Fur and hair are both made out of a protein compound called keratin (which makes up fingernails too!) and are similar on a genetic level. They are different in terms of how they feel, and have different care needs.

Many people believe that dogs with hair, not fur, are less likely to trigger allergies in people who are allergic to dogs. These breeds are known to us as hypoallergenic breeds, and examples include the Poodle, Afghan Hound, and Silky Terrier.

However, that is only half true. The texture of your furkid’s hair or fur does not affect whether or not a reaction is triggered because most of the time, they are not even the allergens. The culprits are actually the protein chains and compounds produced by the saliva, skin, and other parts of a dog’s body. That said, fur and hair do spread dander around, which is why many people assume that the fur and hair are bad for people with allergies. Because of this, pups that shed heavily usually trigger more allergies than those that don’t.

One of the main differences between hair and fur is that hair is longer in length as it goes through a slower growth cycle–resulting in less shedding. Both hair growth and fur growth pass through several distinct phases as part of their growth cycle, and how long each phase takes is one of the core elements in differentiating hair from fur.

The growth cycle is as such:

  1. Anagen
    The follicle becomes active.

  2. Catagen Growth
    Transitory phase, where the growth pauses and the sheath of the root bonds to the hair.

  3. Telogen
    The inert phase where the hair is neither growing nor dying off.

  4. Exogen
    Lastly, the follicle sheds the hair, and the cycle begins again. Usually, this is faster in the summer months as part of the natural shedding process is to lose the previous winter’s coat.

Dog hair goes through a much longer anagen phase, while dog fur sheds more often and goes through the entire process quicker.

Hair is generally smooth, and longer and finer than fur. It can either be straight, wavy, or curly, but it is usually the curly hair that ends up tangling and trapping dander–which often triggers allergies. Breeds with hair only have one single layer, while breeds with fur may have two layers, known as a double coat, or a top coat and an undercoat.

Fur is almost always shorter in length and is denser than hair, with more follicles per inch of the skin. Fur also goes through a faster growth cycle, and so sheds more heavily, which in turn, leads to a greater spread of dander.