What Is an Undercoat for a Dog?

by Elton Dunn
German shepherds have a heavy undercoat.

German shepherds have a heavy undercoat.

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

A dog's undercoat is what it sounds like -- another coat beneath the outer one. The extra coat equates to more frequent grooming, so dogs with undercoats may not be suitable for all homes. Determine coat and grooming needs before you commit to a pet, for your sake and his.

The Undercoat

Breeds with an undercoat have a long and coarse outer or guard coat that hides the undercoat. The undercoat is characterized by fluffy, soft hair. Undercoats are lighter in color than the guard coat; many are light gray in hue. While dogs shed the outer coat year round, they shed the undercoat seasonally, in the spring and fall. If you're suddenly finding tons of hair around the house, it may be undercoat shedding season.


Undercoats are significant for two main reasons: They require regular maintenance year-round and, when they "blow out" seasonally, they leave a great deal of loose fur all over the home. If you do not have the time to brush your pet one or more times a week, you'd be better off with a dog with no undercoat. If you're unsure how much grooming a breed you enjoy needs, discuss care with a breeder before committing to a pet.


Not all breeds have an undercoat; many only have one coat of hair that is the same inside and out. Breeds with an undercoat include the German shepherd, Pomeranian, chow, husky, Malamute and Samoyed. Breeds native to areas that have a chilly winter tend to have undercoats. Poodles, greyhounds and certain terriers rank among breeds that do not have an undercoat.


Brush the undercoat year-round to prevent matting and during shedding season to help remove the loose fur. If you encounter undercoat mats, moisten fur with a detangler and use a mat rake or slicker to gently detangle the fur. If your pooch is severely matted, schedule a trip to the groomer. Do not attempt to cut or shave the hair yourself.


  • "The Howell Book of Dogs: The Definitive Reference to 300 Breeds and Varieties"; Liz Palika; 2007
  • Minnesota Wisconsin Collie Rescue: Grooming Tips
  • "Knack Dog Care and Training: A Complete Illustrated Guide to Adopting, House-breaking, and Raising a Healthy Dog"; Carina Beth MacDonald; 2009

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

About the Author

Elton Dunn is a freelance writer with over 14 years experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, technology, beauty and fashion writing. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing from Emerson College.

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