17 Curly Haired Dog Breeds

Curly-Haired Dog Breeds

I would venture to say that the poodle is the most famous curly-haired dog breed in the world. But do you realize there are so many more? There are also smooth-coated breeds, but that’s another article. 

Here, we’ll share about dogs that have soft curls so cute you may want to go and adopt one. While some breeds are naturally curly, some are selectively bred to be, and we’ll cover that, too. 

There is a variant in the Keratin-71 (KRT71) gene that is associated with curly hair in dogs. Two copies of the variant results in dogs having curly coats, and one copy of the variant results in dogs having wavy coats.

But enough with the science lesson… Let’s jump right in. 

Best Dog Breeds with Curly Hairs

We have good news! Curly-haired dog breeds tend to shed less than dogs with double coats (unless they’re double-coated) or straight hair. This means your couch won’t look like another dog. 

That said, these same curly-haired breeds need to be groomed consistently to keep hair mats that can become infected and painful from forming. We like this in-depth tutorial on how to brush your curly-coated dog.

Regular grooming/brushing is the best way to keep your dog’s coat in tip-top shape. These processes can be done between trips to the groomer or if you bathe them yourself. Grooming appointments, with a bath, will sometimes be different for each breed.

If you groom them, always be sure to dry them gently with a towel, and don’t rub but pat dry. Otherwise, you could have a frizz ball on your hands.

Now, let’s get into these gorgeous curly-haired dogs. 

1. Curly-Coated Retriever 

curly hair dog
GroupSporting
Height23”-27”
Weight60-95 lbs.
Fur & ColorDouble-coated; Black and liver
Lifespan10-12 yrs.

This dog always looks like it just walked out of the salon. Their tight-curly coats hug their bodies except for the tops of their heads, where it’s smooth. A similar-looking breed is the Chesapeake Bay retriever. They’re 21”-26” tall and 55-80 lbs. and are highly active. Both breeds are hunting aficionados and swimming pros. 

Curly-coated retrievers are excellent family dogs and good with kids. Curly-coated retriever dogs may need time to warm up to other animals though, so be sure to train and socialize them at a young age. 

Lots of curly coat guardians don’t use a brush on this dog’s hair so it won’t frizz. Ask your groomer how to get through the hair with your hands, and do this regularly. 

2. Bichon Frise

curly haired dog breeds
GroupNon-sporting
Height9.5”-11.5”
Weight12-18 lbs.
Fur & ColorDouble-coated; White, white and apricot, white and buff, white and cream
Lifespan14-15 yrs.

The Bichon Frise is truly a Lapdog with a capital “L.” Their curly white hair comes out in a pouf all over their bodies, making a dog that looks like a stuffed animal

There are many ways to groom this breed, depending on if you’re going to show them or just hang out with them a lot. Look to brush them three times weekly so they stay comfortable.

The Bichon is curious, playful, and affectionate. Just be careful around them since they’re so small. There are many home hazards that can accidentally hurt them, including you.

These little guys are absolutely adorable. They get along with just about everyone: Seniors, kids, strangers, and other pets.     

3. Poodle

dogs with curly hair
GroupNon-sporting
Height Over 15”
Weight40-70 lbs.
Fur & ColorSingle-coated (wooly and warm); 27 possible colors or color combinations
Lifespan10-18 yrs.

Poodles are regularly in the top five spots for smartest dogs. You can’t get a lot past them. They’re fantastic swimmers. Developed to be duck hunters, they have great stamina and need lots of exercise in the form of a daily jog, swim, or hike.  

They’re one breed that sheds the least, so you could call them hypoallergenic. (Keep in mind no dog is completely hypoallergenic since all of them shed dander.)

Poodles are one entertaining breed as they excel in dog sports and prance around the conformation show ring to garner tons of attention. People love their stylish haircuts called the “continental,” which is the traditional hairstyle worn by poodles who compete.   

4. Irish Water Spaniel

curly dogs
GroupSporting
Height21”-24”
Weight45-68 lbs.
Fur & ColorSingle-coated; Liver (brown)
Lifespan12-13 yrs.

This curly-haired dog breed sometimes gets confused with the poodle. While they are super smart and have a gorgeous coat, they’re definitely their own breed. Their tails are called “rat tails” since they taper down to the end to almost a point.

Irish Water Spaniel dogs are laid-back and affectionate dog breeds and are the tallest of the AKC’s spaniels. Not well known to dog-world fans, they are highly trainable and only want to please their guardian.

Without proper socialization and training, they can also become anxious and insecure. Make sure they’re introduced to other animals and new situations early. 

Bred to be waterfowl retrievers, Irish Water Spaniel dogs excel at hunting, and letting them have a good romp in the water regularly is a great idea. Developed in Ireland, they have a Scottish accent. (Not really, but it was fun to say!) 

Irish water spaniels were previously called “Shannon spaniels” and were imported to the US in the 1870s. This breed is rare among pet guardians (dog owners) and even hunters. 

5. Bolognese

curly hair dogs
GroupFoundation Stock
Height10”-12”
Weight6-10 lbs.
Fur & ColorSingle-coated; 
Lifespan12-14 yrs.

The cousin of the Bichon Frise and you can certainly see the resemblance, is curious, smart, and devoted. He’ll go for a walk with you, go on errands or dog outings, and be the perfect lap dog when you get home. You might stay away from the dog park though, since they’re so little other dogs could see them as prey.

But just because they’re tiny and precious doesn’t mean they don’t need to be trained, or you could have a dog who barks incessantly and nips at people. Unattractive.

Even well socialized and trained, they’re not the greatest with young children since kids sometimes don’t know how to safely interact with a small dog. 

Their wavy, long coats need daily brushing, and they’re fine with only an occasional bath. This curly-haired dog breed was developed in Bologna, Italy, centuries ago but didn’t make their appearance at Crufts dog show (UK) until 2002.

6. Portuguese Water Dog

curly fur dog
GroupWorking
Height17”-23”
Weight35-60 lbs.
Fur & ColorSingle-coated; Black, brown, white, or a mixture of these colors
Lifespan11-13 yrs.

This solid muscular breed, with curly wavy hair, is athletic and built for the water. Super smart, they need lots of physical and mental stimulation, or they can develop bad habits. With their size, that’s not fun for you. 

Eager to please and highly intelligent, they make excellent therapy and service dogs. A common color on their faces is black with a white chin/muzzle called “milk chin.” They were originally bred to be fishing dogs to:

  1. Retrieve broken nets and tackle
  2. Act as couriers from ship to shore
  3. Herd schools of fish into nets

They’re top competitors in agility, obedience, and water competitions. They also fit in perfectly as animal companions.  

7. Kerry Blue Terrier

curly haired dogs
GroupTerrier
Height17.5”-19.5”
Weight33-40 lbs. (male) Females weigh proportionally less.
Fur & ColorSingle-coated; 9 different colors or color combinations
Lifespan12-15 yrs.

One of nine native breeds of Ireland, this curly-haired dog breed was bred as a peasant farmer’s dog. They were used to:

  1. Hunt rodents
  2. Herd horse, cattle, and sheep 
  3. Guard the home

Sometimes known as the Irish blue terrier, the Kerry blue terrier has a non-shedding coat that is soft and wavy. They look a bit, well, strange with their unconventional head shape but have their own type of beauty. 

This breed is an exceptional watchdog and awesome with children and even cats. They thrive on attention and don’t do well if left alone for long periods.   

8. Labradoodle

small curly haired dog breeds
GroupMixed (Hybrid of Labrador and poodle – Designer dog)
Height14”-24”
Weight15-65 lbs.
Fur & ColorDepends on their genetic makeup whether they’re double- or single-coated; Come in many colors, usually solid but can be multi-colored
Lifespan12-15 yrs.

As far as curly-haired dogs go, this one’s pretty famous. As you can see, they have quite the weight and height span due to their being toy, miniature, and standard poodle types. They can also have tight curls or wavy hair.

Their home of origin is Australia, and they were developed by breeder Wally Conron in the 80s. His goal was to have a guide dog for the blind that shed very little. The Labradoodle loves playtime and interacts well with kids and other animals.   

9. Puli

black dog with curly hair
GroupHerding
Height16”-17”
Weight25-35 lbs.
Fur & ColorCorded (dreadlocks) and double-coated; Black, silver, white, rust, brindle, cream, brown
Lifespan10-15 yrs.

You may have seen this “carwash dog” in a conformation competition. Their swinging hair that kisses the ground delights crowds. They’re often confused with the Komondor breed since they also have a corded coat. 

Be aware: The Puli has a coat that needs the cords to be separated by hand as they get older. 

According to the Puli Club of America, “…the Puli will often show great sensitivity to the human’s moods and feelings, actively communicating empathy.” They often behave like big puppies and need to stay active to deplete their energy.

10. Bedlington Terrier

white dog with curly hair
GroupTerrier
Height15”-17.5”
Weight17-23 lbs.
Fur & ColorSingle-coated; Blue, blue and tan, sandy, liver and tan, liver, sandy and tan
Lifespan11-16 yrs.

Looking similar to the Kerry blue terrier, the Bedlington also sheds very little and has that unique, football-shaped head. They’re very affectionate and territorial but have a penchant for strangers, too. Their coats will need to be groomed weekly. 

They’re moderately-active dogs, and being terriers, they’ll take care of any rodents for you. (If you have mice or hamsters as pets, you’ll probably need to be careful.)

11. Bouvier de Flandres

black dog with curly hair
GroupHerding
Height23.5”-27.5”
Weight70-110 lbs.
Fur & ColorDouble-coated; 16 possible colors and color combinations
Lifespan10-12 yrs.

Slightly larger than Labrador retrievers, these curly-haired dog breeds are big-boned and courageous. With a strong work ethic, they also excel in dog sports like herding trials. They need to be brushed once or twice a week. That double coat will “blow” (shed) twice a year, so brushing in between helps lessen the fur storm.

The Bouvier de Flandres needs active guardians who run, jog, or bike and play interactive games to stay rested and obedient. They started out:

  1. Herding cattle
  2. Being watchdogs
  3. As cart-pullers
  4. As guardians

12. Lagotto Romagnolo

curly coated dog
GroupSporting
Height16”-19”
Weight24-35 lbs.
Fur & ColorDouble-coated; Off-white, brown roan (multi-colored brown), brown, orange, white, sable, orange roan
Lifespan15-17 yrs.

Bred as a water-retrieving gun dog, this breed is a strong competitor in dog sports, particularly Agility. They have loads of endurance and stamina. Safe around kids, they love being in the water, so if you have a pool, bonus points. 

They’re easygoing and relaxed, relate well to other animals, and make really good family dogs. That amazing coat needs to be trimmed regularly. Easy to train, you should have few problems when they’re young.

13. Havanese

small dog breeds with curly hair
GroupToy
Height8.5”-11.5”
Weight7-13 lbs.
Fur & ColorDouble-coated; 25 possible colors and color combinations 
Lifespan14-16 yrs.

This breed is known for its curled-over tail and ability to get along with everyone – humans and animals alike. These curly pups seem to know how beautiful they are.

Native to Cuba, they’re members of the Bichon family. The Havanese have a happy-go-lucky walk, and their personalities make it stand out from the crowd.

The breed standard calls for almond-shaped eyes, which are quite expressive as they communicate. Most satisfied when they’re around people, they should have cords when in the show ring. 

This curly dog breed is gregarious and cheerful and makes the perfect companion for dog lovers!

14. Airedale Terrier

brown curly hair dog
GroupTerrier
Height23”
Weight50-70 lbs.
Fur & ColorSingle-coated; Black and tan, grizzle (dark pigment on the head, body, and legs) and tan
Lifespan11-14 yrs.

With a wiry coat, these are stately dogs with a solid body structure and royal-looking stance. (They also have football-shaped heads.)

Adaptable/trainable and easily motivated, this large curly dog breed was developed in the 19th century in Aire, England. They’re called the “King of Terriers” and are the largest terrier breed. 

They’re actually good guard dogs and are devoted and loyal

15. Pumi

small curly-haired dog breed
GroupHerding
Height15”-18.5”
Weight22-29
Fur & ColorSingle-coated; White, gray, silver gray, black, fawn, born gray, born brown
Lifespan12-13 yrs.

Developed in Hungary, Pumik (plural) helped herd cattle, sheep, and pigs. Looks do deceive since they’re so cute and look smallish, but they’re intelligent and determined as herders.

Their coats are 50% soft hair and 50% harsh hair of the same length. After bathing, they need a good dry-down, preferably without a blow dryer, so their coats can curl back up.

The Pumi is agile and enjoys dog sports like Obedience, Agility, and other events. 

16. American Water Spaniel

curly haired puppies
GroupSporting
Height15”-18”
Weight25-45 lbs.
Fur & ColorDouble-coated; Brown, chocolate, liver
Lifespan10-14 yrs.

This curly-haired breed looks like a sage with important information to deliver. He’s also an expert at retrieving and hunting on land and in the water (even in the ice). They were developed in Wisconsin, US, in the 19th century and are their state dog.

Bred to be even-tempered, these dogs adore family life and make perfect family pets.

These American dogs are ideal for their jobs. They have a dense and waterproof coat, their feet are thickly padded, their toes are webbed, and they’re small enough not to rock a boat when on the hunt.

17. Spanish Water Dog

big curly haired dogs
GroupHerding
Height15”-20”
Weight31-49 lbs.
Fur & Color Corded; 14 possible colors and color combinations
Lifespan12-14 yrs.

This strong, smart dog loves the water and is highly energetic. You know what that means…They need to be taken on daily runs or jogs and given puzzle treats or games to be content and lounge around with you. 

They’re certainly loyal, highly intelligent, and will give their all to please their guardian. They have always been sheepherders and waterfowl retrievers.

Breeds to Avoid

If you’re looking for corkscrew curls or cords in a dog, Labrador retrievers and Jack Russells (and many other breeds) wouldn’t fit the bill with their smooth coats. There are lots of smooth-coated dogs that can be bred with curly-haired ones, but you probably won’t know the exact hair/fur type you’ll be getting.

Also, most of the dogs we’ve discussed are highly hypoallergenic, so if that’s what you’re looking for, then getting a golden retriever or a German shepherd probably isn’t a good idea since they majorly shed.

If you’re looking for a calm dog that doesn’t need a ton of exercise, avoid curly-haired breeds since a lot of them are highly energetic. Additionally, if you’re into low-maintenance dogs and not ready to groom them regularly, stay away from curly-haired dogs. 

Do your research to discover which breeds have curls, coils, or cords, and you’ll be A-okay.  

FAQs

What Little Dog Has Curly Fur?

The Bichon Frise, poodle, Bolognese, and some of the “Doodle” dogs are small with curly locks. There are more, but these are popular choices

What Dog Breed Has Curly Whiskers?

Curly dogs like Bedlington terrier, Bichon Frise, and the poodle can all have curly whiskers. It depends on a dog’s genetics, but most of the time, it’s curly-haired dogs that have curly whiskers. If a mixed breed is involved in a hybrid, there’s a chance of it happening.

Why Do Water Dogs Have Curly Hair?

Curled hair makes it harder for water, ice, and the elements to penetrate the skin. Some curly-haired dog breeds are double-coated, and some are single-coated, depending on what they’re being bred to do.

Wrap-up

If you’re itching to go get a curly-haired dog now, please adopt rather than breed. You’ll be saving at least two dogs when you do. There are breed-specific rescues you can contact, or even your local shelter/rescue may have one. It’s a wonder curly dog breeds are often taken in.

Hope you’ve enjoyed our trip down Curly Lane and that you’ve learned a bunch about these delightfully curly canines. They’re beautiful, brave, and loyal and are worth the grooming bill and time. Plus, you’ll have a snazzy-looking pooch!

Jen Flatt Osborn
Born with a pen in her hand and a deadline (and probably a tail), Jen considers writing a vocation, an art, and a release. She’s a freelance copy/content writer who specializes in the pet industry. Previously, she was the founder/director of an animal sanctuary for 12 years, taught classes to middle school students about dog behavior, and has lived a life full of devotion to animals and their welfare. As a vegetarian, Jen advocates for the humane treatment of every living creature. She currently lives with one delightful canine who encourages her to put her head out the car window more often.

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