A shaved Labrador is a tempting prospect to owners of this high shedding breed. Surely close clipping that furiously molting coat would keep your home fur free? Sadly, it’s not that simple. A shaved Labrador won’t cut down on shedding or keep them cool in summer. Unlike the well trimmed Poodle, the Labrador, Husky and Golden Retriever don’t benefit from shaving. The Labrador is a double-coated dog breed, meaning that it has a topcoat and an undercoat. Shaving can cause permanent damage to the coat in these dogs. Fortunately, there are other ways to deal with shedding and hot weather, besides shaving your dog. Today we’ll share some alternatives to shaving for Labrador owners and what to do when a Lab needs to be shaved for veterinary surgery.
As we mentioned, double-coated dogs have two separate layers of fur: a soft, short undercoat and a harsher, longer topcoat. The undercoat regularly sheds off and regrows seasonally. The topcoat grows at a slower rate. It sheds too but is not “blown” like the undercoat.
Each layer of hair has a different purpose, but both are important. The undercoat protects dogs from not just cold, but also heat. It helps to regulate your dog’s body temperature in all seasons. The undercoat also protects your dog’s skin from insects, sharp branches, and other harmful outdoor dangers. The outer layer of harsh textured hair protects the undercoat, sheds water, and even reflects some sunlight.
Why Is a Shaved Labrador A Bad Thing?
The Labrador Retriever has a soft protective undercoat and a short but dense topcoat. While the Lab doesn’t have a long fluffy coat, this short double coat should be bathed and brushed, but never shaved.
What happens when you shave a double-coated dog like the Lab? Because the undercoat grows more quickly than the topcoat, shaving both layers will give your dog a thick wooly coat that is more undercoat than topcoat. This regrown coat will trap heat and be less water repellant.
Shaving can also lead to other problems in Labs, including skin irritation, permanent loss of all or part of the topcoat, and increased risk of sunburn and skin cancer.
Shaved Labrador vs Groomed Labrador
Regular grooming is the best way to deal with heavy shedding in a Lab. When your dog is not shedding heavily, brushing a few times a week with a bristle or slicker brush can remove loose hairs and keep your dog’s coat in good condition.
During periods of intense shedding, undercoat rakes and other de-shedding tools may be needed to remove large amounts of shed undercoat and prevent the shed hairs from getting caught in the topcoat.
While de-shedding tools are effective, they should be used with caution, as it can be easy to go overboard and remove healthy growing hair in addition to dead hair. Using too much pressure with some de-shedding tools can also cause skin irritation, especially if your dog has sensitive or problem skin.
Giving your dog a bath after brushing can also be helpful. A rubber bath brush can help remove more dead hair and give your dog a massage during bathing.
Keeping Your Labrador Cool
It seems counter-intuitive, but your Lab’s fur is just as important in hot weather as it is in cold weather. Shaving will not help your dog stay cool in summer. In fact, it might make your dog more vulnerable to the heat and sun.
Taking off layers of a dog’s fur is not the same as humans removing layers of clothing. Both coats are needed to regulate a Lab’s body temperature in the winter and in the summer.
A thick undercoat provides warmth in cold weather and a thin undercoat serves as a sort of natural air conditioner in hot weather. Keeping the topcoat intact helps deflect the sun’s heat and damaging UV rays off your dog’s skin.
Alternatives to Shaving Your Labrador
The best alternative to shaving in hot weather is to regularly brush your dog. Dead hairs trapped in the coat can make your dog hot. Removing them with regular brushing will improve airflow to the skin and keep your dog cooler.
There are other ways to keep your Lab cool in hot weather. Make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water to drink. Walk your dog in the mornings and evenings and avoid hot pavement. Provide air conditioning or a fan indoors and a shady spot outdoors.
When Is A Shaved Labrador Okay?
Sometimes your Lab will need to be shaved at the vet’s office. Your dog may need to be shaved for an operation or to treat a serious skin condition. Chances are this will only be a partial and not a full-body shave.
Some double-coated dogs will need to be shaved if they have severe matting, although this is not usually a problem in the short-coated Lab.
Helping Hair Regrowth on a Shaved Labrador
Regular bathing and brushing can aid in healthy regrowth. If your Lab had surgery in the shaved area, be sure to follow your vet’s instructions on proper cleaning and other aftercare procedures for the incision site while it heals.
Shaving can help when a dog’s skin problems are severe. Removing the fur allows topical treatments to be more effective. Again, follow your vet’s instructions on applying medications and caring for your dog’s skin.
With Labs, shaving should only be done when medically necessary. Brushing is the best way to keep your Lab comfortable and healthy during shedding season.
More Labrador Care Tips
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