All dogs need grooming, but you’d be forgiven at first glance for thinking grooming your Labrador will be a quick job. After all, Labradors have a wonderfully easy looking coat. It is short, dense and very waterproof. No tangles to comb out of ears, or fur balls to gather around their legs. But Labradors shed like crazy, and to keep them comfortable and your home relatively fur free you will need to give them a quick brush down at least once a week. During shedding season I groom my Labs daily, although bathing is limited to the times they’ve got mucky!
- How to groom a Labrador
- Best brushes and shampoos
- Puppy bathing schedule
- How to bathe your dog
- Getting dried off
Our guide to bathing and grooming your Labrador will help you to keep your dog clean and fresh, without the fuss. We’ll explain why your Lab needs grooming and how often, and help you decide when, and whether, your dog needs a bath! Then we’ll take you through the process in simple steps. We’ll give you clear instructions on what to do, and help you to choose a few essential tools for the job.
How To Groom A Labrador
Grooming your Labrador is easy if your pup is used to being brushed from a young age. Firm brushing with good bristle body brush will remove dried mud, sand and dust from your dog’s coat and help distribute the oils through his fur. It may also improve the shine, and he will enjoy the ‘massaging’ effect of the firm strokes going through his fur.
Sit your dog in front of you, outdoors if they are shedding a lot. Have a pot of treats next to you and pass them one every few seconds if they are nervous or reluctant to stay put.
I usually begin at the base of their body near the tail. Make short gentle pulls downwards with the brush, and after each groom pick out the loose fur that the brush has collected and set it down next to you to dispose of later. Work your way slowly up the body and around their flanks, stopping at the neck as you reach their head. Your Lab’s face won’t need any grooming, and their legs are normally fine to be left, although our particularly hairy chocolate Lab always needs a quick groom around her thighs.
Best Grooming Brush For Labradors
I like a plain body brush intended for horses for a quick daily ‘once over’. They usually have a handle strap on the back and if you find one that fits your hand comfortably they are great. For a more intensive brushing I use a slicker brush.
The slicker brush gets right into the coat and does a good job of removing dead hair on a daily basis. However, sometimes the dead hair situation calls for a more assertive tool!
You can’t stop your dog shedding, but you can reduce the impact on your home by using an efficient ‘rake’ on his coat during periods of severe moulting. An ordinary brush quickly gets clogged with dead hair and you will struggle to make much progress without a special tool for loosening dead hair.
Our favorite deshedding tool is a Furminator,* with spaced metal teeth.
You can also buy a useful tool made by Kong. It’s called a Zoomgroom* and comes in bright pink or blue.
The Zoomgroom* is a sturdy plastic tool with wide spaced prongs. It is a great way to loosen the dead hair so that it falls away easily.
Somewhat more controversial, are special rakes with a blade incorporated. These shedding tools can be very effective if used with care.
How Often Should I Groom My Dog?
You don’t need to groom your dog every day if you don’t want to, but if you make this part of your daily routine, your dog will get used to the process and benefit from the regular physical contact.
If you don’t fancy going into battle with dead hair during the worst of the moulting season, you can always treat your Labrador to a pampering at your local dog salon.
But there are still occasions when your dog’s coat will need some additional attention.
Because Labs might be gorgeous, adorable friends. But they are also rather mucky pups.
How Often Should You Wash Your Dog?
There are Labradors that are bathed every week, and other Labradors that are almost never bathed. I tend to bathe my Labs when they get a bit smelly, or if they have rolled in something unpleasant. Something which many dogs have a huge enthusiasm for!
Many Labs take a delight in rolling in disgusting ‘treasures’ that they happen upon during your daily walks. Dead animals, and fox poo, are some of their favorites. Labradors also love mud. They will go out of their way to find some, especially if you have just bathed them, or had new carpets fitted.
Paddling around in muddy puddles and the edges of boggy ponds can result in a filthy and smelly coat, again a hose down may be sufficient. But sometimes you’ll need the help of something more powerful than water.
Dog Bathing Schedule
Bathing as and when they need it is absolutely fine for most Labs. But if you want to have a routine then once a month is a nice easy schedule for most people to remember. It is a little different with puppies however.
How Often Should You Bathe A Puppy?
If you want to give your puppy a bath, by all means do so. He probably doesn’t need one, but it’s a good idea to get him used to the sensation of being soaked in water and rubbed.
A puppy first bath is something of a rite of passage, but it’s important not to go overboard. A weekly shower with lukewarm water, will make sure that when he really needs a bath later on, you won’t have a fight on your hands!
Puppy Shampoo and Dog Shampoo
When you bathe your puppy, use a specially designed puppy shampoo or adult dog shampoo labelled as safe for puppies* from 8 weeks.
This won’t be as strong and will be kind to your puppy’s skin and her coat.
It is not a good idea to shampoo your older Labrador regularly unless you really need to. Especially in the winter. This is because the shampoo strips out the natural oils and reduces the waterproofing and cold repellent qualities of his double coat.
Best Shampoo For Dogs
I have used a variety of shampoos on my dogs. The main thing is to avoid shampoos intended for human adults. They will sting like crazy if you get them in your dog’s eyes, and he’ll run a mile next time he sees the bath towels coming out! Your alternative option is to make your own shampoo.
How To Bathe Your Dog With A Hose
Labradors don’t mind cold water when the weather is fine. This means the most of the time if he’s got a bit mucky you can hose him down in the back yard.
But if your Labrador is not fit for human habitation after a hosing down, a good shampooing* will be necessary too.
You can do this in nice weather, outside in the backyard too.
Have a couple of large towels ready before you begin. Because it is so waterproof, it is not easy to get a Labrador’s coat wet.
Do your best and work some shampoo* into the coat. Use a glob the size of a coin, and rub with your fingers working it into the coat. Especially where he is mucky. Then hose her down and repeat.
The second time will be easier as you have broken down the oils in the dog’s coat. Work up into a good lather and rinse very thoroughly. Remember that dogs lick their coats so thorough rinsing is particularly important.
Putting Your Dog In A Bath Tub
Although outdoor bathing is fine in the warmer months, in the cold weather you will need to bathe your Lab indoors. Lay a few towels on the floor to walk him to the bath room, and lift him into the tub.
Don’t let him leap in and out, as when the tub is wet he could slip and hurt himself. Use a shower nozel to rinse and wash just as you would in the back yard.
Portable Pet Shower
A portable pet shower* is great if you live in an apartment that doesn’t have a traditional bath tub.
It has a moveable shower spray unit that doesn’t need fixing to a fawcet, it simply comes with a reservoir that you fill. You also don’t need to do it in the bathroom, as the mess from it is really minimal.
Just choose a room with a wipe clean floor if possible, and stand away from the furniture. The mechanism is similar to a carpet shampooing machine, and it makes a similar level of noise to a vacuum cleaner.
If you suffer from a bad back, you may want to consider a booster bath* for your dog. They save you bending over for ten minutes at a time and eliminate any problems you might have leaning down for a prolonged period.
These are also useful if you struggle to lift your dog, or if they have joint problems.
Drying your dog
To towel dry your dog you will need two dog towels*. Towel dry until your first towel has absorbed as much water as it can, then move on to towel number two.
Dog towels are specially designed to copy with the kind of water loss that a dog’s coat usually produces.
Another great option is a dog dryer*. These are basically hair dryers for dogs.
Make sure you keep your hand moving through the fur in the area where you are directing the blast of air to ensure the temperature isn’t too high.
Specially made dog dryers are designed to work well on thick coats like your Lab’s.
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The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website