Our Labs get themselves seriously messy on a regular basis. Rolling and stomping through the messiest things they can find. It’s best to bathe your Lab no more than once a month, but how often should a Labrador be bathed if they get dirty a lot more often than that? Today we’ll take a look at how much depends on your dog’s lifestyle and activity level, and weigh up bathing your Lab against removing their natural oils, which they need for a healthy coat and skin.
The Labrador Coat
The Labrador has a double coat which means they have two layers; the topcoat is wiry and abrasive, while the undercoat is softer and lighter. This double coat acts as a barrier against dirt, water and the sun’s rays, keeping the Lab warm in the winter and acting as a cooling mechanism in the summer.
Because they have a double coat, Labradors have minimal grooming needs compared to other breeds. Their coats do not grow long enough to encounter painful knots or tangles and do not require any expensive trips to the groomer for clipping.
However, Labradors are heavy shedders, shedding all year round and having a complete blowout twice a year. Regular grooming and bathing can help remove excess fur and make your pet smell cleaner.
Do Labradors Need Baths?
Labs don’t need a bath too often but bathing them benefits both you and your furry friend and can strengthen your bond. Bathing can help keep your Lab’s hygiene in tip-top condition by removing dirt and doggy odor with a great-smelling dog shampoo. Using a good dog conditioner also keeps your Lab’s coat nice and soft, maintaining moisture in their fur.
Bathing followed by grooming can help minimize shedding and help those Labs with allergies. Finally, bathing allows you to look closely at your dog, checking for anything abnormal like lumps or skin infections and fleas, mites and lice.
How Often Should a Labrador be Bathed?
Bathing your Lab once a month is a good rule of thumb, as bathing too often removes essential oils from the coat. However, if your Lab spends a lot of time outdoors, then it is highly likely they will roll in the mud and dirt, so they may need bathing more frequently.
If your Lab continuously gets dirty, you can spray them with lukewarm water from a shower or hose or wipe them with a damp cloth instead of bathing them.
Frequent bathing may also be necessary if your Lab produces a strong odor or if they have skin issues, depending on your vet’s advice. If your Labrador doesn’t get dirty very often and spends a lot of time indoors, the time between baths may be longer, such as every three months.
What Happens if You Bathe a Labrador Too Often?
Excessive bathing may seem like a good idea to keep your Lab squeaky clean, but it can actually be harmful.
Bathing too often strips Labradors of their natural oils, which they need for a healthy skin and coat, and can cause irritation. It also damages hair follicles, increases the risk of fungal and bacterial infections, and interferes with worming and flea treatments while leaving their coat looking dull and unhealthy.
How to Bathe a Labrador
When bathing a Labrador, you must clean their coat thoroughly and have the right products, so prepare beforehand.
First, decide where to bathe your Labrador, which could be in the garden or bathroom. Washing your Lab can be a wet, messy business, so make sure you wear old clothes!
Having non-skid mats in the shower or bath can prevent your Lab from slipping and falling. Gather your tools, including towels, dog shampoo, a dog conditioner, if you choose to use one, and a hair dryer. Never use human shampoo, as it is bad for a dog’s skin and can make them sick.
2. Wet the coat
The water should be at a comfortable temperature for your Lab, not too hot or too cold. You need to get your Lab’s coat thoroughly wet. Their double coat is water resistant, so this may take some time. Wet your dog in parts rather than the body all in one go.
3. Bath your Labrador
Apply shampoo to your dog, working it into a lather and massaging your dog as you rub the shampoo into its coat. Allow the shampoo to sit on your pet for a few minutes before rinsing it. Avoid sensitive areas like the face and eyes.
If your Lab is particularly dirty, you may need to rinse and repeat. If you use a conditioner, repeat the same steps as shampooing.
4. Dry your Labrador
Once you have rinsed your Labrador, dry them thoroughly with towels. A hairdryer is ideal for getting into the dog’s undercoat but don’t hold it too close to their skin and ensure your pet is familiar with the noise, so you don’t scare them.
When Can You Bathe a Labrador Puppy?
It is best not to bathe a Labrador puppy with shampoo until they are three months old and only with a shampoo approved for puppies. It is dangerous to wash them before this age as a puppy cannot regulate its temperature and could become chilled. If they need cleaning, use warm water and a rag.
How to Keep Your Labrador Clean Between Baths
You can keep your Lab clean in between baths and smelling fresh by:
- Brushing their coats at least once a week, more when they are shedding
- Use a dry shampoo for dogs or dog perfume for a fresh-smelling coat
- Wash your Lab’s bed, toys and collar regularly
- Brush their teeth daily
- Use dog wipes for a quick clean.
How Often Should A Labrador Be Bathed?
Labradors are relatively low-maintenance dogs and only need bathing around once a month, although this depends on how often they become dirty. However, bathing too often removes essential oils, leaving their skin itchy and their coat dull.
Learn More About Grooming and Bathing Your Dog
- Is it okay to shave a Labrador?
- What grooming do Labs need?
- Should you give a Lab a haircut?
- Labrador grooming guide
- Lofgren et al. Management and personality in Labrador Retriever dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2014.
- Cruz et al. Does bathing affect tick and flea burdens and ectoparasiticide effectiveness of a spot-on formulation (fipronil + (S)-methoprene) for dogs? Veterinary Parasitology, 2020.
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