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Bold, Beautiful and Curled. All About Dogs With Curls

At A Glance

When you think of dogs with curly hair, the first breed that probably springs to mind is the classic, curly-haired Poodle. But apart from the Poodle and of the 190 dog breeds recognized by the AKC, there are quite a few curly haired dog breeds. And while they are hugely popular for their fluffy, cute appearance, remember that:

  • Those big and bold curls often need a high amount of maintenance, and every breed has different grooming requirements
  • Dogs with curly coats also shed. However, they shed less compared to others, and the loose hair tends to get caught in their coats
  • And while many curly haired dog breeds are hypoallergenic, not all are

Despite the seemingly large number of curly haired breeds out there, dogs with curly coats are actually rare, and there’s a scientific explanation behind it.

For a pup to have curly hair, it must inherit two mutations of a gene called KRT71. Just one such gene will result in wavy hair instead of curly hair.

Most curly-haired dog breeds were reared as water dogs to help fishermen, aid in rescue, or work as herders in places with cold, wet climates. Since they were mostly kept outdoors, they did not require a lot of grooming. That said, most curly hair dog breeds require a good deal of maintenance to keep their coats clean and healthy.

Let’s look at some of the large, small, and popular curly haired dog breeds out there.

Poodle

  • Height: Standard poodles can reach 15 inches, while miniature poodles can get up to 10 to 15 inches. Toy poodles may be 10 inches or less.
  • Weight: Standard poodles can weigh between 45 and 70 pounds. Miniature poodles weigh 15 to 18 pounds, while toy poodles weigh 5 to 9 pounds.
  • Coat and Color: Poodles typically have curly, thick, and single-layered coats. They come in a range of solid colors, such as white, black, gray, brown, and apricot.
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Poodles are among the most popular breeds in the world. They come in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. The coat of a poodle pup is much different from that of an adult. Purebred poodle puppies often have wavy puppy fur, “which then starts to become curly during puberty”, notes dog mom Besarta Ljuma.

Miniature and toy poodles start shedding their puppy fur and growing into adult coats by 9 months. They will have their adult coat by their 18th month, although it may take up to 24 months for some.

A Poodle does not have a plush double coat like many other curly dogs. Instead, they have a single, dense coat of curled hair. Poodle fur is often compared to human hair, with some even going so far as to suggest it actually is hair. This is because it continues to grow and fall out the same way as human hair, unlike most dog fur, which sheds seasonally.

That said, you’d be surprised to know that fur is actually no different from hair.

Poodles are very smart, ranking as the second most intelligent among dog breeds. They were originally bred to be waterfowl retrieving dogs, and some still are. Today, they make great family pets as they are full of energy and patient with kids.

Bichon Frise

  • Height: Bichons are small dogs that grow from 9 to 12 inches
  • Weight: 7 to 12 pounds
  • Coat and Color: They have a fluffy yet silky, curly white coat that gives them a cotton-ball resemblance. Occasionally, there may be touches of apricot, buff, or cream on their fur.
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Bichon Frises are said to have originated in the Mediterranean and were introduced to Tenerife and the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain. Italian sailors brought the Bichon Frise to Europe in the 14th century, where it won the hearts of France’s nobility and middle class. Their name is derived from the phrase, “bichon à poil frisé”, which means “dog with curly hair”.

These small curly haired dogs are known for their double coat, and both the over and undercoats are soft with curly hair. They are quite a high-maintenance breed and will require baths at least once a week and grooming sessions every 4 to 6 weeks to keep their coats nice and puffy. Brushing will help remove any matt and tangles.

Bichons make excellent companions because they’re highly intelligent, affectionate, and energetic dogs who love playing games like fetch. Their lack of fear of strangers makes them effective watchdogs, but owners should keep in mind that Bichons are notoriously loud barkers.

airedale terrier in the forest

Airedale Terrier

  • Height: Adult Airedales can grow up to 23 inches
  • Weight: 50 to 70 pounds
  • Coat and Color: Tight and curly coat in black and tan. There may occasionally be some white and gray fur mixed in.
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

The Airedale Terrier is a medium-sized dog and the largest of all terrier breeds, earning the nickname “King of Terriers.” The breed’s history dates back to the 1800s in the Aire River Valley in England. An extremely active breed, Airedales were first bred for hunting rats and otters. They now make popular pets.

These athletic dogs are double coated and have tan coats with black markings. The topcoat is thick with wiry curls, while the undercoat is short and soft. They shed moderately, usually when the season changes. A low-maintenance breed, brushing 1-2 times a week and baths every 6-8 weeks will maintain their coat, while grooming can be done 3 to 5 times a year.

Airedale Terriers are known for their remarkable hunting sense, intelligence, and trainability. They served in World War I, finding injured troops, delivering messages, and carrying first aid supplies. Due to their high energy levels and need for mental stimulation, Airedales are best for young families and owners with active lifestyles.

American Water Spaniel

  • Height: Adults can reach 15-18inches
  • Weight: Males can weigh between 30-45 lbs while females at 25-40 lbs
  • Coat and Color: Oily, double coat that is curly or wavy and ranges in colors from brown to chocolate and liver.
  • Life Expectancy: 10-14 years

Although the breed’s actual origins are unknown, the American Water Spaniel is most known for being a working gun dog in the American Midwest back in the 18th century.

It is a medium-sized breed with a wavy brown double coat. Some dogs have a bit of white around the toes and chest. Their outer coat can have tight uniform waves, also known as a marcel coat, while the undercoat is dense.

While they don’t shed too much, weekly brushing is a must to maintain their oily, water-resistant coat. Bathe them only when they are dirty or smelly since bathing them too regularly can exacerbate matting. Dog trainer Tori explains that, “they need the oils to remain in their coats to keep them from getting super tangled.”

As natural retrievers, they love to swim and be active. They can be trained to hunt game or retrieve items. Their trainability, willingness to work, and friendly nature make them good therapy dogs.

komondor dog in the grass

Komondor

  • Height: Grows up to 26 to 28 inches
  • Weight: Can be 80 pounds or more
  • Coat and Color: The breed’s distinctive white topcoat is corded, long, thick, and often compared to a mop. Meanwhile, the undercoat is soft and wooly.
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

This large and powerful dog is an old breed that the nomadic Cuman people introduced to Hungary. Its name translates to “dog of the Cumans.” It was bred to guard livestock, since its long corded coat often helped it blend in with sheep.

Dogs with long curly hair will have soft curls as puppies that develop into thick, long cords as they age. “From a grooming standpoint, one of the most high maintenance dogs would have to be a Komondor with its corded, dreadlock fur”, shares professional dog handler Tray Sea.

The cords need to be manually separated every week, and brushing won’t really help. The undercoat will shed twice a year. Bathing and drying can take hours due to the Komondor’s thick fur, but a quick hosing down can do wonders if they get dirty. Settle for a full bath every few months.

A Komondor’s powerful bark makes him an effective guard dog. Daily walks or a little exercise are all they need.

Pumi

  • Height: Grows up to 15 to 18.5 inches
  • Weight: 22 to 29 pounds
  • Coat and Color: This breed is known for its corkscrew curls in black, white, gray, or fawn colors.
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 13 years

The Pumi is a medium-sized, curly haired Hungarian herd dog. Although still used as herding dogs, the breed’s good looks and energetic personalities have made them popular pets.

A Pumi’s coat is made up of equal parts soft and coarse hair that requires brushing every 3 to 6 weeks. Washing it down will let the curls form again. The curls can be trimmed to maintain their curled shape.

Pumis are very intelligent dogs and eager to please; hence easy to train. They’re also very active and agile.

cocker spaniel dog

Cocker Spaniel

  • Height: Male spaniels grow as tall as 14.5-15.5 inches while females grow to 13.5-14.5 inches
  • Weight: Male spaniels typically weigh between 25-30 lbs while female spaniels weigh 20-25 lbs.
  • Coat and Color: Cocker Spaniels have long and medium coats that come in many patterns and colors ranging from black to tan, cream, sable, silver, white, and buff
  • Life Expectancy: 10-14 years

Cocker spaniels are one of the most popular breeds in the United States, most known for their silky, lush, long hair. Originally bred as hunting dogs, Cocker Spaniels also make great pets because of their affectionate nature. In fact, they are often referred to as “Velcro dogs” due to their clinginess.

These dogs with long curly hair that are actually more wavy than curled are often seen in dog shows. As a long curly haired dog breed, their hair grows thick, and their coats require special maintenance.

Daily brushing removes dead hair and stops it from tangling; it also stimulates natural oils and keeps the hair in form.

Grooming should be done every 3 months to keep its coat in good condition. A Cocker Spaniel is patient and social, so they’re well suited to families with young kids. Regular playtime and training will keep them happy.

Labradoodle

  • Height: The standard is 22 to 24 inches for males and 21 to 23 inches for females, while the medium is 18 to 20 inches for males and 17 to 19 inches for females. Miniature Labradoodles measure around 14 to 16 inches.
  • Weight: Miniatures weigh 15 to 30 pounds, mediums weigh 30 to 45 pounds, and standard Labradoodles weigh 45 to 100 pounds.
  • Coat and Color: Their coat is either curly, like that of a Poodle, or shaggy, like that of a Golden Retriever. Many fall somewhere in the middle. Colors range from white, caramel, gold, brown, silver, black and blue.
  • Life Expectancy: 10–15 years

A well-known “designer dog”, the Labradoodle is a cross between the Poodle and the Golden Retriever, two of the most beloved dog breeds. This crossbreeding gives them a playful, intelligent, and curious personality like their parents.

They come in many sizes and generation types, and some also have non-shedding traits. The generation can affect whether their fur is straight, wavy or curly, as it depends on the gene they inherit from their parents. Grooming varies depending on their coat, but generally, they should be brushed 1-2 times a week and bathed only when necessary to keep their curls intact.

This highly intelligent and energetic breed needs plenty of mental stimulation or tends to get bored and misbehave. Labradoodles are excellent companion dogs.

two cute bolognese dogs

Bolognese

  • Height: These are small curly haired dogs that grow 10 to 12 inches
  • Weight: 5.5 to 9 pounds
  • Coat and Color: This breed has long, fluffy and “flocked” (not curly but ruffled) white hair
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

The Bolognese is a small, white, curly haired dog with origins in Bologna, Italy. During the Renaissance period, these adorable dogs were a popular gift among European nobility. You can even spot a Bolognese in famous paintings like Titian’s Venus and Cupid with an Organist and Portrait of Federico II Gonzaga, as well as Francisco de Goya’s White Duchess.

Its long hair is prone to tangling, so it needs daily brushing, especially around the ears and legs. These small curly haired dogs do not shed or shed less. Hence, regular grooming is a must to remove dead hair. Consider bathing them with whitening shampoo to keep their coats white and clean. Because of their dense coats, drying can take a while.

The Bolognese requires a lot of care, but their loyal and affectionate nature makes it well worth the effort.

Barbet

  • Height: This medium-sized dog breed grows between 19 to 24.5 inches
  • Weight: 35 and 65 pounds
  • Coat and Color: The coat is long, dense, and wooly and comes in black, gray, brown, or fawn
  • Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

Barbet is a rare breed, with only 500 registered in the US. Historical records place this long curly haired dog breed in 16th century France where they were used as waterfowl retrievers. But there are references to them in ancient folklore.

Its name originates from the French word “barbe”, meaning “beard”, referencing the shaggy hair on its muzzle.

Barbets have a wooly, waterproof coat that can be wavy or curly. Because of their webbed feet, these dogs are naturally adept swimmers; however, swimming can accelerate matting. Daily gentle brushing and weekly combing are necessary, especially since their coat can attract twigs, leaves and small debris. For convenience’s sake, some Barbet owners choose to keep their pet’s hair short.

As intelligent and high-energy dogs, they need active owners who can keep up with them. The good news is that they shed very little and are an excellent option for people who suffer from allergies.

american water spaniel dog

What Makes Curly-Haired Dogs Popular

Curly haired dogs are said to be hypoallergenic, meaning they don’t trigger allergies in those with dog dander allergies.

However, the term “hypoallergenic” is actually a misnomer — no single dog breed is hypoallergenic.

People are not allergic to a dog’s fur itself but to a protein present in the saliva and urine of dogs that sticks to dander and thereby fur.

Dander is the carrier of the allergens, and the more a dog sheds, the more it is spread and causes an allergic reaction.

Curly-haired dogs are marketed as hypoallergenic since they tend to shed less than other breeds. Professional Dog Trainer Cindy Ludwig says, “the term was first used in the cosmetics industry decades ago, but at least in the United States, there are no federal regulations regarding the legal use of the term.” Because of this, marketers can make statements claiming a breed is hypoallergenic.

Since shedding is less in dogs with curly hair, they are a good choice for people who love animals but dislike having to clean up behind them. Less shedding also means less dander and allergens in your house. So while these curly dogs are not totally devoid of allergens, they are still more allergy-friendly than straight haired dogs.

Even the American Kennel Club (AKC) considers breeds like the Bichon Frise and the Poodle as non-shedding and potentially good matches for those with allergies. If you have allergies and insist on getting a dog, note that allergies are highly individualized.

Former dog trainer and vet worker Katie Bjorkman says that “just because you can tolerate a Poodle doesn’t mean you can tolerate a Bichon Frise – in fact, you may be able to tolerate one individual dog and not another of the same breed.”

labradoodle dog

Frequently Asked Questions

Are All Curly Haired Dogs Hypoallergenic?

We cannot assume that all curly haired dogs are hypoallergenic. An allergy to dogs can be triggered by the proteins found in a dog’s saliva or urine and are spread by dander (dead skin cells) when a dog sheds. Different proteins can also trigger different allergic reactions in people.

Although there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog, curly haired dogs shed less, which means that less dander finds its way into your airways. If you have allergies, it is recommended to conduct some tests to see whether you are compatible with a dog.

Curly-haired dog breeds shed less than other breeds, but they still shed. The amount of hair that is shed varies from dog to dog. Some dog breeds, such as the Bichon Frise and Poodle, are considered non-shedding by the AKC since they shed so little.

Why Do Some Dogs Have Curly Hair?

Research has found that the coat types of over 90% of breeds can be predicted by just three genes. If a dog carries two mutations of the KRT71 gene, it will have curly fur.

Carrying one allele (or a single variation of the gene) with the curly mutation results in a wavy coat, while “homozygous dogs have curly coats”, shares dog owner Rachel Neumeier. Homozygous means they carry two copies of the curl gene.

What Is the Curl Gene in Dogs?

Research says a variant in the Keratin-71 (KRT71) gene is associated with curly hair in dogs. The curl gene is a dominant trait but it is inherited incompletely in dogs. This implies that even if a puppy has a curly-haired parent, it will have a wavy coat if it receives only one copy of the variant (N/C). A curly coat requires two copies of the variant (C/C).

How Can You Tell if Your Puppy Will Have Curly Hair?

Some dog breeds can have their coat curl DNA tested. It identifies the genotype of the parents to make it easier for breeders or owners to predict the genotype of the offspring.

If you cannot do testing, some dog owners claim that checking around their snout and muzzle will give you some clues. A visible “mustache” may signal that the pup will have tightly curled hair, but a shaggy beard may result in wavy hair. Finally, those with short, neat hair over their muzzle may develop straight hair as they get older.

Are Curly-Haired Dogs High Maintenance?

Curly haired dog breeds are certainly high maintenance. While they may not shed as much as straight-coated dogs, their fur still tangles and mats easily and tends to collect dead hair and other tiny debris.

Most breeds with curls have thick, coarse hair that must be brushed and combed regularly. Dog owner Ginny Harwell says “the major areas that need attention every day are the chest and legs and under the “armpits.”

Some breeds like the Komondor have very tight coils that require to be manually separated.

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Paul Andrews
https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-andrews-172490189/

A digital marketing expert by profession, Andrews is a gifted writer and animal lover at heart. A self-confessed "pawrent", Andrews is well-versed in all things dogs. He uses his years of experience of raising puppies into show-quality dogs to help guide first-time pet parents. He believes in spreading the joy that comes with being a dog dad and advocates more families to adopt pets.