Labrador retrievers are a friendly, easy-to-train, affable breed who love grooming because it means spending time with their favorite people -- their owners.
Bred for pursuits such as duck and waterfowl hunting, Labradors are water dogs, and their double-layered coat is thick and oily, both to protect against cold, and to repel water away from their skin. In many ways, this makes Labs almost self-cleaning, and means they don't need regular baths with dog shampoo, which can strip away the natural protective oils on their coats. Most Labs, unless they get into extremely smelly conditions, only need a shampoo bath two or three times a year. This is good news if you don't like wrangling a 70-pound dog into your bathtub.
While Labs don't need a lot of traditional soap-based baths, they can be hosed down with warm water to help reduce shedding, and they need a lot of regular brushing. Because of their thick coats, you’ll want special grooming supplies to get both the under layer and the fine top coat hair. Consider a curry brush, a wire slicker brush or a shedding rake, as well as a fine tooth or metal comb. Labs love the physical interaction of brushing, and if you get them used to it as pups, they'll look forward to regular grooming sessions. Ideally, give your Lab a thorough brushing every day or so, or at least a minimum of once a week. Take him outside and be prepared to change your clothes afterward, as double coat brushing means double fur flying.
Labs love to explore, and if they're hunting dogs, there's a good chance they're getting into muck and mud when you're out in the field. If you feel the need to bathe your Lab more frequently to eliminate the smell of frogs and pond scum, talk to your vet about using an essential oil supplement or conditioner to keep this coat in good shape. This will keep his skin from getting dried out and will keep his oily coat in good condition.
Grooming and Body Care
Part of grooming your Lab includes brushing his teeth with a dog toothbrush and toothpaste and checking out the pads of his feet to ensure they aren't cracked or damaged. This is really important if your Lab is worked often, or taken for regular walks. A little bit of petroleum jelly massaged into his paw pads will help keep his skin crack-free and healthy. Put dog booties on his feet if he's going to be on rough, cold or hot surfaces on a regular basis.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.