Faced with the job of removing pine sap, chewing gum or some other gooey, smelly substance from your dog or cat’s coat, you might be forgiven for thinking, if only you were hairless.
But people living with hairless dogs have their own itch to scratch. These breeds have their own distinct needs and characteristics, and it’s important to consider them before adopting one. Hair free is not carefree!
Scooby – American Hairless Terrier
Scooby McGurk is an American hairless terrier who’s either moving at warp speed or asleep. “Scooby hates snow and must be protected from the sun so he has a wardrobe of his own, says his person Greg Melien. “Although these dogs are fun to dress up, don’t baby them; they’re terriers.” Scooby lives in Canada so he wears a shirt in the summer and a snowsuit with a tail warmer, hat and boots in the winter.
“These dogs need stimulating activity, mental and physical,” Greg adds. “Our pack walks at least five kilometers a day in addition to four or five play sessions. Scooby was the first American hairless terrier to pass the Level 1 Search and Rescue program and now is training to become a mold detection dog. At ten years old, he shows no signs of slowing down.”
This is a good breed for people with allergies. Born with hair, the American hairless terrier sheds head to tail until, by eight weeks of age, he’s completely hairless. Unlike other dogs, these terriers sweat when overheated. Grooming means up to three baths a week because they are prone to grass allergies and rashes.
American hairless terriers need a fenced yard. And be warned, they love to dig. Descended from the rat terrier, this breed weighs up to 15 pounds and can live 15 years.
Elvis and Peaches – Chinese Crested
The Chinese crested only have hair on their heads, feet and tails. They weigh about ten pounds and have a life expectancy of 12 years. Although delicate in appearance, they love to climb and dig, and they can be noisy.
“Elvis sings when the phone rings and Peaches joins in,” says Carole Deans of her two Chinese cresteds. “They’re glued to me, night and day. I call them chocolate chip dogs – have one, want more.” The skin of Chinese crested dogs can tear relatively easily. To keep the skin supple, bathe with gentle shampoo, pat dry and apply lotion – but too much can cause an acnelike condition. Carole uses aloe vera gel or coconut butter for Elvis and Peaches.
“Hydrocortisone creams or beta carotene can be used to treat cuts or rashes,” says veterinarian Dr. Mark Newkirk. “But sunburn is the big thing. Chronic sun exposure can lead to dry wrinkled skin, sunspots and even cancer, so protection’s important. Waterproof sunscreen with a high SPF should be used, but no more than twice daily.” The Chinese crested also faces tooth loss when young, so no chewies or bones for this dog.
Quixote – Xoloitzcuintle
It’s quite a mouthful, but the Xoloitzcuintle (show-low-itsqueen- tli) can also be called the Mexican hairless or Xolo. These dogs range from under ten pounds to 40. Coloring Quixote the Xolo is a winning agility dog. can change with age, from slate gray through fawn, solid or spotted, with some facial hair or hair on top of the head similar to a Mohawk.
Known as the Velcro dog, a Xolo will escape anything, climb anything and do anything to be with you. Without any hair, Xolo seem to radiate heat. Their need for closeness can be soothing to those with joint pain, and makes them great therapy dogs.
“Xolo are passionate about running in agility,” says Barbara Griffi n, who lives with five Xolo and is president of Xoloitzcuintle Club USA. “Quixote holds 58 agility titles. He was at a kill shelter and labeled unadoptable. I rescued him and found he’d been abused – x-rays showed a broken hip and severe neck damage. He’s the fi rst Xolo to achieve the honor of being invited to this year’s AKC Agility Invitational.”
Xolo respond well to structure and positive reinforcement. Make training a family activity or he will bond only to the one who feeds and trains him. Without training, he will run the house. Grooming? Let his natural protection do its job and don’t over-bathe, use oils or lotions. You can look forward to as many as 20 years of companionship with a Xolo.
Hairless Cats – The Sphynx
Touching a Sphynx cat is like holding a warm peach or chamois cloth. As kittens, Sphynx look as if they have too much skin and too little body; grown, they are strong with sturdy bones and good muscle development. They have an abundance of energy, are full of mischief and love to be the center of attention. When cold, they prefer a human lap but if one isn’t available, look for your Sphynx to curl up with a handy dog, other cats or under the covers – think of him as a live hot water bottle for your bed.
“It’s best to keep hairless, very short-haired or white cats indoors as sunburn often leads to squamous cell carcinoma,” advises Dr. Newkirk. “With white cats, it is found on the ear tips and nose. While sunscreen can be used, the cat’s natural grooming means he would ingest the product.” This could cause vomiting, diarrhea, and potential liver or kidney problems depending on the ingredients.
People who are allergic to cats are actually allergic to the dander (dead skin cells) or saliva left after cats groom themselves. Bathing your Sphynx will prevent the buildup of oils normally absorbed by hair, and will wash away dander and saliva. Make bathing, nail clipping and ear cleaning routine.
Prefer some hair? If so, consider Cornish Rex or Devon Rex cats, originally from England. Cornish Rex have large ears, high cheekbones and are known for their wavy, close-to-the-skin fur. Their coats have been compared to cut velvet in look, but they feel like nothing else. Devon Rex have coats ranging from thin suedelike fur to a looser, short mop of curls.
Rex are wash and wear – ears, nails and a bath or wipe down with a damp cloth is the most they require. Rex are entertaining – some say a cross between a cat and a monkey because of their clowning and ability to climb. “If you want to do a crossword, forget it,” says Gwen Welch of her two Cornish Rex cats. “Tang lies on my shoulder, pats my cheek, and then pulls my head around so I can see him. Really, you can’t ignore them. A quiet Rex is a cat you should check on. Senna might be sitting on top of the entertainment center or helping himself to snacks. They’re mooches too.”
Hairless breeds are so in tune with their people it’s like having your mind read. You’ll learn more than you teach. If you have the time, energy and attention to devote to them, the skills to stay a step ahead, and lots of love to give, hairless dogs and cats will reward you a thousand times over.
Even more unique…
The Peruvian Inca orchid dog has dark round eyes that squint due to an over-sensitivity to sunlight. All the dogs of this breed in the United States are descended from a dozen dogs imported long ago. The Spanish fi rst saw this hairless breed in Peru in the 1500s. It’s thought they took the dogs with them as gifts for the Chinese. In fact, the Peruvian Inca orchid may be the origin of the Chinese crested.
Nicknamed Moonflower, these are nighttime dogs. An urban myth says that the Inca kept these dogs in an orchid-filled room during the day to protect them from the sun, and let them out to run in the cool of the night.
For more information
Canadian Hairless Terrier Association, hairlessterriers.ca
American Chinese Crested Club, http://accc.chinesecrestedclub.info
Xoloitzcuintle Club USA, xoloworld.com
Peruvian Inca Orchid Club of America, peruvianincaorchid.com
Cat Fanciers Association, cfainc.org