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Grooming A Labrador

The Double Coat

Labs have a Double-Coat, meaning they have two layers of coat.

The top layer called the Guard Coat or Top Coat – which is slightly more “course”, shinier, and harder to the touch.

Underneath the top coat, you’ll find a thick, softer layer of coat called the Undercoat.

This double coat is used to regulate body temperature, protect from harmful UV rays, repels water, and protects the skin. The undercoat is a fantastic insulator and keeps them warm in the colder months.

Your Labrador’s undercoat has natural oil secretions among their thick undercoat that repels water and keeps their skin dry.

Next time you take your lab for a swim, keep an eye on how fast they dry. You would think that thick coat would act like a sponge, but because of their water repelling nature, all excess water efficiently runs off.

Natural oils are what keep their coat smooth and shiny, so the last thing you want to do is to deprive them of that natural barrier. Which brings us to our next important point: bathing.


Bathing And Washing Labrador Coats

How often should you bathe your Lab? The short answer: as little as possible.

The long answer: bathing your lab too often can strip away those natural oils that help protect them, leaving them with dry, flaky skin that becomes itchy and uncomfortable.

So the ideal time to bathe your dog is when they become a little too stinky, or rolls in something less than attractive. Even then, consider just rinsing them off with water and toweling them off instead of a full on bath, especially if it’s just dirt or mud they rolled in.  Waterless shampoo and a towel is an easy way to wipe them off but used very sparingly.

When it is time for a full bath to remove some stink, use a mild dog shampoo that helps keep skin moisturized and be sure to fully rinse.  


Labrador Shedding

Do Labs Shed? Yes!

They shed an impressive amount of coat during the entire year.

Either way, twice a year you’ll be treated to a full “blow”, where you’ll face a seemingly endless amount of shedding for several weeks.


How To Control Labrador Shedding

Labs shed all year, and will typically “blow” their coat every spring and fall. The amount of hair that comes off a lab can range from moderate to absolutely ridiculous, so let’s arm ourselves with a few tools to save some sanity in our homes.


  • Keep a routine of brushing your lab out at least once a week, and twice a week during the spring and fall when they’re blowing  their coat.  Do not shave!

  • Ensure they’re getting a high-quality diet, including omega fatty acids – this promotes stronger hair follicles and less shedding and plenty of fresh water.

  • Be aware of any dry “flaky” skin, redness, or excessive scratching. If your dog is suffering from allergies, mites, or skin conditions, they may scratch their fur off. Contact your vet to determine the best course of action.


Skin Conditions

Some things to watch for:


  • Dry, flaky skin or “dandruff”

  • Red, inflamed, and itchy skin

  • Missing hair or “patches”


These conditions can result from allergies, improper nutrition, thyroid issues, lack of fatty acids in their diet, mites or parasites, or just over-bathing.  Seek medical treatment for skin conditions.


Cleaning Ears


  1. Grasp one ear and hold the ear flap (pinna) up vertically to expose straighten out the ear canal.

  2. While holding your dog’s ear flap, gently but firmly with one hand, hold the ear cleaning solution in your other hand.

  3. Squeeze some ear cleaning solution into your dog’s ear. Use enough cleaner to completely fill the ear canal. It is fine if some of the cleaner spills out of the ear canal. Do not put the tip of the bottle into the ear. If the tip of the bottle touches your dog’s ear, wipe the tip off with a clean cotton ball soaked in alcohol to prevent the spread of bacteria or yeast.

  4. Continue to hold the ear flap up vertically with one hand and gently massage the base of the ear below the ear opening for about 30 seconds with the other hand. This allows the cleaning solution to break up the debris that is in the ear canal. You should hear a squishing sound as the cleaning solution moves around in the horizontal part of the ear canal.

  5. While still holding up the ear flap, wipe away debris from the inner part of the ear flap and the upper ear canal using a cotton ball or gauze.

  6. Allow your dog to shake his head. This allows the remaining ear cleaning solution and debris from the ear canal to move out of the canal to the outer opening of the ear.

  7. Once again, hold the ear flap up, and remove the loosened debris and cleaning solution from the outer opening of the ear canal using a cotton ball or gauze.

  8. Remove any debris and remaining cleaning solution from the ear canal with a cotton ball or gauze – only go into the ear canal as far as your finger will reach. Never use a cotton-tipped applicator (Q-tip®) to remove the solution from the ear canal. Doing so can damage the ear canal and/or ear drum or push debris further into the ear canal.


Trimming Nails

There are many different methods for trimming puppy nails. The important thing is that you choose one that you are comfortable with and that works well for your dog and gets them into the habit of trimming their nails weekly.


Dog Nail Trimming Step by Step

  1. Wait until your dog is relaxed and calm. A walk before the session will help. 

  2. Spread dog’s feet to inspect for dirt and debris 

  3. Hold your dog in place by putting your arms and upper body over him while you clip nails. While clipping front nails, hold your forearm over the dog’s neck to prevent him from lifting his head. If your dog remains anxious or jumpy, try laying him on his side and gently holding him down. 

  4. Using sharp clippers, cut off the tip of each nail at a slight angle, just before the point where it begins to curl 

  5. Take care to avoid the quick , which is the vein that runs into the nail. If you accidentally cut into the quick, causing bleeding, apply some styptic powder to stop bleeding. 

  6. After nails have been cut, use an emery board or file to smooth out edges 


How to Stop Your Dog's Nail Bleeding

What do you do you do if you have a mishap by cutting too far, causing pain and dog nail bleeding?  The easiest and most effective way to stop dog nail bleeding is with styptic powder, which can be purchased at most major pet stores and pharmacies. Be cautioned, however, that styptic powder will provide an initial sting, so be prepared to hold onto the dog firmly while applying.

That is about it - brush, trim nails, clean ears.   Don’t bathe too much.   


Here’s a list of grooming essentials:


  1. Wide-tooth metal comb.

  2. Slicker brush.

  3. Quality canine shampoo.

  4. Waterless shampoo.

  5. Thick, absorbent towels.

  6. Nail clippers.

  7. Canine Dremel.

  8. Styptic Powder.

  9. Canine toothpaste and toothbrush

  10. Ear Wash.


To prepare Labs for getting their nails trimmed with a grinder, turn it on and off for a few days before using it for the first time. Offering food treats while the grinder and dryer are running will help the Lab look forward to the new noises.


Preservation breeders handle their puppies from day one. They often start trimming their puppies’ nails, lightly brush their coats, and check their ears a few weeks after birth. The pups receive their first baths before they go to their new homes, if not sooner.

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