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"Ask Cynthia"- Westie puppy fur coats

“Ask Cynthia”- Westie Rescue Highlander Editor

Coat Problems

I have a 7 month old Westie puppy named Haggis (my first Westie). He has a delightful personality and is adorable, but I am worried about his coat. It seems to be too hard, without much, or maybe no, soft undercoat. It is still pretty short, and I am afraid he will never grow a Westie beard or skirt. I read in that sometimes, with this type coat, bathing can help soften it up. I brush him almost every night, and when I do, lot's of short, dry hair is left on the blanket beneath him and on the brush. Is there anything I can do to help his undercoat come in properly? He has never been groomed, because his hair is really short, but he looks pretty scruffy at times. I have also heard that clipping, though not the preferred way to groom a Westie, softens their coat. Is he too young for me to be worried? Again, I wouldn't trade him for the world. He is not a show dog, but I do want to help him be the best he can be. Thanks for your help.


Thank you for contacting Westie USA about your concerns about Haggis' coat. First of all, a hard or wiry coat is much desired and seldom seen except on show dogs that have their coats continually hand stripped.  A hard coat on a 7-month-old pup is terrific! 

Most puppies do not get a noticeable undercoat until they are -at the very least- a year old.  Most of mine (all pet quality) have been 3-5 years old before their double coats were nicely filled in. 

Their heads also take a while to shape up into that cute round look.  You just have to do a tiny snip here and there to start rounding it out as the fur fills in.  The perfect coats and round heads you see in the books are usually on show dogs.  Most show dogs have a lot of help....mousse and get the fur on their heads to stand out just perfectly. 

However, I am sure that as you shape the fur on his head it will gradually fill in and have that nice round look.  It just is not going to happen overnight.  Every dog is an individual both with his personality, health, and coat.  You may see a puppy once in a while whose coat fills in quickly.

Most puppies take a bit of time.  They may go through a couple of scraggly stages as they lose puppy coat for their adult fur.  However, before you know it Haggis will be looking like you hoped. 

Here are some suggestions.

I would stop brushing him every night.  Try doing it gently once a week. You may be breaking off the tips of the fur by brushing so often or with the wrong brush.  Be sure to use a wire pin brush with wide spaced pins (it looks like a hair brush we would use only with little round wire pins).  If

you use a wire rake, you will pull out what undercoat he has.  At the end, I have given you the Internet address on PetsMart for a pin brush (it is long link so if it does not automatically go to the PetsMart site, you will have to make sure you copy the entire link into your browser to get it to open).

Too much bathing will also dry out his skin.  Many Westies have dry skin so I would advise cutting back on the bathing to once a month at the most. That is, unless he gets into mud.  Then just rinse him off (no soap) and towel him dry.   When he is completely dry brush him out.  All the dirt should come right out.  

There were definite reasons for developing a hard coat on the Westie.  When they were hunting in the Highlands of Scotland.  The soft undercoat kept them warm.  The hard outer coat kept the brambles from tearing out the undercoat and repelled light rain and dirt.  The dirt that remained on Westies (or Scotties and Cairns) could be brushed out because of the wiry fur.

Please remember to only use a shampoo specifically for dogs.  Shampoos for people (even baby shampoo) has too much detergent for a dog.   Snowy Coat Shampoo by Lambert Kay or White Pearl Shampoo by Eight In One can be found in most pet supply stores (also online at Petco, PetsMart, etc.) and are good at maintaining a white coat. 

You could use something like Oatmeal and Baking Soda Conditioner by Lambert Kay or Groomax Cream Rinse to soften the coat.  However, a hard coat is very difficult to restore once you soften it by trimming with clippers or chemically treating it with conditioners. 

I would just be thrilled that my little guy has a highly prized hard coat and give him some time for his undercoat to develop.

Here are a couple of Internet sites where you can find pet supplies (for shampoos, brushes, etc.  go to "dog" then click on "grooming"): PetsMart:


Pin Brush:"The sturdy, stainless steel pins of these brushes reach deep into the coats of long-haired breeds to offer a thorough brushing, while the rounded tips help protect against skin abrasions. Helps to remove loose hair and can also be used for brush-drying. Also helpful in removing debris such as leaves, dirt and mud. Black rubber, Soft Grip handle helps to reduce fatigue when grooming and can help you keep a hold of the brush with wet hands."

Good luck with Haggis.  He sounds like a terrific Westie. 

Cynthia Chambers
Highlander, Editor
Westie Rescue

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