Labradors aren’t a typically high maintenance breed when it comes to grooming. But, all Labrador owners know just how messy these dogs can get! As a general rule, many Labs can get away without a bath for months at a time! But, you will need to wash them when they get dirty – particularly if they enjoy playing in muddy puddles on walks, or rolling in the smelliest things they can find.
Do Labradors Need Baths?
Labradors don’t suit sedentary lifestyles, but this means they often get dirty or mucky as they exercise. So, when this happens, they will need a bath! This might not be as regular as other breeds who have longer, or curly fur. In fact, many Labrador owners will simply wash their dogs as and when the process is needed, rather than on a set schedule.
About the Labrador Coat
Labradors have short, dense fur made up of two layers. This means they have relatively low grooming needs compared to many other dogs. But, they are also heavy shedders. Labs will shed moderately all year round, and heavily during their highest shedding periods.
Though a Labrador’s coat won’t usually grow long enough to form painful knots and tangles, grooming and bathing a Labrador can help to keep their coat clean and to remove any dead fur during high shedding periods. So, you may want to bathe your Lab slightly more frequently than normal when they’re shedding very heavily.
Labrador coats are also water resistant, a trait which was very useful in their original days of working alongside fishermen in Newfoundland, Canada. So, you must be very thorough when washing them to ensure all of their coat is properly cleaned and dried.
When Should Labradors Have Their First Bath?
By the time your Labrador puppy comes home with you at 8 weeks, some breeders may have already given them their first bath! But, if they haven’t it’s a great idea to start this process early. Puppies have a fear period between 8 and 12 weeks where they should be socialized to new experiences. Bathtime should be included in this process!
Make sure that it’s a positive experience for your puppy, perhaps paired with lots of tasty treats. And, make sure they’re happy and comfortable with you touching and washing them all over, including their paws, stomach, tail, and so on. Labs who experience bath time as puppies will often be much happier with the process as adults!
How Often Can You Bathe a Lab?
Labrador grooming needs are quite low, and this includes bathtime. Many Labs will easily be able to go months without having a bath. Often, Labrador owners prefer to use their judgement when giving their dog a bath. Since they have such short, easy coats, tangles and knots are rare.
More common than knots and tangles are smelly scents and dirt from outside getting caught up in your Lab’s fur. You will need to wash your Labrador when this happens.
Can You Bathe a Lab Too Much?
Labrador fur contains healthy oils that contribute to the fur’s water resistance. Washing a Labrador too often can strip their fur of these oils. Not only can this damage the health of the individual hairs, but it can also leave your dog’s coat looking dull and unhealthy. So, don’t wash your Lab too frequently! Generally, this breed only needs a bath once every few months, or when they’ve rolling in something smelly or mucky.
Tips for Bathing a Labrador
Adult Labs are large dogs, so washing and drying them can be quite the feat! Here are some tips that should make the entire process a little easier.
- Prepare all of your products and tools before bringing your Lab in.
- Enlist the help of someone else if possible!
- Make sure your Lab is used to baths from a young age.
- Associate the process with something great, like tasty treats.
- Dry your Labrador thoroughly for best results, and to avoid wet dog smell!
- Don’t be afraid to get wet!
How to Choose the Right Products
Having all the right products and tools at your disposal will also make bathing a Labrador easier. So, invest in those before trying to give your Lab a bath. If you don’t have a shower at home, purchase a shower head attachment, or a dog-shower designed for outside.
Take your time looking at the different dog shampoos and conditioners available. There are a lot of products out there, but some are better quality than others. You can even get an expert opinion from your local groomers. Perhaps you’ll want to take your dog to them for their first grooming session, and see which products they recommend!
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