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Growing the Coat


There are enough articles written on the Yorkshire Terrier coat that I would fathom a guess could stretch the length of the Continental United States. This article is not one of them. I would think that not far behind these articles are a second set on the proper way to wrap the coat, complete with beautiful illustrations. This article is not one of them. Just as prolific are articles on how to tie up the top knot and prepare the coat for show. This article is not one of those either. This article is not discussing coat types or colors, proper wrapping techniques, bathing techniques, nor does it cover any of the various techniques for cutting the coat. What this article is:  a basic guideline to timing the processes of growing the coat, from banding and wrapping to oiling and trimming, no matter the technique one may choose, from the young puppy to the retired show dog and a few tips thrown in on common coat issues for good measure.  I hope it will help those who struggle with those awkward in between stages of growth so that they can have the long luxurious coat they hope to have. (Genetics  - that you will have to take up with your breeder.)


THE PUPPY (the baby stage)

The young puppy should be washed in a gentle shampoo and conditioner. Rinse thoroughly making sure none is left in the coat as it can irritate the skin. Hair on the ears should be kept shaved off close to the base until they are firmly held in place by the puppy. The shaved area can lessen along the length of the ear as the puppy ages. At any point the ear should drop, such as due to teething, the hair should be taken back down. Once the puppy is mature, the ears should be kept neat with scissoring. A fine layer of very short hair should be left on the ear leather to help protect it against the cold. Initially I did not care for the low shaving on show dogs. As my exposure and experience grew, I found I often times prefer the English preference for low shaved ears as it does allow the dog freer and much better control of their ears, and prohibits ear tying, a painful show ring practice. The anus and feet pads should also be kept shaved and nails neatly trimmed. Keeping the young puppies nails trimmed back now will keep the quick from growing long as the puppy ages, making for a happier adult.



A show dog will live the majority of its career in wraps. If trained properly, the wraps will be a welcome tool for the owner and the dog between shows. The show dog in wraps can live a full and lively family lifestyle and get full conditioning and exercise, toys and chew bones, where an unwrapped dog in the x-pen can not. Any owner attempting to keep the show dog’s coat neat and clean each day while at the show can attest to the high maintaince the full coat not contained can be. It only takes a few such experiences to no longer begrudge the wrapping time. Not every dog will appreciate being wrapped the same way and considering they are living in them, finding what is the most comfortable technique for them is best.


For the show dog that lives in wraps that has an active part of family life, he tends to take on his owners pride in his coat. When the time comes for those days in the ring when his crowing glory of coat is down for the world to see, the dog will make use of each and every hair. He is almost excessive in showing off what he has worked so hard to grow, spinning in a circle and throwing his head as if to say, “I look fabulous! Look at me!”



At roughly 6 months of age the coat can begin to be lightly cream rinsed or oiled. Care should be taken to keep any oil away from the skin to keep the follicles from clogging. The first bands are a single band to pull back the small amount of topknot hair between the eyes and a band should be put on the tail hair just off the end of the tail. Both will have to be changed daily as they will have to be loose enough not to bother the puppy and to allow it to adjust to the new additions.


In a few weeks, the hair will be long enough to make a second small topknot wider out and adding to the first, usually about 7 months. This gives a two band top knot. Also at about this time a small wrap can begin to be put in the tail hair. The end of the hair will stick out of the wrapper. Make sure the tail itself is never caught in the wrapper. As the tail hair grows so will the length of the wrapper and the number of folds put in it. The idea is to use the wrapper to contain the tail hair up and away from the anus, keeping the hair clean and allowing it to grow without damage. This also keeps the anus clear from hair that might catch any stool droppings. Hair under the anus should be coated in oil or Vaseline starting about 7 months to keep any droppings from sticking. At about 9 months of age, the rear hair will usually be long enough and can be banded out away into the side or hip hair.


As the hair on the puppy’s head grows it can continue to be caught up into the topknot bands as the puppy accepts it. If the puppy does excessive rubbing then the banding should be held off to allow time to adjust. There is no time limit on this and patience is a virtue. Once long enough, soft tissue wraps can be used in the topknot.  I have personally found that using very soft tissue wraps or fine muslin works best for comfort.


Between 7 and 8 months, the first bands can be put in the mustache hair. Timing of these is very important and should not be done too early. If all the hair on the muzzle is not long enough to include in the band, it is not ready and will irritate the puppy causing it to rub and rip out the bands.  Be careful not to include any facial hair or chin hair in the mustache bands. Gently pull the hair away from the muzzle to allow for comfort of the band on the face. These bands will need to be changed daily, and sometimes twice daily while the puppy is being introduced to them. The hair will need to be cleaned and dried before re-banding. A cool low setting on a self standing dryer is most effective and does not tend to cause the puppy any distress.


Sometime between 12 and 18 months, the coat will begin to be long enough to begin wrapping in stages. The hair should be long enough to get in at least two full bends of hair in the wrap. Wrapping the hair too soon will do more damage then good and months of growth will be lost. Each new set of wraps should be introduced singly to allow the puppy to have time to acclimate and accept them. Such slow introduction also allows you to find the best paper to wrap with. Very few puppies with correct texture will have enough hair to fully wrap before this age. Eventually, the fully wrapped show dog will have upwards of 24 wraps that will need to be changed regularly.  If done neatly and effectively, wraps can be left in the coat for 7 to 10 days. A slight application of Mitchim deodorant to the length of the wraps will discourage any other dogs or puppies from pulling at or chewing on the wraps.



Each dog’s preference will differ as to the type of material they will accept in wraps. Ideally the dog will tolerate a light deli wrap paper as it is the most cost effective coming in bundles of 1,000 sheets, getting two wraps per sheet, and costing about $10 a box. One set of deli wraps being sufficient for most show dog career lengths. However, not all dogs will tolerate the crackling these papers cause. Rice paper or tissue paper can be used, though not as cost effective and requiring more frequent changing. These papers are available at many online show supply stores and range from $12 to $20 for 100 pre-cut sheets. In the most extreme cases of irritation, muslin can be used for wrapping. The fabric is soft and has the advantage of being reusable, but it tends to collect dirt more easily and being soft, crunches up the wrapped hair. Muslin is a very nice intermediary wrapping medium for training a more difficult and stubborn puppy to wear wraps and eventually graduating them to tissue or rice paper. Once the full body can be wrapped it should be checked daily for loose or wet wraps.



There will be an awkward stage of coat growth for all teenagers. This stage is when the puppy has partial wraps and partial loose coat. This can be anywhere from 6 to 10 months long. While leg hair, tails, topknots and moustaches can be wrapped with maybe a hip wrap, the rest of the coat cannot. During these months, do not wrap lower wraps if the upper wrap can not be done as it will cause the top hair to catch on the wraps and break. Ears, face, chest and side coat must remain loose.


The free running puppy can take much longer to grow these areas as toy play and chewing will gook up the ends leading to breakage. Many breeders at this point in the wrapping process confine the puppies to x-pens for coat growth. It is also these same puppies that rub their coats and shred them to pieces the first chance they get outside of the pen. The puppy that has free reign and slow introduction to the process will be more likely to tolerate the coat in all stages of dress. Personally, I would much rather have a wild rambunctious puppy with high feet and strong muscle development whose natural play is starting to condition the puppy than the few months of growth the x-pen will save. I look at the first 12 months of life as puppyhood and I want them to enjoy every minute of it.



For thinner darker coats that mature more slowly, a different approach is needed. These coats should not be oiled until much later as the oil weights the hair too much and breaks it. These coats should also not be brushed but combed with a metal wide tooth comb. Once oiling can begin, usually closer to10 or 12 months of age,  it is very important not to oil the whole body but to put the oil on the hands and gently add it to the ends and length of the coat careful to avoid the body completely and then gently brush with a natural bristle brush just enough to distribute the oil evenly. Once the oil has been brushed in, the comb should be used. Personally I have found cream rinses to be detrimental to these types of coats causing massive tangling and hair loss. Pure oils are best. I like Apricot Kernel Oil and Moroccan Argon Oil.


The gold on these coats is much slower to grow and requires great care as until the adult color break occurs, the gold is much more fragile than the blue and easily breaks. The reasoning is that these puppies loose the puppy coat of the gold exposing the fragile adult hair ends and leaving it without any buffering protection against daily wear. The face should be blown dry with cool air and the hair not allowed to retain any moisture. Wet moustaches will not grow. It is also more beneficial not to band face hair on these coats but to wait until the coat is long enough to wrap as there will be less damage to the hair.



Regular tipping off of the coat is helpful in keeping it healthy and allowing the coat to grow. This process usually begins at 8 or 9 months of age and should continue on a regular basis to promote healthy growth. When the tips of the hair start to brush the ground, I like to cut off a 1 ½ to 2 inch length of hair. This removes shaggy puppy layers that may remain in the coat and greatly speeds up the growth rate.  Once the hair has grown to the desired show length, I will cut a minimum of an inch of hair off every six months to maintain its health. 



Brushing the coat correctly is of upmost importance. Brushing incorrectly can cause more damage than the dog will do to itself. The leg hair from the ankle down should be combed with a mustache comb and upwards away from the pad. Using a cat slicker brush is also acceptable on the feet, but brushing in a smooth downward motion. Standing the dog on the grooming table, a natural bristly brush should be used to brush the dog. I like the Plush Puppy non static porcupine brush for daily maintaince. Lift the coat and brush the coat from the bottom up. First brushing the sections up, then down and working through the entire side of the coat up each leg and then the length of the side body. In lengthwise sections separate the coat and brush from the part outwards perpendicular to the floor. Once completed, take a wide tooth metal comb, I like a greyhound comb, and comb the coat straight down to the table. Repeat on the other side. This combination of brushing is in essence the drop coated breed’s rolling of the coat. The reverse brushing will remove any loose hair and to stimulate the blood flow to the hair follicles. On the chest, the same procedure is used. On the rear and head only brush with a small natural boar bristle brush, I like a small Denman or Mason Pearson, and brushing in the direction of the hair growth. Pin brushes should be reserved for show days and for lifting the saddle hair while drying and not daily use. Do not brush through any area of hair that is matted or contaminated by urine or feces. Mats should be first removed before brushing the section continues. Contaminated areas should be bathed and dried to prevent hair breakage.



It is absolutely inevitable that every dog will at some point get a mat. Even the most well maintained coated specimen will fall victim at some point or another. Mat removal is a tedious and time consuming ordeal and should not be rushed. If not done properly, hair will be ripped out of the dogs body causing discomfort or even pain, not to mention can cause bleeding and sores on more sensitive dogs. To remove the mat with the least discomfort and least loss of hair a leave in conditioner or detangler should be sprayed directly on the mat itself. With your fingertips rub the mat between your fingertips gently loosening the mat. At this point, the mat will be able to be separated with your fingers and a rat tail comb. For the cases of more difficult mats, a slicker brush is required. NEVER comb with the slicker brush. Taking the mat, place it in the palm of your hand and press the slicker straight into the mat until your feel it make contact with your palm. Very gently and slowly rotate the slicker in a circle. Once resistance is felt, lift the slicker brush and reinsert it into the mat against your palm this time rotating in the opposite direction. Once the mat begins to loosen, continue with the same fingering and rattail comb technique to finish removing the mat. Daily monitoring of wraps and bands will reduce the occurrence of mating to nearly never.



Once the show dog’s career is finished many owners choose to clip the dog down to a pet cut, whether puppy or modified schnauzer. However, with minimal banding or braiding, the retired dog can maintain a long coat with minimal work. For breeders whose current lifestyle prevents them from the necessary travel to show their own dogs, it is nice to have a dog at home in coat for visitors and future prospective buyers to experience. That and some dogs are simply vain and like their hair!  It is all a matter of individual preference.


The home hair maintaince is minimal and not difficult to do. Taking an angled cut to the mustache will keep the dog from choking on its hair while giving the illusion of the long mustache hair it once toted. This trim will help keep the dog from swallowing long sections of the hair when eating, chewing on a bone or playing. The front coat should be kept trimmed just above the floor and the body coat should be kept about an inch longer than the height of the dog and at an angle to the front legs. This allows for free movement for the active dog, and keeps the length of the coat at the optimal length for healthy maintaince. Trimming the coat up just off the floor will cause the tips to fray and split more easily leaving the once long glorious coat a real mess. Belly hair should be removed from the inside top rear of the legs to the front armpits. Not only does this help to keep the dog cool but it also cuts back enormously on the matting and grooming routine. The hair underneath the tail can be shaved off completely and with the tail hair loose, it is virtually unnoticeable and very useful for the dog’s hygiene.



Coats can be burned by urine and will break as soon as the hair has dried. Tying up coat before taking a dog out to relieve itself will save many a coat.  Tail wraps or braids should be kept on both males and females and hip hair banded or braided out of the way on females. For males that hike to relieve themselves, side bands or braids are a must. Any hair that has urine on it should be washed before being combed to remove the urine and restore the ph balance. There are many no rinse shampoos on the market, but not all are successful in removing urine, but simply mask it or bind it to the coat allowing for easier combing. For the pet owner, they should be avoided all together as they do more harm than good in most cases. These products are best saved for ringside absolute emergencies until the dog can be taken to have the effective area bathed properly. Even a spot washing of the area is better for the coat then no rinse shampoo aids.


Feces can also damage a coat, though not to the same degree as urine. Common sense and nasal intolerance sends the owner immediately to the sink or tub to wash the affected area. However, there will be times, such as when traveling, that the bath option is out all together. Anyone traveling a long trip who ends up at the rest stop with a dog who spontaneously develops the runs knows exactly what I am talking about. The easiest solution is cornstarch. Purchase a large salt or sugar shaker and filling it with cornstarch for the road is a major time and car smell saver. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the affected area and shake the coat gently to completely coat it. The cornstarch will dry the feces and allow it to be easy shaken off the coat or gently brushed out. Continue the process until it is all removed and brush out any loose cornstarch with a brush. The whole process will take about 10 - 15 minutes and you will again be on your way.



This is probably the worst nightmare for any owner of a dog in coat. Common solutions such as tomato juice baths leave the lighter color coats stained and while vinegar can work well if the skunking was not too severe, the smell can be around for days. Pat Hastings gives a great solution of 1 quart hydrogen peroxide 3% solution available at any drug stoe, ¼ cup baking soda and 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap. This works great and on the first wash! and destroys the long silk coat in a single bath. Unless your dog is shaved down or in a puppy cut, I don’t recommend it. What I have found to be effective it to put the skunked dog in the bath immediately and immediately rinse in liquid fabric softener – straight out of the bottle. Then bath the dog normally, and rinse it in a very diluted mix of water and fabric softener. Two days later, bathe the dog normally and resume your normal routine. The coat will be a little dry, but nothing a couple of deep conditioning treatments and putting a humidifier near your dog’s kennel won’t cure.


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