Curly-haired dog breeds are often popular for their low-shedding coats and distinctive appearance. Many (but not all) of these breeds also happen to be hypoallergenic as well.
Many curly-haired dog breeds were developed for sporting use, since the tight curls served as good insulation for water-retrieving activities. However there are also herding breeds and companion breeds that feature curls in abundance. Here is a look at some curly-haired dog breeds, along with insight into the basic grooming regiment you can expect.
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The most obvious of the curly-haired dog breeds may be the poodle. The poufy poodle is a classic curly-haired dog in large, miniature, and toy sizes. These dogs are known to be highly intelligent and make excellent companions.
The standard size poodle was originally bred as a keen retriever of game. The tight curls were clipped to keep the vital organs and joints of the dog warm as it plunged into chilly water—but today, the classic ‘poodle cut’ is more of a fashion statement than a functional need for most pets. No matter what look you choose for this curly-haired dog breed, you should realize that proper upkeep of the coat requires regular visits to the groomer.
Height: Standard: 15 inches; miniature: 10 to 15 inches; toy: 10 inches and under
Weight: Standard: 45 to 70 pounds; miniature: 15 to 18 pounds; toy: 5 to 9 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Curly, dense single-layer coats that may be one of many solid colors, including white, black, grey, brown, and apricot
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The Portuguese Water Dog, or PWD, is another of the sporty curly-haired dog breeds. Originally bred to assist fisherman in retrieving lost tackle or even rescuing drowning sailors, these dogs needed to be strong and agile swimmers. Today, the breed is popular as both a companion pet or a canine competitor in sports like dock diving, agility, or obedience.
The coat of the Portuguese Water Dog is hypoallergenic, which isn’t necessarily true for every type of curly-haired dog breed. This breed is considered to be a very minimal shedder, but does require regular grooming. You can either opt for a standard clipping all overall to maintain a coat length of about one inch, or go for the ‘lion clip’ which means shaving the hair on the hindquarters and the muzzle down to the skin. This cut was typical for working dogs that needed enhanced mobility in the water, while also keeping the vital organs warm.
Height: 17 to 23 inches
Weight: 35 to 60 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Wavy or tightly curled coat; black, black and white, and brown, though color may also be white or silver-tipped
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The Bichon Frise is a small companion dog that has a white, powderpuff-like coat. The short but fluffy curls give the dog a fluffy, round appearance when properly groomed. These dogs have both soft hair and more coarse guard hairs, which can lead to matting. For this reason, the Bichon Frise Club of America recommends daily brushing of your Bichon and a monthly trip to the groomer for a bath and haircut.
Height: 9 to 12 inches
Weight: 7 to 12 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Fluffy and curly white hair (may have traces of apricot, buff, or cream), resembling a cotton ball or powder puff
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The Airedale is the largest of the terrier breeds and has one of the most distinctive coats. Typically brown-and-tan in color, the wiry coat can be tightly curled or may have a more relaxed curl that resembles a wave. It is notably different in texture than many other terriers.
For a curly-haired dog breed, the Airedale terrier is very low maintenance. It’s a good idea to brush and comb through the curls each week, but you’ll only need to schedule a visit to the groomer for a haircut three to four times a year. This saves significant time and money compared to the monthly groomer visits sometimes required for other curly-haired dog breeds.
Height: 23 inches
Weight: 50 to 70 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Sturdy yet athletic in appearance; tight, curly coat in black and tan; 'beard' is typical on the muzzleContinue to 5 of 13 below.
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The Hungarian Pumi has a unique coat for a curly-haired dog breed. The medium-length coat is characterized by a combination of curls and waves and is a mixture of softer hair and more coarse guard hair. At birth, the Pumi’s coat lacks much curl and is usually straight or wavy. However, after a few months the coat begins to change as the guard hairs begin to grow. The result is an increase in the characteristic curls of a Pumi coat. Unlike some other Hungarian herding breeds (like the Puli and Komondor), the curly coat of the Pumi should not ever be corded.
Grooming a Pumi should ideally be done using the time-consuming method of hand stripping. While the coat could be clipped, over time it will impact the balance between the softer and more coarse hairs and change the coat’s texture and appearance. In between visits to the groomer, you’ll only need to comb the curls every few weeks. After combing, give your Pumi a quick dip in water to encourage the curls to spring back to life. Note that blowdrying your dog’s coat will flatten the curls. So just let your dog’s coat airdry for best results!
Height: 15 to 18.5 inches
Weight: 22 to 29 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Compact body with semi-erect ears and a tail that curls over the back; wavy, curly coat in black, white, gray, or fawn
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The curly-coated retriever is one of the largest curly-haired dog breeds and is also one of the oldest retriever breeds. While the origin of the curly-coated retriever is uncertain, it’s believed that Irish water spaniels (also a curly-haired dog breed) contributed to the breed’s development. In the 1800’s, poodles were introduced to the genetic pool and this resulted in an even tighter curl for the coat.
The advantage to the curly-coated retriever’s curls is clearly seen when you consider that these dogs were largely used as hunting companions that retrieve game from lakes and rivers in all sorts of weather and often trudge through brambles and thorns. The curls keep the dog warm but also serve as protection from the brush.
Unlike some other curly-haired dog breeds, these dogs have a single coat of hair that sheds about every six months or so. You should plan to regularly comb the curls (and more during shedding season) but avoid brushing the coat or else it will create a frizzy appearance.
Height: 23 to 27 inches
Weight: 50 to 90 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Small, tight, water- and weather-resistant curls that cover the body from the tail all the way up to the top of the head with a feathering fringe of hair on the ears, belly, thighs, feet, legs, and tail
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The Bedlington Terrier bears a resemblance to a lamb—and feels about as soft as once, thanks to the curly coat. This curly-haired dog breed has a combination of soft and coarse hair and the dog’s head tends to be curliest part of his body. Interestingly, these dogs are often born in with a dark coat, which gradually lightens to the softer blue, sandy, or liver colors that the Bedlington terrier is known for.
Maintaining the coat of a Bedlington terrier isn’t too complicated. A weekly combing will keep the curls free of debris and matting. You should learn to trim the dog’s coat yourself, or plan to make an appointment with a groomer about every 8 weeks.
Height: 15 to 18 inches
Weight: 17 to 23 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Arched back; curly coat; colors include blue, liver, and sandy shades, with or without tan markings
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A toy dog breed, the Bolognese is related to the Bichon Frise. However, unlike the Bichon which has tight, short curls, the Bolognese has medium length curly fur. This wavy look means you better be prepared to brush you dog’s coat at least a few times each week, though it’s probably best to make it a daily habit.
Height: 10 to 12 inches
Weight: 5.5 to 9 pounds
Physical Characteristics: A petite dog with long, curly hair that is always solid white; a black nose and dark eyes peek out from the dog's coatContinue to 9 of 13 below.
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The blue-gray coat of the Kerry Blue Terrier might be its most unique feature, but the breed’s distinctive appearance is also due to its curly coat. According to the AKC breed standard, the coat should be soft, dense, and wavy. Unlike some other curly-haired dog breeds, the overall appearance of the Kerry Blue should be tidy.
For this reason, grooming a Kerry Blue terrier regularly is important. It’s best to brush and comb your dog at least a few times a week to keep it from matting. In addition, the hair of this breed grows continuously, so you’ll need to plan on learning to trim the dog yourself or making a visit to the groomer every six to eight weeks.
Height: 17 to 19 inches
Weight: 30 to 40 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Medium-size breed with a short coat of curls that is soft and wavy with no undercoat; a bearded face with heavy eyebrows often conceal this breed's eyes
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A French water dog, the Barbet is a lesser-known curly-haired dog breed. The coat is generally kept to a medium length of three to five inches, giving plenty of opportunity for those curly locks to hang loose. The hair of the Barbet is described as thick and wooly, which was especially important for dogs that earned a living retrieving game from chilly water.
Keeping the Barbet well-groomed is no small task. The coat needs to be brushed and combed several times each week to keep the hair from becoming a tangled mess. Regular visits to the groomers will ensure that the coat maintains its shape and length.
Height: 19 to 24.5 inches
Weight: 35 and 65 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Medium-sized dog with a long, dense, curly coat that comes in black, grey, brown, or fawn
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Another curly-haired dog breed with a job to do in the water, the Irish Water Spaniel (IWS) has a double coat of curls that served to keep the breed warm during its water retrieving duties. Interestingly, the breed has smooth, short hair on the face and tail, while the rest of the coat is covered in tight curls.
The Irish Water Spaniel became a very popular sporting dog in Europe and the United States and was among the first breeds registered with the AKC in 1878. Which other curly-haired dog breeds were used to develop the IWS is difficult to say with any certainty, but the possibilities include the poodle, Barbet, and Portuguese water dog.
Height: 21 to 24 inches
Weight: 45 to 68 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Medium to large breed sporting dog with a dense, crisp and tightly curled; coat on the face and tail is short and smooth
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The Puli is closely related to the Komondor and is also sometimes referred to as a ‘mop dog.’ However, unlike the Komondor, this breed of curly-haired dog either has corded fur or a fluffier, brushed out mass of curls.
The fur of the Puli is a combination of a soft undercoat and more coarse guard hairs. These will naturally begin to separate into the felted cords as the dog approaches nine to 10 months of age, or you can keep up with regular brushing to maintain a fuller coat of curls. If you opt for the corded coat, regular bathing will be in order. If you go with the powderpuff look, then plan to comb the coat several times per week and schedule a groomer’s visit for periodic trimming.
Height: 16 to 17 inches
Weight: 25 to 35 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Naturally corded coat; colors include black, silver, and whiteContinue to 13 of 13 below.
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A unique look for a curly-haired dog breed, the Komondor has a coat that naturally forms into long cords. The natural dispersion of coarse guard hairs among the softer hairs of the undercoat results in this natural felting process and has earned this breed the nickname of ‘mop dog.’
Keeping up with the care of the Komondor’s coat involves a special regiment of bathing but not brushing. A regular bath can keep dirt and odors away, but it’s very important that you thoroughly rinse the fur, then dry it as much as possible with towels, and finally ensure that there is plenty of airflow to complete the drying process. Otherwise, the hair can develop an odor.
Height: 26 to 28 inches
Weight: 80 pounds and up
Physical Characteristics: White corded coat; large head; deep chest and muscular body
Curl up with one of these curly-haired dog breeds for a cute and cuddly companion. Keep in mind the specific grooming needs for any dog you choose and be prepared to learn to trim your dog’s coat yourself or find a capable groomer in your area.