Wire Haired Dogs – Coat Type Explained & Breed Examples

A salt-and-pepper Schnauzer puppy with his front feet up on a large rock and pink flowers in the background.

Dogs have a wide variety of coat types: long, short, smooth, curly, single, double, hairless, corded, and wiry.

Each coat type has its merits and was developed to serve a specific purpose, but the wiry coat is perhaps the least well known and most misunderstood.

Why do some dogs have wiry hair? A wire coat was intentionally bred into some breeds to provide weather protection, repel dirt, and allow the dogs to move through underbrush without the coat being snagged. This coat requires stripping, or pulling out the outer coat, to maintain correct texture and function.

As you learn more about the wire-hair coat and take a look at some of the more popular breeds that have this protective fur type, you’ll be impressed by its amazing qualities and may decide that it’s the most functional coat of all.

Wire-Haired Dogs 

What Does a Wire Coat Feel Like? 

Wire coats can vary in texture and length, but overall, a wire coat feels quite stiff, bristly, and coarse compared to “normal” coats.

Contrary to what some may believe, the ends of the hairs are not sharp to the touch, and it is not unpleasant to pet a dog with a wiry coat.

There is, however, a definite lack of softness.

What Is the Purpose of a Wire Coat?

Certain breeds were intentionally bred to have a wire coat for the protection it provides.

The wiry coat naturally repels water, dust, and dirt as well as providing insulation from extreme temperatures.

Also, briers, thorns, sticks, and other natural debris are not likely to snag in a wiry coat as they would a soft, fluffy coat, so the wiry coat served dogs extremely well as they zipped through the fields or woods on a hunt.

Do Wire-Haired Dogs Shed? 

Some dogs with a wire coat shed very little, as is the case with the Cairn Terrier. Others, such as the Jack Russell Terrier, can shed heavily.

Those with a thick undercoat will shed it once the weather starts warming up, but they’ll likely need help in the form of routine brushing to actually remove the loose hairs from the coat.

Are Wire-Haired Dogs Hypoallergenic? 

Although you might read elsewhere that all dogs with a wire coat are hypoallergenic, this is not accurate.

Some breeds with wiry coats do tend to be well tolerated by those with allergies, but others are not.

Generally, the less undercoat the dog has, the more allergy friendly he’ll be.

Are All Wire Haired Dogs Terriers? 

It is true that many breeds with a wire coat fall in the Terrier category, but other breeds proudly sport the wire-haired look too.

Take, for instance, the Wirehaired Dachshund, the Irish Wolfhound, the German Wirehaired Pointer, and the Affenpinscher.

Mixed breeds as well can feature the wire coat without having any known Terrier relatives.

Do All Terriers Have a Wiry Coat? 

Though many do, not all Terrier breeds sport the harsh, coarse wiry coat.

For example, American Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, Boston Terriers, Smooth Fox Terriers, Manchester Terriers, and American Hairless Terriers (coated variety) all have smooth coats, not wiry.

Are Wire Coats and Broken Coats the Same? 

Generally, the terms wire coat and broken coat are used interchangeably and both refer to the wiry, coarse, stiff coats of certain breeds.

However, the term broken coat can also refer to a combination-type coat that has features of both a smooth coat and a rough coat, as with the broken-coated Jack Russell Terrier.

To further confuse matters, the wiry coat is sometimes referred to as a rough coat, as with the Brussels Griffon, but not all rough coats are wiry, as is evidenced by the Rough Collie, for example. 

How Do You Groom Wire-Haired Dogs? 

With wire-coat dogs, basic grooming tasks, such as nail trimming, ear cleaning, and dental care, are the same as with any other dog. 

However, thanks to the dirt-repelling and low-shedding properties, brushing needs are minimal with most only needing a weekly brushing, except during shedding season when the undercoat needs more routine brushing.

There is one notable difference in caring for a wire coat versus other coat types.

The wire coat should be hand stripped rather than clipped to preserve the integrity and features of the coat.

Best Brush for Wire-Haired Dogs 

For wire-haired dogs, a slicker brush is ideal.

This type of brush will glide through the coat easily removing any debris and loose hair while stimulating the skin simultaneously.

This slicker brush, for example, is just right with sturdy pins and a comfortable handle.

Its best feature is that, with a push of a button, it instantly releases the collected hair in one smooth motion.

For dealing with the undercoat, either a deshedding tool (this is what I use) or an undercoat rake (the longer, rotating tines are better for dense or long coats) is a must-have.

How Often Should You Bathe a Wire-Haired Dog? 

Because of the wiry coat’s dirt repelling properties, most wired-haired dogs do not require bathing as frequently as other breeds do.

A bath every six to eight weeks is usually sufficient.

Washing more often will strip the naturally protective oils from the coat and result in a dull coat with reduced weather-repelling capabilities and dry, itchy skin.

What Is Hand Stripping for Dogs? 

Hand stripping is the technique recommended for all wire-haired dogs and involves manually pulling the longer hair from the outer coat to stimulate new growth and maintain the coat’s natural texture, protective qualities, and color.

This process may be done entirely by hand or with the help of a stripping tool.

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Read our article here to learn about the ins and outs of hand stripping.

Is Hand Stripping Dogs Painful? 

Hand stripping does not hurt the dog in any way.

The procedure mimics how the longer hairs would naturally be stripped away as the dog performed the job he was bred for, dashing through undergrowth, digging tunnels, and working around rock piles.

As the outer coat ages, the roots of older growth thin and weaken and will release easily with just a slight tug.

They generally, however, do not readily fall out on their own, which is why you’ll often hear that wire-coated breeds are nonshedding. 

Can You Shave a Wire-Haired Dog?

Shaving a wire-haired dog can permanently alter the coat, negatively affecting the texture and the weather-resistant and dirt-repelling properties.

Shaving may also cause the coat to thin, become soft, lose its luster, fade in color, and develop waves or curls. 

5 Popular Wire-Haired Dogs 

There are many dog breeds that have wire hair, such as Border Terriers, all varieties of Schnauzers, Affenpinschers, Scottish Terriers, Wire Haired Dachshunds, Wire Haired Fox Terrier, and Brussels Griffons.

Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular wire-coated breeds so you’ll gain a general idea of what to expect with dogs of this sensible coat type.

Because many of the breeds with wiry coats were bred for hunting and extermination work, you’ll see that some traits, such as stubbornness and digging, are commonly seen in these dogs, especially in the Terrier group.

Airedale Terrier

An adult Airedale Terrier standing on a lush lawn.

Temperament 

Tough, courageous, friendly, curious, and devoted best describe the Airedale.

Most Airedales are extremely playful and smart, and thus, they’ll find inventive ways to entertain themselves when owners are busy.

Though they are quite affectionate and sweet, they don’t tend to have a clingy nature and will remain confident even when not by your side. 

Size

Both male and female Airedale Terriers should weigh between 50 and 70 pounds and measure approximately 23 inches tall at the highest point of the shoulder.

Though females will be slightly smaller on average, the difference is not as significant as with other breeds. 

Colors 

Unlike with other breeds, the color options are limited for the Airedale Terrier.

Black and tan and grizzle and tan are the only colors officially recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Occasionally, a black Airedale puppy will show up in a litter, but this is rare.

Exercise Needs 

Airedale Terriers are active and very energetic and will need at least 45 to 60 minutes of exercise each day.

Without adequate physical activity, these dogs may engage in destructive behaviors or appear hyperactive.

Like all Terriers, digging may be a favorite pastime, and mentally stimulating activities are important for engaging their mind in a constructive manner and keeping them out of trouble. 

Trainability 

There’s no doubt that Airedales are intelligent and capable of learning many commands, but they are also independent thinkers and often believe that they should be in charge.

For this reason, training can be challenging as owners struggle with stubbornness and lack of interest, although housebreaking is usually accomplished easily.

Early obedience training and socialization is a requirement in order to have a well-behaved Airedale.

Average Price

Expect to pay around $2,000 for an Airedale from a quality breeder, though some Airedales with exceptional pedigrees may cost closer to $3,000.

You may find a puppy for much less, but buyer beware, as breeding practices will likely not have been up to standard and the quality, disposition, and health of the puppy may be compromised. 

West Highland Terrier

A West Highland Terrier standing in the woods with several rocks in the background.

Temperament 

The adorable West Highland Terrier, or Westie, is spunky, loving, and entertaining with the typical Terrier braveness and “I can do anything” attitude.

Westies are naturally playful and love to be around their family as much as possible.

Most do well with children, particularly older kids, and make wonderful family dogs.

However, chasing and digging instincts may run deep, and they should not be trusted off leash.

Size

A West Highland Terrier typically weighs between 15 and 20 pounds and stands around 11 inches tall at the withers. Females may be slightly shorter.

The small, portable size makes the Westie a favorite, but it seems no one ever told him that he’s on the small size as this breed tends to have the huge personality and courage of a large dog.  

Colors 

West Highland Terriers should be a bright white.

There are no other color options, though the breed standard states that Westies may have slight wheaten coloration on the ends of the hair.

This should in no way make the dog appear to be wheaten in color. 

Exercise Needs 

Like most Terriers, Westies are energetic and will need a minimum of 45 minutes of exercise daily, though most will be more than ready for more, especially if it involves playing.

Some Westies will be less energetic than others, but this is not a breed considered to be lazy and sluggish.

Sufficient daily exercise is one of the best ways to ensure that negative behaviors are never an issue. 

Trainability

Westies can be headstrong and independent, but with plenty of positive reinforcements (think praise and yummy treats) and determination and consistency on your part, a Westie can be properly trained easily.

The key is to establish yourself as the leader and to keep training sessions brief and exciting.

Without those fundamentals, a Westie will quickly grow bored and ignore your attempts to gain his attention.

Average Price

The average price for a well-bred West Highland Terrier is between $1,500 and $2,000.

Prices are usually dependent on the puppies’ lineage, health screenings performed on the parents, the reputation and location of the breeder, and the overall quality of the pups.

Jack Russell Terrier – Rough or Broken

A rough-coated Jack Russell Terrier with a burgundy background.

Temperament 

Although not recognized by the AKC, Jack Russell Terrier breeders have worked hard in creating a stable temperament in the breed.

These little dogs are feisty, fearless, loyal, and seemingly always in motion.

Hunters at heart, this breed has a high prey drive and is curious, lively, independent, and quite intelligent. 

Jack Russells may do well with older kids but are not known for being overly tolerant with young children.

Also, same-sex aggression can be a problem and care should always be taken when introducing a Jack to another dog.

Size 

Jack Russell Terriers average between 10 and 15 inches tall and weigh 13 to 18 pounds.

By about 9 months of age, a Jack Russell puppy is nearly done growing and will have reached his approximate final height and be close to his adult weight as well.

He may however continue to “fill out” until his first birthday.

Colors 

A Jack Russell Terrier should be more than 50% white with markings of tan, black, or brown over the rest of the body.

The brown and tan colors can vary significantly with numerous shades extending the color options somewhat.

While brindle markings and tricolors are possible, they are not considered acceptable by the official breed standards.

Exercise Needs 

A quick walk around the block won’t be nearly enough for a healthy Jack Russell Terrier.

This breed was designed to be an active, working dog, and to see one in motion will leave you with no doubt that they are high energy.

Two hours of vigorous exercise might be enough to satisfy some Jacks, though others will still be raring to go even after a long period of physical activity.

These dogs will be happiest when “employed” and are able to exert their energy while doing their “job.”

Trainability 

Training a Jack Russell Terrier is certainly possible (remember Eddie from Frasier?) but will take commitment, dedication, and lots of patience on your part.

Even a well-trained Jack can’t be counted on to be 100% reliable as they are often easily distracted and driven by their instincts.

Average Price

Prices for a Jack Russell Terrier vary a good bit but tend to be within the $1,000 to $2,000 range.

Look for a breeder who is devoted to improving the breed, retaining the hunting traits Jacks were originally bred to have, producing correct conformation, and is well versed in all aspects of the breed, including temperament quirks and grooming.

Cairn Terrier

A gray Cairn Terrier standing on grass gazing off to his left.

Temperament 

Cairn Terriers are feisty, alert, animated, energetic, courageous, and affectionate.

These spirited dogs are playful and devoted, but as they were bred to be independent and capable of thinking for themselves, stubbornness is a trait that still persists in the breed today. 

Size 

The small but mighty Cairn Terrier averages roughly 10 inches tall and 15 inches long and typically weighs about 14 pounds.

Females are usually an inch or so shorter and a pound or two lighter.

Colors 

The official breed standard allows for any color except white, and indeed a wide assortment of colors, including black, brindle, cream, gray, red, silver, and wheaten, are common.

Brindle is another possibility and may occur with any color. Black markings, including facial masks and black points, are commonplace as well.

Exercise Needs 

This breed was purposely bred to be energetic so that they could fulfill their role as vermin dispatchers on the farm and in the field.

Today, these small dogs are still quite energetic and will need about one hour of exercise daily in the form of walks, play, and mentally challenging activities.

Trainability 

As evidenced by Terry (Toto in The Wizard of Oz) and Danny (Fred in I Love Lucy and Fremont in Dennis the Menace), Cairn Terriers can be extremely well trained.

Their intelligence makes them quick learners, but their freethinking can result in occasional stubbornness.

Training for obedience is a must, but owners should also train to stop the digging and chasing behaviors that come naturally to these hardy little dogs.

Average Price

Cairn Terriers typically cost between $1,000 and $2,000.

Prices can vary based on health screenings performed, pedigrees, the breeder’s location and experience, the sex of the puppy in some cases, and the puppy’s age.

German Wirehaired Pointer

An adult German Wirehaired Pointer resting among tall, weedy undergrowth in a field.

Temperament 

These versatile hunting dogs are known for being smart, somewhat independent, and incredibly devoted.

Although they’ll form strong bonds with every family member, it’s not uncommon for these dogs to bond closely to one person in particular, typically the main caretaker.

Because German Wirehaired Pointers were bred to not only excel in the fields but also play the role of family companion and watchdog, you can expect these dogs to have a stable temperament and be gentle, loving, confident, and alert without any shyness or aggression.

Do not expect these dogs to happily lounge around all day as this breed is driven to keep busy.

Size 

Male German Wirehaired Pointers can be expected to stand between 24 and 26 inches tall, and females are to be a minimum of 22 inches tall according to official breed standards.

Both sexes should weigh between 50 and 70 pounds, with females typically weighing in at the lower end of the weight range.

Colors 

Liver and liver and white are the most common colors, but black-and-white German Wirehaired Pointers are available as well, though they would be penalized in the show ring.

According to breed standards, allowable markings include roan, ticked, spotted, and roan and ticked.

Exercise Needs 

Because German Wirehaired Pointers were bred to go strong all day before curling up beside their owner’s bed for the night, make no mistake; this is a very high-energy dog.

A short walk will not come close to wearing them out.

This breed needs the opportunity to run frequently and engage in playtime disguised as “work” in order to be satisfied physically and mentally.

Trainability 

This intelligent breed takes to training naturally as long as proper motivation and positive reinforcements are provided.

Basic obedience training should be easy as long as sessions are kept interesting, but some may have quite the independent attitude and require a more firm approach.

Average Price

A German Wirehaired Pointer typically costs between $1,200 – $2,000.

Older puppies who have already undergone some field training and those from exceptional lines may cost well over $2,500.

Some breeders may charge more for females, so keep that in mind if you decide this is the breed for you.

Related Question:

How can I make my wire-haired dog softer?

While it’s not recommended, trimming a wire-haired dog’s coat will eventually result in a softer coat.

Know that as the wiry feel is lost, other qualities will be negatively affected as well.

Color may fade, the coat may become thinner, weather resistance and dirt-repelling properties will disappear, and the structure of the coat itself may change, becoming straight, wavy, or curly.

Last update on 2021-10-27 at 03:20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API