Curly Coated Retriever
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Curly Coated Retriever Coat Problems

Curly Coated Retriever coat care

Coats can vary greatly from curly to curly. You can have nice tight crisp curls. Large soft open curls. Silky small curls. Harsh wavy or brittle coats. Some coats take a long time to come in. some curlies have good coats as puppies. Some curlies never get a correct coat.

From the AKC Standard. Coat:

The coat is a distinguishing characteristic and quite different from that of any other breed. The body coat is a thick mass of small, tight, crisp curls, lying close to the skin, resilient, water resistant, and of sufficient density to provide protection against weather, water and punishing cover. Curls also extend up the entire neck to the occiput, down the thigh and back leg to at least the hock, and over the entire tail. Elsewhere, the coat is short, smooth and straight, including on the forehead, face, front of forelegs, and feet. A patch of uncurled hair behind the withers or bald patches anywhere on the body, including bald strips down the back of the legs or a triangular bald patch on the throat, should be severely penalized. A looser, more open curl is acceptable on the ears. Sparse, silky, fuzzy or very harsh, dry or brittle hair is a fault. Trimming--Feathering may be trimmed from the ears, belly, backs of forelegs, thighs, pasterns, hocks, and feet. On the tail, feathering should be removed. Short trimming of the coat on the ear is permitted but shearing of the body coat is undesirable.

The Curly Coat can be a bit of a mystery.
When does the adult coat come in? Does the coat go through stages? Are there any coat problems in this breed? Which coat problems should I worry about? Why does my curly have this bald spot on its tail? Is the collar too tight, my curly doesn't have hair on her neck.... Hey! I heard they don't shed!!!!

These are things breeders hear all the time!

Not much is published about the Curlies coat. (You may have found this out already if you have looked for books, or looked on the internet) I will try to share with you what I have on the subject, or what I can get my hands on about the subject

  The Curly Coated Retriever is a slow maturing dog and may take up to three years to reach maturity.
The Curly-Coated Retriever's coat goes through many stages.
This is the same dog from 7 weeks to 4 years old
puppycoat11 pupcoat2  adolescentcoat2


7 weeks.                  12 weeks.                        9 months.

adult3 adultcoat1 adultcoat5

1 year 9 months.            2 yrs, 9 months.               4 yrs old.




The coat on the face, front of the legs and feet is smooth. Curls start at the top of the skull and form either a “V” shape or a curved shape called a “bonnet.”


CCR Coat patterning

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. While mildly affected dogs generally lead normal lives, it is an indicator of more serious trouble, as it is caused by some type of auto immune problem. Affected dogs are more likely to have allergies, reproductive problems; in its severest form, it affects the growth hormones and the dogs mature at about 40lbs.

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 are 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, closeup 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.

curl5 curl4

Curls should extend down the leg. Curls should completely cover the thighs and rear legs at least to the hock and the tail.

Here you see curls on the thighs vs a curly with just short wavy hair on the rear legs and thighs.


The following article on coats or the following article entitled "Curly Coat Care" was originally printed in the AKC 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 "teddy bear" coat (short, fluffy and straight, 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. I've seen good wavy coats become patterned and lovely curls appear in a straight, fluffy coat when a dog reaches 9 months. My 4-month-old has lovely crisp little curls. My previous puppy had tighter waves for a few months, then her coat became a mass of tight swirled little curls. I've known cur-less 2 and even 3-year olds suddenly grow a lovely curly coat. The most unusual puppy I've seen lately is a liver with a ridge of darker, courser hair down the center of its back. Chances are it will have curls all over its body.

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 mentioned above - but many kinds of coats win in the ring.

When a Curly "blows coat" you can'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. I know of one male here in Florida who never sheds and is always in full coat.

I asked several breeders how they care for a Curly's coat. Gina Columbo says spayed bitches grow quite a bit of coat. She uses a #4 blade to routinely clip her 9-year-old bitch's coat. After a bitch has pups and starts to "blow coat" Columbo uses a #7 blade to clip her. (Using clippers seems to reduce the amount of excess hair all over the house when a Curly blows coat) Within a week or two, any sparse patches have filled in. By six to eight weeks, full coat is in again. She uses a slicker-type brush to remove dead hair when a Curly is shedding.

Yvonne Dormany never uses a brush. Instead, she uses a flea comb or a steel comb with widely spaced teeth to remove dead hair when a Curly is losing coat. A Curly in full coat never needs brushing.

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 outside, 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 following article on coats or the following article entitled "Curly Coat Care" was originally printed in the April, 2002 AKC Gazette CCR Column, written by Ann Shinkle.

Those Coats of Curl!

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? Our standard states that the coat "is a distinguishing characteristic of the breed. It is a thick mass of small, tight, crisp curls."

Some judges really check coats while others do not, but the breed's name alone emphasizes the importance of the curls. Recently, at a Curly-Coated Retriever breed seminar, a breeder-judge assembled a group of Curlies and had the participating judges feel the dog's coats while she commented on the quality of the coats, from the very best to those that were not as good. All the judges felt that this was a very good opportunity to understand just what a Curly's coat should be like.

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.

Curly coat liver and black

Black or liver. Either color is correct. A prominent white patch is undesirable but a few white hairs are allowable in an otherwise good dog.

Liver is the recessive color in the curly. Black is dominant. To produce a liver curly, both parents must carry the liver gene. You can breed two black curlies and get liver pups. You can also breed a black curly to a liver and get all black pups.

Here is demonstrated the color combinations that occur in a breeding. To have a liver dog, the gene match up has to be bb. Either BB or Bb will produce a black dog. The BB will be black dominant, only producing black puppies. The Bb will carry the recessive liver gene, and may produce liver pups if combine with either another liver carrying dog, or a liver dog.

each pup in the litter has the same one in four chance of having each of the gene combinations.
It is not an exact 25% split.

The only two recognized colors in curlies are black and liver.
IMG_0242 Exceptions have been noted, as mis-colored or mismarked dogs have shown up. Be it a genetic mutation, or a long hidden recessive trait or dormant gene from one of the dogs that went into making the curly.

AKC Standard: A prominent white patch is undesirable but a few white hairs are allowable in an otherwise good dog. Here is an example of a very nice Curly-Coated retriever with a prominent white patch.

Shedding Curly Coated Retriever

Do Curlies Shed?

baldmom Bitches will often "blow coat" after they come in season. A nursing mother will do the same after her pups are weaned. Some curlies will also shed heavily with the seasons. My dogs shed out their winter coats in the spring. Some curlies only lose a little coat. Some go almost bald in places! The hair forms little tumble weeds, and your floor may turn into the wild wild west!

People who have curlies often joke about the curly black hairs they find in the butter..... you have to keep a sense of humor about it!

Now, the dog in the picture is an intact female, who is blowing he 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.... at the times a curly is shedding, you may want to brush or comb the coat out, so you can control the amount of hair that would just fall out anyways. Brushing does not harm the coat, even if you brush the curly, once you rewet the hair, it looses the frizzies, and goes back to curly. I get my dogs used to the vaccume cleaner. They sell brush attachments for vacume hoses, so you can massage the coat, brush it out, and not have any clean up.

A shedding blade works well to loosen the dead hair. Others opt to use clippers on the coat, so at least the shedding hairs are real small.

Tail gland hyperplasia

Tail gland hyperplasia
Why does my curly have a bald spot on his tail?

There is a scent mark on the tail (also called the precaudle gland) which is located about 1/3rd of the way down the length of the tail.
You may notice a change of color in a liver dog. Other times the texture of the fur will be different. Sometimes it is characterized by an oily or scaly matting of the hair over the tail gland which may or may not be accompanied by hair loss.

In dogs this gland is no longer functioning. Although, cats also have this gland, and it still functions. Also called Stud Tail.

Many times this bald spot, if present, clears up and fills in at maturity.

Some remedies that have been tried by dog lovers to get the hair to grow back sooner:

Washing with a good dermacidal soap and using Oxy10

Using Oxy Wash on the area.

A horse product called "Epi-Coat" two times a day to area. (I am not sure where you would get Epi-Coat)

Flat coat

An example of An open coat, without much curl

Bald Curly Mom

bald Some bitches go through pregnancy and weaning a litter like a dream. Others go bald! The combination of hormonal change, real warm welping areas, and the physical demands of the pup all can play a part. Some breeders say a bitches best coat will be the one she grows in after a litter of pups.

The bitch will naturally loose hair on her belly and around her nipples when she gets close to whelping a litter. But the bald curly mom syndrome can be difficult to explain to people coming to look at the pups!

I have had bitches go almost bald when they wean a litter, and I have had bitches that keep wonderful coat through the whole process.


Here is Lance (SoftMaple Gunflint Typhoon at Hntrbay WC)
an example of a curly with thin/balding patches due to allergies


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Having some fun grooming the old fluffy dogs coat!

Every year when my parents left their curlies wiht me, I would clip Ripple down and leave a Poof on the end of her tail. My parents hated it. :-)


Curly Coated Retriever Coat Problems