Soft or coarse, there are a number of things to keep in mind about grooming and caring for a dog's coat, so you'll want to think over your selection carefully. All dogs have compound hair follicles. Usually, these follicles contain at least one protective, stiff hair, called a guard hair, and a number of finer underhairs. The softness of a dog's coat depends on the size and number of guard hairs and underhairs within the follicle.
The outer hair of a double-coated dog, relative to his undercoat, is long and coarse. The undercoat may be heavy or sparse. Regardless, the length of a double coat may be either long or short and comes in a range of textures. For example, northern breeds such as the Samoyed and Chinese shar-pei each carry double coats that are thicker and more dense than other coats. Yet the Samoyed has a soft undercoat and long, course outercoat, while the shar-pei has a rough, short coat.
A single coat is comprised of only guard hairs, but like the double coat, can be any length and comes in a variety of textures. The Dalmatian and whippets are examples of short-haired, single-coated breeds, while the Yorkshire terrier, with her fine long locks, is an example of a long-haired, single-coated breed.
Short-haired breeds shed most, regardless of the texture, but you probably won't notice the shedding as much as you will with a longer-haired dog. Single or double, short and smooth coats are much easier to groom. The beagle, the boxer, the Labrador retriever are all breeds that can be easily groomed at home with weekly brushing and they all have coats that are relatively soft to the touch.
High-Maintenance Silky Coats
The Maltese, silky terrier and Afghan hound may have some of the silkiest coats around, but they also require daily brushing, conditioning every few weeks and detangling spray. The fluffy soft breeds such as the golden retriever and English springer spaniel need less frequent brushing, but are more likely to benefit from professional grooming. At the end of the day, what may be softest to the touch, could be toughest on your budget.
- KristenMehus-Roe, ed., Dog Bible: The Definitive Source for All Things Dog
- American Kennel Club.org: Grooming
- Apple Tree House/Photodisc/Getty Images