The following are 2 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 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
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
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
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
FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE CURLY’S
Not much is published about the
The "Curly Coat Problem" can be
frustrating -- it is often misdiagnosed for other
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
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
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
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"
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
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