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There is nothing wrong with a yak coat as long as it is on a yak; on a Newfoundland dog it is a disaster.

What is commonly called a yak coat on a Newf is extremely dense and voluminous undercoat that overwhelms the outer layer of oily guard hairs; it also inhibits further growth of the over coat. This fine fur easily mats and may even felt. No longer is a simple brushing once a week anywhere near adequate.

A yak coat is most commonly found on a spayed female but neutered males can get it as well. It can appear as soon as two months after spaying but often takes years to appear. With age it tends to get even worse.

Example of a yak coat

There are four ways that Newf guardians typically use to treat this condition. The most controversial is shaving the coat to the skin. Discussion about this on the internet gets quite emotional. On one side are those who feel that shaving allows the dog to feel cool again especially in the summer months and is the only way to control this horrible coat. Others contend that the coat is forever ruined and that the coat will grow in worse after each shaving. Some report that after shaving some parts of the body, the coat never returns. Probably all are right to some extent as the results of shaving vary from Newf to Newf.

A compromise to shaving is a “puppy cut” so called because it resembles the poodle puppy cut. By leaving some fur the Newf is protected from the elements and especially from the sun.

Thinning the coat is more labour intensive and may allow the guard hairs to once again come into prominence. There are various stripping rakes on the market that will facilitate this. Care should be taken in the winter months as excessive stripping may reduce your Newf’s ability to withstand the cold.

The most dedicated dog parents try adding oils both from the inside and the outside often in combination with thinning. For the diet, oil supplements can be added with fish oil being the most popular; my personal preference is unrefined sockeye salmon oil or just feeding canned sockeye. For external treatment there is an assortment of sprays to put oil in the coat; these should be back brushed well into the fur.

These latter two treatments can also be used prophylactically; prevention is always the best way to go.

Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979.  In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada.  When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.

Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.

Dogs in Canada

July 2011