Your black Labrador retriever's fur needs routine care, but whether black, yellow or chocolate, a Labrador's coat is easily maintained. Like all double-coated dogs, he'll shed some hair continuously. He'll blow his soft undercoat annually, at which time you may have more Labrador retriever fur on you than he does.
Get your hands all over your Lab every day. Check for lumps, bumps and the dreaded "hot spots." It's a good way to find incipient problems and stop trouble before it starts. If he's scratching a lot and you see bare spots forming or feel any damp, sticky areas on his skin under his fur, take him to the vet immediately. A hot spot can bald your dog quickly, while driving him nuts with itching.
Run a bristle brush over your pal at least twice a week to remove loose hairs from his outer coat. This also distributes the natural oils in his coat evenly and helps keep him dry in the water.
Keep some special tools handy for when your Lab starts blowing his undercoat. Use a short-hair rake to loosen the soft fluff, but be careful not to rake his sensitive skin -- that smarts. A slicker brush, used like a carding comb for wool, will lift out most of the shed undercoat. Follow this with a fine-tooth comb on his body to extract any remaining loose hair. Use a wide-tooth comb on that thick otter tail.
Bathe your buddy only when he really needs it. Labs love to work or play in water, but too much soap can strip the oils from his outer coat and allow his undercoat and skin to get wet. This makes him more vulnerable to skin problems. Avoid bathing him during cold weather, when he can get chilled. Bathe him outdoors whenever possible; washing a Labrador retriever indoors can be like having a wet horse in the house, except that the horse might be less wiggly. Use only dog shampoo and conditioner, not people products. If he gets stinky in the winter, take him to a groomer.
Spot-clean your Lab after a muddy run or when company's coming. Use a damp cloth or special doggy wipes. Don't substitute baby wipes, as even the organic ones may contain aloe vera or other toxic substances that he may lick off his coat. Using wipes regularly also can help reduce allergens that might affect members of your household, such as dander, pollens and saliva.
Feed your Labrador retriever a balanced diet to help maintain his healthy coat. Consult your veterinarian to be sure you are feeding a high-quality dog food, and ask about the need for supplements.