Hair of the Dog: Breeds With High-Maintenance ’Dos

From shaggy Sheepdogs to curly Cocker Spaniels, a groomer lists 10 breeds that need the most upkeep.

by Chris Norris | expert review by Brian Taylor
July 4, 2021
goldendoodle being groomed

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“Goldendoodle, Labradoodle, Shih-Poo… Poodle traits predominate every one of these curly haired dogs,” says Brian Taylor, owner of the Harlem Doggie Day Spa. This means they come with a commitment to professional upkeep — not only to stay cool or camera-ready, but to maintain wellness too. Grooming frees dog fur of matting and trapped moisture, which can lead to irritation and yeast or fungal infections, plus give fleas and ticks a place to hide. “Pet parents should pick a breed that fits their personality and their schedule,” he sagely adds. Below, 10 dog breeds that — in Taylor’s decade of experience — have the most high-maintenance hairdos.

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1. Old English Sheepdog 

This big, shaggy dog breed has a double coat: shorter, softer hair near the skin and longer, weather-proof hair further out. This glorious, debris-collecting mane needs near-constant brushing to keep free of knots, matting, and all sorts of gnarly particulate matter. Says Taylor, “Oh man, you could groom these guys for hours.”

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2. Husky 

Statuesque, beautiful, and bred to thrive in a Siberian winter, these double-coated dogs shed their undercoat once a year but need frequent and skilled grooming to stay healthy, especially those living in warmer climes.

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3. Poodle

“We can make them look Instagram-worthy,” says Taylor of Poodle grooming. “But it takes a lot of time and regular care — visits every two to three weeks.” A kennel cut (a.k.a. a full shave) makes them more manageable, but if you want to keep your pup’s coat long, Taylor says, “this could well be an all-day job.”

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4. Goldendoodle 

When it comes to Goldendoodle grooming, Taylor says, “a Goldendoodle is really a Poodle. They’ve got tons of energy and don’t care what their hair looks like. They’ll drop and roll in mud without hesitation if it looks like fun to them.”

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5. Afghan Hound 

Imagine a regal Collie. Only with Kardashian hair. These long, glossy locks need nearly as much attention— daily brushing to minimize tangles, frequent baths, and no ceiling for extravagant styling.

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6. Cocker Spaniel 

This breed’s silky coat can be difficult to groom since it tangles fairly easily. According to Taylor, they also tend to hold grooming grudges so be sure to pick a groomer they are comfortable with.

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7. Lhasa Apso 

Don’t be fooled by the sleek, center-parted hair. These Tibetan temple guards do not see themselves as lapdogs. Among the most independent of small breeds, Lhasa Apsos have a heavy double coat that’s coarse, doesn’t shed seasonally, and grows quickly. 

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8. Maltese 

Like their flossy Tibetan cousin, the Maltese was bred for several centuries for its ornamental presentation. The kind of dog most easily pictured on the laps of noblewomen, they look a lot less noble with matted, tangled hair. To prevent their snow-white fur from turning yellow or brown, daily brushing, wiping of tear stains, and washing with a brightening shampoo (for dogs) is recommended.

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9. Shih Tzu 

With luscious locks and sparkling eyes, Shih Tzus pack a ton of adorability into a small package. And it all can quickly disappear behind a scrim of matted hair and clumpy eye-gunk. With or without a top knot, this breed should ideally be brushed daily — face and coat.

Craig Holmes / Stocksy

10. Yorkshire Terrier 

The little dog’s coat can be smooth, silky, wavy, or spiky — much like human hair — but their delicate features always demand careful attention. “Grooming a Yorkie is tricky because the clipper’s almost half their size,” says Taylor. “At the end of the day, all dogs would tell you the same thing: I know I’m cute but, hey, I’m a dog and I wanna look like a dog!

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Chris Norris

Chris Norris is a writer, reporter, author, and longtime companion to West Highland terrier Gus, recently departed but intensely loved. Chris Norris is has written for The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The New York Times MagazineRolling Stone, GQ, Details, and NPR’s “All Things Considered.” He lives in New York City with his wife and 8-year-old son.