I’ve written about this before, in passing, in a couple of my other papillon posts. Because it still shocks me how many people, even groomers and people who own papillons, don’t know that the breed is supposed to have a single coat, I was inspired to write a post about it.
To quote the official AKC papillon breed standard, “There is no undercoat”. The undercoat, on a double coated dog, is the insulating layer of fur that naturally works to protect animals against extreme temperatures. Back in 2016 (not quite sure how that much time has passed already!) I wrote this post demonstrating the difference between undercoats and topcoats, with the help of my double coated Alaskan Klee Kai, Fenrir.
Breed standard papillons have only topcoats. I keep saying “breed standard papillons” because it’s my understanding that there are papillons out there with undercoats. It’s not really normal or desired going by the breed standard, but that doesn’t mean that those papillons who have undercoats won’t still make awesome pets. My papillon, Kitsune, is far from the papillon breed standard, after all, and he’s an amazing dog!
While, to pet owners, it may not matter much whether your dog conforms to the breed standard or not, I think it is important to know what type of coat he/she has. This is because there are some differences between double and single coated dogs and how they, and their fur, should be cared for.
Normal, single coated, papillons, for example, may not deal with extreme heat or cold as well as a double coated dog would. As I already stated above, they lack the insulating undercoat which serves to keep double coated dogs cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. I always keep a close eye on Kit when the weather is extreme. In the summer he spends more time indoors with the AC, and during winter adventures I sometimes put a coat on him to help keep him warmer.
Kit sheds a lot less than double coated Fenrir does, which is a nice perk to him not having an undercoat. In addition, because Kitsune has a single coat, I’ve never had any issues trimming his fur. This is a hot button issue among “papillon people”. I’ve gotten a lot of criticism over the years for clipping Kitsune’s fur, even though doing so does not hurt him nor damage his fur.
A few years ago, mostly via social media, I started to see a big push towards educating owners on the reasons why double coated dogs should not be shaved. I’m glad the information is out there and that dog owners are (hopefully) learning more about how to care for their dog’s individual coat. I agree that, for many reasons, double coated dogs, such as huskies and Alaskan Klee Kai, should not be shaved unless it’s done so for medical reasons.
I’ve had both groomers and papillon owners tell me that papillon’s fur should not be trimmed because they have a double coat. While this may be true of some papillons, per the breed standard they should have single coats. My Kitsune has a single coat. Trimming a single coated dog does not cause the same potential issues that it does with a double coated dog. With a single coat, you don’t have to worry about removing the dog’s insulation layer because it’s not there to begin with. You don’t have to worry about the two layers growing back unevenly/at different rates and looking awkward, because single coated dogs lack undercoats.
I always have to mention, though, that I don’t recommend shaving even single coated dogs down to the skin. While a single coat may not do as much to protect dogs from the heat or cold, guard hairs do protect the skin from sun exposure. Dogs, like humans, can suffer from sunburn if their skin is exposed to the sun’s rays.
Comment below! Does your dog have a single or double coat? What are some things you do to keep your dog’s fur healthy?