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Key Points
  • When puppies shed their first coat, they can appear scruffy and may even change color.
  • Reduce the amount of dog hair in your house by gently grooming your puppy with an appropriate brush.
  • If the puppy coat comes off in patches, revealing red, inflamed, or scaly skin, call your veterinarian.

There is not much in this world cuter than a puppy. Besides their downy ears and ridiculous antics, part of their undeniable appeal is their soft puppy coats. Unfortunately for adoring owners, puppyhood doesn’t last forever. Loss of puppy coat is a normal part of your dog’s growth, but it can be alarming for first-time owners. Here is what you can expect during this phase of your puppy’s life.

What’s the Difference Between a Puppy Coat & Adult Coat?

Puppies are born with a single coat of soft, fluffy fur that helps regulate their body temperature. This coat naturally gives way to their adult coat, which is usually thicker and stiffer than their puppy coat.

As they develop, dog breeds with double coats grow two layers of adult fur, with the undercoat usually shorter than the outer coat. Dog breeds that have single coats grow their own distinctive coats as they shed their puppy coat – some short and curly and some long and silky.

Some changes in appearance are normal during this phase. Dogs may develop coats that are a different color than their puppy coat. Dalmatians are known for this, as they are born without spots, but many breeds develop different coat coloring and patterns as they shed their puppy fur. English Setters, Bedlington Terriers, Kerry Blue Terriers, and Shih Tzu are a few of the breeds that may change colors dramatically from puppy to adult.

When Do Puppies Shed Their Coats?

Puppies lose their puppy coats between 4-to-6 months of age, although this time frame varies widely from breed to breed and can start at 12 weeks or wait until they’re one year old. You might not notice your puppy shedding, especially if she is a shorthaired breed, or the change could be dramatic. Some long-haired breeds go through a few awkward months known as “the uglies” and may look a little ruffled, patchy, or shaggy as their adult coats come in. Other breeds, like the Pomeranian, can take up to 2 years to grow their adult coat in fully.

Many people believe that longhaired dogs, like Collies, shed more than shorthaired dogs, like Labrador Retrievers. Although the long hair may be more noticeable on your clothes or couch, shorthaired dogs often have denser coats that naturally shed more. Even breeds that are non-shedding will shed a small amount of hair when they are puppies, although it may take longer for this to happen.

You may wonder whether the amount of shedding your puppy does is an indication of how much shedding he will do as an adult. It varies – there are puppies who will shed hardly at all but start shedding a lot more as an adult, and other puppies will shed more than they will as an adult dog. As an owner, you can play an important role in helping your puppy develop a healthy adult coat.

“A complete and balanced diet that includes the proper vitamins and nutrients is important for a proper and healthy coat in dogs,” says Dr. Jerry Klein, the AKC’s chief veterinarian officer. “Ask your vet or your breeder about the best diet for your puppy. And be sure to give him plenty of fresh, clean water, because dehydration can cause hair loss.”

Grooming Your Puppy’s Changing Coat

Regular grooming is an essential part of caring for any dog and is especially important as your dog’s coat transitions from puppyhood to adulthood. Grooming is a great bonding experience for you and your dog, and it also ensures that he is comfortable being handled all over his body. This is especially important for puppies growing into longer coats, as regular grooming is necessary for their health – and your sanity.

Proper grooming is also important to make sure your dog’s adult coat comes in healthy. If you plan to take your pup to a professional groomer, it’s a good idea to start when he is young. Look for a groomer you can trust to be gentle and patient. If you have a dog that will need to be groomed with electric clippers, you can hold an electric toothbrush near his puppy coat while you give him treats to get him used to the sound and vibration.

There are a variety of different kinds of dog brushes – bristle, wire-pin, slicker — and it’s important to use the type that’s most appropriate for your pup’s type of coat. Puppy coats often require a softer brush than the adult coat will, so ask your breeder, groomer, or veterinarian to suggest the best kind of brush for you to use.

You want to get your puppy used to being brushed right from the beginning – so be gentle and patient, give him a chance to sniff the brush, present a puppy toy for him to chew while you brush, and reward him with a treat when you finish. In addition to brushing, bathing your dog also helps remove dead hair. Be sure to use a no-tears shampoo that won’t irritate his eyes.

Abnormal Puppy Hair Loss & Shedding

Loss of puppy coat is normal, but not all hair loss is healthy. “Take your pup for a full checkup if he is exhibiting exceptional hair loss or has any of the symptoms listed here,” says Dr. Klein.

  • Bare patches of skin
  • Scaly skin
  • Red or inflamed skin
  • Loss of large patches of fur
  • Excessive scratching

These are symptoms of a condition called alopecia and could be caused by a larger problem, like fleas, ticks, mites, fungal or bacterial infections, medical conditions such as Cushing’s disease or inflammatory bowel disease, hormone imbalance, poor nutrition, or stress. All of these conditions require a veterinarian’s diagnosis and treatment.

The time you spend raising a puppy is filled with excitement, fun, dedication, and sometimes with worry. Your puppy’s coat doesn’t need to be a hassle. With regular grooming and the right knowledge, you and your puppy can weather the transition from puppyhood to adulthood together – even if your puppy does develop a case of “the uglies” along the way.

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