With their short coats, you don’t have to worry about Labradors, black, chocolate or yellow, developing tangles or needing a haircut every month. However, their coats are thick and your pet still needs grooming, for health as well as to keep his dense coat glossy and shining.
Brush your dog completely once or twice a week. Brush thoroughly as Labradors have a double coat with a tough outer layer and a softer, warmer inner layer. A half-hearted run over with a brush isn't enough. He’ll probably love the brushing (he’ll think it’s petting) .
Wipe his ears with a dampened cotton ball before or after brushing. Lift the flap and wipe all the crevices of the outer ear but don't push the ball into the ear canal. If you notice something amiss, book an appointment with your vet. Labradors are vulnerable to ear infections because of both the shape of their ears and the fact that most enjoy swimming.
Check his feet, even when his nails don’t need trimming. Labradors sometimes get foot problems, mainly because energetic running outside exposes their feet to all manner of sharp objects, ranging from stones to thorns, and stinging creatures. There is also a chance of injury. If you see a swelling, cut or sore, contact your vet.
Walk your dog over a hard surface such as concrete. Watch and listen to his feet. If his nails are making a loud clicking sound, they need to be trimmed. It can be best to leave nail trimming to a professional. If he is even slightly favoring (avoiding putting weight on) one foot, he probably has an injury or sore.
Bathe your dog properly once every couple of months or so, not more frequently. This would strip the natural oils from his water-resistant coat and could lead to skin irritation. The shower tends to be much easier than the tub, especially for dogs the size of a Labrador. Wet him, massage in a little dog shampoo into his fur, starting at the base of the head and working your way all over the body, including the feet and tail. Rinse out the suds, making sure that none get into his eyes, ears or mouth. Conditioner is not essential for short-haired dogs but would make his black coat even glossier.
- Take your dog to a professional dog groomer for at least one visit. Ask the groomer to show you how to trim the nails, clean the ears and brush his teeth. It is important to get a demonstration because otherwise you risk hurting your dog, especially when clipping dark nails.
- Fleas and ticks are not visibly apparent on a dark haired dog. Fleas tend to be obvious because they jump, but if tick-borne illnesses are a problem in your area, consult your vet for advice. A preventative tick collar might be appropriate in some cases.
- Labradors shed periodically. You don’t need to buy clothes and furnishing that match your dog, so hold off on ordering a black leather sofa and switching to the all goth look. Cheap parcel tape (try the dollar store) is an effective way to remove dog hair. Wrap the tape round your hand a few times with the sticky side facing out and dab off the hair. For carpets, use a powerful vacuum cleaner designed for pet hair.
- Labradors were bred as water retrievers and love swimming. If this means he gets muddy on a regular basis, wait until the mud dries and brush it off. If he still needs a bath, just rinse him -- don’t use shampoo more frequently than suggested above.
Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.