 years
MilanEXPO / Getty s The name “bichon frise” literally means “curly-haired dog” in French. This small companion dog has a white, powder-puff-like coat. It has short, fluffy curls that give the dog a round appearance when groomed right. These dogs have soft hair and coarse guard hairs, which can lead to matting. The Bichon Frise Club of America recommends daily brushing and a monthly trip to the groomer for a bath and haircut.
Group: Non-Sporting (AKC)Height: 9 to 12 inchesWeight: 7 to 12 poundsCoat and Color: Fluffy and curly white hair (may have traces of apricot, buff, or cream), resembling a cotton ball or powder-puffLife Expectancy: 12 to 15 years
Oleghz / Getty s The Airedale is the largest of the terrier breeds and has one of the most distinctive coats. Typically brown and tan in color, the wiry coat can be tightly curled or may have a more relaxed curl that resembles a wave. Its notably different in texture than many other terriers. The Airedale terrier is a low-maintenance, hypoallergenic dog. You should brush or use a stripping comb to go through the curls each week but will only need to visit the groomer for a haircut three to four times a year. This schedule saves significant time and money compared to the monthly grooming needs of other curly-haired breeds.
Group: Terrier (AKC)Height: 23 inchesWeight: 50 to 70 poundsCoat and Color: Sturdy yet athletic in appearance; tight, curly coat in black and tan; typically has a beard on the muzzleLife Expectancy: 10 to 12 years Continue to 5 of 13 below.
Mirceax / Getty s The Hungarian Pumi has a unique medium-length coat characterized by a combination of curls and waves and is a mixture of softer hair and more coarse guard hair. At birth, the Pumi’s coat is usually straight or wavy. After a few months, the coat changes as the guard hairs grow, resulting in its characteristic curls. Unlike other Hungarian herding breeds, like the Puli and Komondor, the Pumis hair should not be corded. Grooming a Pumi includes the time-consuming method of hand stripping. The coat could be clipped, which may change its texture and appearance. In between visits to the groomer, comb the curls every few weeks. After combing, wet the curls, and let them air-dry so they spring back to life. Blow-drying this dog’s coat will flatten the curls.
Group: Herding (AKC)Height: 15 to 18.5 inchesWeight: 22 to 29 poundsCoat and Color: Compact body with semi-erect ears and a tail that curls over the back; wavy, curly coat in black, white, gray, or fawnLife Expectancy: 12 to 13 years
Bloodstone / Getty s The curly-coated retriever is one of the largest curly-haired dog breeds and one of the oldest retriever breeds. Curly-haired dogs like Irish water spaniels and poodles likely contributed to this breed’s development. These dogs were hunting companions that retrieved game from lakes and rivers in all sorts of weather and often trudged through brambles and thorns. The curls kept the dog warm and acted as protection against the brush. Unlike other curly-haired dog breeds, these dogs have a single coat of hair that sheds every six months or so. Regularly comb the curls (especially during shedding season), but avoid brushing the coat, or else it will create a frizzy appearance.
Group: Sporting (AKC)Height: 23 to 27 inchesWeight: 50 to 90 poundsCoat and Color: Small, tight, water- and weather-resistant in solid black and dark brown; curls cover the body from the tail all the way up to the top of the head with a feathering fringe of hair on the ears, belly, thighs, feet, legs, and tailLife Expectancy: 9 to 14 years
GavinD / Getty s The Bedlington terrier bears a resemblance to a lamb—and feels as soft as one with its combination of soft and coarse hair. The dog’s head tends to be the curliest part of its body. These dogs are often born with a dark coat, which gradually lightens to a softer blue, sandy, or dark-brown liver color. Maintaining the coat of a Bedlington terrier isn’t too complicated, and it doesnt shed as much. A weekly combing will keep the curls free of debris and matting. You can learn to trim the dog’s coat yourself or make an appointment with a groomer about every eight weeks.
Group: Terrier (AKC)Height: 15 to 18 inchesWeight: 17 to 23 poundsCoat and Color: Arched back; shaggy, rugged curls; colors include blue, liver, and sandy shades, with or without tan markingsLife Expectancy: 12 to 14 years
Sssss1gmel / Getty s The Bolognese is a companion breed related to the bichon frise. Unlike the bichon, which has tight, short curls, the Bolognese has medium-length curly fur. This wavy look means it needs its coat brushed a few times each week, though it’s probably best to make it a daily habit.
Group: Foundation Stock Service; this breed is not registered by the AKC but can be recorded for breeding and competition purposes Height: 10 to 12 inches Weight: 5.5 to 9 pounds Coat and Color: Petite dog with long, curly hair thats always solid white with a black nose and dark eyes Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years Continue to 9 of 13 below.
Kerry Blue Terrier
DevidDO / Getty s The curly blue-gray coat of the Kerry blue terrier is its most unique feature. According to the American Kennel Club breed standard, the coat should be soft, dense, and wavy. Unlike some other curly-haired dog breeds, the overall appearance of the Kerry blue should be tidy. Its essential to groom a Kerry blue terrier regularly, brushing and combing your dog a few times a week to keep it from matting. This breeds hair grows continually, so plan on learning to trim the dog yourself or making a visit to the groomer every six to eight weeks.
Group: Terrier (AKC)Height: 17 to 19 inchesWeight: 30 to 40 poundsCoat and Color: Medium-size breed with a short blue-gray coat of curls that is soft and wavy with no undercoat; a bearded face with heavy eyebrows often conceal this breeds eyesLife Expectancy: 12 to 15 years
Fotoeventis / Getty s The French barbet water dog is a lesser-known curly-haired dog breed. The coat is best maintained at a medium length—three to five inches—allowing curly locks to hang loose. The barbets hair is thick and wooly, a significant characteristic as this dog earned its keep by retrieving game from the chilly water. Keeping the barbet well-groomed is no small task. The coat needs to be brushed and combed several times each week to keep the hair from becoming a tangled mess. Regular visits to the groomer will ensure that the coat maintains its shape and length.
Group: Miscellaneous (AKC); awaiting acceptance by the AKC as a recognized breedHeight: 19 to 24.5 inchesWeight: 35 and 65 poundsCoat and Color: Medium-sized dog with a long, dense, curly coat that comes in black, gray, brown, or fawnLife Expectancy: 13 to 15 years
Irish Water Spaniel
Dan Iggers / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 Another curly-haired breed with traditional water duties, the Irish water spaniel (IWS) has a double coat of curls that keeps it warm during water retrieving tasks. The Irish water spaniel is a popular sporting dog in Europe and the United States and was among the first breeds registered with the AKC in 1878. Some believe the breed developed from the mixture of a poodle, barbet, and Portuguese water dog. The breed has smooth, short hair on the face and tail, while the rest of the coat is tight curls. Its care is pretty straightforward: It should be brushed or combed at least once a week and bathed and trimmed every six to eight weeks.
Group: Sporting (AKC)Height: 21 to 24 inchesWeight: 45 to 68 poundsCoat and Color: Medium to large breed with dense, crisp, and tight dark curls in a dark-brown liver color; coat on the face and tail is short and smoothLife Expectancy: 10 to 12 years
GoodLifeStudio / Getty s The curly-haired sheep-herding Puli is closely related to the Komondor and is also sometimes referred to as a “mop dog” because of its coats appearance. The Komondors hair is corded, while a Pulis fur can be corded or kept as a fluffier, brushed-out mass of curls. The Pulis fur is a combination of a soft undercoat and coarse guard hairs. The coat will naturally begin to separate into felted cords as the dog approaches nine to 10 months of age. If you opt for a corded coat, it will need regular baths. To maintain a powder-puff look, you will need to brush its coat several times a week with periodic visits to the groomer for trimming.
Group: Herding (AKC)Height: 16 to 17 inchesWeight: 25 to 35 poundsCoat and Color: Naturally corded coat; colors include black, silver, and whiteLife Expectancy: 10 to 15 years Continue to 13 of 13 below.
volofin / Getty s A unique look for a curly-haired dog breed, the Komondor has a coat that naturally forms into long cords, also giving this dog a “mop dog” nickname. A working sheepdog, this particular coat helps it blend in with the flocks and protects it in inclement weather. The natural dispersion of coarse guard hairs among the softer hairs of the undercoat results in this natural felting process. Keeping up with the care of the Komondor’s coat involves a special regimen of bathing but not brushing. A regular bath can keep dirt and odors away. Its locks will need thorough rinsing and then towel-drying, and it needs adequate airflow to complete the drying process. Otherwise, the hair can develop an odor.
Group: Working (AKC)Height: 26 to 28 inchesWeight: 80 pounds and upCoat and Color: White corded coat; large head, deep chest, and muscular bodyLife Expectancy: 10 to 12 years
Some breeds, like the Portuguese Waterdog, will often produce the same types of curls in their offspring. But other breeds, such as Labradoodles, can have a variation of coat types, ranging from long and straight to thick and curly.
This dog breed is also famous for its intelligent and obedient nature, which makes training them a joy. Unlike the Bichon Frise, the Bolognese is not as energetic; in fact, they tend to be relatively calm and eager to please.
Fun loving and incredibly sharp, the Barbet is a renowned hunting breed known for retrieving waterfowl. There is a mention of the dog in ancient folklore, and according to historians, these dogs date back to the 8th century.
The Spanish Water dog is a medium sized working breed that is committed to their ‘job’ and to being your loyal companion. They’re eager to please and highly intelligent, which makes training an absolute joy. But they really excel when given work and a routine.
Between tight curls and straight hair, there’s an assortment of curly coat types: loose, wooly, spiral, wavy, etc… This hinges on hair density, length, and growth patterns. Which again, is dependent on their genetics.
What You Should Know About Dog Breeds with Curly Hair
Some dogs have short, medium, or long hair. Double coats also exist. Some of these fur types can be silky, corded, curly, or wiry. And all dogs shed, but some breeds shed much less than others.
Curly-haired dog breeds are considered hypoallergenic, which means they don’t trigger allergies in humans. So while you can still be allergic to dog dander of curly coats, the effect will be much less.
In addition, you’ll find less hair on your floors, furniture, and clothes.
You also might want to consider the color of your doggo. For example, if your home decor is mostly white and you bring home a solid black dog, then chances are the dog hairs will be more noticeable.
Are all curly haired dogs hypoallergenic?
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