Meet the American Hairless Terrier - Groomer to Groomer

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Meet the American Hairless Terrier

One reason there are so many pet groomers on social media is that we like to look at dogs. Groomers are generous when it comes to posting pictures. We post customers’ dogs, friends’ dogs and lots of pictures of our own four–footed darlings. 

One of my groomer friends used to post lovely photos of her nicely–groomed Standard Poodle. Sometimes I saw a small, dark, terrier–looking dog in her pictures, but I didn’t pay too much attention. Then she started posting pictures of this striking hairless dog. I pride myself on being knowledgeable about dog breeds, but this dog had me flummoxed. It was not a Chinese Crested, that was certain. And though scale is tricky when looking at pictures, it seemed too small to be a Xoloitzcuintle. Maybe it was a Peruvian Inca Orchid? 

Then, one day, she started posting pictures of puppies that this beautiful mystery dog of hers had whelped. I had to swallow my pride, stuff my ego in a brown paper bag and ask what kind of dogs these were. 

My friend, Garoleen Wilson, dusted my ego off; “They are American Hairless Terriers (AHT). They are a very new breed beginning in the 1970s. Basically, they are a Rat Terrier without hair.”


My mind flashed back to that dark dog I used to see in photos with her Standard Poodle. It turns out that was also an AHT, but the coated variety. That dog belongs to Joe, Garoleen’s husband. When their Poodle passed, they decided to get another dog, and the extensive grooming requirements of a Poodle didn’t sound like something she was interested in dealing with anymore. One thing led to another, and soon they brought Zeta, the lovely hairless dog I was so attracted to, home to Kansas. 

I had to know more. Like, what are the grooming needs of this breed? 

“Grooming is super simple,” Garoleen shared. “I dilute dog shampoo and scrub them with a washcloth, rinse and done! Occasionally I do a sugar scrub. If I use a moisturizer, it is usually a lightweight, non–oily product to not clog pores. They can get ‘zits’ sometimes. They do get puppy pimples when they are losing their birth coat. It generally goes away without treatment. A healthy diet and sun protection is the best recipe for good, healthy skin.” 

What’s a birth coat? 

“Puppies are born with hair, and it’s generally referred to as a birth coat. The puppy’s coat tells what color they are. For example, Zeta is a registered Black Brindle. Her birth coat would have resembled a brindle Boxer’s color. The birth coat is thin and somewhat coarse, and begins falling out in a couple of weeks. Puppies should be hairless by weaning time.” (Though they do have vibrissae.)

Next, I wondered how they tolerate cold weather. 

“My rule of thumb is, if I would choose to wear a jacket, then I put clothes on my dog. Most AHT wear clothes from the time they are puppies, and it is just part of life. My hairless will put their head in themselves when it’s time to get dressed,” Garoleen said.

I knew that some hairless breeds come with interesting dentition. Fascinatingly, the AHT is the only hairless breed that has normal dentition. 

“The hairless gene for the AHT is a different gene than for the Chinese Crested and Xolo. It’s a simple recessive gene. So, if two hairless are bred together, all the puppies will be hairless. The coated AHT have the same hair as the Rat Terriers. If a dog has one coated parent and the other was hairless, there will be both coated and hairless puppies in the resulting litter, averaging 50/50,” noted Garoleen.

I wondered what living with an AHT is like. 

“They are active, biddable dogs,” answered Garoleen. “They have a lot of energy but also have an ‘off’ switch. Being terriers, they do like to dig and tend to have a strong prey drive. AHT are athletic and fast, so they excel at agility, Fast Cat, Dock Diving and Barn Hunt.” 

Both of Garoleen’s AHTs have been in the show ring, and Zeta, the dog that first caught my eye, has finished her AKC championship. Her puppy, Pink, is currently being successfully shown. 

“In the show ring, what you see is what you get. There is no grooming or sculpting to hide conformation weaknesses or flaws,” Garoleen says. 

Proving she is not just another pretty, hairless face, Zeta has also achieved her Farm Dog Certification, is a natural at Barn Hunt and loves lure coursing, too.

Another reason that there are so many groomers active on social media (besides all those amazing dog pictures) is that it’s an excellent place for us to learn new things about dogs—our favorite topic! ✂️

For more information on American Hairless Terriers, visit: 

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