While it is safe to say most dogs have fur, Portuguese Water Dogs are one of the few breeds considered to have hair. Portuguese Water Dogs only have a single coat, and they barely shed.
Scientifically, the hair on this dog breed and the fur on other breeds have little to no material difference since hair and fur are both made from a protein compound named Keratin, and they’re both genetically similar.
However, there are some differences between hair and fur that cause the Portuguese water dog to be in the hair camp firmly.
Differences Between Portuguese Water Dog’s Hair and Breeds with Fur
It is safe to assume that many people believe that all dogs have fur, and calling it hair is a matter of semantics.
However, these two keratin-made body parts are different. Knowing the differences between hair and fur is an integral part of understanding how to groom your Portuguese water dog and what problems may arise from poor grooming.
The main differences between hair and fur are their growth cycle and texture:
Portuguese Water Dog’s Hair Grows Much Longer than Fur
Hair is very different from fur in that it can grow long and not fall out in large amounts.
Fur can only grow for a short while before falling out or shedding. Basically, fur has a much faster growth circle than hair.
The hair of a Portuguese water dog never really stops growing, so if you don’t give dogs of this breed haircuts as frequently and consistently as possible, they’ll grow into a giant bundle of tangled hair, which will lead to a host of health problems, but we will get to that later in the article.
As mentioned, hair grows much longer than fur; however, they pass through the same growth cycles but at different speeds.
Hair/Fur Growth Cycle
- Anagen: This is the growing phase where the follicle becomes active. It is generally regarded as the most extended phase in hair growth.
- Catagen: This is the transition phase. During this phase, hair follicles shrink, and hair growth slows down: the sheath of the root bonds with the hair, and growth pauses significantly.
- Telogen: This is the resting phase. Hair doesn’t grow nor fall out during this dormant period.
- Exogen: The final phase, which is the shedding phase. It is a part of the telogen phase, and during this period, hair is shed from the follicle, and the entire cycle restarts.
The most crucial difference between the growth cycle of hair and fur is in the anagen phase. The Portuguese water dog’s coat spends more time in the anagen phase, slowing down the entire cycle.
Breeds with fur burn through these processes faster to maintain a healthy coat.
Portuguese Water Dog’s Hair Coat has One Layer
It is to be understood that the density of fur and hair are different: Fur is typically denser than hair.
The Portuguese water dog (like other breeds of dog with hair instead of fur) has a single-layered coat, while breeds with fur mostly have a two-layered fur that comprises a top coat and an undercoat which causes them to seem extra furry.
Also, hair tends to be smoother than fur, as hair can be curly, straight, or wavy.
However, although the Portuguese water dog has a single layer of coat, the coat comes in two varieties: Curly and Wavy.
- Curly coat: Curly hair in dogs is due to genetics, and it is the same for a Portuguese water dog and most water dogs. “Compact, cylindrical curls, somewhat lusterless. The hair on the ears is sometimes wavy.”
- Wavy coat: Wavy hair, also determined by genetics, has the dog’s hair falling in waves with a slight sheen.
Many Portuguese water dogs have a mixed variety of hair on their single coat: full curls all over the body with waves on the tail and ears.
Portuguese Water Dogs do not have Shedding Seasons
The Portuguese water dog’s hair coat does not shed for different seasons. Dogs with fur shed a lot before warm seasons, and their undercoats fall out and regrow during this period.
A Portuguese water dog does not have a furry undercoat, so it has no significant shedding period.
Portuguese Water Dog Hair vs. Dog Fur and Allergies
It is impossible to talk about hair and fur in dog breeds and not touch upon allergens and allergies. Contrary to popular belief, hair/fur isn’t always the only or primary cause of allergies.
The main causes are dust or pollen in a dog’s coat, chemical compounds in the skin, the dog’s pee and fecal matter, and dander.
Dander is allergen particles that accumulate on and maybe shed from the skin and pores of domestic animals, especially household pets like dogs.
While no dog is entirely hypoallergenic (possesses no allergens), dogs with hair that minimally shed, like the Portuguese water dog, are an excellent choice if you have allergies.
Dogs with fur shed relatively frequently, and consequently, they spread dander all over the place, which triggers allergic reactions for anyone with allergies.
On average, dogs with fur shed dander every 4-5 days, making them a terrible choice for anyone with allergies (expect a lot of sneezing and red, watery eyes).
Conversely, Portuguese water dogs have extremely minimal shedding, so unnecessary skin particles and other allergens aren’t released into the air frequently (typically every 21-30 days).
However, they require constant grooming to prevent a buildup of dander in their coat and to keep their skin and hair healthy.
Grooming your Portuguese Water Dog’s Hair
Now that you know Portuguese water dogs have hair, it’s time to learn how to groom them appropriately.
Taking care of a dog with hair like the Portuguese water dog is different from caring for other dog breeds with fur coats.
Portuguese water dogs are high-maintenance dogs: they require frequent and attentive grooming, so you can either opt for a professional groomer to care for their coat if you are willing to break the bank a bit, or you can do it yourself.
Grooming a Portuguese water dog is primarily preventive, as you need to get ahead of whatever issues their lengthy growth cycle may cause.
Essentially, there are three crucial grooming areas for this breed, and they are brushing, trimming, and bathing.
Brushing your Portuguese Water Dog
Daily brushing is essential for this breed to keep their hair from matting. Brushing curly or wavy hairs can be a bit complicated, so we have listed some critical tips you should follow while brushing your Portuguese water dog:
- Brush in massaging strokes down to the skin to remove dander buildup and improve blood circulation.
- Use a slicker brush to brush your dog. This brush is perfect for a curly coat as its thin bristles will easily get down to the roots and straighten out tangled hair.
- Adhere to a daily routine and timely schedule so you and your dog can become used to and bond over it.
You don’t have to use a slicker brush, although it’s the most common brush for Portuguese water dogs and other poodle-related dogs.
You can seek advice from your groomer on what brushes and combs to buy to brush your dog’s curls and waves effectively.
Trimming your Portuguese Water Dog
While the coat of the Portuguese water dog needs to be brushed every day, the hair must be trimmed about every two months. As mentioned, the hair never really stops growing, so it’s up to you to ensure your dog gets a cut whenever it’s needed.
The coat is usually cut in a retriever cut or a lion cut. For complex cuts like this, the help of a professional groomer may be needed; however, a simple cut (short cut) that doesn’t require much expertise or work can be given.
Furthermore, Portuguese water dogs do not grow winter coats as their hair grows at the same rate all year round, so ensure that this breed isn’t given a basic cut that will leave it exposed during the winter.
Bathing your Portuguese Water Dog
This breed should be bathed at least once a month; however, if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, you may need to wash him more frequently.
Furthermore, Dogs are self-cleaning, so you do not want to overdo the bathing as this can irritate their skin. Some tips for bathing your Portuguese water dog:
- Use the appropriate dog shampoo and conditioner
- Avoid soaping agents in shampoos, as they can strip your dog’s skin of its natural oils.
- Portuguese water dogs have water-resistant coats, so the shampoo needs to be strong enough to penetrate their coat and wash their skins.
- Avoid shampoos with parabens and phthalate, as they can harm their skin.
Check in with a professional groomer or your vet for recommendations and further specific tips.
What happens if you don’t groom your Portuguese Water Dog’s Hair?
Imagine your eyebrows never stop growing. Think about how uncomfortable you will feel when it inevitably covers your eyes; the same goes for the Portuguese water dogs.
If left untended, the hair around the eyes of a Portuguese water dog will grow long and impede the dog’s vision; matting of the dog’s hair will also put it at high risk of skin irritation and infection, and the dog will generally be uncomfortable and unhappy.
So ensure you groom your Portuguese water dog as often as necessary to protect its health and mental state.
Last Words: Do Portuguese Water Dogs have Hair or Fur?
It is common to say all dogs have fur; however, Portuguese water dogs and other breeds, including Poodles, Irish Water Spaniel, Bearded Collie, Maltese, Havanese, etc., have hair instead.
Portuguese water dogs’ single layer of hair coat makes them an excellent option for those with allergies, although they require more grooming than dogs with fur.
The bottom line is fur and hair may come from the same protein, but they have different feel, grooming needs, and patterns.
A Portuguese water dog is a fantastic choice for a pet if you’re willing and able to adhere to its maintenance requirements.